Migrants at Dungeness – British Birding


It has been windy in the East of England for the last few days, and with easterly winds in October usually comes a good variety of migrant birds. Over the previous few days I have had some interesting sightings in various parts of Kent but I have not come across migrants in any numbers so with great hope I headed down to Dungeness Bird Observatory to see if I could find any interesting migratory species.

Despite the brisk winds making birding hard I had the happy situation where I kept finding birds all through the day, with many of them giving me a chance to photograph them. The highlights of the day turned out to be Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Black Redstart, Osprey, Wheatear, Whinchat and some very friendly Goldcrests; take a look at some of the photographs I got of some of these really cool birds.

Ring-OuzelRing Ouzel by Nick Upton

Quite a number of Ring Ouzels had been reported along the east coast of UK over the previous few days and this uncommon bird was high on my list of targets. It took around an hour of birding in cold, windy conditions before this lovely male turned up and perched out in the open giving me great views. This is a bird I see just once a year at most so it was a special moment; if only I could have got a bit closer for a better photo.

BlackcapFemale Blackcap by Nick Upton

Chiffchaff3Chiffchaff by Nick Upton

As well as the Ring Ouzel the bushes around Dungeness Bird observatory contained quite a number of commoner migrants with several Blackcaps and good numbers of Chiffchaffs to be seen. The Chiffchaffs in particular were obviously tired and in need of a good feed as they were very approachable and the individual above was often too close to take photos of. Other migrants in the bushes included around 10 Song Thrushes, 4 Blackbirds, around 10 Robins and in the surrounding open spaces Stonechats were very obvious along with a couple of Whinchats, 14 Meadow Pipits and 2 juvenile Black Redstarts – a nice selection of migrants.

As I was hanging around taking photographs of as many species as I could I heard the high-pitched call of a Firecrest and it did not take long to get great views of this wonderful little bird; another species I only see once a year if lucky, unfortunately I only got a poor record shot. However, in a collection of gorse bushes I came across a small group of Goldcrests, very vocal and obviously exhausted as they hunted for insects and allowed me to approach them at very close range.


Goldcrest3Goldcrests by Nick Upton

After searching for migrant passerines I spent some time looking out to sea, but there was very little activity, some Gannets, a Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Terns, 4 Great Crested Grebes and several groups of Common Scoter and Brent Geese in flight but nothing of more interest. While watching the sea a Grey Wagtail and a Black Redstart showed up in the grounds of the power station.

LighthouseDungeness Lighthouse by Nick Upton


With little activity on the sea I went back to the bushes around the observatory where I saw many of the same species as before with the addition of a juvenile female Peregrine Falcon and a very photogenic Wheatear.

Wheatear3Wheatear by Nick Upton

One thing I noticed was that many other birders had passed through the area while I had been hanging around for ages. The fact that I was photographing common birds made me take things slowly and this is what led to me seeing a good number of migrant birds. Certainly birding was not “full on” as the wind kept many birds hiding in the undergrowth, but by going very slowly a lot of interesting birds revealed themselves.

While I was photographing this Starling….

StarlingStarling by Nick Upton

I bumped into the Ring Ouzel again which was one of the most-wanted birds of the day having spoken to many other birders visiting Dungeness today.

Ring-Ouzel2Ring Ouzel by Nick Upton

On some occasions I have visited Dungeness and seen very little only to go home and check the internet to find that other birders had been in the right place at the right time. Fortunately this was the day that I was to be the lucky birder and as I was leaving a noticed some corvids mobbing a large bird close to the ARC pits on the RSPB reserve. This turned out to be an Osprey fighting off the unwanted attention of the obviously unhappy resident birds. Some great birds and one of my more successful migrant hunts on the Kent coast.

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