A day birding in Kent today starts with a visit to Dungeness.
The rain at the start of the journey quickly passes before we have park the car. Heading for the beach for a spot of seawatching, it's dry but the chill factor from the winds makes it feel many degrees lower than the temperature suggests.
The hut is locked but we use it as a wind break and it provides some very welcome relief.
Out at sea there's some movement of divers and auks moving through. A flock of 300+ Red-throated Divers being the largest. Large numbers of Cormorants are seen throughout the 2-3 hours. The first year tick of the day comes in the form of a Razorbill seen sitting on the sea relatively close in.
There's a Great Skua seen following one of the larger ships for a second year tick and Kittiwakes are frequently seen. A Red-breasted Merganser appears on the water close in, giving good views before heading off to the West.
Heading towards the "patch" There's a sad sight when a Harbour Seal is seen dead on the beach below. A Little Gull is another year tick, Two picked out amongst the many Black-headed Gulls.
Time to head towards the fishing boats and try to find the Glaucous Gull that we missed on our first trip a couple of weeks earlier.
After scanning every group of gulls present, we finally located it among Herring Gulls. It spent most of the time asleep, briefly waking to take flight and land nearby only to promptly return to it's sleep.
Leaving Dungeness we hear of two Snow Buntings present at Littlestone-on-sea. We pull into the car park and walk towards the life boat station.
There's Redshank, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone and Ringed Plover all present along the shoreline, but no sign of the Snow Buntings.
Then they are found by a birder as he heads towards the car park. Tucked in below a tuft of grass they are well hidden.
Once found they allowed quite close approach, and happily started to feed among the shingle.
I manage to add another year tick when a Merlin is seen flying across the sea, it flies very low across the water and then heads high and out over the adjoining fields.
Next is a very brief drop in at Oare Marshes. Although brief there's time to add a Redhead Smew, large numbers of Dunlin and Snipe along with Grey Plover to the day list and Avocet is another addition to the year list.
On the way home we head for the raptor viewpoint on the Harty Ferry Road.
There's been a Hooded Crow reported from the Swale NNR and we are hoping to bag a view before heading home. Heading along the road we stop to ask a birder if he knows the best area to try for it. Our luck is in when he says that he was the person that found it. With directions noted we continue past the watch point along Harty Ferry Road. Heading down the road we note a pale Common Buzzard hunched over a recently caught meal, with a Heron standing close by ready to move in given a chance.
Another very welcome sight is seven Cranes seen in a distant field. 50+ Corn Buntings are heard and then seen in a nearby bush for yet another year tick.
We park outside the church and walk to the bottom of the track and start to scan the salt marsh. Carrion Crows are noted on the white marker posts and then Brian picks the Hooded up in the field with Brent Geese. It's a cracking spot from this distance and saves us a long walk. It's in a field behind the tree line so it's in view then out of view as it walks behind the trees. We have to wait until it reappears in one of the gaps among the trees before bagging another view. There's also a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting along the tree line and it soon puts all the local pigeons up.
Well pleased with adding the Hooded Crow to the year list we head back to the watch point for a bit more raptor watching.
Better views of the cranes are had when we reach the viewing watch point and get an elevated view of the surrounding fields.
There's a good group of birders already present and they soon get me on to another Merlin. This one is perched on a small bush in the middle of a field. A female to add to the male I had earlier at Littlestone
In the same field there's four Bewick Swans present and also a couple of Marsh Harriers. Another ringtail Hen Harrier is seen before we call it a day and head for home.