Tuesday 31 March 2015

Dungeness - first quarter review

Lade - mild, sunny, w 5-6 - The gale force winds of last night tempered somewhat through the morning but picked up again by late afternoon making for difficult birding conditions. We checked the local patch twice today hoping for a March Swallow but it wasn't to be. Many of the wildfowl were hunkered down out of the tempest or sheltering around the margins, but there were one or two calm spots in the willow swamp with singing Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings and basking bees and butterflies. The section of the swamp pictured below was completely sheltered and attracted three Chiffchaffs feeding on pussy willow catkins; best of all though for comedy value was watching a Moorhen clambering about in the spindly bushes nipping off the flowers. On the walk back across the shingle the first song flighting Mipit of the spring was in action despite the wind.
On our afternoon visit two Med Gulls went over calling loudly.

                                Willow swamp, Lade

                                Small Tortoiseshell, Lade

First Quarter - Well, that`s the first quarter of the year done and dusted and a quick glance back has revealed a fairly typical collection of birds towards our year list, which now stands at 144 species for Dungeness and Romney Marsh.
The first winter period delivered a good spread of wildfowl, both wild swans, Tundra and White-fronted Geese, sawbills, Bittern, Cattle and Great White Egrets, the Hythe Night Heron, two scarce grebes, Little Stint, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, Pomarine and Great Skuas, Barn Owl and Firecrest. There were however some noticeable absentees, such as Little Gull, Long-tailed Duck, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl, while finches were in short supply, with Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll all absent.

                         `White Nun`, a winter classic, Dungeness RSPB reserve

Moving into early spring Sand Martins on the 9th heralded the first of the true summer migrants followed by Wheatear, Little Ringed Plover, an early Willow Warbler at Lade on the 27th and a Common Tern on the 30th at The Patch. Other spring goodies included two Iceland Gulls, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, White Wagtail, Med Gull, Sandwich Tern and an increase in Black Redstart and Firecrest numbers. On the debit side seawatching has been generally poor with only one or two decent days for Brent Geese, but hardly any ducks on the move, while on the land the likes of Garganey, Red Kite, Swallow and Sedge Warbler all lay in wait over the coming days, hopefully... and perhaps a Serin or Woodlark, or maybe something rarer...

                        `White aers`, a welcome harbinger of spring, Dungeness Estate

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