Monday, 24 September 2012

Annual Pilgrimage to Dungeness

I went with Stuart for our annual pilgrimage to Dungeness. Dungeness is one of those places that is either hopping or dead (from a birding point of view), and unfortunately today it was the latter. But to me it will always be a charismatic place going back to the days when I used to visit with mum and dad on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RHDR) back in the 1950s. Ah memories. Somewhere in the loft I have a photo of the old lighthouse, when it was still operational, taken from the train. But I digress.

We first went to the "patch", the warm water outfall from the power station which usually attracts vast numbers of gulls but today it seemed silent, possibly due to the maintenance work that is being carried out as part of the closure of the station. So we moved on to the area around the fishing boats hauled up on the beach to see what was there. Nothing unusual I'm afraid, but there were some large gulls present. They were too lazy to fly away and waited for their photos to be taken, like these Great Blacked-backed Gulls and a Herring Gull.

Also on the beach were three rather flighty and distant Wheatears, which at least did act as a reminder that Autumn passage was still underway.

Then on to the RSPB reserve. Having marvelled at the expensive bird food on sale in the visitor centre, we made our way to the Firth Hide, which was good news and bad news. The bad news was that there was only one wader present in front of the hide. The good news was that it was a Pectoral Sandpiper. Pec Sands are scarce passage migrants from America and Siberia. A few are seen in Spring, but the vast majority appear in late Summer and Autumn. Young Pectoral Sandpipers from the eastern coast of North America can be blown over the Atlantic by areas of low pressure. It is the most common North American wading bird to occur here and has even started to breed in Scotland very recently.

The final circuit took us round towards Denge Marsh and on the way we heard the familiar call of a Kingfisher. Luckily, it chose to ignore us and settle on a dead pile of twigs over the water allowing a couple of rather opportunist shots through the reeds blowing around in the breeze.

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