Saturday, 2 February 2013


 I was very pleased to accompany Marianne Taylor on a trip to Dungeness last Thursday, this is an account of the birds we saw and also some we didn't. You can click here to go to the 'Wild Side' and read Marianne's super blog.
The Dungeness Bird Observatory was the first port of call where, if my memory serves me right, we saw a Blackbird, not a great start but the only way was up. Next stop the beach, where the strong south westerly was sending the waves crashing onto the shingle.

 Beyond the waves we saw small groups of Auks, mostly Guillemots, flying low above the wave peaks generally in a westerly direction. Among the usual gulls were good numbers of Kittiwakes, who on occasion benevolently hovered in the wind and gave us the opportunity to try and get a picture, although I for one struggled to hold the camera still in the harsh wind.  

 I have wanted to connect with the Glaucous Gull which has over wintered here for the last couple of years, but my previous attempts to see it have all ended in tears. As we scrunched our way along the shingle to the fishing boats where said beast usually hangs out, I was confident that today would be the day when the gull broke my duck. However, despite searching through three or four groups of loafing gulls like the one above, we failed to find it and it was tears again. Although this time I blamed it on the wind blowing in my eyes.

 I dried my eyes and we moved on to the RSPB visitor centre, stopping only to check the Tree Sparrows around the feeders at Boulderwall Farm. They were fine. The list of the day's sightings in the visitor centre was depressingly short, but our attention was drawn to a note proclaiming the recent presence of Snow Bunting(s) on the beach further along the coast at Greatstones. That sounded more interesting so we hit the road again and headed east. The trouble is, Greatstones beach is long, very long, and Snow Buntings are small, very small.  We dipped again. But we did find a few waders, a Sanderling, a couple of Oystercatchers, several Redshanks and numerous Turnstones. The last three species are represented in the picture above.  

One of the Oystercatchers accompanied us as we made our way back to the beach entrance, as did a Seal who eyed us suspiciously from the shallow water just behind the first breakers, the sea was much calmer here by the way. 

It had been the plan to bag the Buntings and then pay a visit to the Hanson hide at the ARC pit opposite the RSPB entrance. But a chance remark from me about the possible presence of Purple Sandpipers on the rocky groyne off the beach at Hythe, further along the coast saw us heading east again.

After parking up on the coast road we walked along to the Hythe Imperial Hotel and headed for the rocks directly opposite. At first they seemed deserted, but we soon spotted a couple more Turnstones and another one or two Sanderlings, above, as they scurried furtively around the huge boulders searching for whatever tiny morsels were on offer.

Then we found our quarry, a single Purple Sandpiper, below.

And before too long, as we sat patiently waiting on the shingle, three more appeared. We snapped away at the waders for a while as the sun sank slowly over Dungeness point and then called it a day, a very nice day.

 If i'd had my hip flask with me, I would have had a celebratory drink. On the rocks of course.


Bob Bushell said...

Amazing blog that you've given us, cheers Phil.

Marc Heath said...

Great account and some nice shots

ShySongbird said...

Hi Phil,

I hope all those tears have dried now ;-) It looked like you still had a good day though and took some very nice photos. It's a minimum of around a three hour journey to reach anywhere like that so I am quite envious. A shame you missed out on the gull and buntings but well done on the Purple Sandpipers, Needless to say, I've never seen one.

Marianne said...

Great post :) I enjoyed our day out very much. Rainham Marshes next? Pity about the Glaucous (I scrutinised my many photos of the gull flock and it's definitely not there).