Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Dungeness delivers

September 1st and the early morning darkness greets me as I step out into the autumnal chill.What summer we had is disappearing fast. And that is great news. Late summer in the world of birding can be a little quiet and everyone has an impatient eye on the calendar and autumn can’t come quickly enough. So today I had high hopes of a good days birding and a trip down to Dungeness felt like a good plan and if nothing else, it should clear the hangover I felt from the night before.

Dungeness. Note the complete lack of anything avian in this picture.
Funny old place Dungeness. Not just for the dilapidated shacks, perculiar hand-scripted offers for lugworm and shellfish propped up against rusted lumps of marine machinery but the fact that there are quite often days when there are no birds on the land apart from the odd woodpigeon or scruffy magpie. So it can be a bit of a gamble. Overnight rain is no bad thing and if the wind is coming off the sea from a south westerly direction, seawatching would be productive. Well it had rained but when I got out of the car there was nothing in the way of a breeze. Zilch. Still I was here now so I decided to head to the sea hide first.

Birders becalmed.

There were a few other birders there already and The Patch (an area of the sea where the power station spews out warm water used for cooling and in turn, attracts sea life that forms a meal for gulls and terns) had a good number of terns hovering and dipping down to touch the sea and pick a morsel from the sea. There were Common Terns and a few Arctic Terns feeding here as well as a Little Gull and a Kittiwake. Further out a few Common Scoters passed by along with parties of Shelduck. After about an hour, the wind started to pick up a little. This was just enough to invite a few Skuas to come closer to the shoreline. First we had an Arctic Skua flying east followed minutes later by a Great Skua (Bonxie). Gannets were now visible and there was a Grey Seal and a couple of Harbour Porpoises also close to the shoreline for our entertainment.

Nothing else happened after that so I headed over to the 'desert' which is aptly named as it is a vast area of sparse scrub covered in shingle. A beautiful landscape but unfortunately bird free. But some nice plants like the Toadflax...I think.

God I hope this is Yellow Toadflax.
After an hours ankle breaking walk around the 'desert' I got back into the car and drove the mile or so to the RSPB reserve. There was a bit more activity here with Little Stints, a Curlew Sandpiper and a Hobby at the ARC Pit.

Curlew Sandpiper with Lapwings and Dunlin.
Little Stints (2) with Lapwings and Curlew Sandpiper.
This was the first time I had visited the ARC Pit’s Hansen Hide and I was very impressed with it. But now I had to trek the miles back across the road and along the track to Dengemarsh. There were hundreds of Sand Martins gathering up the enthusiasm to head off to Africa and a glorious female Marsh Harrier gliding about in front of the hide. The now regular Great Egret was visible – just at Dengemarsh but no sign of any Purple Herons or the recent Cattle Egret.
Great Egret
Over the day, I added ten new species to my year list and that’s a lot more than I expected. The photography was a bit disappointing as nothing ever got that close for a decent shot and if the desert had had a few migrants, it would have been amazing. Maybe next month.

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