Friday, 24 April 2009

Friday 24th.April 2009

Firstly , a day late , but a fungi named after our patron Saint George , shot today at Dungeness .Secondly , for anyone thinking of a visit to RSPB Dungeness , take mosquito repellant , the place is alive with them . Having said that , don't let it put you off , Carol and I had a really magical day there today . Even before we arrived , I pulled over between Camber and Lydd , and within a couple of minutes , had Common and Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge and Reed Warbler , all in a small section of ditch and scrub alongside the road . Anyway , arriving at the reserve and turning onto the single approach , it was obvious that the place was full of migrants . Sedge and Reed Warblers in the ditches and every bit of scrub seemed to have it's own Common Whitethroat , the song was incessant . There were also plenty of Reed Buntings , and one pair were obviously nestbuilding , well the wife was , hubby had taken up a supervisory roll , making sure everything was being done properly . The next migrants we came across were a small flock of Whimbrel numbering about 8/9 feeding in one of the sheep pastures . We were serenaded by Warblers and Buntings all the way up to the visitor Centre , where we were welcomed by a pair of Herring Gulls who were relaxing on the shingle bank . We had a look at what was about on the notice board , hoping that we might see one or two of those listed . Starting along the track , one of those listed , in fact four Yellow Wagtails were feeding on the bank . Out came the camera , and off they flew , as usual . One flew further down the bank and came to rest . I closed the gap and took a very long shot , just before he flew . I thought at the time , there was something strange about it , but with the strong sunlight , I couldn't see the LCD display very well , and it wasn't till this evening when I was editing the photos , that I realised it was in fact a Blue Headed or Channel Wagtail . This grainy shot is full enlarged to be able to see the bird properly . I checked the RX Website tonight , and they have reported the bird there today . A look in the next hide revealed very little except for 3 Greenshank feeding on the edge of a small island , well away from the hide . As we exited the hide and carried on the path , a male Marsh Harrier appeared from behind the shingle bank in front of us , but as quickly as he came , he turned and disappeared back over the bank he came from , but for 2/3 seconds , a wonderful sight close up . The mossies were getting more and more as we went round , and just after passing the next hide , Carol asked what that lump in the field was , as she thought she saw it move . With binoculars I could see a pair of Brown Hares . I hurried on to where the track came closest to them , and started shooting . One minute they would be running towards the camera , the next , they would be running away from the camera , and every now and again , the one that I think was the female , would turn on the other , a male I think , and he would have to take evasive action . I would have stayed longer watching their antics , but I was being eaten alive . If John/Go Wild in Kent reads this , I couldn't put your approach theory into practice as there was a ditch between us . Very shortly after moving on and very close to Strawbery Dell Hide , I had another two year firsts , with a sudden burst of song from a Bramble patch , that of the first of at least five Nightingales we heard on the site today . No sooner had he stopped singing , I was confronted by a pair of Small Coppers sparring on the wing . In between rounds , I managed another first for the year . Carol then found some caterpillars on a Bramble patch . They turned out to be those of the Brown Tail Moth , living in their tent . Fortunately , Carol didn't touch them as they can give you a nasty rash that can last 2/3 days . We found lots more tents on our way round . By the time we reached Hooker Pit we were on to our 3rd.Nightingale , and as we sat listening , a Cuckoo called quite close to us . I made my way to the viewpoint and just before getting there , saw the Cuckoo flying low , and managed a shot , just before it flew out of frame . It landed in a Willow , but quickly got low down , but still calling . After a while , it flew out and settled briefly at the top of another Willow . From here he disappeared again , but kept calling . It did show once more after a while , but it was part hidden by branches .We sat waiting to see if it would show better , but it didn't , but what did happen was a Bittern started 'booming' from the large reedbeds around the pit . We still haven't seen a Bittern , but we have heard them booming a couple of times before . On the way back to the visitor centre , a very photogenic Sedge Warbler posed for a shot . Almost at the road , Carol spotted a large raptor high in the blue sky , with the binoculars the golden head identified a female Marsh Harrier , unfortunately too high for a shot . Leaving aside common birds seen , we also saw / heard Swallows , Cetti's Warbler , Mediterranean Gulls , Skylarks and Red Legged Partridge . Also seen was my first dragonfly of the season , a freshly emerged Hairy Dragonfly .
Carol was flagging a bit by now , but with the promise of a bag of chips in Rye , she agreed to a quick visit to Rye Harbour before setting off for home . The tide was wrong for the scrapes , so it was a quiet walk to the river mouth . A few Common Terns were fishing in the river and a few Linnets on the fence line . Where the track turns right onto the roadway used by the Environment Agency lorries , the spot where I usually find Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail , there was no sign , just a lonely looking Lapwing . Dispondant , we started along the beach road , when a movement out of the corner of my eye , proved to be the Wheatear we had hoped for , a male .
He was catching insects , but would not come any closer than the top of his ridge . As we walked the beach road , Common Terns were constantly to and fro from the sea to their breeding colony on the Ternery Pool . What with a mix of Terns and Black Headed Gulls on one island and all Black Headed Gulls on another , the noise was amazing . Other less common birds seen here included Pied Wagtail , Mistle Thrush , Oystercatcher ( pictured ) and House Sparrow , who was waiting to greet us back in the car park .

