Thursday, 31 January 2013

Different Dungeness

Today I went to Dungeness with Phil Sharp (see his ace blog here). We met at West Malling train station (I saw a brilliant close-range Buzzard from the train near Kemsing), and drove south-eastish, arriving at about 11.30am. We went to the sea first, and after an entirely fruitless lap of the observatory walked out onto the beach, where the strong wind was whipping up some pretty big waves.

I'd hoped for a repeat of the seabird-fest of bird-race day, but there were no Gannets around and a lot fewer auks. The very different weather conditions presumably have a lot to do with this. We did see a few auks, including this sextet of Guillemots, two already sporting their dark summer heads.

There were still loads of Kittiwakes around though, mostly flying into the wind just offshore and looking very pretty in the sunshine.

We got to the fishing boats and went through the assembled gulls in search of the elusive Glaucous, which today was at maximum elusiveness. The flocks did contain many Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backs, plus a few Kittiwakes and a couple of Skylarks, which flew off tweeting in dismay when they realised they weren't gulls.

I've included a few pics of random dogs over the years/months of doing this blog, and I don't see why I should stop now. This well-upholstered specimen was standing guard while his/her owner was fishing.

Next, we drove to the RSPB reserve, pausing for the obligatory look at the Tree Sparrows (seen here with one imposter House Sparrow) around the warden's cottage.

The news in the visitor centre wasn't terribly inspiring. We decided on a crazy whim not to walk around the reserve but instead to go to Greatstone and look for the Snow Bunting that had been reported there.

I've never been to the sandy beach at Greatstone. It's like a mini Camber Sands (complete with marram-cloaked dunes and expensive car parking). The most curious sight here was a fence that was decorated with colourful rubber gloves.

We'd hoped there would be other birders around to point us in the right direction for the Snow Bunting, but there were only dog walkers to be seen. We walked eastwards anyway, where the beach soon became shingly.

When the tide is out here, there is a huge acreage of muddy sand or sandy mud exposed, which attracts waders. Today the tide was very decidedly in, but we found a small crowd of waders sheltering by a groyne. Besides the Oystercatchers and Redshanks, there were also many Turnstones and at least one Sanderling.

Because the Oystercatcher in the photo with the Redshanks was blurry, here's another one, from the walk back along the beach. We also saw a seal (Grey, I think) bobbing about in what must have been very shallow water, and added another gull to the day's tally - Common.

We'd planned to go to the ARC pit next, but then Phil made a passing remark about wanting to go to Hythe sometime to look for Purple Sandpipers, and after some discussion we decided, sod it, we would give the ARC a miss and go to Hythe RIGHT NOW instead. I was keen on this idea as Hythe is on my list of possible places to go and live, when I make my much longed-for relocation to somewhere seasidey.

So we drove past New Romney and Dymchurch and into Hythe, and parked up on the sea road. It was just a short walk back the way we came, escorted by masses of gulls, to reach a large rocky breakwater where, we hoped, Purple Sandpipers would be lurking. We went down onto the beach on the well-lit side of the breakwater and had a good look.

Um, OK. This wasn't really what we'd come to see. But very pretty nonetheless.

The first waders to pop their heads above the parapet were the inevitable Turnstones. But a bit of patient searching revealed a Sanderling and at least four Purple Sandpipers. Here's some more pics...

Photographing this lot was tricky, as they kept disappearing between the rocks. But we managed it in the end.

With the light on its way out, I finished off with a few backlit shots of this supremely imposing Great Black-back, which was busy smashing cockles to bits on the beach behind us. It hadn't been quite the day I'd expected but had been great nonetheless. And I decided I like Hythe, very much.


Anonymous said...

Hi M,
Looks like another great day out! Great photos again, I particularly like the Kittiwakes. And a nice selection of Waders.
A shame about the Glaucous. I was at Amwell and also failed to see the reported there recently. But I did see the Yellow-legged and Caspian.
Best wishes, Graham

Alan Pavey said...

Dunge sometimes seems like a struggle but you nearly always come away with a great mix of birds :-) Nice Purple sand pics too.

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
Sounds like you visited most of East Kent on what sounds a very busy day .
That wind certainly helped with the in flight shots , very nice .
I keep meaning to head for Hythe for the Purple Sandpipers too , but also never got there .
Hope Phil didn't crack too many of his 'jokes' , would have made it a very long day if he did .
Can think of worse places to move to .

Warren Baker said...

Busy,busy day Marianne ! nice wader photo's :-)

That Phil threatened to pay my patch a visit this year !

Phil said...

A most enjoyable day Marianne. Shame about the very rough sea conditions and the AWOL Glaucous. Made up for by the Purple Sandpipers though. Glad you liked Hythe, despite the Elephants:-)

ShySongbird said...

It looked and sounded like you both had a great day. You certainly saw and photographed some lovely birds. Living in such a landlocked area I've never seen a Purple Sandpiper.

Keep the dogs coming, I love 'em and that one was a beauty :-)

Thanks for the info on my blog, I have added a footnote.

Kieron Palmer said...

That Buzzard at Kemsing is quite reliable, I see him from the train several times a week at the moment often sitting in a dead tree close to the track. Little Egret nearby today too.

thefitwriter said...

Hi from Swimmy! ;)

I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip to Hythe - I can report that it is a wonderful place to move to... :)

Next time you come down, do let me know. I'd love to show you around, and maybe Frankie could make it onto your lovely blog!


Jeremy said...

Lovely shots, one and all. Sounds like a great day out!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for replying to my hare challenge at Elmley. Checked your blog and you have taken some wonderful pictures. JJ

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