Saturday, 7 February 2015

Wrapped up warm at Dungeness

Friday saw Phil and I travelling to Dungeness, in some trepidation because, although we were in a nice warm car and the sun was (mostly) beaming down, we knew that there was some serious windchill going on outside, and if there's one thing Dungeness does well, it's windchill. We arrived at the warden's cottage at about 10.45am, just as a female Kestrel zipped low across the track in front of us.

She landed on the cottage chimney stack and stayed there while we cautiously got out of the car and took some photos. As you can see by the state of her plumage,  it was indeed super-windy. No Tree Sparrows were showing at the feeders, so we got back in the car and drove on to the visitor centre.

Some of the trails were closed because of flooding. But the gen was that there were several Smews on Burrowes Pit. The water on view from here was very choppy indeed and the only birds braving it were a small fleet of Coots, but we thought there might be some sheltered bits further along, so walked down to the Makepeace hide.

This hide sits on a corner and shelters a bit of the pit. In this area were great rafts of ducks, avoiding the roughest bits of the water. Most of those close at hand were Shovelers, with larger numbers of Wigeons further out. Here and there were also smaller groups of Tufties, Pintails, Teals and Gadwalls.

 Here's a little flight of Teals...

... here's a chillaxing female Gadwall...
... and here's a rowdy pool party of Wigeons.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes materialised among the closer ducks.

Further out we could see a redhead Smew, and thought that it might be more readily viewable from the next hide along, so we opted to continue.

On our way round, we met this Robin foraging on the path, and coping well with the wind periodically knocking it flying.

From the hide at the far end of the pit, half a dozen redhead Smews were visible, a couple of them pretty close. As we watched this one, a Kingfisher nipped past.

We went back to the visitor centre, walking into the wind now so were obliged to adopt a ridiculous bent-double posture to make any headway. After a look at the board and a bit of debate, we decided to try the ARC next.

We paused on the way, for Phil to investigate a warning light on the car (a call to the garage said we were not immediate danger of catastrophe) and for me to photograph these Curlews in fields by the path.

The ARC car park was empty, a worrying sign which was borne out when we reached the hide and from it could see nothing but Coots and two very distant Goldeneyes. Because we are nothing if not optimistic, we walked around the other side to the viewscreen, seeing a couple of Marsh Harriers on the way.

From the viewscreen, we could see ONE bird. This one. At least it is a 'good' bird - one of the nine Great White Egrets currently present in the Dungeness area. The sheltered water right in front of the hide looked the perfect refuge for birds to get out of the wind but it was deserted.

So, we headed for the beach next. I had hoped there might be some seabirds around besides the usual, but this was not to be, though down at the Patch there was a phenomenal number of gulls on view.

A few pics to give you an idea of the scale. These were taken while sheltering in the lea of the rather nice new seawatching hide.

The sea was throwing some pretty crazy shapes.

It was by now about 2pm, very sunny, and still windy as heck. We returned to the car, and decided to drive on to Hythe and have a look for Purple Sandpipers, as has become something of a winter tradition. The drive is always enjoyable, through a string of coastal villages - all of which I'd like to live in - before you get to Hythe, a very nice coastal town which I'd REALLY like to live in.

We parked near the first breakwater, and while Phil made a phone call I went down onto the beach and looked for waders among the big rocks. There was some work going on nearby, with diggers shifting the shingle about, which I thought might be why I could find no Purps, but then Phil joined me and instantly located a lone Purp. However, it was distant and we couldn't get closer. The next breakwater we checked, at the far end of Hythe, was Purp City, though, with at least six of the chubby little waders pottering about on its rocks, along with two Turnstones.

Two Purps and a Turnstone. The light was, as ever, tricky, but it was (again, as ever) a joy to see these confiding little waders.

A few gulls were drifting past. I was hoping for a Med but had to make do with Black-headeds. The vicious wind also seemed to have dropped, it was really very pleasant and I was sorry to have to leave.


Phil said...

A very enjoyable day Marianne, despite the wild weather and dodgy car!
The car will be back to full health on Tuesday, but my man flu, which struck me down on Saturday, will probably take longer :-(

Bob Telford said...

Great read, hope you've warmed up by now.