Friday, 18 September 2015
My Dungeness list
At Dungeness Bird Observatory, one September afternoon in 1981, myself and a group of young regulars sat down in the common room and worked out how many species of bird we had each seen there. A few ground rules were forged that day, the main one being the extent of the countable area. Some argued for the inclusion of Walland and Romney Marsh, but this was quickly torpedoed. A compromised was reached, too convoluted to go into here.
I had been visiting the shingle for five years by then, but hadn't given such things any thought - that surprises me now, seeing what a rabid list maker I was back then. From that afternoon onwards, the most important birding list was my Dungeness list. Until 1992/3 that remained firmly the case, and I would drive the 90 miles from home just to add one more precious species to it - a ridiculous state of affairs that I had to knock on the head.
I went into a self-imposed exile from then until fairly recently, visiting infrequently and never twitching a Dungeness rarity (apart from just the one). The list was put on moth-balls.
The past few years has seen an awakening in my relationship with Dungeness. I am staying at the observatory on a regular basis, for periods of time between 1-4 weeks. My enjoyment of doing so is a different kind of enjoyment to that of all those years ago, one that is spiritually stronger. Maybe it is just my age. It was only last month that I got talking to the local birders about the 'Dungeness list' and realised that I hadn't a clue about how many species I'd seen there. So, today, I dusted it down, updated it, and had a count...
That's what it came to. Not too shabby but nowhere near the 300+ of several long-timers and local observers. Had I carried on visiting through the 1990s and 2000s (with the odd twitch thrown in), my figure would have been up there as well. But I didn't and I have no regrets about that. So, what is included in that 279? And what is missing?
Rarities seen (relative)
Mandarin, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Surf Scoter, Storm Petrel, Little Bittern, Night Heron, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Goshawk, Red-footed Falcon, Common Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Stone-curlew, Collared Pratincole, Dotterel, American Golden Plover, White-tailed Plover, Least Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Bonaparte's Gull, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Bee-eater, Short-toed Lark, Shorelark, Great Reed Warbler, Booted Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Hume's Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting.
Quail (found dead), Red-throated Pipit (heard only and never submitted) - and before anyone suggests that I cannot add either of them, too late, they're on!
Tart's ticks missing
Spoonbill, Red Kite, Tawny Owl, Red-rumped Swallow, Bluethroat, Marsh Warbler.
It's always nice to see a new species somewhere, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all. It's just a bit of fun - at least, that's what I keep telling myself. It would be good to get to 300...