Its been a tricky task selecting a stand out day from the spring season as there have been more than one or two candidates. Seawatching was good in parts, particularly for divers, and there was a decent spread of late Arctic waders on the sands. White-winged Terns and Black-winged Stilts were the obvious rarity days, but in the end I selected a classic passage migrant day on the land, something that is few and far between these days.
Spring 2015 - A fall of migrants - 13th April, Lade and Dungeness
The day dawned bright and fair as I wandered around the garden, mug of tea in hand, coming to terms with the new day. Amongst the chattering spadgers the sibilant song of a Willow Warbler wafted across from an adjacent garden, lifting the spirits and a sure sign that migrants had dropped in overnight and were on the move. As we walked down Taylor Road more were heard uttering sub-songs from ornamental bushes and trees. At cattery corner the pine tree held two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff, while Stonechats chacked from nearby broom scrub.
Across the storm beaches towards Mockmill five Wheatears flushed from tussocks and a pulse of Swallows skidded low over the pebbles heading north. The sewer was alive with the rasping sound of Sedge Warblers song-flighting from bramble wands and Whitethroats scratching in gorse thickets. More Willow Warblers and Blackcaps emerged to bask in the warm sunshine, following their nocturnal exertions, while a Ring Ouzel clacked loudly before disappearing behind the wall `mirror`. On the walk back to Plovers a `proper` spring rarity fizzed overhead calling in the shape of a Tree Pipit, and to complete a cracking morning of migrant hunting on the local patch a Black Redstart sat atop the cottage roof as we arrived home.
Following a late second breakfast it was off to Dungeness, via the Kerton Road café to get a moth identification confirmed, and pause to admire a Red Kite soaring over the peninsula. Whilst chatting to Dorothy she commented on the numbers of Blackcaps in her garden that seemed to be arriving thick and fast along with Willow Warblers and Black Redstarts. My suspicions were confirmed that despite the unlikely weather conditions for a fall, one was certainly underway, and this was hammered home shortly after we arrived at the point. Wandering around the scrub between the old light and the Obs warblers were everywhere. By the moat a flock of 10 Blackcaps foraged bunting-like on the open shingle, with scores more in the blackthorn scrub along with Willow Warblers and Whitethroats.
Inevitably there was quality to be found: several Ring Ouzels, Lesser Whitethroats and Common Redstarts were located, plus the icing on any spring cake, a stunning cock Pied Flycatcher. Overhead more Swallows pushed inland along with a trickle of Meadow Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, another Tree Pipit and a missed Woodlark.
But the day belonged to the humble Blackcap that continued to arrive throughout the afternoon, probably in the low hundreds. It reminded me that there used to be many more days like this during the spring at Dungeness, and other coastal migration hot spots years ago, so we stuck around to soak up the experience as you just never know when the next one is going to come along.