I always try and get at least one visit to Dungeness in the winter to see some of their specialties, with spring fast approaching I thought I might have left it too late, but with the recent cold spell, I needn't have worried, plenty of winter birds still in attendance.
This was also an opportunity to try out my new 'Scopac', the hopeful answer to my equipment carrying dilemma.
Dungeness is one of those reserves where a scope and tripod are essential if you wish to see some of the distant birds that frequent the various lakes/pools, I find it hard not to take the camera and zoom lens and the must have binoculars and of course the lunch box and flask.
The Scopac fits neatly on your 'tripod and scope' allowing you to carry it comfortably on your back, with Camera and lens poised on my hip, binoculars around your neck, I was ready for all eventualities and not feeling to weird in the company of like-minded people.
My first port of call was the Hanson hide, on the ARC pool, not too crowded and plenty of wildfowl on view, the more common wildfowl were quickly ticked off, Pocard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveller, Coot and a Great Crested Grebe.
My first Goldeneye of the season was soon picked out, a lovely Drake in the company of two females too distant for a photograph but fine views through the scope.
On the far side of the lake opposite the hide, a Grey Heron stood patiently on the edge of the reeds, a Great White Heron was seen perched in one of the trees and some nice views of a Bittern that fed along the edge of the reed-bed before melting back into cover.
I can never resist the urge to take a photo of these distant rarities, for me anyway.
They never work always a blurred tiny spec which no one but you would know it was there in the photograph, but always serves a little reminder that at least you saw it. hence the need for scope and tripod. There will be a few of these distant blurred photographs on this page, for that reason only.
|Distant Bittern in front of the ARC hide|
Bewick Swans have been reported of late here roosting on this pool, usally coming in at dusk and leaving early morning, so I wasn't expecting to see any of these winter swans, fortunately for me and for some unknown reason two Bewick Swans returned to the pool and gave some reasonable views.
|Black throated Diver.|
A small flock of Black Tailed Godwits flew in for a wash and brush up and the ever present Lapwings gave some fine displays when flushed by the local Marsh Harriers.
So with three good birds in the bag, Bittern, Bewicks Swan and the Black Throated Diver I moved on the main reserve, stopping for a quick view of the feeders by the entrance cottages in the hope of a Tree Sparrow among the many Chaffinch and Great Tits feeding there. Just the one.
always a spectacular bird to see in the winter.
Most of the lakes seem occupied by the many Cormorants tat seem to have invaded the reserve, I did notice that a birder had tried to count the huge numbers reaching just under two thousand with more arriving all the time.
I did manage to pick out a few gulls, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, a definite Yellow-legged Herring Gull and a very tentative first winter Caspian Gull.
A few more Goldeneye, Pintail were also seen.
On to Christmas Dell hide where I quickly found the Smew, a fine looking drake and two Redhead females , but frustratingly on the far side of the pool, I did witness some interesting courtship behaviour, the female redhead kept circling the drake with its head and neck flat to the surface of the water, its tail and rump vertical . eventually the drake took the hint and holding the redhead underwater by the scruff of her neck fulfilled his role.
You can just make out the White Nun drake and the redhead with its rump raised in this very distant view.
|Smew drake and Redhead in courtship|
|distant redhead Smew at rear|
Another Bittern approached the hide in flight before dropping down into the reedbed. giving a slightly better if not shorter view.
|Bittern at Christmas dell hide|
The walk along to Denge Marsh hide did not produce many offerings, another Marsh Harrier, a few Meadow Pipits and another distant Great White Heron.
|Great White Heron.|
No Black Redstarts for me on the power station walls just a couple of Pied Wagtails.