Thursday, 28 July 2011


I've been wanting to get down to Dungeness for ages. All i've been waiting for is a nice calm sunny day. Today I gave up waiting and went down anyway. It was quite bright when I pulled up at the RSPB car park and I was hopeful that it might stay that way, which it did, for about five minutes.

I made my way past the Firth and Makepeace hides, calling in briefly to see the usual species here, the only surprise really being a couple of Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper on the now exposed islands and margins. In the reedbeds that line the water's edge before Scott hide I saw ReedWarblers, who kept themselves mostly away from prying eyes, and distant Reed Buntings like the one above.

I briefly saw a dragonfly here too, and to my eye and probably my imagination, it looked a bit like a Lesser Emperor, there have been a few sightings here recently. I stayed for about fifteen minutes in the hope that it would return but the cool breeze and lack of sun probably grounded it, and anyway, it was most likely a case of mistaken identity. My consolation during this time was the arrival on the far bank of the famous and seemingly summer resident Great White Egret.

The scrub opposite Christmas Dell hide quite often holds a few goodies and today didn't disappoint. I stood for some time watching a family of Sedge Warblers here and managed to squeeze a shot of one of the juveniles who was sitting and waiting for another beak full of flies from it's busy parent. A couple of young Willow Warblers whose yellow-green plumage seemed to look even brighter in the diffuse light were also earnestly fly catching, I wondered if they were stocking up for a long trip in the not too distant future. From the Christmas hide I got another look at the GW Egret who considerately stood alongside a Little Egret on the far bank, giving a helpful lesson in size comparison. Apart from some lethargic Pochards and a small flock of flyover Shelducks, there was nothing more to hold me. So I moved on and spent some time looking at the many Common Lizards who despite the lack of sun, were still keen to bask on the relative warmth of the dry grass and sheltered ant hills. They were literally everywhere, all shapes, colours and sizes. The one pictured below looked particularly gravid and seemed very reluctant to move away and the one below that was a superb green colour which the picture doesn't really do justice to.

Outside Denge Marsh hide another Sedge Warbler below, popped up from the tangled undergrowth and some Linnets called as they lifted up from the top of the nearby Gorse patch. Across the path to the east of the hide I noticed something a bit different, it took me a while to figure out that it was a young Stonechat, confirmation coming with the arrival soon after of the male adult bird.

If you like Coots you'd have loved the view from the Denge hide, hundreds of them, Coot city. Other inhabitants you might also like were Common Terns with some very cute chicks on the floating rafts, and a couple of Marsh Harriers, who also like Tern chicks I suspect.

Like the dragonflies, the butterflies were also in short supply, apart from the Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns, who seem to be perfectly happy flying in cool, grey conditions and once again Red Admirals seemed to be reasonably plentiful. The stars though were the three Peacocks who were feeding on a particular plant just off the boardwalk as I returned to the visitor centre. Compared to some butterflies Peacock's underwings are dark and sombre as you can see in the picture below, probably to help them go unnoticed by predators when hibernating.......

......but what a difference when seen from above, absolutely stunning as you can see below, and this was taken in poor light.

In the same area I found just one Small Tortoiseshell, below. Another beauty, but to my eye, not in the same class as the Peacock. Although i'm sure some will disagree.

After a quick bite to eat I went over to the ARC side where juvenile and adult Little Ringed Plover, both below, ran around like clockwork toys on the grassy edge of the lake opposite the viewing screen, arguing occasionally and chasing each other off for no apparent reason other than the sheer hell of it. Also seen here was a Green Sandpiper, while from the hide a single Dunlin, hundreds of Lapwings, Cormorants, Pochards, Common Terns, Gulls, Common Sandpiper, noisy Oystercatchers, the odd Teal, Little Egrets, a possible Golden Plover and a Brown Hawker all contributed, with others, to a superb grand finale.

In all I saw at least 50 species today. I was going to list them all on this post but i've changed my mind. For one thing it's 10.40pm and i'm too tired and for another thing you've probably had enough too.

But before I go there's just time to say that I had a quick visit to Dene Park wood near Tonbridge on wednesday afternoon. I saw a few butterflies and a few Emperor dragonflies, but best and most surprising of all I found two female and one male Beautiful Demoiselles, the female is pictured below, the male just wouldn't come down from his high perch. I don't know the area but I couldn't see any evidence of running, or even still water nearby, so I don't really know why they were there in the middle of the woods. But i'm pleased they were, what a nice surprise.


Warren Baker said...

Very nice sedgie photo's Phil.
I get those demoiselles in the woods here too, ( just a stones throw away from where you were) I assume they come from the river Bourne that runs quite near :-)

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Well you certainly made the best of your day with 50+ species .
I'd have to sit on the fence on the Sm.Tort x Peacock question , a fresh specimen of either is good for me .
Re. the Demoiselles away from water , Odonata spend a large part of their adult life away from water , and the woods would provide good feeding , returning to the water when they are ready to mate and oviposit .
Must do Dene Park for 'His Majesty' next year .

Rob said...

Phil, good point re the Peacock, there could hardly be a greater contrast between a butterfly's upper and underwings. The Reed Bunting looks good - reeds are a fascinating habitat I think. Never seen a Beautiful Demoiselle - what amazing wings.

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Another good trip to Dunge. As for the question, Small Tortoiseshell, or Peacock, I would chose the former.
Lovely Lizard shot, great camera work.

Kevin said...

As always a lovely set of photo's, I have been looking at a revisit to Dungeness myself and your write-up has guaranteed that I will be there next week. I am particularly keen to see Lizards, a part of our wildlife along with snakes that continues to elude me.

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, nice post, sounds like you had a good day, it's nice to get 'off patch' something that feels long overdue for me! Really like the butterfly photos. I wish the Sedge I'm getting at Sissinghurst would give me a chance at a photo, I'd be more than happy with any like yours :-)