Tuesday 8 May 2012

Dungeness - looking for megas - close but no cigar

On Sunday I really fancied getting out to try and find a few birds of my own. On Saturday, Kent held some half decent migrants, and Dungeness had hosted both a surprise spring Ortolan Bunting and a Melodious Warbler in recent days. After a chat with Shaun, Dunge(ness) it was to be.

We arrived on site before 8am determined to bash the bushes (not literally) and put in the leg work to try and find our very own goody. Firstly, we worked the trapping area and the moat, then slightly further afield inland. There were plenty of Whitethroats and a dozen or so Wheatear, including some very smart spring males, as well as a brief view of a Redstart. Moving on to the area around the lighthouse we checked the garden, which just 3 days earlier the Melody had frequented for just a day, this time only whitethroats and Blackcaps were present.

On the shingle wheatears were everywhere, there must have been 30-40 present. We also managed a single Whinchat and one more Redstart.

We were lucky not to have egg in our laces(!) when trying to photograph wheatears we almost walked on to a Ringed Plover nest. I managed my 1st Hobby of the year, which was shortly followed by a 2nd.

After 3.5 hours we had not found our mega! We decided to move up the road to Rye Harbour (West Sussex) where a Kentish Plover had been reported. Both Shaun and I had only ever seen one previously so we were keen to see another.Thirty minutes later we walked the short distance to the saltings where a group of 20+ birders were scoping the area. The bird was seen semi distantly for a few minutes then somehow disappeared. Being lazy I left my scope in the car but could see 3 birds much closer with the bins and one looked like our plover. Getting Shaun onto it with his scope he confirmed it was the bird, and all present had brief but very good scope views.

We decided then it would be rude if we didn't go home via Elmley Marshes to see up to 4 Black Winged Stilts that had been there since the previous day. I am not a great fan of Elmley, with the hides being about 1.5 miles from the car park and my first 2 experiences being on the first occasion nearly freezing to death when I forgot my coat and  the 2nd dipping a Pacific Golden Plover, that was there showing well the day before and after. A bird I still not caught up with to this day.         

As you will see below the stilts showed disappointingly distantly when we got to the hide, and only 2 were seen, along with Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper.

The highlight was Shaun's excellent spot of a fly by Spoonbill, which appeared to land some distance away. A very good spot Mr Harvey!

And that was that, a good days' birding . The sting in the tail was the following day, when news of a mega rare, Crested Lark at, yes, you've guessed it, Dungeness, hit the  pagers. From the reports I have read it was found pretty much in the area we worked just 24 hours earlier; a  case of right place, wrong time, just! At least neither of us needed Crested Lark having seen one a couple of years back at .............................Dungeness!   

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