Back in March I wrote about that strange time of year when it’s not quite winter any more, but still not yet spring. Well, now it’s very much the time when there are hints of autumn just around the corner, and yet pieces of summer can still linger on and make you feel that – despite mince pies suddenly appearing in the shops – summer is not quite over just yet.
I’ve definitely felt an autumnal chill in the air in the past week, despite some gorgeous sunshine. But today was one of those days when you could be forgiven for thinking that summer was back with a vengeance – temperatures in the high 20s, wall-to-wall sunshine, and hundreds of people heading to the coast.
Being in Kent for the weekend, I decided to take a trip to one of my favourite birdwatching sites, RSPB Dungeness reserve. Jutting out of the south Kent coast, this is an unusual place of wide, open skies, shingle, and lots and lots of birds.
Although the birds are generally pretty quiet at this time of year, they are still about – you just have to look a bit more carefully. Some quiet standing and listening helped me to spot sedge warblers, a whitethroat, lesser whitethroats and cetti’s warblers skulking in the bushes, and some scanning of the bushes and skies revealed several kestrels and a buzzard.
The lakes were full of waterbirds, including dozens of cormorants, gadwall, tufted ducks, great crested grebes, grey herons, pochard and little egrets. No sign of the great white egret that been hanging about, and I narrowly missed out on spotting a pectoral sandpiper, but I had great views of two hunting marsh harriers and managed to hear the “pinging” of bearded tits. It was also great seeing a small flock of yellow wagtails foraging beneath the feet of some grazing sheep – so close to the sheep that it looked like they were at risk of either being trodden on or accidentally eaten!
The day belonged to the insects though – dragonflies were absolutely everywhere, including some large and spectacular emperors, and there was a chorus of grasshoppers loudly declaring that summer was not quite over just yet.
It was great to have at least a small taste of summer after what’s been a wet and disappointing few months that made it feel like summer never actually came. I’m sure the weather will be back to normal soon but it was good to make the most of it while it lasts! Although I’m a big fan of summer days, at least I can now look forward to the first autumn leaves, the mists and atmosphere of autumn and then the hundreds of waterfowl and other birds that arrive for the winter months.
Watch this space for my autumn adventures!