Saturday - Samphire Hoe - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - We were on grandparent duty today and the little bloke was up for a spot of birding, so after picking him up from Folkestone we headed for the Hoe and a change of scene for us all.
For those unfamiliar with this newest part of England it was where the excavated Chunnel chalk was deposited, creating an accessible grassland nature reserve dotted here and there with ponds (most of which are now dried out due to the drought) and a broad concrete breakwater popular with sea fishermen. Access is via a tunnel off the A20 from Dover to a reasonably priced pay-and-display car park overlooking the Channel, and friendly on site staff to tell you what`s about, plus a sightings and information board on past mining and tunnelling activities. Much of Samphire Hoe is suitable for those with mobility issues, while the views along the iconic White Cliffs are spectacular.
Since my last visit a new `Education Shelter` has been built to complement the tea kiosk and toilets.
The wintering herd of sheep and cattle have now been removed and rosettes of Early Spider and Common Spotted Orchids were already sprouting in their wake, while several common butterflies such as Green-veined White, Orange Tip and Peacock were on the wing. As for birds it was pretty quiet, but Peregrine, Raven, Stonechat, Meadow and Rock Pipits and Skylarks were all present and in breeding mode, while a Swallow hawked insects along the railway line. Scanning a hazy sea produced a flock of 15 Barwits up-Channel and a trickle of Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes milling to and fro.
For further info on the Hoe go to: www.samphirehoe.co.uk
Sunday - Dungeness - 0615-0800hrs - warm, dry, sunny, se 2 - We joined TG and PB outside the hide for a terrific seawatch in shorts and shirt-like weather. Even though there was only a light zephyr (from the fabled south-east though) and hazy light the migrant seabirds just kept on coming. In the vanguard numbers wise were hundreds of Common Scoters and Brent Geese ploughing up-Channel in loose flocks, along with scores of Sandwich Terns, Gannets and Fulmars, plus four Mergansers, six Teal, two Little Gulls, three Bonxies, an Arctic Skua (new for the year), six Common Terns (NFY) two Greylags and a Swallow in off, three Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Shelducks and, the icing on the bun, six Scaups, a rare sighting indeed.
Lade - 0845hrs - The lakes were fairly quiet with just a couple of Shelducks and Mediterranean Gulls of any note, so we walked Mockmill which already had singing Linnets, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings and a pair of Stonechats holding territory. However, the highlight was a pair of Ring Ouzels (rare here in spring) flushed from cover that clacked away high and fast behind the `mirrors`, plus only my second Wheatear of the season on the local patch.