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Plovers - Dungeness and Romney Marsh Bird Tours and B&B
Review of 2010
During 2010 visitors to Plovers bird tours enjoyed a wide variety of species as we travelled around the Romney Marsh in search of birds and other wildlife. Here are just a few of the highlights from a memorable year.
A New Years Day outing resulted in 103 species in weather that included mist, strong winds and a blizzard! Despite the weather conditions a good cross section of wintering birds were seen including Smew, Snow Bunting and Raven at Dungeness, plus a number of seabirds off the point. The day finished in fine style with Bewick`s Swans and Marsh Harriers coming to roost in the shadow of the wind farm on Walland Marsh.
Greatstone Beach, Sea Ice Feb 2010 © Paul Trodd
Winter bird tours caught up with some of our trickier to find farmland birds such as Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows; fortunately we still have a reasonable number of colonies of the latter species scattered across the Marsh. Raptors and wild geese also featured prominently with Merlin, Peregrine, Hen Harrier, White-fronted and Bean Geese all noted. We also ventured as far west as Pannel Valley for a wintering Great Grey Shrike and across to the east for Purple Sandpipers on the rocks at Hythe, along with a Great White Egret that frequented the Royal Military Canal. Amongst the seaduck, auks, divers and Gannets off Dungeness a Sooty Shearwater put in an appearance, whilst a Glaucous Gull found the foreshore by the fishing boats to its liking. Large flocks of Brent Geese were also on the move eastwards.
As the daylight hours lengthened the first migrant Wheatears, Garganeys and Little Ringed Plovers of the year were recorded across the Dungeness peninsula along with significant numbers of Firecrests, which saw several in the back garden at Plovers. Migrant Dartford Warblers and Black Redstarts were also noted as well as Water Pipits, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes. March ended with three Penduline Tits and a rare Pallid Swift on the bird reserve, followed by an Alpine Swift that went to roost on the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. Both these species of swifts were part of a national influx into the country during spring 2010.
Into April and migration picked up apace with much of interest on both land and sea. The up-Channel passage of skuas, divers, sea duck and waders continued to be of particular interest to visitors based inland who don’t often get the chance to sea watch. By the end of the month parties of Pomarine Skuas regularly passed the point, along with Bonxies and Little Gulls, plus a good passage of terns which included pulses of Little, Black and Arctic Terns. Whimbrels were seen in good numbers both off shore and on the fields of the hinterland. On the land at Dungeness several good falls of common migrants enabled visitors to see the likes of Redstart, Firecrest and Ring Ouzel. We also visited nearby Wealden woods for Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh Tit and a variety of other woodland birds. This meant that all of our spring bird tours easily recorded over 100 species during a three day visit.
By the end of April the RSPB reserve took centre stage with the arrival of a pair of Purple Herons. As they settled down to nest, and eventually raise young, these elegant birds hit the national birding headlines as the first successful breeding of their kind in Britain; and it didn’t stop there, as a pair of Bitterns also bred for the first time. In general the heron tribe had an amazing year with Great White and Cattle Egrets, Spoonbill, Night Heron, White Stork and Glossy Ibis all appearing during the year.
Spoonbill, Dungeness RSPB May 2010 © Paul Trodd
New for 2010 were day tips to the Pas-de-Calais region in northern France. Here we enjoyed woodland species such as Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Icterine Warbler and Honey Buzzard, while coastal wetlands attracted Kentish Plover, Crested Lark and a wealth of waders and wildfowl.
During May much attention was paid to Denge Marsh where the Purple Herons continued to show well and Bittern could be heard `booming` at dawn and dusk. Barn and Little Owls showed throughout and a flooded field attracted a host of passage waders including Little and Temminck`s Stints, Tundra Plovers, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers. A Red-footed Falcon joined a flock of Hobbies to hunt dragonflies while a Bea-eater was seen over the Desert.
