First stop was Cliffe, just less than an hour away so there at first light.
|Looking towards the Thames estuary.|
A (to be confirmed later by photo, see below) honey buzzard overhead was being mobbed by a carrion crow along with cronking grey heron. A good start made better when I came across a solitary curlew sandpiper whilst trying to refind the woodies. A single black tailed godwit made its way over the path before my time was up and a return to the car to move on.
Species list for Cliffe RSPB:cormorant, little grebe, great crested grebe, greenshank, redshank, wood sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, common sandpiper, lapwing, avocet, (10 sp) honey buzzard, whitethroat, chiffchaff, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, reed bunting, willow warbler. blackbird,(20 sp) robin, dunnock, house sparrow, pied wagtail, pochard, tufted duck, wigeon, teal, mallard, carrion crow,(30 sp) rook, jackdaw, magpie, black tailed godwit, little egret, sand martin, house martin, swallow, black headed gull, herring gull, (40 sp) lesser black backed gull, snipe, mute swan, blue tit, wood pigeon, collared dove, great tit, long tailed tit, starling. Trip list: 49 species by 10.45a.m.
|flyby little egret|
|Juvenile Honey buzzard|
From here I had originally planned to visit Northwood Hill and Elmley, but actually headed straight to Oare Marshes.
Oare is a favourite haunt of mine, easy to view many birds and always having the potential to give a cracking bird. Winter appears to be best with short eared owls and barn owls, but this particular morning, summer plumaged golden plovers were present, along with more curlew sandpipers, a single little stint, several dunlin and 100's of black tailed godwits. After walking around the eastern side, and enjoying the hide here, I drove off, having not tracked down the long staying bonapartes gull. I had grilled a good selection of the black headed gulls both on the reserve and on the Swale mud, as had other birders, but no joy.
However, just past Harty cottages, 14+ yellow wagtails rose from a stubble field as I drove by. A record shot of one that took to the trees, the rest remaining virtually invisible amongst the stubble.
|View from the road|
|Not a very helpful yellow wagtail|
|dunlin and lapwing from the road.|
shelduck (50 sp) dunlin, ringed plover, golden plover, gadwall, shoveler, little stint, kestrel, coot, moorhen, yellow wagtail (60sp)
From here I headed off through Faversham to Canterbury and on to Stodmarsh, parking at Grove Ferry. Some of the reserve was closed due to repairs following the high water of the winter. The tower hide and adjoining area were all closed, so just a brief trip for a few photos from the hides etc. Not too on much going on here but a good kingfisher and little egret photo opportunity.
New species added at Stodmarsh:
pheasant, kingfisher, cetti's warbler, blackcap, wren. Trip list 65sp.
From here I drove south, arriving at Dungeness RSPB for a coffee and check the board for what was about. The ARC pit looked good, so I set off for a walk around to the viewing screen and after 10 minutes of searching found my target, a red necked phalarope in with the lapwings and frequently hidden behind them. A good bird to see and only my 3rd year lister of the trip (after little stint and yellow wagtail) I then headed back to the Hanson Hide where 4 garganey could be noted on the far side of the pit. A green woodpecker flew over the path as I headed back to the car and off to the bird observatory.
New species added at the ARC Pit:
greylag goose, great black backed gull, red necked phalarope, green woodpecker, canada goose, garganey 71 species.
|distant red necked phalarope|
|from the Hanson Hide|
By now it was late afternoon, so off to the obs, dropped off my stuff, and down to the sea watch hide. Not much going up or down channel, as would be expected at such a late time in the day but 4 more species made the list, taking the day's total to a reasonable 75species.
Species added to the trip list from Seat watch:
sandwich tern, gannet, common tern, oystercatcher (75 species)
|oystercatcher past the buoy|
|general view of the old lighthouse.|
Following this, I returned to the obs, quick chat with David and then off for something to eat, a drink at The Pilot and a relatively early night. Tomorrow, I was planning on an dawn sea watch from the hide, so awoke at 5.30, dressed and out into a stiff breeze and horizontal drizzle. This drizzle was coming through the slats in the hide, making everything damp, but it eventually ceased and the optics dried out. A watch from 6.15 - 9.00a..m realised over 100 gannets, many common scoter and terns as well as pleasing views of arctic skuas. A manx shearwater and 3 balearic shearwaters were more distant as were 2 great skuas sitting on the water. A good time and when I left, the breeze had dropped, rain stopped and the temperature was rising. Back to the obs to pack stuff in the car, give in my list and then have a coffee at the cafe before heading off to Dengemarsh Gully.
