Saturday, 30 November 2013

Powering along

Last weekend before I have to go back to work so I skived off work party duties and paid a visit to Kent with Judith. Surprisingly she'd never been to Dungeness and the Kent coast nearby, so as the weather was set fair we decided on this as our destination. Saturday traffic was light so we only took just over 2 hours to get to the power station.
To be honest, there wasn't much of any note around on the birding front, so this was more about the bleak scenery and a new place. As usual, first stop was "the patch". This is the hot water outflow from the power station which attracts large numbers of gulls and, in the summer, terns which feed on the upwelling of warm water. Today, there was probably a couple of hundred gulls, mainly herring, greater and lesser black-backs.
A few cormorants were joining in as well, and there were flocks of common scoter on the sea further out. The scoters numbered about a hundred I would guess but were quite mobile and never came close in. Over about 45 minutes we picked up a couple of divers passing, probably red-throated, and a few great-crested grebes.
On the way back to the car I picked up one of the resident (?) black redstarts feeding in the verge by the boundary fence. Dungeness is a very reliable place for these birds as, I imagine, they are resident around the reactor buildings. I think I've seen them in most seasons here anyway. This was a very smart male, but I couldn't get close enough for a photo.
There was nothing much around the observatory, so we moved down to the beach by Derek Jarman's old house. This is a much photographed area, with lost of old wrecked boats, large stretches of shingle and in the spring lovely flowers. All with the backdrop of a nuclear power station. This is in the process of being decommissioned but it will be years before it has all gone.

As a last stop we nipped in to the RSPB reserve. This is normally good for migrants, and is where I got my first red-backed shrike and great white egret a few years ago. Was quite quiet now though, with just the usual ducks around. Smew and GWE were around but we didn't go looking for them. We only went to the first hide but did pick up a marsh harrier hunting over the lagoon, a ring-tail hen harrier passing over and a chiffchaff in the bushes.
On the way back home, via Tunbridge Wells for a bit of variety, we drove along the coast via Wallend and Denge Marsh. I haven't really explored along here before, and it looks very good for ducks and geese. What was nice was a flock of about 30 barnacle geese. These are I presume a feral flock rather than wild Svalbard birds but they all count as they are on the D list (naturalised populations of escaped birds) like parakeets.
With the geese and the black redstart that takes me to 228 (229 400 club) for the year. With work restarting on Monday I wont beat last years total of 250 now but respectable nonetheless with a few more ticks I should get, like the Thursley common shrike!