Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dungeness RSPB

Above: 1st winter Great Black-backed Gull
Above: Winter plumaged Great Crested Grebe
Above: Smew (male far left, the rest are females)

I headed over to Dungeness today, despite the terrible weather. I thought seawatching may produce some interesting stuff because of the wind, however after after driving to the RSPB reserve to go to the toilet and then driving back to the beach, the seawatching was poor with around 100 Common Scoters and a Gannet briefly. We stayed there hoping for quite some time until we went back over to the reserve in the hope of anything worth seeing we agreed we would skip the first hide and go to the next three. It was a good choice. I knew the first one would be reasonably quiet and had seen what was about generally from a similar viewpoint, the visitor centre, earlier on- not much!

The first hide hide we visited produced my first Yellow-legged Gull. I thought I saw this species before but recently knocked it off my life list because I convinced myself they were Herring Gulls (how inconvenient, they were sitting on the ground not showing their legs and sleeping, it was at Titchwell August 06 by the way). We also saw a few Snipe sleeping.

It was very convenient that it was right next to a couple of Herring Gulls and couple of Lesser Black-backs too, it had a very pleasant shade of grey actually, not as dark as a LBB Gull and yet much darker than a Herring Gull. I didn't think it was that obvious before. But of course, it was sitting on the water so we couldn't see the absolutely unquestionable feature; the yellow legs. But even so, it was a Yellow-legged. We also got good views of 2 female Marsh Harriers hunting

The next hide produced a drake Pintail, and some Wigeon and Shoveler along with a close Great-crested Grebe which was very photogenic.

The last hide, the Scott hide, produced two female Goosander with a male and guess what- 7 female Smew, and it gets better, a male and whats more they were so close, well for Smew that is. Views were great, Smews are one of my favourite birds, males are so beautiful. I saw a few distantly here in January this year but these views were exceptional.

On the way back to the car I saw the man who pointed out the Yellow-legged Gull again and asked me if I'd seen anything, I told him about the Smew etc and he said he saw a possible Caspian Gull fly past, at this point it was dusk but I was desperate so I went off into the hide with him and his mate, there were stupid amounts of Gulls roosting, mainly Great Black-backs we picked out a couple of odd looking Gulls but we couldn't confirm the IDs, whatever they were the bill was too thick for a Caspian. After a short while it was almost fully dark so I went back to the car and we went home. If it didn't get dark this early we would have detoured off to Scotney gravel pits for the drake Long-tailed Duck, a would be lifer. But of course no chance at that time.

Despite the weather and the scope breaking- again (!!!) it was a very good day.


HampshireBirder said...

beautiful smew david nice shots

J. Ray said...

yo dude
nice shots