In the end I selected a classic morning of migrant hunting at Dungeness, as I`m a sucker for the spectacle of large numbers of grounded drift migrants, and nothing beats finding your own birds.
Dungeness - Drift migrants - 26th October
With guests Linda and John down for a days birding the weather portents looked promising as low cloud and a warm south-easterly airflow washed over the peninsula. From the Light Railway car park finches could be heard passing overhead, mostly Goldfinches along with Siskins, Redpolls, Chaffinches and a couple of Crossbills, plus Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and several Grey Wagtails.
The bushes around the old light were alive with Goldcrests, which in many ways was the `bird of the autumn` due to the enormous numbers hereabouts in October. We paused to watch a Firecrest and a couple of Chiffchaffs picking off insects low down on a tree mallow, while every building or wall seemed to have a perched Black Redstart, including some cracking cock birds, and even one in full song!
Walking down to the Patch we disturbed several Wheatears and more grounded Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs fuelling up in the tangle of rock samphire. And then a small, brown phyllospus warbler with a bright supercilium broke cover. Over the coming hour it led us a merry dance as it moved, wren-like, between patches of samphire. Eventually it showed well enough to suggest Dusky/Radde`s before uttering a Lesser Whitethroat-like `teck` confirming its identity. The Obs was duly alerted and the troops soon arrived to confirm it as a Dusky, the first for about eight years locally.
Plenty more grounded migrants were on offer throughout the morning including Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and a Ring Ouzel in the moat, and as we left the Estate a Short-eared Owl arrived off the sea by the lifeboat station. A skulking duo of Great Grey Shrike and Dartford Warbler were also located that afternoon, which left me wondering what else was lurking in the midst of the trapping area unseen...
However, there were no complaints as it had been a classic Dungeness autumnal day of grounded drift migrants.