Sunday, 8 January 2017

Two out of Three ain't bad. (Dungeness 06/01/17)

My first trip out in 2017 was a last minute decision for a day on the Dungeness peninsular with three target birds that I wanted to photograph. The first, a long staying Ring-Necked Duck, a lifer for me, (I don't get out much) secondly, the Red-Necked Grebe just over the border and into East Sussex to the far side of Camber and also hopefully the Steing   Steijg  Stenjg  little grey Stonechat that seems to be of a different race to our normal Stonechats and currently residing in gorse along the Kerton Road close to the Cemex quarry.
Arriving just after 8 am to the entrance of the RSPB reserve, the Ring-Necked Duck was easily found but was just a little too far out on the pool for comfort. Looking a lot like a Tufted Duck with a sore head, it was easy to see why I could never be bothered to go twitch one.

 A Peregrine Falcon dived into view and scattered everything below in a blinded panic, the Ring Necked Duck taking refuge in the reedy margins so I moved onto phase 2 of my targeted birds, the Stonechat just down the road. Just after I had parked up i could see two birders looking back towards me through scopes and then the Stejneger's Stonechat briefly sat up on top of a small twig, allowing me to see just how grey it was in appearance, totally different to our usual Stonechats. I thought this was going to be easy but that's when my luck ran out. The Chat flew off and I tracked it with my binoculars until I eventually lost it some 300 metres away in the direction of the Lade pits. Joined by Tim Gutsell and then Mike Gould we spent over two hours gorse bush bashing and eventually connected again with the bird but it was extremely flighty and I soon gave up on any photos. The light had dipped anyhow so it would have to be close to get anything worthwhile. Mike returned home and Tim and I drove down to Camber and immediately found the Red-Necked Grebe on the far side of the first pit as you leave Camber in the direction of Rye. My luck returned here, and as if radio controlled, the Grebe immediately swam across the lake and spent a little time on the nearside edge, probably the closest we could be to it from the public footpath that runs alongside the pit. It was spitting with rain and the light was poor but at least the Grebe had the decency to pose close in for us.The Grebe then did a complete circuit of the lake and after chatting to the farmer/landowner for a while whom passed by whilst putting out hay bales for the livestock, the bird returned and gave us and a few more photographers that had arrived another photo opportunity. I find even in winter plumage these Grebes are rather smart looking. 

Although the weather was quite poor, light drizzle, windy with very little light, it was not too bad a day with all my three target birds seen, and two of them photographed. The Red-Necked Grebe would of been nice in the sun as it would of been behind us, but always a nice bird to see. It's quite remarkable how different these birds look in their Winter attire, below a Red-Necked Grebe I photographed in its breeding plumage on the 1st of April 2016.

What a difference 4 months can make. Thanks for looking.

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