Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Yearlisting at Dungeness

In a moment of madness I agreed to a yearlist challenge with James. I don't usually keep a yearlist but I kind of have to, now. Nick ALWAYS keeps a yearlist, just for his own interest, so he was as keen as I was to go somewhere good on January 1st, and the obvious choice was good old Dunge. The day began very pleasantly (albeit cold, with an actual frost!) but greyed over and got windy towards the afternoon. Birding from the car produced much what you'd expect, with Fieldfare the top bird.

We started out at the beach, taking a bit of a look at the gull flocks without finding the first-winter Caspian that's been here a while before walking close to the shore to seawatch. There was a big sea going on and lots of avian action over the waves. We ticked off Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, Gannet and Med Gull in quick succession, plus the commoner gulls and lots of Cormorants.

Of course, the only thing in photo-range out of that lot was commoner gulls, in this case an actual Common Gull, and two Great Black-backs, an almost-adult and a first-winter.

Another first-winter GBBG, watching over the car. We drove down to the Obs end, and took a totally fruitless stroll around the 'moat'.

Back past the power station to check the patch. Here's one of two Pied Wagtails that were patrolling the perimeter, this one looking apologetic that it's not a Black Redstart.

The patch was very busy as ever. We went fairly close to it and scoped it for a while, hoping to unearth a Kittiwake or even a Little Gull, but no joy.

A photo of the patch, which I took in order to look at more closely later, in case there actually was a Kittiwake in there, and...

... D'OH! There it is. But we didn't see it at the time so it's not going on our lists.

We went back to the car, getting a Stonechat en route. Then I noticed a small knot of people who seemed to be scoping another gull flock and decided we should go and look at what they were looking at. It turned out that they were not scoping the gulls at all - they had a small camera on a tripod and were taking scenic pics. But that didn't matter, because among the gulls was a suspiciously smallish, intriguingly pale-headed first-winter one, which woke up after a while to show its little eyes and long, straight bill.

And we'd found the Caspian. A very distinctive bird when seen properly. Here it is 'dry-retching at the hideousness of Dunge', as my friend Ian put it when I showed him this photo. I took many, many more pictures of it but in honour of those who think it's 'another bloody seagull' I'll just stick to one photo.

However, that is the last photo of the day. Things had gloomed over a LOT and we didn't see anything much else at close enough range, except for two very close fly-over Great White Egrets after I'd put the camera away - again, d'oh. But we added quite a bit to the day list on the main reserve, including the Long-eared Owl at the dipping pond, Smew and Goldeneye on Burrowes pit, and other bits and bobs including Cetti's Warbler, Common Buzzard and, surprisingly, a lone Egyptian Goose at the back of Dengemarsh. And we just had enough time at the end of the day to nip to Hythe and get Purple Sandpiper.

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