26 January 2014
FolkestoneAfter I awoke I decided to drive down to Folkestone to look for the Pallas's Warbler that had been found there yesterday. It soon became clear that it was a foggy morning and the further I drove east the worse it became. As I neared Ashford I decided to abort and go to Dungeness initially and to maybe try for the warbler later if the fog lifted. However for some reason as I reached junction 10 I carried straight on down the M20 towards Folkestone - first mistake.
I arrived in the general area but could not locate the site. I drove around, back to the military compound the other side and then back where I started. With the aid of my iPhone and OS mapping I worked out where it must be and found a vacant parking space. I walked back up the road, jumped over the style and headed across a rather waterlogged field - glad I put my wellies on!
I climbed the hill around the base of a small wood just as a flock of Tits and a Treecreeper crossed my path. I couldn't see any birders until I passed a pittisporum hedge, then found four birders looking towards the back of the hedge. I joined them - including Gary Howard and James Hunter. After a quick chat it transpired the warbler had been seen moving through the hedge (while I was faffing around) and this was the area it had showed several times yesterday. I found a suitable spot and waited. After a while I had a wander into the next area of shrubs and trees but found little other than a Bullfinch and some flowering snowdrops. Back to the hedge where I spent another couple of hours - just a handful of Blue and Great Tit and a small flock of five Long-tailed Tit.
I decided to go searching and walked down to the houses across the fields and along the hedges. Still nothing. I walked back to the hedge stopping briefly in the wood. Ian Roberts had told me the warbler had been feeding in the tall pine trees so I stopped and played a snatch of Pallas's Warbler calling from my iPhone. Almost immediately the warbler was calling back, deep within the woods. I called Gary, James and Steve who joined me. We could see something flicking in the tops of a Pine but the light was so poor we could make out nothing. Then the fog rolled back in and we could barely make out the canopy.
With no sight or sound I returned to the hedge. An hour later nothing. Gary and James called it a day, but I stayed on. This time I walked up the steep bank in the wood checking the various pines and ivy covered trees. The light was awful and despite finding a Goldcrest, two Coal Tit and a Treecreeper I could not locate the sprite anywhere. I had by now spent six hours in this small area with little to show for it apart from a few brief calls from the unseen warbler. To make matters worse there had been a good movement of birds passed Dungeness, including a Puffin and a Glaucous Gull.
A passing Sparrowhawk did little to lift my spirits! A couple of flyover Med Gulls were the only other birds of note. With my back and shoulders starting to ache from standing in the mud for hours with my camera on my shoulder strap I threw in the towel and headed home. A very frustrating day, made all the worse when the warbler put on a show on Sunday morning, down to six feet at times.......Not a great weekend.