Friday, 12 September 2008

Dungeness 11th September

A welcome away day down to Dunge with Laurence Pitcher proved very interesting with a very heavy hirundine passage, two showy cranes and some stereo rarity action!
We arrived at the RSPB reserve at 0800 hoping for a look at the juvenile White-winged Black Tern that had been hanging around for a few days. On entering the hide to the left of the visitor centre (can't remember it's name) the very first bird I clapped eyes on is the White-winger. Hurrah! It gave very good views in front of the hide along with 7 Black Terns of various ages and plumages. After watching the bird for about half an hour we decided to check out the rest of the penninsula and come back later in the afternoon when the light was more favourable. We did the ARC from the road, then the sea, then the long pits/desert area, the sea again, and then wended our way back to the reserve after lunch. Not much moving on the sea at all, 3 Little Gulls and 18 Common Scoter in about 1 and a half hours all told. The wind, although from the South, wasn't really strong enough I guess. However, overhead was anotherstory. All day there was constant stream of hirundines, mainly Swallows and Sand Martins, a few House Martins, and even 3 Swifts (my latest ever I think), mostly heading South.
At the ARC viewing screen after lunch the 2 Cranes that have been here since 23rd August put on a great show on one of the gravel islands in front of the screen, feeding, calling, harrassing Cormorants and at one point even dancing! Fantastic!
We went back to Burrowes Pit about 1645 and proceeded to look for the tern from the same hide as before. We soon found it and enjoyed great views in light that was by now almost completely behind us. One thing that was noticable in this light that wasn't obvious before was how much of a gingery brown tinge the dark saddle of the White-winged has. Black tern doesn't seem to show this at all. This, with the mantle/rump contrast, and the clean white of the underparts(exagerrated by the lack of shoulder patch) made the White-winged surprisingly easy to pick out amongst the wheeling, dipping flock of Black Terns which now numbered about 25.
It was while we were commenting on this that Laurence first got an inkling there might be more than 1 White-winged. "There's two! I think there's two White-winged Blacks out there!" was the cue for an exciting half an hour as we tried to see both at once. One of us would get on one bird and stay with it religiously, whilst the other would try to find another one. After about 10 minutes we nailed it, both of us were simultaneously watching juvenile White-winged Black Terns at opposite ends of the pool. There was definately 2 out there, and we had just found ourselves a White-winged Black Tern! Just to make sure we went down to the Makepeace Hide at the other end of the pit and did the same thing from there and enjoyed cracking views in the evening light.After informing the staff at the reserve and a quick text to Birdguides we headed home. We will of course be sending descriptions to the Kent recorder.
We had a little squiz at Pett Pools on the way home. Nowt.

Dungeness 11/9/08

Burrowes Pit

2 White-winged Black Terns (juveniles)
23 Black Terns
1 Yellow-legged Gull
Yellow Wagtail
Arctic Tern
1 Little Gull


2 Common Crane
3 Black-necked Grebe
3 Dunlin
4 Pintail
Yellow Wagtail
Tree Sparrow


18 Common Scoter
3 Little Gull
Sandwich Tern

Long Pits/Desert

40+ Meadow Pipits
4 Wheatear
1 Marsh Harrier
3 Swift

Monday, 1 September 2008


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Walthamstow Reservoirs 0800-1200

A great morning's local birding with plenty of drama and a local rare to finish off. On arriving at Lockwood at 8am the first thing that happened was the Peregrine. It was an adult bird, and took a Common Tern over the reservoir. I didn't see the moment of impact as I was looking the wrong way but I saw the falcon carry the tern away. It flew South and landed 2 pylons down (the one on the causeway between resrs No.1 and No.2) where it proceeded to pluck and eat the tern. The poor fella's wings were still beating as the Peregrine tucked in. Grim! A Wheatear and a couple of flyover Yellow Wags provided further interest here. After crossing Ferry Lane to check the Southern resrs I picked up an adult Hobby which went on to give fantastic views as it hawked for insects over the Coppermill Stream. It departed by flying right over my head at a height of less than 30 feet. As it went over it tilted its head and checked me out. I waved.
Later, whilst going to see if could find the remains of the Peregrine's breakfast between resrs 1 and 2 I came upon a cracking Pied Fly. It gave brief scope views, enough to fire off a record shot, and then disappeared.
I did come across the remains of the tern, enough to identify it as a juv., at the foot of the pylon. Curiously it was eaten from the back, i would have expected the breast muscles to be eaten, but I must admit don't know enough about Peregrine biology (informed reader comments on this gratefully received).

1 Pied Flycatcher
1 Hobby
1 Peregrine
1 Sparrowhawk
3 Yellow Wagtail
1 Wheatear
Lesser Whitethroat
Willow Warbler
38 Common Tern
1 GBBGull ad
5 Little Egret
2 Ruddy Duck
31 Shoveler
2 Teal
14 Sand Martin

Also; 2 Painted Lady, Common Blue, Comma

30th August

Walthamstow Marshes 0900-1200

1 Whinchat (a lovely bright example) see photo
2 Wheatears
1 Yellow Wag- over E
3 Lesser Whitethroat
5 Whitethroat
Sand Martin