Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I had a long overdue day out with Ken Browne today of Focusing on Wildlife fame. Dungeness was our chosen destination and it turned out to be a visit of two halves. First half was the RSPB reserve where we were immediately treated to the almost obligatory sighting of a pair of Marsh Harriers in the distance. Always a good way to start in my book. We drove down to Scott hide I think it's called, for a scan across Burrowes pit. There wasn't much to keep us there really with just the usual gull species accompanied by Shovelers, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks, Cormorants, a very distant Kestrel and three noisy Oystercatchers. So we had a slow walk towards Christmas dell hide accompanied by several very vocal Cetti's Warblers, a couple of Reed Buntings, a single Blackbird, a Wren, some Greylag Geese and a Little Egret, yes, it was as busy as that! It wasn't much better from the hide either, which was empty when we arrived, Ken spotted a Grey Heron lurking in the reeds and a Redshank on a small island. A couple of Gadwall and a whinnying but invisible Little Grebe just about sums it up really. We returned to the car and drove around to Denge Marsh hide, spotting a Stonechat from the approach track, things were looking up, ish. Before going in the hide we had a short walk up to the gate, I sometimes find Grass snakes along here but the cool breeze and weak sun put the mockers on that today. More Reed Buntings (thank goodness for Reed Buntings), a Linnet, a showy Cetti's Warbler, some Lapwings and a Newt were scant reward for our effort. We had the hide to ourselves first of all, so out came the coffee and sandwiches, with entertainment provided by Shelduck, Gadwall, Gt Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, visible this time, some Canada Geese a fly by Small Tortoiseshell and a couple of Marsh Harriers. We stopped off at the mound on the way to the ARC pit because it would be rude not to, but the hoped for Bittern didn't boom and the Bearded Tits didn't ping, so we didn't stay too long. Just long enough to see a Peacock butterfly fly by. The Hanson hide on the ARC pit was also empty on our arrival, there's a theme here isn't there. The water level is still high and the bird count was still low. However, Ken managed to scope a distant female Goldeneye, followed by a not so distant and very handsome male Goldeneye. Then visitors arrived, not birds but fellow spotters who promptly told us what a great morning they'd had in the area of the old lighthouse. Tales of Black Redstarts, Wheatears, Goldcrests and best of all a pair of Serins soon had us blowing the whistle on the first half and heading for the shingle with unseemly haste.

On arrival at the old lighthouse we were met with a superb male Wheatear and two females (above), things were looking up now. Trouble is the hoped for Serins which would be a life tick for me and have been around for a couple of days apparently, were nowhere to be found. Despite a thorough search, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, a Chiffchaff and Pied Wagtails (below) were all we could muster.

Then two dark looking birds in amongst the Gorse caught our attention, these were Black Redstarts (below) and we spent some time then trying to get a decent photo of this stunning bird, during which time we also found a female in the same area.

It was getting a bit busy now with people turning up on the same mission as us so we had a final look around for the Serins before heading for our final stop at the bird observatory. I'm glad we did because as we spoke to another birder we noticed a small flock of Linnets near the side of the ride and as I watched them through my bins they flew up and the two Serins were in amongst them. As the flock turned away the serins broke off and flew towards the power station before heading north and coming down somewhere along the track. It was a fleeting glimpse really but a glimpse was better than nothing and we retired, happily, to the car and made our way along to the observatory. Along the way we had the chance to see another great looking male Wheatear, pictured at the top of the post and no less than three, possibly four more female Black Redstarts. I liked the second half best!

Blogger is still refusing to apply paragraph breaks, so apologies for the solid blocks of text.

Get your fingers out BLOGGER!


Mike Attwood said...

Very nice shooting Phil.

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Thanks again for a great day out. You did get some good shots after all. That's a good account of how the day went. I had a job writing mine, I should have left it until the morning, I wasn't feeling 100% this evening, too much excitement probably(HaHa)
Anyway, once again I had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Cheers Phil.

ShySongbird said...

Lovely photos Phil and a beautifully written post as always, I particularly liked the first and last photos.

It sounds like you and Ken had a great time in the end. I hunted two days running for a Black Redstart at Draycote but no luck :(

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, it's a great time of year to be out finding those first arrivals, sounds great and you got some really good pics. I'm pleased you finally caught up with the Serins, however brief :-)

Warren Baker said...

Hi Phil
Those wheatear do love the camera dont they :-) well done on those Serin, never seen one myself.

PS I cant get blogger to do paragraphs either ! I have to keep farting around after I have written the post !!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Really envious of those Serin , like Warren , I have never seen one . Some nice shots of them on DBO page .
Some of the other species were well worth the effort .
Cracking shots too .

Bob Bushell said...

What a Wheatear shots, simply fine.

Paul said...

Hi Phil, very very nice shots there mate, it looks like you and Ken shared a great day between you.

Chris said...

Your wheater shots are terrific, well done Phil...