Species added to the list from 2nd sea watch:
manx shearwater, balearic shearwater, fulmar, grey plover, little gull, great skua, arctic skua, common scoter (83 sp)
The main bird at Dengemarsh Gully was a melodious warbler that had been present the day before. I arrived and it showed almost immediately. A female/first year redstart also popped up, making it 2 year listers in 10 minutes. The day was coming on well.
Species added from Dengemarsh Gully:
melodious warbler, redstart (85 sp)
It was now time for another coffee, so off to the RSPB reserve and their complicated coffee machine. A trip around the reserve seemed a good idea and off, firstly to the Firth Hide before eventually entering the Christmas Dell hide. I don't often get many birds from this point, but today added marsh harrier and flyby bittern. A stock dove flew over the path near the Dengemarsh Hide where a great white egret flew over. I then walked along the path toward the viewing ramp. A hobby shot over, my attention drawn to it by the alarm calls of the 1000's of hirundines. A whinchat dived for cover as I rounded a corner and heard a short squeaking call with occasional warbleresque ticking. I noted a long, slim grey warbler, slight supercillium and slightly darker grey/buff sides but a predominantly get and white bird with a clearly white chin. It was eating a blackberry and darted for cover within 3 seconds of me seeing it. A wait for over an hour and half ensued where I noted it flicking around in deep bramble and elder undergrowth, but it didn't show again. My initial thought was Upcher's but upon checking at the visitor's centre I didn't note a dark tail. The one that got away. I mentioned my sighting to staff, David whom I bumped into later and one or two folk said they'd go and check.
As I arrived back at the car park 14+ yellow wagtails rose from the shingle.
|black tailed godwit and black headed gulls|
|Strange shaped ruff|
|great white egret|
Species added from RSPB Reserve:
stock dove, bittern, great white egret, reed warbler, marsh harrier, tree sparrow, hobby, whinchat (93 sp)
From here, I thought I just had time to pop over to the Hanson Hide again and pleased I did. A spotted redshank came in soon after I arrived and a ruddy duck was noted not far out. The whole pit was alive with 1000's of sand and house martins + numerous swallows.
Species added from 2nd ARC pit;
ruddy duck, spotted redshank (95 sp)
I now, having taken rather longer here, noted that if I left I would encounter the worst of the traffic on the M25, so, upon hearing that both wryneck and black necked grebe had been seen recently at Dengemarsh Gully, I returned there. Sadly, the black necked grebe had been eaten by a huge pike just minutes previously and the wryneck hadn't been seen for quite a while. However, the melodious warbler was still showing, so I managed a few more shots, before scoring a trip lister with 2 flyby ravens.
Species added at 2nd Dengemarsh Gully visit:
Whilst not directly on the way home, I thought a quick side trip to Scotney Pools and Rye Harbour would be a good way to finish a superb trip. Nothing notable at Scotney, just huge numbers of gulls, geese and plovers but at Rye, a quick walk to the sea and back, scored with turnstone, several in summer plumage and little ringed plover on the beach the other side of the river. More yellow wagtails and terns were noted along the walk to the sea, but not enough time to do the whole circuit, so back to the car park, where I met a chap I'd chatted to earlier at Dengemarsh, who also was avoiding the traffic before heading back to Tonbridge Wells
Species added at Rye Harbour:
turnstone, little ringed plover
This brought the trip total to an impressive 98 species in what had basically been 26 hours of birding. Easy to go through the list and note what could have been seen to take me over the century, such as song thrush, curlew, wheatear etc. but a superb time. I left Rye Harbour at 7pm and still got held up at the tunnel, arriving back in the village just before 9pm.
|view over Rye Harbour Reserve|
Year listers from the trip;
little stint, yellow wagtail, honey buzzard red necked phalarope, manx shearwater, balearic shearwater, fulmar, little gull, great skua, melodious warbler, redstart, whinchat, tree sparrow, ruddy duck, raven, curlew sandpiper, taking my year list to a reasonable 186, with a day trip to Norfolk on Saturday and then a weekend at Portland should break the 200 species barrier. Not sure I can better last years 212.