I was going to write this up tomorrow , but I thought I'll have forgotten most of it by then , so I've done it while it is still fresh in memory . A super day with some super birds .


The Early Birder said...

As you say, a truely magical day visiting two super locations with super birds. Thanks for sharing.

Warren Baker said...

You just about saw all that was possible greenie! Great to see that blue headed Wagtail

Steve said...

Wow, what a great day Fred. Some brilliant sightings and good photos

Ruth The Wildlife Gardener said...

Hi Greenie, Steve from Kingsdowner has suggested you might be the man to tell us the best places observe slow worms in the Woldingham/Godstone/Oxted area. I've never seen one, and they are our Holy Grail this summer.
Thanks! The Ranger's Blog

Greenie said...

Ruth ,
Slow Worms are very hard to go out and find in the wild . Having said that , you can vastly increase your chances of finding them , if you lay refugia to attract them . I have only done hedgelaying during the winter in the areas you mentioned , but know that much of the area is South facing , at the bottom of slopes . If you place refugia , squares of corrugated tin or plastic , even pieces of old carpet , about 0.5 metre square , in sunny positions , on the edge of vegetation , with a flatter area of grassland in front , I would be very surprised if you did not find a Slow Worm under one before the end of the Summer . Choose out of the way places so that the refugia won't be disturbed by passers by .
You never know , you might also manage to attract an Adder or Grass Snake under one of them , so lift the refugia with a litter picker or the like .
Also , when out walking , turn over any likely refugia , bits of wood , sheet plastic , even cardboard , there could well be a Slow Worm waiting to fulfill you Holy Grail .
If you have no joy by the end of the Summer , get back to me and we'll see what we can arrange .

Greenfingers said...

Terrific picture of the leaping hare - really captures the spirit of wildness

Kingsdowner said...

Sounds like a great day!
Rye Harbour is a noisy place when the terns and gulls are nesting (and the smell is powerful too) but its great to get so near to them.

I went to Dungeness point today and saw precious few birds, but at least there were no biting noseeums.

Thanks for helping Ruth out.

Ruth The Wildlife Gardener said...

Thanks Greenie - the slow worm opportunity may literally be in my backyard: some black plastic floor protector has been used for weed-suppressing on one of my veg beds. I'll get the camera ready and lift it. Also, lots of plastic stuff lying around to be inspected. We DO get grass snakes in our pond. I'll keep you posted whether we find any this year. If we do, there will be a bit fat article about it on naturenet!

Ruth The Wildlife Gardener said...

Nothing under the black plastic floor protector apart from a few slugs and woodlice! We keep looking!