Two Spotted and one Pied Flycatcher on the Estate and a count of 220 Redshank on New Downs were the highlights bringing the month to an end.
A becalmed and foggy start to the morning with visibility down to 100 metres (109.361 yards post-Brexit). I decided on a walk across the dunes but it was quiet with just a million dew-festooned spider’s webs for company – and a Little Owl in Restharrow mobbed by Blue and Great Tits. The fog burned off at nine o’clock to give another hot, humid and sunny day. MPS was on New Downs and texted-in counts of two LRP, 55 Ringed Plover, nine Little Stint, four Curlew Sandpiper, 205 Dunlin, five Black-tailed Godwits, a Curlew, seven Ruff, 100 Redshank, 22 Greenshank, two Green and ten Common Sandpipers and three Kingfishers. Restharrow Scrape held six Black-tailed Godwit, at least eight Snipe and two Ruff until spooked by a Sparrowhawk, but they soon returned. Finally there is late news of a Melodious Warbler at New Downs Farm on Thursday 25th August, the same day the Icterine was trapped at the Obs.
The morning after the day before and what better way to clear the head than a walk over New Downs. MPW was already on station and our combined counts were the Temminck’s Stint with two LRP, 86 Ringed Plover, 30 Lapwing, two Sanderling, eight Little Stint, seven Curlew Sandpiper, 114 Dunlin, eight Ruff, two Redshank (many going to roost on Backsand Scrape), 16 Greenshank, two Green and two Common Sandpipers with more heard unseen on the river. Back at base the ringers had a Pied Flycatcher and two Redstart in a (very) early morning net-round.
Open Day – and a great day was had by one and all. Talks, walks, moths, owl pellets, ringing demos, photo competition, etc. Fuelled by an endless supply of delicious bacon butties, quiche, cakes and tea served by our wonderful catering team, volunteers and visitors clocked up over 70 species. Restharrow Scrape again drew in the crowds with Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green and Common Sandpipers providing splendid views for both our visitors and the regular paparazzi. A Great White Egret popped in briefly in the afternoon and almost stole the show however best bird of the day was probably the Merlin that dashed across New Downs early morning as folks sought the Temminck’s Stint, re-found later in the afternoon.
Not a great deal of coverage this morning due to a sudden compulsive urge to visit Coldharbour Lagoon for some strange reason, the BMS transect and preparations for tomorrow’s Open Day. A Barn Owl was disturbed from its day-time roost whilst on the BMS and New Downs continues to host the two Spotted Redshanks and Little Stints. In the afternoon the Temminck’s Stint was reported on BirdGuides. (Other birding news services are available).
The heat wave continues unabated and consequently a Fieldfare over the ringing area was totally unexpected. We’ll have to search back through 60 years of paper records to try and place this in context – roll-on digitisation! Otherwise the outer regions of the recording area again produced the goods. The Temminck’s Stint remains on New Downs, today joined by two Spotted Redshank. Good old NRD, out on Worth, found a male Red-backed Shrike which remained all morning on it’s favourite perch atop a Hawthorn viewable, at some distance, from the concrete bridge at Roaring Gutter. Finally if anyone could cast light on a report of an immature Bluethroat yesterday we would be most grateful!
An Icterine Warbler trapped in the first net round was unfortunately not seen/heard after release. A Barn Owl and Little Owl were hunting in the Oasis. 2 Whinchat on St George’s (17+ on Worth) and a Redstart in the Middle Field. Restharrow Scrape continues to attract waders, today pulling in 9 Black-tailed Godwit and a Ruff. The juvenile Temminck’s Stint remains on the new North Scrape on New Downs. Please note this is on private land and is off the Coastal Footpath. If you decide to leave the public footpath you do so at your own risk. Please exercise some field craft and remain behind and below the bund to avoid disturbing the waders.
A pre-prandial walk over New Downs to scan the impressive collection of waders on the North Scrape – almost ‘Oare-like’ in both its quality and quantity. There had been some turn-over with the departure of the Golden Plover and a new Wood Sandpiper. The Temminck’s Stint remains feeding alone away from the main body of birds.
