Sounds like a plan. "Old school", is how Tim described it. That was it then, it will work.
I had of course forgotten how punishing the 9 mile walk to Dunge can be especially after an early morning on the flats, 7 hours at work, in the dark, add fog, leave out any food and then inadvertently spill half your water on some poor glow worm thingy you bend over to have a look at on route. Then handicap yourself further by having dodgy knees and and aching ankle - it would be a long walk, but at least I had the foresight to bring my arctic sleepingbag for the hide!
First negotiate the sheep field just to the east of the River Rother and its stubborn and large inhabitants, collect as much pooh on your feet as is feasible. Then try and avoid all major puddles and wet patches on the path to avoid the added burden of sodden socks, while averting your eyes from on coming traffic with full beams on which may cause you to stumble into a ditch.
First milestone, after malignant sheep, is Camber Sands - a holiday camp full of drunk Pontin's weekenders. A fillip though in the form of a calling Tawny Owl (#193), and then back into the dark. Along with the owl I heard Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Lapwing, Greylag Goose, Coot, Mallard, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Cetti's, Curlew, booming Bittern and some other stuff I couldn't recognise.
It got colder, I got slower realising that Dorset was becoming increasingly unlikely. Lydd, then a further mile or so up the road across a field and the shelter of a hide. As I got in my sleeping back I soon realised I had company and that the arctic must have been much warmer when my sleeping bag had been made. Luckily it was only 2 hours before it got light so me and my small companions had a fitful couple of hours pretending I was sleeping.
Outside in the early morning gloom Sedge Warbler scratched amongst the brambles (tick #194) and Linnet sang from the tops of the gorse. Three Marsh Harriers rose from their roost and would be my constant companions while I was on the reserve. I hobbled down to have a look over Denge Marsh and concluded that black and white American ducks might not be so easy to see if they didn't want to be seen in the reedy expanse. Ducks would have to wait, I was hungry and the nearest food a mile or so away at the point.
First the Arc pit, as I had some time to kill before breakfast could be acquired. A showy Tree Sparrow, calling Reed Warbler (tick #195), and a marvellous Hare on the path, which came bounding towards me in greeting. Apparently they have very bad forward vision, but for all that still way smarter looking than a rabbit.
After a life threatening and heart clogging repast, I was ready for the point. Unfortunately the good stuff; a few skuas, had been and gone, so I had to make do with some Common Tern (tick #196), some small flocks of Common Scoter, larger flocks of Brent, and a calling Med Gull - should have gone to Portland. There were however, a number of porpoises fishing offshore, so that was alright.
From here it looked good to get back to the reserve by the coastguard building as the powers that be had levelled the top of the sea defences and seemingly had spread concrete into the pebble mix, making easier to walk on. For the first part that is. I was joined by a another Londoner, Gavin, who works on the KOS database, an entertaining chap, as vitriolic in his liking for dog walkers as myself. Nothing in the Denge creek by the firing range, though we expounded how good it should be for migrants.
The idea was that we'd get back to the Springwell Bridge and look for the yank duck, from where it was last seen. The duck, who was probably hundreds of miles away (Norfolk) was probably unaware of our interest. It was all a bit quiet. Two Med gulls called high up as we made our way back to the Reserve. I headed for a coffee, while Gavin sought Sedge and Reed Warbler, we would meet again.
A flock of Grey plover flying east raised my spirits, and a Peregrine was note worthy, but very little else. I met up with Gavin again on the approach road, he had four Whimbrel feeding in a sheep field, nice, but...
He sallied off on his bike (oh he was on a bike!), to see the LT Duck, while I stumbled on. By the farm at the entrance a car pulled up: "If you're interested there's a male Redstart in the gorse just back there?". Male Redstart's always good. Texts from back home had pointed out a male Redstart had been found in Long Wood again, and a House Martin, and a Reed Warbler by Alex...
We parted company at the Arc, he cycling back to Appledore, I staggering off to Lydd for the bus. Probably see you on the train he said in parting. Hah!
Not much to report on the way back, a couple of Wheatear in the sheep field, harriers again and that was about it. Reached Lydd and caught what was apparently the last train to Rye that night - that's planning that is!
Welcome to Ashford
...er that's it, a Nightingale