Sunday, 6 December 2015

A good day for LEOs

Not that I believe in astrology. But Friday was the day that I photographed my first Long-eared Owl so that makes it a good day for Taureans too. I met Phil at West Malling station, and we drove to Dungeness, stopping briefly at a KWT reserve called Quarry Wood, so Phil could meet the warden there and collect a key for the gate (it is very local to him and very underwatched). During the stop I noted a flock of 50+ Fieldfares, and made friends with the warden's very sweet terrier. And then on to Dunge. It was a beautiful day and we were keen to make the most of the few hours of daylight.

I warmed up my out-of-shape photography reflexes on this Carrion Crow, which flew over as we got out of the car.

Two pretty much identical views of the Long-eared Owl that's been here a while now. Its roosting spot is on the far side of the dipping pond. The shots are very cropped as you can't get close to it, but no doubt if it were possible to get closer then someone would've got too close by now and the owl would have left. It must feel safe enough to be roosting almost in plain view. As we watched it, a couple of Peregrines flew overhead but I was too slow to catch them on camera.

The views from the hide revealed the usual array of wildfowl. Actually, there were no Pintails. We found one Smew (no pics) and quite a few Goldeneyes though all were female-types. A Kingfisher showed very well in flight a few times. The water levels were super-high, hence no waders (except Lapwings).

We walked the full loop around the main reserve and didn't see very much - Marsh Harriers (distant), a solitary Stonechat, a Great White Egret at the back of Dengemarsh.

Driving back over to the ARC pit we found a slightly closer GWE, but the ARC itself was almost a no-bird-zone. We heard a couple of Cetti's on the short walk to the hide.

On to the beach. Here are a few Great Black-Backs and Herring Gulls, photographed while Phil tried and failed to purchase some plaice for his tea from the little fish shop by the lighthouse. Moments after this, a Weasel crossed the road, and then we found another when we walked around the Obs - but again no birds to speak of - my hopes for a Black Redstart round the back of the power station were not to be fulfilled.

One of several Pied Wagtails trotting along the power station perimeter wall. Also on this bit of path we met what we thought at first was a group of four birders heading back from the beach hide, but as they got closer we saw that while two of them were indeed birders, the other two were police officers carrying massive guns, though they greeted us with great friendliness. We asked the coppers if they'd seen any Caspian Gulls (they said no) and they asked us if we'd seen any terrorists (we said no). It was all very good-humoured, though quite scary to see their weaponry close-up.

Lots of shingle-shifting work is going on round here. I've put up a photo of a digger in the absence of any bird pics. Not too much was going on at sea, except for the 'patch' which was seething with gulls, but we decided to head to Hythe and look for Purple Sandpipers for the last bit of daylight rather than spend more time here.

At Hythe I was keen to check the strandline as I've been reading about interesting stuff washing up lately - goose barnacles and whatnot. But there wasn't a strandline - they have been combing and raking the shingle. I did find this tragic washed-up casualty though.

The first breakwater was bird-free but we went on to the next and found a few 'Purps' - five in all. The light was really gone by this point but I took a few pics anyway, they are such appealing birds.


Mike H said...

Hi Marianne,

I went to Dunge on Friday as well as you and Phil. I saw a pair of Pintail from Scott Hide, a drake and two duck Gooseander from Scott Hide . Later from Makepiece hide a fine Adult Caspian gull and at the close of play 4 Red head Smew from Denis' hide. I have posted a record shot of the Caspian on my Flickr site.



Phil said...

They are indeed very appealing birds Marianne and it was good to maintain the unbroken record of sightings of them.
Perhaps not the most prolific of days this time, more quality than quantity I think. Hopefully we can find some Shorties in 2016.
In the meantime have a great Christmas and a very, very, happy new year!