As well as producing a nice selection of grounded migrants, the light NW winds, combined with low cloud cover and light drizzle, provided the ideal conditions to encourage a remarkable overhead passage of Chaffinch. I had been standing on the edge of the road, just to the south of the lifeboat station, watching the numbers of Wheatear steadily increase, when I became aware of the presence of large numbers of Chaffinch calling high overhead. Once located with the naked eye, the volume of birds quickly became apparent, with some flocks reaching almost 1000 birds(a closer look revealed a second layer of birds, moving even higher up) Once flocks were seen moving back north, the true number of birds became difficult to determine (were these new birds coming in from the south, or some of the earlier birds had had reached the point and turned back?) Either way, it was an an amazing sight, with a final total of at least 9000 birds. Other migrants that day included a single Woodcock, 49 Wheatear, 5 Black redstart, 63 Redwing, 21 Chiffchaff and 7 Firecrest. Starlings were also present in good numbers with 2,500 passing overhead.
After a decent morning watch, I returned to the seawatch hide late afternoon, to find passage reduced to a light trickle, with just a couple of Great Skuas and 5 small groups of Bar tailed Godwit passing through in 2 hours of watching. Thinking that was it for the day, I returned to the Obs, where we later received at phone call from Tony Greenland, who had gone down to the fishing boats just prior to 19:30, only to find that the sea had (inexplicably) exploded into life. Abandoning Doctor Who, we made our way to the boats, where lines of Common Terns and Little Gulls were streaming past the point at close range, along with various flocks of assorted waders, and good numbers of Arctic Skuas. A pair of Black throated Divers gave excellent views, as they passed by at close range (another was seen further out), though the icing on the cake was provided by an equally close summer plumaged drake Long tailed Duck. The first time I have ever seen one in its summer dress. Though afternoon movements of Terns, Skuas, and waders, are a well known feature of spring seawatching, the late evening rush still made for an unexpected surprise, with no clear change in weather conditions (either wind strength of direction), and no obvious explanation as to why it occured!
Totals for the day were as follows: Brent Goose 225, Shelduck 27, Eider 21, Common Scoter 1,566, long tailed Duck 1, Red breasted Merganser 22, Black throated Diver 4, Slavonian Grebe 2, Grey Plover 15, Bar tailed Godwit 211, Whimbrel 160, Pomarine Skua 2, Arctic Skua 54, Great Skua 6, Mediteranean Gull 6, Little Gull 322, Sandwich Tern 485, Common Tern 2,500, Little Tern 149, Black Tern 9
Another memorable seawatch, with strong southerly winds and showers, producing a spectacular offshore passage of waders. A flock of 600 Knot (probably the largest ever to be seen off of Dungeness) were followed by an equally large mixed flock, holding a remarkable 250 Grey Plovers, as well as Bar tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, and more knot. I may be used to seeing large numbers of waders in Norfolk, feeding on The Wash and flying together to roost, but however impressive, it cannot compare with the spectacle of migration, when flocks such as these are on the move.
Totals for the morning were as follows: Balearic Shearwater 1, Manx Shearwater 1, Ringed Plover 57, Grey Plover 440, Knot 776, Curew Sandpiper 1, Sanderling 266, Dunlin 72, Bar tailed Gadwit 190, Whimbrel 71, Redshank 1, Turnstone 113, Arctic Skua 19, Great Skua 6, Common Tern 832, Arctic tern 6, Little Tern 38, Black Tern 7
A flock of 150 Redshank were also seen on the ARC pit that same morning
A good arrival of migrants, with the highlight being two Icterine Warblers between the Observatoy and the old lighthouse. Initially identified as a Melodious, the identification quickly became settled, once the bird started showing well in its small patch of chosen Gorse. Having missed 5 at Dungeness, including 4 whilst I was away in Canada and another in 2008 (just glimpsed in flight), as well as several in Norfolk, and the long staying bird at Bungay Suffolk (arriving the day after it went, having been present for several weeks!) I managed to double my lifetime tally of Icterine Warblers, by finding a second bird in the large area of Gorse, just yards from where everyone was standing! Three flyover Spoonbills provided a welcome distraction and a Wood Warbler made a brief appearance in the Trapping Area late afternoon, moving with the mixed feeding flock of Tits and Willow warblers.
Day totals of migrants were as follows: Yellow Wagtail 350, Redstart 3, Whinchat 10, Wheatear 73, Garden Warbler 1, Icterine Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 40, Wood Warbler 1, Pied Flycatcher 9, Spotted Flycatcher 4
A day of excellent variety, with a decent scattering of migrants and a varied overhead passage.
Grounded migrants: Yellow Wagtail 170, Redstart 5, Whinchat 4, Wheatear 32, Willow Warbler 35, Chiffchaff 35, Spotted Flycatcher 8, Pied Flycatcher 3, Lapland Bunting 4
In addition, the Wryneck was still present, around the Gorse between the Observatory and the lighthouse, whilst an overhead passage of raptors included a single Honey Buzzard, 10 Common Buzzard and 16 Sparrowhawks. 1000 each of Meadow Pipit and Sand Martin also passed through, though it wasn't untill late into the afternoon that the day really hit its peak.
Sitting on the moat, surrounding the Observatory, I watched in amazement, as thousands of Swallows made their way south towards the point, after flying in from the direction of the RSPB reserve. We had been used to seeing large numbers of birds, congregating over the point in the evenings, but never on a scale such as this. After cycling down to the patch, with birds lining the power station fence, resting on challet roofs, and blackening the power lines, I watched from outside the hide, as birds poured through along the beach and over the sea. The final day total was estimated to be an amazing 40,000 birds.
After a good days birding, we were in the process of writing up the daily log, when we received a call from the power station, just after 20:30, to say that they had located a "small, eared Owl" in their security cameras, sat on the power station fence. After exchanging phone numbers and cycling down towards the patch, trying our best to avoid the speed bumps in the dark, (they had agreed to call, once they picked us up in the cameras) we arrived below the hide, to find a Long eared Owl, sat on the fence in full view (it was never REALLY going to be a Scops Owl was it?) Seemingly oblivious to its passers by, just the other side of the fence, we were treated to excellent views, with the bird fully lit up by the lights of the power station. Quite what those within the complex thought we were doing, sat on the shingle, looking into the power station at nine oclock at night, was anyones guess! Overhead, the calm night sky, was broken by the soft "zit" of Song Thrushes, whilst a flock of Greenshank (probably 6+ birds) and a lone Common Sandpiper, could also be heard passing through. A unique and migical experience.