First on the agenda was a brief stop at the concrete barges for a little gulling, and namely the first/second winter Iceland Gull that had been present for the last couple of days. We met Mr Brown down there who had the same idea, and we waited in the pleasant but slightly chilly (and smelly) conditions.
After about an hour Mr Brown picks the bird up sweeping down the river to the gantry where it dutifully lands. A beautiful bird standing out from the crowd of Black-heads, Commons and the scruffy non-adult Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backs. I managed to eke out a Yellow-legged sub-adult just as it chose to hoof it back towards the tip. Four points towards the Patch-List challenge (five with the addition of Oystercatcher) and a great start to the day.
Oh that it had continued that way. We somehow managed to miss the exit for the M20 and then managed the same with the M26 and had to go a long way round the M25 before we could double back. A pit stop to buy a road atlas and some food later we back on our way into Kent (albeit nearly 2 hours later).
The detour probably cost us the Pallas's Warbler at Folkestone (a 2 hour no show) and put paid to some plans at Dungeness NNR (Hume's, Glaucuous Gull) though we did get a few Little Gull (lifer for Josh) and made everything else into a bit of a rush. At the south end of the Arc pit we stopped and scoped for the Black-throated Diver that was meant to be on an, apparently, empty new diggings, but Josh picked up a Great White Egret skirting the Arc. Three red-headed Smew and a couple of Goldeneye were about the only things of interest otherwise.
New stop the Hanson Hide where I thought the Penduline Tit had been reported (wrong!). As it was a sunny day, it was quite clearly Numpty Day (bring another numpty and get half price), with a couple calling a male Goldeneye as a male Smew and exclaiming that had made their day (Josh mischievously put them right), then when I got them on to a red-head Smew they asked whether that was a rarity as they had seen brown-headed ones on the reserve...
The other couple were also finding Smew where there were none, which caused a senior moment for me as I tried to take the ladies camera as we left, Josh pointing out my own camera was still round my neck. She just looked aghast.
Before seeing how many people we could annoy, ruin days for, we stopped of at Boulderwood Farm for the Tree Sparrow (another lifer for J). A quick cuppa in the centre, where we bumped into David Campbell doing the rounds (apparently with more success than we were having), who told us where the Penduline really were. Instead of facing down my (one of several) nemesis, we did a quick clock-wise scurry between the hides for Black-necked Grebe, male Smew and anything else. Picked up a Long-tailed duck at the east end of the main pit, some Pintail and more female Smew. With closing rapidly approaching we made it to the viewing ramp knowing full well we could not put in the time required for the elusive reed mace chomping tits. With the reserve closing at 5:00 we had to hoof it back to retrieve the car. Just as Josh nipped of to the toilets a proper birder in front of me picks up one of the two reported Black-throated Divers flying low from the east. Josh got it just before he and it disappeared over and into the toilet block (another lifer for him). A few minutes later and a male Goosander flew over just as Josh re-appeared. Two Kent ticks for me in just a few minutes.
Didn't manage to get lost on the way home, even throwing in the slight detour to get a fish supper in Rye. Great day apart from a few navigational issues...
Goosander, Port Talbot where we were not dipping a Ross's Gull the other weekend!