Several trips were made to Rye Harbour where we enjoyed the thrill of our only true seabird colony. Hundreds of Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls competed with Sandwich, and Common Terns for nesting space alongside a variety of breeding waders. It was also good to see Little Terns nesting once again after two blank years. Summer bird tours concentrated on breeding species such as Yellow Wagtail, Turtle Dove and Bearded Tit, while Marsh Harriers had another good year with up to ten females nesting across the greater Romney Marsh from Dymchurch to Pett Level. An evening trip to Challock resulted in good views of Nightjar, Tree Pipit and Tawny Owl.
Mid-summer is normally a quiet time for rarities, but at Dungeness a wandering White-tailed Plover was a welcome visitor to the bird reserve where it attracted twitchers from far and wide. Other scarce waders of note during late summer and autumn included a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers and four Buff-breasted Sandpipers, three of which were found amongst the Golden Plovers at Scotney, plus a Grey Phalarope, also on at Scotney.
Wryneck, Dungeness RSPB Sept 2010 © Paul Trodd
The autumn migration period was typically busy with diversions to enjoy rarities such as White-winged Black-tern at the Patch, Icterine Warblers in a Dungeness garden and incredibly confiding views of Barred Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Osprey and Wryneck on the bird reserve. At Dungeness Lapland Buntings put on a good show, as did a one day Hoopoe. However, bird of the autumn had be the Sand Martin which passed though the peninsula in extraordinary numbers; there was a near continuous passage from late June through until early September with large flocks roosting in the reed beds at Denge Marsh. They made for a fantastic evening spectacle, particularly when joined by thousands of swirling Starlings also going to roost in the reed bed.
Autumn seawatching proved fruitful with several groups getting stunning views of migrating seabirds, particularly skuas. Both Arctic and Great Skuas were seen in good numbers, along with regular Pomarine sightings, but it was one of the best years on record for the scarce Long-tailed Skua with one bird tour connecting with all four species! Decent numbers of Little Gulls were noted and both Sabine`s Gull and Grey Phalarope put in a brief appearance.
Later on in the season flocks of winter thrushes combined with overhead passages of finches, larks and the last of the hirundines. Crests returned to the peninsula along with sightings of Yellow-browed and Pallas`s Warblers and what for many birders was the bird of the year, a stunning Red-flanked Bluetail along Dengemarsh Road. Waxwings began to occur in what was to become a phenomenal winter for this handsome invader from across the North Sea. By the end of the year large flocks were noted around Hythe and Folkestone with numerous sightings from elsewhere across the Marsh, ensuring that the winter of 2010/11 will long be remembered as a `Waxwing year.`
Lapland Bunting, Dungeness Sept 2010 © Paul Trodd
Pallas's Warbler, Dungeness Bird Observatory Oct 2010 © Paul Trodd
Red-flanked Bluetail, Dengemarsh Road Nov 2010 © Paul Trodd
Winter came in early with heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures from late November onwards displacing unprecedented numbers of wildfowl from the continent. Hundreds of White-fronted Geese and thousands of Wigeon were in the vanguard along with larger than usual flocks of Barnacle Geese and Gadwall. Bittern sightings soared around the bird reserve and at one stage there was thought to be at least 11 individuals on site. Some of these birds gave incredible views only a few metres from hides and the visitor centre as they sought out unfrozen water in which to hunt fish. The year ended with a flourish as a Rough-legged Buzzard hunted the Lydd ranges, while down at Pett Level a goose flock contained all three races of Brents, hundreds of White-fronted and Barnacle Geese; and the icing on the cake, a gorgeous Red-breasted Goose.
Bittern at ARC Pits © Paul Trodd
As our fifth year came to a close 2010 proved memorable for the many visitors to Plovers with a combined tally of 222 species noted. But it wasn’t all about birds, as many other aspects of flora and fauna were encountered, from porpoises and seals at Dungeness to a wide range of moths identified in the garden moth trap. What 2011 will bring we shall have to wait and see, but we look forward to many more enjoyable days showing visitors the best of wildlife that the Romney Marsh has to offer.
Wind Turbines at Cheyne Court Walland Marsh
Pat and Paul Trodd
Plovers, 1 Toby Road, Lydd-on-Sea
Romney Marsh, Kent TN29 9PG
Phone 01797 366935 & 07920 197535
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