Walland Marsh, MOD ranges, Denge Marsh, the peninsula, Scotney and the ARC pits.
Mike Buckland and I had a very rewarding day's birding in the greater Dungeness area today.
We started on Walland Marsh in cool but dry weather after what looked like a night that saw some heavy rain. It was a bit slow at first with just a scattering of common warblers, a few passing hirundines and the odd Wheatear but just north of Lydd near Horse Bones Farm we had around 100 Yellow Wagtails and a good few White and Pied.
Spurred on we headed to the MOD ranges and were pleased to see at least 20 Whinchat, around 10 Wheatear and more Whitethroats and hirundines.
Around 10.15 we worked our way onto Denge Marsh seeing a few more Whinchat and then set about checking the Gully. It was a bit disappointing with just a few Willow Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, a few Whitethroat and a couple of Wheatear.
We'd been talking all morning about finding a Wryneck, something we've done a few times at Dungeness, and the Ranges, Denge Marsh Gully and the "Desert" in the trapping area are the favoured spots. Mike checked his twitter feed and announced that there was one in the "Desert" on the peninsula near the Point. The place we'd yet to check!
He also noticed a "tweet" that was 11 minutes old that said that an Osprey that had been lingering in the area for a good few days was now over the Denge Marsh side of the RSPB Reserve and a quick scan revealed that it still was!
We sped down Denge Marsh road and stopped at the start of the tarmac to scope it as it hunted over Hookers Pits. It soon dived into the pit and emerged with a small fish and headed slowly away but quickly lost height. We drove down the road and were amazed to find it in the ploughed field between Denge Marsh road and Hookers Pit. It didn't stay long - we stayed in the car but probably our proximity led it to fly over with it's fish and settle on a shingle ridge on the ranges. Fantastic views!
Seeing more Yellow Wags and a Raven en-route we drove around onto the Point and walked across the shingle to join a handful of birders standing around a patch of gorse. Eventually, after a few flight views, we had some views of the Wryneck deep in a patch of elder. It dropped out of sight but Mike soon found it feeding on the ground but deep in cover. With a bit of effort we could see and indeed photograph it through a "window" in the gorse as it fed in dappled sunshine. Over the next hour or so we had better and better looks until it eventually gave itself up, feeding in a small clearing and allowing fairly close approach. Always good to see and a bird I usually connect with every year at Dungeness. I saw my first ever Wryneck back in 1980 when the Dungeness Obs warden pulled one out of a bird bag after a net round much to my surprise and delight.
We headed to Scotney next via Lydd for food. The wind was freshening and cloud cover increasing. At Scotney we had a fair few Yellow Wagtails and several dozen Curlew but little else and we soon headed back to Denge Marsh where we connected with the 2 Cattle Egrets and saw several Hobby.
It was well past 5pm and our next and last port of call was the Hanson Hide on the ARC Pits.
Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, Little Stint and a few other waders were the highlights until Mike picked up a distant Osprey that may have been a different bird to our earlier sighting. By then Barry Wright and John Tilbrook had joined us and Barry remarked that it was the first Osprey he'd seen at Dungeness since the one he and I had seen together as schoolboys in 1983 on the RSPB Reserve over Burrowes Pit which had been my first ever!
|Whinchat - MOD ranges|
|Wheatears on the MOD ranges|
|Willow Warbler - Denge Marsh Gully|
|Osprey - juv, Denge Marsh|