30 April to 2 May 2016
I arrived at Dungeness late on Friday evening, unpacked and joined Marcus and Andy Lawson, Wesley Attridge and Dave Walker in The Pilot for a superb fish and chip supper. The forecast for Saturday was not ideal for springtime migration, being cold with a NW wind. I was still up before dawn, just after 05:00, and after a quick wander around a very deserted Moat I drove down for a sea watch. It was predictably slow and the few birds that were moving were distant due to the NW breeze.
After breakfast we drove across Walland Marsh then back to the lighthouse. I walked out across the desert checking the gorse bushes, then around the Long Pits and back up the western side to the Observatory. The highlight was a fairly showy female Ring Ouzel, though the rarest sighting was a flyover Ring-necked Parakeet that first flew out of the Trapping Area and across the Desert followed by a Wood Pigeon, before disappearing to the north east, then returning down the eastern side of the Point towards the Old Lighthouse. There were few other birds other than the breeding Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Reed Warblers.
During the morning events were unfolding in Otford as it became clear the Rufous Turtle Dove was still around the housing estate and information from the home owner confirmed it usually showed early and late in the day. We discussed plans to arrive late afternoon, and then went our separate ways to check other local sites around Dungeness. Denge Marsh was quiet so I drove over to Scotney where I found a flock of 40 Ringed Plover and 32 Dunlin, and 3 Whimbrel. The RSPB track produced 3 more Whimbrel.
I headed back towards the Observatory and called Marcus to see whether we were going to Otford. He was not keen so I reluctantly stopped at the power station for an evening sea watch. I'd no sooner sat in the hide when my mobile rang - it was Marcus with news that the Dove had been seen - by Andrew? Turns out he'd gone it alone, no mention, no discussion.
Within minutes I was at the white gate climbing in to Marcus' car with Dave Walker. We drove straight to Otford arriving within minutes of the bird showing to the small crowd of largely deserving observers - most of whom had put in many hours of searching around the estate since the news first broke, back in February. Unfortunately the owners of the garden had kindly invited a couple of birders into their garden, but the flighty Dove spooked and flew into the nearby trees. We waited for over an hour without a glimpse. Then without notice I spotted a fast moving dove flick from the trees, out of view then dash across the road. Marcus and I were quickly on it but the view was very brief - dark underwings, and jizz confirmed the ID but I wasn't counting it on that view. It seemed to drop over the houses, but despite much effort we just could not relocate it. Darkness arrived and it was all over.
We'd planned our traditional Saturday night curry, but at New Romney, not Sevenoaks. However as many of our crew were together we relocated and enjoyed a super curry at the Raj Bari in Sevenoaks. Andrew gave Dave a lift back down to Dunge while Marcus and I returned to my house nearby to try again in the morning.
We were up before 05:00 and on site by 05:15. We were surprised to find only Jerry Warne and Brendan Ryan on site. We took our places and waited as the light improved. After about ten minutes a Blackbird whizzed through the gap between the fence behind my head and the small Cherry tree above. Minutes later another more rapid whoosh and the Dove was hurtling towards its favoured garden tree. I called it instantly, almost before I saw it. Thankfully it landed on an exposed perch and showed brilliantly for 15 minutes before dropping down into the garden to feed and out of view. Result. My hastily taken iPhone-scoped images were quickly tweeted out and news was spreading.
|Rufous (Oriental) Turtle Dove - Otford, Kent|
Before leaving the area we drove over to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve where a Wood Warbler had been for a couple of days. We found the area but the Warbler was nowhere to be seen. While waiting I called 'Wheatear' as a white-rumped bird flicked up from the field into a Hawthorn. Nothing appeared and I decided I had imagined it. However as we left the site there on a post was the Wheatear.
We drove back down to Dungeness arriving perfectly as the cafe opened and met Andy for breakfast. We left the cafe and drove around Walland Marsh. We saw a couple of Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard, a Cuckoo on wires at Old Cheyne, and eventually heard the sound we were searching for - a singing Turtle Dove. We tracked it down and got some rather similar views to the Rufous earlier as it sang from a Poplar belt. Six species of Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves) in a morning.
|European Turtle Dove - Walland Marsh|
The afternoon was pretty quiet and an evening seawatch produced very little:
Sunday 1 May 2016Another early start produced a pretty slow seawatch. Highlights were the 2 summer plumaged Black Terns, though numbers were made up with Commic Terns that battled into the cold northerly breeze.
- Brent Goose - 2E
- Common Scoter - 5E, 19W
- Red-breasted Merganser - 4E
- Gannet - 176E
- Bar-tailed Godwit - 230E
- Grey Plover - 4E
- Whimbrel - 10E
- Great Skua - 6E
- Arctic Skua - 1E
- Kittiwake - 3E
- Commic Tern - 2,000+E
- Little Tern - 3E
- Black Tern - 2E
- Auk sp - 1W
The road to Galloways produced a Whinchat, four Wheatears and 2 Stonechat. Along the RSPB reserve entrance track a group of three Whimbrel gave good views.
- Gannet: 37E 9W
- Bar-tailed Godwit: 170E
- Great Skua: 2E
- Arctic Skua: 1E
- Pomarine Skua: 1E at 14.52
- Little Tern: 2E
- Commic Tern: 83E
- Sandwich Tern: 6E 33W
- Swallow: 1 in