Sunday 23 May 1915, New Romney


I was ordered to bring my company here a few days ago. This being Sunday afternoon and a bright and sunny day, I took my motor-cycle and ran over to Dungeness. The ponds were simply teeming with black-headed gulls and numbers of their nests are to be seen among the reeds that fringed the margins. In a space of not more than 16 square yards I counted 13 nests and some of these were almost touching one another. As I approached, the birds sailed lightly up into the breeze uttering a querulous kep-kep-kep, which swelled as the threatened danger increased, until it turned into a chorus of angry, guttural screams.


Whether it was a coincidence or not, the ground-colour of the only egg I found on terra firma was decidedly green in hue – matching tolerably well the patch of sage on which it was laid, there being only a mere pretence of a nest. The eggs laid in the more substantial reed-built nests were all, so far as I could see, the more usual stone-brown tints.


A stock dove dashed out of the ground in front of me where she almost certainly had a nest in one of the rabbit burrows.


Soon after this I was accosted by the bird watcher, Tart, who once satisfied as to my identity very obligingly showed me a number of interesting nests, including those of the common and lesser terns, ringed plover, peewit and thick-knee.


The common tern, he said, usually arrives about April 19th - the lesser about a week later. The former commences to lay about May 11 - 13th and are in full swing by the 20th. The small species is 5 to 6 days later. Tart declares that all their eggs, when newly laid, have a rougher texture than when incubation is well-advanced, 'They then have a kind of bloom on them', as he expressed it. Certainly some of the eggs he knew to be 'hard set' seemed to be more glossy than others I saw. I wonder if there is anything in this theory of his?


He showed me a ringed plover’s nest near a spot where he had found eggs for three years in succession, each year within a yard of the previous site. This conservatism is usual, but rather curious considering there are about 90 square miles of precisely similar shingle to choose from.[3] The lesser terns are delightfully dainty birds, but appear rather blunt in the tail by comparison with their larger cousins. Their cry of annoyance as they hover over the head of the intruder is a tcheet-tcheet and sometimes tch-tch-tcheet. The three nests I examined each contained three eggs, as did the majority of those of the common tern.



[1] The two ‘watchers’ at Dungeness, Jack Tart and Fred Austen, were then employed by the RSPB during the breeding season to observe and protect birds at Dungeness. These men and their work at Dungeness are described by Alexander, H.G. (1974) Seventy Years of Birdwatching, T&DA Poyser.

[2]The thick-knee is now known as the stone curlew. Ingram also used a third name, Norfolk plover.

[3] Ingram added at the foot of the page ‘One of the Norfolk plovers had also returned to almost identically the same spot for several years in succession.


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