Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Another day at Dungeness

Today I went to Dungeness (second time this year!).  There were 2 reasons for going – birding is currently hard work at Sandwich with no ducks and next to no small stuff and Dungeness held the prospect of some more year ticks; for example the glaucous gull. After seeing the pictures of the long tailed duck published in the last couple of days I was tempted to go to Chatham but in the end I stuck to Dunge.
It  was still pretty dark when I left Kingsdown but I stopped off at Hythe to check out the rocks by the Imperial for the purple sandpipers but all I could find were a couple of turnstones.  Next stop was the ARC (sea  end) where from the road I found a lone red head smew  (I didn’t visit the hide today). There were quite a few ducks around including 8-10 goldeneye but the birds were constantly being disturbed by the shooting going on on the adjacent pit – the one on the opposite side of the road. The shooters were occupying 4 boats and were gunning their engines as they raced from one end to the other blasting away at anything unfortunate enough to fly over. I didn’t actually see any ducks shot but it made depressing viewing.
I don’t like to preach about what people should and shouldn’t do for a pastime but I do find shooting adjacent to a nature reserve odious in the extreme.
I soon left the ARC for the point where I wandered about for  an hour or so searching for the gulls. I never did find the glaucous but I think I found the Casper but it was too distant and light too poor to bother with the camera. The sea was still alive with auks, red throated divers  and assorted gulls and kittiwakes.
Next stop was the RSPB where I found Adrian Dowling and Tim Gutsell photographing the tree sparrows by the entrance gate. I had a quick chat then continued to the reserve.
There were lots of ducks on the main pit (possible pushed there by the shooters) but nothing particularly note worthy though there were ~20 pintail – one of my targets for the day.
Other than ducks the reserve was deserted with the rest of the circuit only providing 2 stonechats, several  Cetti’s but no linnets or reed buntings and only a couple of mippits – who has stolen our small birds?  On the New Diggings I thought I’d found a pair of interesting grebes but they were red head smew but even these disappeared before I could get close.
From the Denge marsh hide I found a very distant great white egret but nothing else out of the ordinary.

Gt White Egret (really!)
It was now about 11.30 and brightening up considerably so I decided to go back to the point and search for the gulls again.  On leaving the RSPB I found Tim still with the sparrows and stopped and fired off a couple of shots of my own.

Tree Sparrow
A lot of searching of the gulls was finally rewarded when I saw the glaucous flying over the fishing boats towards a large roost of gulls on the shingle. I was about to follow when looking out to sea I could see loads of divers flying left to right. I quickly went to the sea front where I took a few shots then saw the cause of the movement – one of the fishing boats was returning and flushing everything in front of it. I counted 35 red throats but who knows how many had flown before I noticed them moving.

Red Throated Diver plus Razorbill
While I was on the sea front some kittiwakes cake very close as they were trying to eat a fish thrown back by one of the anglers. I also found Adrian again!

Juvenile Kittiwake
It was then back to the glaucous, which was with the gull roost, and a few more pictures though the cloud was building by now.

Glaucous Gull
On the way home I stopped at the Imperial and this time found the purps. The light was really bad ( 1/80th sec at ISO 400) and I was about to leave when Tim Gutsell turned up. I showed him where they were and as it started to brighten up joined him and got some very pleasing shots.

Purple Sandpiper
I also took some pictures of Tiim and was joking about getting an action shot of him falling in.
Tim in action
Well he didn’t fall in but as we were leaving he slipped on the rocks, fells between them and dropped his camera down between the rocks into the sea below. He did manage to retrieve it but after being submerged things don’t look good.  
Tim was remarkably calm about the whole affair – that’s what insurance is for was his view.  I would have been really miffed and in a foul mood for weeks!!!!! Perhaps I need to lighten up.


  1. A nice account and some great pictures to go with it, Dungeness is always worth a visit and throw in the Purple Sands and that was a good list of birds for the day :-)

  2. Hi Steve, The pit opposite the ARC is the New Diggings and on Monday there was 5 Ruddy Duck there but none today. Ruddy Duck are usually reluctant to fly so the probable DEFRA shooters shoot them on the water. It's about time the RSPB reviewed there policy on shooting them.

  3. Nice account Steve I was pleased to recover the pictures from the camera.