Given the lack of winter ducks at New Hythe again this winter, I decided to pay a long overdue visit to Dungeness to try and see some there.
I called in at Hanson hide on the ARC site first and was quite surprised at how little there was to be seen there. A Great White Egret loomed large on the far side, to the right of the water tower and just to the left of that a Bittern could just be made out moving slowly among the reeds. The Bittern was clearly winning in the popularity stakes between the two of them, with the GWE serving more as a 'marker' to guide the scopes and binoculars to the almost invisible (certainly to the naked eye) Bittern. I wondered what the difference might have been a few short years ago when the sight of a GWE was merely the stuff of dreams?
There was very little to point the camera at, the Goldeneyes (above) were keeping their distance which was a shame because there were two splendid males who frequently threw their heads back and puffed their chests out to attract the eye of the attendant ladies. To no avail it seemed
A Sparrowhawk zipped around the hide, level with or slightly below the windows and the occasional Marsh Harrier wreaked havoc among the Coots and ducks as they glided over the lake, seemingly just because they could.
Along the track on the reserve, which is currently being repaired (not a moment too soon I'd say) was another GWE pictured distantly above. I saw nothing else of note apart from Reed Buntings on the entrance feeders, not least because my eyes were glued to the track to avoid the myriad of deep, water filled potholes.
I visited Makepeace hide first and from there I could see the male and female Smew which have been entertaining the visitors recently. Scott hide is reputed to be the best place for a view and maybe a picture but I could see that it was packed like sardines inside. Maybe that explains the presence of this Cormorant, waiting expectantly in front of the hide.
After a while I noticed a small group of people leaving the tin, I mean hide. So I took my chance and left the solitude of Makepeace and headed for the action.
It didn't seem too long (although I may have dozed a bit), before the superb male Smew arrived to much excitement and a fanfare of shutter clicks. This really is a handsome bird and my poor shots do it no justice.
His favoured fishing area seemed to be to the right of the hide, straight into the light from where I perched on the left side of the hide. Talking of Perch, they were on the menu, with one being consumed, as above and below, before the bird left the area to digest in private.
Each time he returned he dived in the same area as before and surfaced with a Perch. This is unlikely to be the preferred fish, they are the predominant species in gravel pits these days.
In between the star performer, the supporting acts did a good job of entertaining the crowds with a swim past by this Little Grebe.........
..........and a swim back with this Tuftie for company.
And finally for an encore, this Kingfisher perched briefly some distance away after teasing us with fly pasts during the morning.