Dungeness, Scotney Farm, and Castle Water

Castle Water, Rye Harbour

After an unsettled night in the very crowded caravan park I had already decided I would be cutting my trip short. There were reports of a White-winged Black Tern on Burrowes Pit at Dungeness yesterday, which would be a nice lifer, so I would try to find that first, then head to Scotney to search for some long sought after Tree Sparrows, before ending the day at Castle Water and driving home. 
Burrowes at Dungeness was tricky due to the sun position. I was absolutely convinced I was watching 2 Black-necked Grebe feeding distantly, but feeling a bit unsure of myself following a possible misidentification yesterday, coupled with the fact no one else appeared to have seen them, I am not sure now. The White-winged Black Tern had moved on, but there was a Black Tern around as well as 60 Golden Plover and 2 Ruff. I also managed to add Cattle Egret to the year list with four seen at Boulderwall Farm. 

I parked up at the entrance to Scotney and set off on my adventure into this vast, flat, intensively farmed landscape. There was no wind or a cloud in the sky, and it was very hot. My instructions were to head to some derelict buildings which I should find if I followed the main path. However, about halfway there I could make out two groups of derelict buildings. The first was much closer, but still a fair distance, and the buildings I wouldn't describe as derelict; more dilapidated. The second group was a long distance away, and looked like an abandoned village. These buildings I would describe as derelict, but they were much further away than I was instructed, so they surely couldn't be my destination. I noted a Wheatear in the stubble of one of the fields I passed. I approached the nearer, "dilapidated" group of buildings and it all felt very "birdy". Yellow Wagtails were perched up on a barn roof and there were hundreds of Swallows feeding low over the fields and perching up on some shrubs. I scanned the trees around the buildings but found no sign of sparrows here. A little further along the path there was a row of about four or five small trees looking a bit out of place with the rest of the flat, dusty landscape. One managed to provide me with a full covering of shade if I stood tightly enough against it, and I took the opportunity to drink some water. I walked a little further, and perched up on the second from last tree were two birds, and these looked like sparrows. I rapidly set my scope and could see clearly the facial markings and red-brown head to confirm they were Tree Sparrows. I just about managed to get a couple of photos before they went off, which way I do not know, and were not seen again. A very pleasing find after a lot of effort. There aren't many opportunities to see this rapidly declining species. 

Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrows

After some rest I headed over to Rye and walked across to Castle Water. It was a lovely evening. I headed straight for the hide, wondering if I'd heard Bearded Tits from some reeds I passed. It's a fairly long walk to the hide, but worth it. There were two people there when I arrived but it wasn't long until I had the place to myself. There are few more inviting places than an empty hide at Castle Water. There was a nice variety of waders with 2 Ruff, 3 Snipe, 2 Green Sandpipers and both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. I'd heard reports of a Garganey so set about the challenging task of trying to pick one out in it's eclipse plumage amongst the other ducks. As I was watching the Black-necked Grebe a duck came into my scope view which had the right face pattern; the white eye stripe and white patch at the base of the bill. I was sure this was a Garganey and later got confirmation from Matt. I was very pleased with that tricky ID. I thought I wasn't going to see one this year as it's been a poor year for them in the Arun Valley. Other recordings were a Kingfisher and 2 Water Rails.


Black-necked Grebe


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