I spent the day at Dungeness yesterday in the good company of Ken Browne from Halling. We had a slow drive through an almost totally snow free Walland Marsh to start with trying to find some bewick swans, but the only flocks of grazing swans we saw were too distant to identify with binoculars, but never mind we said, we're sure to see some on the ARC pit later in the afternoon aren't we?? We did manage to find some nice flocks of corn buntings, redwings and linnets plus singles of yellowhammer and mistle thrush before arriving at the RSPB Dungeness car park. Now throughout this really bad weather we've been having lately the RSPB have been asking us not to forget to put as much food out for the birds as we possibly could, because they desperately needed it and i'm sure we all did. The picture below is of the feeding station in the car park.............................just an observation!
As we were walking down to christmas dell hide a weasel ran across the path about 25-30 feet in front of us. I immediately went into "distressed vole" impersonation which was obviously quite realistic because I managed to coax him back until he was about 10 feet away from us. He then realised he'd been had and dashed back in to the undergrowth in search of a proper vole. Also along the path here was a very nice friendly kestrel which stayed put on it's perch until we were quite close before flying off in search of a vole.....who'd be a vole!? A flock of barnacle geese were a nice surprise as they flew quite low over our heads heading roughly north. From the hide we saw the usual wildfowl including pochard, wigeon, tufted duck, gadwall etc. Ken also found a couple of snipe but unfortunately no sign of a bittern.
On then to Scott hide where the first bird in the bins was a redhead smew, two of these were eventually seen here, unfortunately no drakes. Other birds seen with the help of Ken's scope were female goldeneye, at least five if my memory is correct, some ruddy duck, pintail, little grebe, teal, shoveler, several marsh harriers and a wren busily hunting for food in front of the hide.
Next destination was denge marsh hide where we soon located two black necked grebe which seem to spend 95% of their life underwater but I did manage to get one of my usual blob on water pictures (below) just for the record. Apart from these two characters there wasn't a lot different here but Ken spotted common gull and some stock dove and I noted a curlew flying low across the water. The marsh harriers were also playing havoc with the flocks of wigeon, sending them up in a state of panic every time they flew low over the margins. I noticed that one of the harriers appeared to have a single white wing tag. This bird was most likely tagged on the Isle of Sheppey where white tags were used (on both wings) on some chicks in early summer 2009. I have passed details of the sighting to the appropriate e mail address as requested on posters inside the hide and also on page three of the KOS newsletter for winter 2009. Grey heron made the note book but again no sight of a bittern.
As usual time was running short so we decamped and headed for the ARC pit where we had an appointment with some bewicks. More good birds were found here again with the help of Ken's scope, including another redhead smew, eight goosanders, including two drakes, and about ten more goldeneye of which five were drakes. Also worth a mention was a cetti's warbler giving nice views while foraging in the the tangled undergrowth in front of the hide. In all we managed to see 51 species and as for the bewicks, they couldn't make it so i've re-booked for next week.