Friday, 13 April 2012


David and I were disappointed to miss a Ring Ousel on the track to the visitor centre at Dungeness on thursday. I've only ever seen them on Snowden in Wales and once on the Langdale Pikes in Cumbria.

Just a few minutes later, a short way along the footpath, our attention was drawn away from the shrill piping of overflying Oystercatchers, to the hoverflies and butterflies which had taken to the air, encouraged by a few minutes of sunshine. I believe the hoverfly above is Eupeodes luniger and of course the butterfly is the Peacock, possibly my favourite, until the next species turns up.

One of the reasons for going to Dungeness was for the Sedge Warblers, which usually put on a bit of a show there as they pass through at this time of year.

We weren't disappointed, although I think it was a bit early, we heard quite a few but only saw a couple of willing individuals who sat on top of the brambles and proclaimed their arrival back in England for the summer.

They are very handsome birds compared to their Reed Warbler cousins I think, and this one posed nicely to prove the point.
Once the sun disappeared it turned pretty cold and the highlights were few and far between. The almost inevitable Marsh Harriers and the less common for Dungeness RSPB, Common Buzzard, were certainly entertaining. As was the Kestrel who hunted close by dropping dramatically to the ground several times in search of prey. Several Linnets sat atop the Gorse bushes, the males in particular looking splendid with their crimson breasts and Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers and Reed Buntings were heard and seen across the site. Unfortunately the Ring-billed Duck seen the day before wasn't. Just my luck.

From Dennis's hide my luck changed and I finally caught up with the long staying, long distance, Long-tailed Duck. In a rare moment on the surface I managed to at least get a record shot before the next lengthy dive.

The sun made a last gasp appearance while we were at the willow path, prompting this and other lizards to stock up on solar energy while it was available. Surprisingly and disappointingly only one hirundine was seen, a lone Swallow battling the bitter wind over the ARC pit. It didn't feel much like Spring.

And so to New Hythe lakes today, Friday the 13th and it felt even less like Spring, despite being serenaded by a Blackcap in the car park as I arrived.

Along the edge of Brookland lake it was smelly and cold. Courtesy of the mill, the fog and a bitter North wind blowing straight down the Medway Gap. Despite this the air was full of Hirundines, possibly a hundred or more Swallows, Sand Martins and a couple of House Martins (82) who all wheeled around together in the murky air, swooping low over the water to pick up insects which were either hatching in the lake or driven down to the surface by the cold conditions. A couple of Pied Wagtails joined the fray, flying out from a low bush and semi hovering to catch the dark coloured midges as they buzzed past on flimsy wings.

I stayed a while to enjoy the scene before heading to the sunken marsh where a Cuckoo (83) called about half a dozen times from the north end of the marsh. At the southern end of the railway path a Nightingale (84) sang hesitantly from the bushes close to Abbey Mead lake and then flew across the fishermen's path giving me a short view.

We don't see too many Bluebells at New Hythe but there were a few growing near the Brook House track, where a second and possibly third Nightingale was heard. There were at least two Willow Warblers near here too and I also saw a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other around through the branches, their behaviour, like every other bird, animal and plant, clearly triggered by something more than just air temperature.

I made my way back to the mound, pausing to watch the Wren pictured above, who was busy building a nest low down in the brambles. I don't know if it's my imagination but their numbers seem to be high at NH this Spring, courtesy of a mild winter perhaps. From the mound I watched as at least a hundred, probably more, Wood Pigeons took to the air in the distant gloom. As I tried to count them, what I thought was a Sparrowhawk at first, flew into the sunken marsh. A closer look revealed a Cuckoo which landed in a tree a couple of hundred yards away, probably the one i'd heard earlier. I soon discovered what had spooked the pigeons, when a Peregrine flew purposefully, north to south high over the back edge of the marsh.

As I made my way back to the car park I took the picture above. It's the edge of the mill roof and it was the preferred perch for dozens of Swallows. Maybe they'd had their fill of Brookland midges and were simply resting. But I like to think that they were swapping tales of their adventurous flights back from Africa. Or maybe they were moaning about the weather and wondering why they'd bothered.

And finally, in the reeds in the northwest corner I caught up with a Reed Warbler (85) heard by Dennis and Doreen earlier on. Thanks for that D&D.


Warren Baker said...

Sounds like the Migrants are arriving at new hythe thick and fast Phil, whitethroats next?

Jason K said...

What a cracking day out. Being in the land-locked Midlands I havent seen a Long-tailed Duck for years

P.s. Love this Lizard photo Phil

Greenie said...

Phil ,
You are certainly crossing off the migrants at a rate of knots now , and 85 species already .
You do like your Dunge don't you , think I'll let it warm up a bit still .
Shame the RBDuck eluded you but good to catch up with the LTDuck .
Think I'm going to have to try for your NH Cuckoo , having failed on seeing the Old Lodge one .
Most enjoyable post .

ShySongbird said...

What a great visit. Beautiful photos too, well done with the Sedge Warbler! Lots of hirundines and a Cuckoo, brilliant!

Love the photos of the Lizard ;-) and the LTT also.

Chris said...

Looks like everything is moving now, even here birds are arriving. Well done on the wren and long-tailed tits! I'd love to see the second one in France this summer. IĆ°ve not seen it for a while now.

Marianne said...

Glad you got your day with the Sedgies! Ring-billed Duck is a new one on me though! (Ring-billed Gull? Ring-necked Duck?)

Phil said...

Oops, I think I mean Ring-necked Duck! Well spotted Marianne.