Saturday, 5 January 2013

Kent: Cranes, Egrets and Harriers

Kent is the destination today, arriving at Walland Marsh at first light.
Parking the car in the Woolpack pub car park, it's a short walk along the road until the footpath is reached. Following the path all the way around until we are scanning the surrounding fields at the end of the fence line. A Cetti's is heard along the path and there's plenty of Marsh Harriers quartering the fields and also perched in nearby trees.
Among them a ringtail Hen Harrier is spotted. Scanning the fields in front of the wind turbines the Crane is finally found feeding out in the open.
From the far bank a flock of  twenty Bewick Swan appear and head off to the west.
Passing the reedbeds on the way back to the car produces several "pinging" Bearded Tits. 
Two miles along the road a good group of Bewick's are found. Around 70 birds are seen spread within two fields. Having scoped both fields and not finding any Whoopers among them we are about to leave, when a superb male Hen Harrier appears in front of us.
It's only the second male I've seen, and it puts on a show for the next twenty minutes in front of us. It spends it's time either quartering the field or resting on the ground.

Next stop Dungeness.
Approaching the reserve, we get a surprise when a Great White Egret is seen really close to the roadside fence. At the reserve entrance Tree Sparrow is added to the year list.
At the beach there's no sign of the Glaucous Gull today, but two juvenile Kittiwakes roosting inland are a nice bonus. Great Crested Grebes are numerous on the sea and found among them is a very strange looking leucistic Great Crested Grebe.
Gannets and Guillemots are also present in good numbers, plus several Red-throated Divers.
On the return trip past the reserve a redhead Smew is spotted along the back edge of the New Diggings for another tick.
It's off to Dover Harbour before heading for home. Parking by the life boats, two Shags are found and close by is a Red Breasted Merganser. A walk out along the pier, with frequent stops for scanning eventually bags a couple of Purple Sandpipers.

On the way home we make a very brief stop at Rainham in case any Short-eared Owls are hunting.
This time we are out of luck, and none are showing.

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