We arrived at Dungeness RSPB reserve at about 10am and our interest was immediately captured by a male Kestrel flying across the track with a small vole in it's grasp. He flew over to the large nest box on the front of the farm building and handed his prize to a female Kestrel who then flew away, presumably to feast on her gift, unless they have chicks somewhere but I thought it was a bit early for that?
We drove down to the third hide, Makepeace I think it's called where a scan of the gravel pit revealed just a few species including Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier and assorted Gulls. Pretty quiet really and not helped by the strong cold breeze which also didn't lend itself to camera opportunities throughout the day. The walk along the track down to Christmas Dell gave us a Little Egret which flew low to the West allowing the early sun to show off it's yellow feet which always look a bit bizarre to me stuck on the end of black legs.
There were a few Curlew feeding in the flooded fields and the ever present Reed Buntings sang their simple song alongside the chatter of Sedge Warblers hidden deep in the trackside brambles. A pair of flyover Wigeon caught our attention here as did displaying Lapwing whose tumbling flight seemed all the more dramatic in the squally wind. The almost resident pair of Shelduck were still in the flooded meadow where they have been for some weeks now and there were also three Black-Tailed Godwit in the same area one male looking resplendent in chestnut red spring plumage.
We decided to return to the car and drive back to the visitor centre and round the track to Denge Marsh hide and while walking back we passed the New Excavations and found our first of four Slavonian Grebes of the day superbly decked out in their summer plumage of black and chestnut with yellow/orange 'horns' , very impressive, I just wish we could have got a picture! Also impressive were the two male Yellow Wagtails bouncing around by the car park fence who also denied Ken the chance of a photograph, never mind.
Lunch in Denge Marsh hide was a busy affair, not with birds but with people, everybody seemed to have the same idea I think. Another Salavonian Grebe here, along with a couple of Little Grebe and Gt Crested Grebe, a single Swallow spotted by Ken and a Stock Dove all added to the list. While Ken remained on hide duty I took a quick stroll down the track to see what else I could find and was soon rewarded with a Weasel scurrying across the track, head held high and a small vole species held firmly in it's jaws (bad day for Voles today!). I usually try and call these and Stoats back when I see them and it usually works well but since this one already had his lunch sorted I left him alone to enjoy it. Among the calls of Sedge Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Dunnock I then heard the scratchy song of a Whitethroat, I waited for quite a few minutes for it to make a brief appearance and when it did I shot it (below), not a great job but very welcome.
I went to get Ken to share the find but unfortunately there was no sign when we got back. Ken however soon spotted a Stoat running across the track, this time I did try to call it back and we did indeed get a further short view of what seemed to be a very large Stoat, I don't recall seeing one as big as that before. A quick scan of the small lake here revealed our third and best view of a Slav Grebe but again no pics were possible. There was just time to spot a Linnet on the gorse before returning to the car and heading for the ARC site.
Quite a few Hirundines here, mostly Swallows but a good number of House Martins and one or two Sand Martins to complete the trio. We walked round the Willow trail where we were amazed by the number of Frogs basking in the slightly sheltered sunny edges of the flooded interior. I assume these were Marsh Frogs, although not sure. They were all the same size 2-3 inches long and they were plopping into the water with almost every step we took. Ken also spotted a small lizard making it's way across the very wet ground, it didn't seem too lively so I picked it up gently and returned it to the drier side of the track. Final sightings from the Hanson hide included a couple of distant female Goldeneye, three more species of Gull, Great Black Backed, Black Headed and Common and finally the fourth of our Salvonian Grebes.
Nice one Ken. Nice one Dungeness.