Sunday, 27 November 2011

Hemel RSPB trip to Dungeness (26th November)

As usual an RSPB trip to an excellent reserve meant good birds were involved and despite only arriving shortly before 10:00am (due to a stop at the local Tesco for breakfast) we saw a large array of species, with a total of 60 species seen on the day by the group members, of which I saw 59.  The journey to the reserve was eventful with 5 Kestrels, 3 Buzzards, 300+ Woodpigeon, 2 Deer (probable Fallow or Roe) a flock of 31+ large thrush sp.(probably Fieldfare), 1 Common Gull, 12+ Herring Gull, 2 Jays and closer to the reserve (on the left hand side of the B2075, near New Romney) my brother and I both picked up on a large grey bird standing still with an upright posture, long neck and tarsus/tibia.  Its front was pale grey whilst its back was darker grey, and no markings on the neck.  Bill length and head pattern unfortunately couldn't be noted as we were in a moving car and it was facing towards us, the size (4/3 the size of a Grey Heron and upright stance indicated to me that it was a possible CRANE!)  This is a plausible record as the species was also seen a few days earlier to our uncertain record flying over the nearby Dungeness RSPB reserve.


This has only been my second ever visit to Dungeness and the experience and landscape were equally fascinating.  The Cuspate Foreland (a triangular accretion of shingle that projects seawards) hosted a wide variety and number of wildfowl and even some rarer species.  Our first stop was the ARC pit that is situated near the center of the accumulation of shingle.  On our way to the Screen, we had our first view of a juv. Marsh Harrier and from the Screen a gull roost of 30+ Great Black-backed Gulls, and the addition of several Herring Gulls and Common Gulls was certainly an impressive sight.  The highlight undoubtedly was the long staying adult winter GREAT WHITE EGRET (a life tick) that was present on the central island before flying towards the Hanson ARC hide.

Size: (c. 1/3 larger than a Little Egrets).
Bill: predominantly bright yellow bill with only small black tip.  The base was pale horn coloured and towards the eye it was pale green.
The tarsus and tibia were both black (unlike the yellow feet of the Little Egret), its profile was more hunch backed.

 cropped view of the digiscoped Great White Egret

Digiscoped shot taken by my brother on his iPod.

The ARC pit also hosted 2-3 Redhead Smew amongst the 100+ Wigeon that frequented the southern side of the reservoir but unfortunately blocked for most of the time by the reeds.  Several other wildfowl were also on the pit including Teal, 6 Shelduck, 2 Pintail, several Goldeneye (with 2+♂) 5 Little Egrets and a single Little Grebe.  On our way back to the car park 2 Meadow Pipits were noted and 2 ad. Peregrines flew over together (a possible pair) following a flock of 70+ Lapwing

Our next stop was at the visitor center itself were we did a round walk of the various pits, on the way visiting all the hides.  The main area of water, directly infront of the visitor center had several duck species, including 9+ Pintail, large numbers of Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard and several Grey Heron skirting the border along with 1 Little Egret.  The hides were unfortunately overcrowded for much of the time, (as well as noisy) so I decided to scan outside the hide over the extensive marsh, this definitely paid of as the rest of the group only saw ducks as I had a probable sighting of a distant Bittern in flight towards Denge Marsh and was definitely one of the highlights of  the day.  On our way round the we also encountered Marsh Harriers on several occasions, with at least 1 pair seen together and at least half a dozen separate sightings of individuals, with one on occasion being harried by a passing Peregrine in front on the Denge Marsh Hide.  I was extremely thrilled to refined the elusive GLOSSY IBIS (a life tick) that had been lost earlier in the day as I saw it in flight over the far side of the pit and land on an arable field, just out of sight.  It was mostly seen in flight for the rest of the afternoon as we stayed in the hide and on one occasion I was feeding in the open shallows to the right of the hide.

Size: a medium size wader approximately the size of a Little Egret, the bill and dangling tarsus did make up much of its length and its slender profile was unlike a bulkier Cormorant of Heron.
Profile: slender bodied and a thin U-shaped curved neck in flight, neck was also curved downward (as in flight) when feeding in the water.  A smooth gait when wading through the water and probed smoothly in the shallows.  The bill was similar length to the neck (1/3 of the length from the head the tail, projected legs not counted).  It was curved downward in a continuous curve and remained wide until the base, colour was difficult to tell as it was silhouetted against the sky and or water, but clearly paler.   The wings were similar in shape to a Cormorant with only a few of the outermost primaries fingered (only very slightly).  The legs were held dangling in flight (as it only moved short distances) and when on the ground had a visible hunched back profile as well as a steep rounded forehead.
Colour: difficult to age as it was silhouetted for much of the time, no gloss on the neck was visible but the bird was obviously dark black/purple.

Unfortunately views of it were only brief, with the longest view only being about 2-3 minutes as it fed in the open shallow water, otherwise it was only seen in flight or gliding down in a spiral with downward held legs as it landed.

Canada Geese and Greylag Geese were also resting/swimming infront of the hide and mingled amongst them was a single Pink-footed Goose (notably smaller than the Greylags) and a single flypast Brent Goose.  The small area of mud (a rare resource on the reserve) hosted 5 Dunlin and an earlier sighting of the 2nd present Great White Egret that we unfortunately didn't see.


Me at "The Patch"

My brother Ephraim at "The Patch"

Our final trip of the journey was to "The Patch", situated at the tip of the Foreland (near the nuclear power station) were a flypast Merlin was a good encounter and also a good spot for a bit of sea watching.  I only had about 40mins as the rest of the group wondered down the beach, I stayed to see 1 ad. Gannet, 2+ ad. Kittiwake, 1 unIDed Diver species, 1 unIDed Auk species, 1 win. Mediterranean Gull and a 1 Great Crested Grebe all braving the extremely windy (near storm conditions of the sea)
(26th November 2011) Day list:
  • Mute Swan
  • Greylag Goose
  • Pink-footed Goose
  • Brent Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Shelduck
  • Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Pintail
  • Teal
  • Tufted Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Shoveler
  • Grey Heron
  • Woodpigeon
  • Golden Plover
  • Jackdaw
  • Magpie
  • Carrion Crow
  • Robin
  • Collard Dove
  • (Feral Pigeon)
  • Little Egret
  • GREAT WHITE EGRET (life tick)
  • Smew (year tick)
  • Pochard
  • Goldeneye
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Dunlin
  • GLOSSY IBIS (life tick)
  • Lapwing
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Common Gull
  • Blackbird
  • Chiffchaff
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Kittiwake
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Peregrine
  • Buzzard
  • Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Chaffinch
  • Moorhen
  • Coot
  • Jay
  • Little Grebe
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Goldfinch
  • Greenfinch
  • Gannet
  • Cormorant
  • Starling
  • Mediterranean Gull
possible birds:
  • Auk sp.
  • Diver sp.
  • Linnet
  • Fieldfare
  • Pied Wagtail (heard)

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