Stejnegar’s Stonechat at Dungeness, Kent

This Stonechat species had been at Dungeness, Kent for over a month and finally we couldn’t ignore it any longer.

DNA results had confirmed that it was in fact a female Stejnegar’s Stonechat from Asia.  As such it would be one of a few records of this species for the UK. However, the bird wasn’t like typical records and so the DNA test is being carried out again, just to be sure.

So far neither the BOU nor UK400 are counting this species as a full species. However, the IOC World List that I follow does include it as a separate species. It’s almost unheard of for this to happen, where a new bird would be counted on my world list but not the UK list.

Taking all of this into account, we decided to go to see the bird on the basis that it made sense for it to eventually be added to the British list and at least hopefully UK400 would add it.

In any case, as it was a new bird for our world list, it was definitely worth going to see just for this.

We made a late start at 7.30 am but still arrived at Dungeness in Kent at 10.45 am. Although it had been raining on and off during the journey, Dungeness was really warm for January at 16 degrees, sunny with lovely winter light.

As we parked up, it was clear that birders were looking at the bird.  We had heard that the bird was mobile and so not necessarily easy to see. So, just to be sure, we grabbed our binoculars, jumped out of the car and stared in the direction that the birders were looking. We immediately saw the Stejnegar’s Stonechat on a nearby post, which was a lovely little pale Siberian Stonechat type species.

Stejnegar’s Stonechat, Dungeness, Kent
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

The pressure being off, we stayed for an hour, getting amazing views of the bird on nearby posts.  As the bird was mobile, we decided to stay where we were and wait for it to come close and be in the best place light wise.

Stejnegar’s Stonechat, Dungeness, Kent
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

From here, we went to the RSPB reserve and caught up with a few birds that were new for the year. We managed to see a great collection of birds including 2 Long-eared Owls, 1 Redhead Smew, 3 Slavonian Grebe, a 1st winter Caspian Gull and a Great White Egret. There were plenty more birds to try and see but unfortunately, I needed to be in Bristol for 6 pm as I was interviewing someone for Black2Nature. So finally at 2.30 pm, we dragged ourselves away from Dungeness.

I loved catching up with so many great birds and it made me contemplate year listing again, for a few moments! I do definitely plan to see lots more birds this year, especially focussing on the ones I haven’t seen for a while.

We also met Jonathan Nasir, The Random Birder, who was from Hackney, London
It was interesting to hear how he got into birding. His Dad had nature books on their bookshelves which Jonathan loved looking at and so he became obsessed with birds by quite a young age.

Postscript – A week later the second DNA test showed that this bird was in a fact a European Stonechat. The previous DNA test had been mixed up with the Spurn bird from later last year.

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