Lade - warm, overcast, light airs - A Friday morning tour of the bird reserve in blustery weather conditions served up very little on the passage wader front apart from a Greenshank on the hayfields and a Common Sandpiper on a gull-infested Burrowes. Around Dengemarsh the juvenile Marsh Harriers were still faring well where also three Great White Egrets noted. From Springfield bridge juv Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings were being fed by adults in the set aside field while Raven and Buzzard passed overhead. Several pulses of Sand Martins pushed on south.
The recent mini heat wave came to a spectacular crescendo around daybreak today with an almighty thunder and lightening show lighting up the bay and shaking the cottage at times; no surprise then that Dave B recorded 40mm in his rain gauge at Dungeness this morning. However, down here on the shingle by midday you wouldn`t have known it had rained so efficient is the drainage. Most of the bird action today was on the bay with 30 Dunlins, 10 Sanderlings and the first five Red Knots of autumn counted on the incoming tide, plus the usual Curlews, Oystercatchers and Sandwich Terns. This afternoon on a falling tide I could find no sign of the salt water sandpipers; presumably they had moved on to avoid the holidaymakers who were out in force in the hot sunshine, many of them doing their level best to stretch NHS resources even further with self inflicted third degree sunburn. Amongst the horror show of humanity a couple of Sandwich Terns allowed a close approach for a few piccies with the old Box Brownie.
Herring Gulls - En-route to see family in Folkestone yesterday afternoon (along the coastal route with Pat driving) I made a half-hearted attempt at counting nesting Herring Gulls atop various buildings along the way. This time of year as they are just about to fledge the brown, short-tailed youngsters are obvious and during the 30 minute journey I tallied 18 such families. Bearing in mind how low down I was in a moving car I must`ve missed many more; an un-scientific survey then I know, but the HG is a very common urban breeding bird along this section of the coast and elsewhere around southern England I suspect.
It may come as something of a surprise then to some of you that the HG is Red Listed (the highest priority) on the RSPB website as a `Bird of Conservation Concern` alongside other seabirds such as Roseate Tern, Kittiwake and Arctic Skua, all three of whom certainly warrant such a status - in contrast to Leache`s Petrel which is only Amber Listed! The listing process is carried out by a governmental organisation known as the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (re: www.jncc.gov.uk), which is where RSPB and other such organisations draw their information in which to plan future conservation work. Anyhow, in a moment of madness I drilled down into the aforementioned website paying particular attention to their survey methodology. It would seem that the main reason why the HG is afforded such a lofty status is due to a bias of surveying natural colonies (where they have declined) with little or no allowance afforded to surveying the urban population (where they have increased in number); "Dover, Folkestone and Cheriton" were actually named in the text as not having been included in the survey. So, Larus argentatus is here to stay, having shifted from cliff-top to roof-top, as well as gravel pit islands across Dungeness. As a result I can see no future for terns at Dungeness RSPB, if the gulls cannot be deterred from island nest sites. The only hope is pull the tern rafts in at the end of the breeding season, cover them over through the winter months and bring them out again in late May. By then the gulls will already be well into their breeding cycle on the islands, giving arriving Common Terns half a chance at establishing a colony large enough to deter any roving gulls. Rant over!