Saturday, 12 February 2011

Dengemarsh in the rain

The birding over the last few weeks has become repetitious to say the least with the only new bird in the region being the red-necked grebe, so despite seeing it on Tuesday I decided to go down again today.
On Tuesday the Dengemarsh hide was full of chattering (loudly) “birders” who had come out for a social stroll in the sun. Today I was determined to get there early and have an hour or so before anyone else turned up.
I arrived at the ARC about 7.30 and parked up. I was expecting a dull start but the constant rain was not expected.  I walked from there to the Dengemarsh hide. Once in the hide I immediately found the red-neck in the bay to the left/west of the hide but over the next few minutes it moved further away over to the reed beds and disappeared into one of the inlets.
I then searched for the black-necked which I soon found way over to the right (east). Also on the lake were several great crested grebes and a distant little grebe.
Great crested grebe
The next half hour was spent watching the black-neck as it fished and made it’s way closer to the hide (though never close).
Black-necked grebe
In fact I was so busy watching the black-neck that I didn’t notice the red-neck approaching from the left – the first I saw of it was in the camera view-finder close the black-neck!
Red and black necked grebes
The two spent the next 5-10 minutes floating and preening in close proximity but never close enough for a decent picture.
Eventually the red necked broke away and swam towards and the past the hide at 25-30 yrds (I don’t do meters).
For quite a lot of the time the red-necked swam with it's head held really low to the water - it looked like quite an agressive stance but there didn't seem to be anything around to upset it.
Red-necked grebe - head held low
The red-neck disappeared then into the bay to the left of the hide but soon came out swam across the front of the hide (distantly) then turned back towards the hide for a second time. This time it swam a long way to the left.
Red-necked grebe
So great views and reasonable pictures – though the sun never shines on these occasions.
By now  it was ~ 9.30 and another birder had entered the hide and told me he’d had fantastic views of smew (20of them – 18 red-heads and 2 drakes) with several including a drake being right in front of the Hanson Hide ( down to 20 meters - his units).
I was going to go to Hythe to look for the purple sandpipers but decided I have to look for the smew. During the walk back to the ARC there was a constant stream of cars going onto the reserve and several stopped to ask about the red-neck - I think my plan to get there early and leave as the crowds assembled were the correct tactics.
By the time I got to the ARC the smew had all moved down the far end of the lake though I could see them in the scope. Somewhat closer (though still distant) were the goldeye – 4 drakes and 4 ducks – with the drakes heavily into the head throwing display and a drake ruddy duck.
I gave up at that point and went home in time for the rugby. I thought England would win but I never expected them to perform as well as they did. In contrast the Scotland/Wales game was dreadful – so bad in fact that I switched off and did some chores!

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