We couldn’t have hoped for better weather as I met Colin and Jennie by the RSPB Dungeness visitor centre early afternoon, for a short birding tour. I had already seen four Cattle Egrets on the way up the entrance track, so was hopeful they would still be around later on.
Our first stop on the trail was the Firth Lookout from where we enjoyed good views of a close Lapwing and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, as well as a handful of Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck. A distant Common Sandpiper was on one of the islands and a Little Egret also flew between two of the islands. Four Great Crested Grebes were snoozing on the water. We also heard a Cetti’s Warbler giving its distinctive rattling call.
Moving on to the Scott Lookout, we again saw Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and various other wildfowl, as well as a distant Great Black-backed Gull and a large gathering of at least 60 Cormorants.
Walking down to Christmas Dell hide, I heard a Ringed Plover call which we caught a glimpse of in flight. From Christmas Dell hide itself we saw a few Coots, another Little Egret as well as a Great Crested Grebe on a nest which got up briefly to reveal at least four eggs on the nest.
The walk from Christmas Dell down to Denge Marsh hide was quite lively, with a Whinchat seen briefly on a fence post before flying off, a flyover Hobby carrying food and a Greenshank which we heard calling several times but weren’t able to spot. As we approached Denge Marsh hide, a Common Tern appeared, flying around in its distinctive buoyant style and diving a few times.
Once in the hide, we enjoyed further views of the tern as well as a Great White Egret on the far side of the water, in the same view as a Little Egret, and a juvenile Cormorant on a nest. Distant Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen in flight over towards the power lines on the far side.
From here we made our way down to Boulderwall Farm where we found a gathering of Sand Martins (at least 25-30) hawking about and also the four Cattle Egrets still around the cows – our third egret species of the day! On the way we also enjoyed great views of a Kestrel which dropped down into the grass just 30 metres or so away from us.
We then made our way back up the entrance track to the visitor centre. Along the way we encountered a Wheatear, Whitethroat and a couple more Kestrels. A scan from Dennis’s Hide when we got back to the car park revealed another Common Tern on one of the islands along with several roosting Pochard, Tufted Duck and Great Black-backed Gulls.
In addition to the birds (50 species in total), we also saw quite a few colourful insects including Holly Blue, Small Copper, Red Admiral, Common Darter and Ruddy Darter.