Wednesday, 16 October 2013


The wet and windy Autumnal weather at the weekend produced stories of grounded flocks of Ring Ouzels all around the Kent coast. I've only ever seen them in Wales and the Lake District so the prospect of a Kent bird saw me heading for Dungeness on Monday morning.
First stop was the area around the Dungeness bird observatory aka the moat, where, apart from some Song Thrushes, a Chiffy or two and some Goldfinches on the teasels, the only black birds were Blackbirds. To the east of the moat is a nice scrubby area of shingle bordered by some low Willow. It was here that I finally caught up with two Ouzels, a male and a female. Both showed for just a couple of seconds, not surprising since there were three low flying Sparrowhawk attacks over the scrub in the half hour or so that I stayed. My first Redwings and Fieldfares of the year were also seen here and a single female  Stonechat was seen on the walk back.

Around the RSPB reserve it was a case of quality, not quantity really. Two more Stonechats and the usual Tree Sparrows were along the track, while from Dennis's hide at the car park I saw four Great White Egrets and six Little Egrets in the sheltered eastern end of the lake. Also here, again distant was a single Black-necked Grebe. From Firth hide were Black-tailed Godwits, a few Snipe, Ruff and while I watched, a small flock of Golden Plovers flew in and landed on one of the islands. At Makepeace hide a further two GW Egrets were visible towards the western end of the lake. I'm pretty sure these were in addition to the four seen earlier giving a maximum of six, or a minimum of four. Either way quite astonishing really, it was only a few years ago that I raced down to Dungeness to see my first one and watched and wondered when I might get to see another of these elegant and at the time, quite rare birds.
Apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel, the only other sighting of note around the track were three Swallows waving a late goodbye to the impending UK winter as they sped towards Africa. It made me wish I was returning too!
Last stop was the viewing screen where I soon located the very distant Glossy Ibis. Luckily it was spooked by something, Marsh Harrier I think, and it took to the air and relocated a bit closer. Unfortunately still not close enough for a picture in the gloomy conditions.

On Tuesday, with an improving weather forecast Carol and I went to Knole Park in Sevenoaks.

I expected to see some Ring-necked Parakeets but didn't expect to see so many. Sweet Chestnuts were the main attraction, with noisy loose flocks making their way from one nut laden tree to the next.

I have mixed feelings about these birds. On the one hand they are great looking birds and add a kind of tropical feel with their bright green plumage and loud screeching call. On the other hand they are an introduced species and that usually causes repercussions to other native species. I'm sure the growing number of these in Knole must be causing something of a shortage of nest sites for other hole nesting birds. 

The other big attraction here are the deer. Although they don't seem so plentiful nowadays. I fear there may have been some culling. The Fallow buck above was the only one we saw, he stayed in his wallow and bellowed loudly for a while. This was the only sign of Fallow rutting to be seen, or heard. 

Although the park is quite busy in some areas, the deer are still very wary and the hinds in particular don't allow a close approach.

This little group kept a wary eye on us before melting deeper into the woods.

Above and below are pictures of the other deer species in the park, Sika deer. Another non native species, Asian I think. Note the white patches on the hind legs, a Sika trademark.

I'm assuming the picture above is a young Sika stag. He was definitely on a mission, head down and we thought probably following the scent of a hind who had just gone past and disappeared into the undergrowth.

By mid afternoon the sun had finally come out and we headed back to the Chestnut trees where the Parakeets had been feeding earlier. I was hoping to get some shots of them in decent light but they had moved on. We did however get a visit from this Kestrel who glided in and perched high above us in the 'Parakeet tree'. 

He watched us, watching him for a while before dropping to the ground and flying off empty taloned.

Apart from a Speckled Wood, this Small Copper was the only other butterfly seen, spotted by Carol as we crossed the golf course.


Mike Attwood said...

WOW! You did more in a day than I,ve done all year.

Jason K said...

Good to here that you caught up with the Rouzels Phil...they are always a good bird to see on autumn passage

Alan Pavey said...

Nice stuff Phil, like the Sika and well done with the Ring Ouzels, luckily i had one on the patch in spring as I missed all this autumns ones!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Just a day out on another Dunge meeting then .
Well done with the Ring Ousels , very envious .
Literally 100s of Fallow Deer were culled a couple of years ago at Knole . Hardly any rutting since , but will have a look towards end of the month .

Lou Mary said...

A lovely account with some great photos. The first shot of the wren amongst the blackberries is my favourite!

Ken. said...

Looks like you and Carol picked good day to visit Knowle Park. It is about time I paid it a visit. Nice pictures of the Parakeets.