Dungeness Seawatching Hide and Dengemarsh

It was the most extraordinary of days today at Dungeness. I met Martin and the rest of the Dungeness birders early morning at the birdwatching hide. A little after 6AM Martin called out a refugee boat that was heading our way. He called Owen who then called the authorities, but it was left to two or three officers to deal with the c30 people, including children, that landed on the beach. A few made a run for it, with one I think getting away. Apparently only the driver is arrested and convicted for trafficking, so perhaps it was he who was running. We watched this unfold and the group were lead along the beach infront of us with kids and even a baby amongst them. A toddler was more interested in picking up shells from the beach, but waved to us as he went by. Then another boat appeared with 20+ people on board. The passengers alighted, greated by the boarder police, and many lit up cigarettes. All the refugess were lead off the beach and were processed by the Home Office before being taken away in three coaches. 


It was a day of record numbers of terns on passage past Dungeness. Well over 20,000 terns went by, and I was incredibly lucky to be around some very experienced seawatchers as it happened. It was impressive to watch the team work, with Owen on a break from helping the border police, he directed the group with expert precision to groups of birds as they approached, and only using bins! Martin and the rest of the team were busy clicking away on their ticker counters and using their scopes to pick out specific species. I recorded five lifers in the first three hours: Arctic Skua (I recorded seven), Black Terns (84 were recorded), a Great Northern Diver on the sea, the long-staying Iceland Gull on the patch, and a Black Redstart behind us just inside the nuclear plant. Harbour Porpoises were surfacing now and then. Needing a toilet break I decided to take a break from the sea and pop down to Dengemarsh Gully to see if the Ring Ouzals were still there. I found a male Ring Ouzal plus 2 Wheatear. On the beach a Grey Seal hauled itself out on the shingle. Terns continued to stream past, including a few Black Terns. A Lesser Redpoll calling overhead was surpising to hear! 

Iceland Gull at the patch

Fox, Dengemarsh

Wheatear, Dengemarsh

Wheatear, Dengemarsh

Commic and Black Terns

Brent Geese

Grey Seal

Terns

Ring Ouzal

Great Northern Diver

Black Redstart

I headed back to the seawatching hide to find out the totals, sadly missing the Roseate Terns. Final counts are here:

After 9 hours birdwatching I was exhausted, and as the passage began to slow I headed off. It was the most extraordinary day and I'm grateful to the Dungeness birders for being so friendly and welcoming. It was a very instructive trip, even if I still can't seperate Common and Arctic Tern! 

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