Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A day of two halves, part 2

It rained steadily most of the way to Dungeness. In fact our plan A had been to go to Rye Harbour, but Rob decided to go to Dunge instead because 'they have hides' (well, Rye has hides too but they are fewer and further between). We needn't have worried though because the rain stopped shortly before we arrived.

Driving down the track to the visitor centre, Rob spotted a blob on a post which under closer inspection turned out to be a Cuckoo. I was just lining up a photo when another Cuckoo went by and the first one flew off in pursuit. Still, the first Cuckoo of the year is always a bit special, which is my excuse for including this dismal record shot of it.

We looked at the boards and decided to go to the ARC pit first, but not before a quick attempt to photograph the low-flying Swifts around the car park. Unfortunately they were also badly lit Swifts.

On the way to the hide we saw our first Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers of the year. We arrived to find an ominously empty hide. With little to see on the water, I scanned the margins for small birds. This female Chaffinch came to a large bulrush near my hide window and began to rip off the soft fluff.

Having gathered such a bundle of the stuff that she could barely see, she flew back into the scrub. From this same patch of scrub came the toneless 'song' of a Lesser Whitethroat, but it refused to give itself up to my lens.

Another undergrowth-fossicker, female Reed Bunting.

Leaving Rob, who was giving the Sigmonster one last try before we return it (again), in the hide, I went for a walk around the Willow Trail loop. At the point where it doubles back, you can see across a large swathe of reeds and I paused here to attempt to photograph a few Swallows as they drifted over (if it's possible to drift really fast).

As I walked the second, more wooded section of the path, the sun started to break through the clouds, and I decided to walk the loop a second time. The sunshine quickly brought out some butterflies - Orange-tips, Green-veined Whites and a couple of Speckled Woods.

On the wooded bit for the second time, I saw a movement among the trees and was soon enjoying views of a gorgeous Spotted Flycatcher, probably a brand new arrival, filling up on insects before continuing its migration.

We went back across the road to the main reserve, noting a Hobby darting past as we did so. Cards checked and little stickers received, we made our way along the trail, visiting all the hides but seeing rather little from them, though a very close fly-by Cetti's Warbler was nice.

Just before Christmas Dell hide Rob saw this female Wheatear, which sat with an air of infinite patience on a dead stump while I photographed her.

The light from Denge Marsh hide was very poor, a pity as there were numerous Common Terns here, fishing and fighting and settling on the tern rafts.

Near Denge Marsh hide we saw a second Hobby, this one at least close enough for a recognisable photo. On a strangely Marsh Harrier-less day,  it was good to see an alternative raptor.

The walk back to the visitor centre was a warbler-rich experience. From the top, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. Also lots of Linnets.

It was about 6.30pm by this point. We drove down to the beach and sat on it for a while, contemplating the sea and the occasional passing Sandwich Tern. The sun was sinking towards a thick bank of cloud, so we decided not to stick around for the sunset.

I got back to the car before Rob (he'd gone off to photograph the lighthouse) and watched a Pied Wagtail on the shingle. Then a second bird appeared, a beautiful male Wheatear which, like the female earlier, sat very still for some time, surveying the scene, before flitting off to attack the Pied Wagtail.

Linnets had been giving me the run-around all day, so I was pleased to nab this sneaky shot just before we left.


Mike Attwood said...

Marvellous day for you, hundred times better than I have had of late.

ShySongbird said...

Some lovely sightings there Marianne! Well done with the Spotty Fly. Great photos.

Warren Baker said...

Thats a good Swift Shot, a very difficult bird to capture. I like that Spotfly too. :-)

Izzie said...

These are wonderful photographs! Do you manage to get very close or do you just have a fantastic zoom? I'm far too clumsy to get that close for a decent photo!

Marianne said...

Thanks for the comments, folks :) Izzie, I use a 300mm f4 with 1.4x teleconverter, so that's 420mm (fixed focal length, not a zoom). It's not that high a magnification but the lens is sharp enough that I can often crop my pics a fair bit without totally wrecking them :)