News and Pictures - Dungeness Kent & Powys - to 31st July 2010
10th July. A trip up to Mid Wales visiting relatives and fortunately on the birding front they had a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the garden but sadly no Pied Flycatchers as in past years. Still it was wonderful to catch up with a lovely species and get some great views in challenging light conditions. It was grey, windy and a hint of drizzle so with the flycatchers favoured habitat being shaded woodland, it was quite a challenge to get not only decent shots but also clear shots as the favoured perches were usually partially obscured by Hawthorn branches. The reason the birds were so active was due to the three youngsters virtually falling from their nest which was clinging to a drainpipe on the corner of the house. and with the young birds fledging as I watched it was a privilege to see them take their first flights. I've still not had time to process the pictures yet but there are some decent pictures of both the parents and the 3 youngsters both in the nest and on the garage roof!
13th July. I'd been taking notice of its movements across the UK and after not connecting with it at Slimbridge due to the previous weekends family commitments, the start of a week off work and another stupid o'clock start meant the start of another tiring day to try to add another species to the website. I arrived at Dungeness before 6 after a wet 220 mile drive and got out the car to a murky and drizzly scene. Only one other car was in the car park which surprised me so I set off hopefully in search of the Middle Eastern visitor. After a 5 minute walk I arrived at the ARC site viewing screen and scanned the pools. A few Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Canada and Greylag Geese but not really what I'd driven all that way for. Knowing the birds recent history for visiting reserves and then disappearing overnight I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and waited a little longer. After around 20 minutes of looking and waiting I decided to try and search in a different location. As I emerged from the screen, I saw the other birder, Steve who I'd met several times before on various excursions and he beckoned me over. I quickened my pace and as I arrived at his location he announced that the bird was just on the move! I saw a brief distant flash of black, white and tan and then it was gone. He saw it relocate near the ARC hide so we quickly walked there. No sign at the hide but I'd had a fraction of a second view of the same coloured bird moving in the opposite direction as we approached the hide. Guessing that its favoured spot was back near the viewing screen we moved back - memories of the Pratincole in Lincolnshire were coming back to me at this point! Steve headed past the screen to where he'd seen the bird before and I had a peek from the screen. Another birder was present at the screen and he was on the bird. It was distant but there it was, the brilliant White-Tailed Plover. After beckoning Steve back to the screen, so began the vigil of waiting to see if the bird would present itself. The first few shots were of record shot quality but after an hour or so of preening and minimal movement from its partially obscured location my hopes were raised when it started looking more adventurous and made its way with its plover style movements over the grassy bank and closer to us at the viewing screen. More birders had arrived and we all willed it closer and closer. Fortunately the bird obliged and eventually after plenty of coaxing the bird was around 40 meters away showing clearly. With the light as it was and drizzle or rain falling (I had gloves and 3 layers on!) the shots were never going to be world beaters but after a bit of tidying up they are certainly as good as I can have hoped for, and with the skittish nature of the birds movements I was very pleased to have good shots on the memory card. The bird performed well for over half an hour as it moved a few yards at a time to feed, often posing with one leg raised in the same way a dog would pose having picked up a scent. The bird itself reminded me more of a Dotterel than a Lapwing in its behaviour although that was probably down to the fact that I've spent more time observing Dotterel than Lapwing this year! Certainly a major feature of the bird was the length of its legs and when the bird finally flew off it was notable as the bird slowed to land that it dangled its legs before alighting. Certainly in flight it was very distinctive with the white tail evident along with the obvious contrasting black and white wing pattern. Happy with the pictures of the White-Tailed Plover and with the bird having relocated to its original obscured location it was time to move on and attempt another new species. Dungeness has had a fair bit of press this year for the "are they? - aren't they?" breeding status of Purple Heron on the reserve. I'd been tipped off that the best viewing point was not within the reserve but from the side of the road near a MoD firing range. Steve and I drove in convoy towards the site with me doing an emergency stop after misidentifying two Grey Herons flying through the gloom overhead! We arrived at the war zone and began to wait. I finally saw my first Bittern of the year (shameful I know!) and heard the song of a Corn Bunting, mixed in with the contact calls of the several Yellow Wagtails present. Linnets and House Sparrows made up the other passerine interest but not much on the Heron front. Eventually after around half an hour one of the other birders present gave a shout and there was the male Purple Heron distantly flying towards us low down over Denge marsh. It dropped in to the reeds at the spot described by the volunteer wardens and stayed down for a few minutes before flying off to presumably feed or hunt food for the youngsters. I stayed at the site for nearly 3 hours and saw the same bird five times, always at distance, always low to the reeds and never presenting itself in a good photographical position but always returning to the same spot. Before landing the bird gave its odd frog like call, anouncing its arrivial to the female and young? Anyway, it was another species added to the website although one to improve on in the future. After realising that my new Purple Heron shots would remain at record shot status I decided to have another quick look at the Plover and on reaching the viewing screen found the bird to be roosting in a more distant and obscured location than when I'd left it. There were a load more birders present too - three deep in places, so feeling pleased with my mornings efforts decided to start the long journey back home. Two new species in a day and I also saw the Great White Egret as well. Very nice and 255 species now photographed for the website!