Phew, multi scorchio! 25 degrees C by 8.30 and the mercury just kept on climbing but little bird-wise to raise the temperature. A trickle of migrants, 5 Whinchat on St George’s and a Hobby hawking over Worth. Early on, the 100’s of hirundines over the Oasis and Haven suddenly decided en masse to exit the area, maybe taking advantage of the fine weather to head south.
As often happens when passerines are quiet waders fill the breech, scorchio or not. A visit to New Downs yielded a Temminck’s Stint with two LRPs, 62 Ringed Plover, 133 Golden Plover, 20+ Lapwing, a Sanderling, six Little Stint, 10 Curlew Sandpiper, 97 Dunlin, 6 Ruff, six Snipe, 11 Black-tailed Godwit, a Curlew, 130 Redshank, 73 Greenshank, 10 Green Sandpiper, 24 Common Sandpiper and six Turnstone. Probably the best ever set of wader records in our area, excluding Pegwell Bay.
Hot and sunny after early mist, the Estate was relatively quiet, with a Redstart in the Oasis and a Barn Owl on St George’s. A Grasshopper Warbler was flushed on Cinque Ports and a second from the Little Gully whilst on the BMS (Butterfly Monitoring Scheme) transect. Collated records from the outer regions of the recording area revealed 27+ Whinchat (25 on Worth alone) plus 17 Lesser Whitethroats including birds ringed.
Restharrow Scrape continued to hold the usual waders but the Estate was quiet. A “yellow-hippo” found on Worth gave only the briefest of views as it clambered about in heavy cover before disappearing into a ditch. Based on vocalisations, it was probably a Melodious Warbler. WeBS high tide counts at Pegwell Bay included a colour ringed and flagged Spoonbill, 104 Shelduck, 37 Little Egret, 475 Oystercatcher, 300 Curlew, 4 Whimbrel, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, 10 Dunlin, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Golden Plover, 6 Ringed Plover, 360+ Sandwich Tern and 25 Common Tern.
9 Whinchat and 4 Redstart including a very vocal first year male that provided excellent views to those of a patient and persistent persuasion on the Sunday Walk. The Ruddy Shelduck pair were on Restharrow Scrape which also held a good collection of waders including 2 Greenshank and 9 Snipe. Late news of a Cattle Egret that dropped into the scrape at 05.27 on Thursday 19th only to be immediately chased off by an adult Little Egret, departing westwards inland. This is the fourth record for the SBBO recording area, but the third in the last 4 years. In the afternoon, Steffan conducted WeBS counts on New Downs finding Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits, three Ruddy Shelduck plus a second winter Caspian Gull.
Flat calm to start, as the sou’westerly steadily strengthened, cravings for a sea-watch could no longer be denied. Two spells of mindless tedium, with a moff break in between, scored 400-plus Kittiwakes feeding over the Goodwins, at distances that would have challenged the Hubble telescope but not our assistant warden, plus 2-3 Arctic Skua, 2S Grey Plover, 1S Ruff plus one in-off, 5S Swift (latest this year) with the occasional Fulmar, Gannet and Sandwich Tern to keep hope alive until the lunch interval.
Thanks to the wonders of satellite tracking technology (and an ASBO-related ankle-tag which we won’t go into) we understand that our esteemed warden has completed his trans-Atlantic migration to Panama fueled only by regular in-flight meals and a selection of fine wines. Meanwhile back in East Kent, the promised rain materialised at about 9.30 but only in spits and spots. The headlines were grabbed by at least 6 Tree Pipits (including a party of 4), a total of 12 Yellow Wagtails heading south, 2 Redstarts, a Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat plus hundreds of House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows feeding low in the humid overcast conditions.
A squeaky disyllabic ‘Greenish-sounding’ Chiffchaff in the car park had visitors scratching their heads otherwise the Estate was relatively quiet. A walk onto New Downs found 4 Little Stints, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Curlew Sandpiper and Turnstone with the usual supporting cast of ‘shanks, Dunlin, Ruff and Ruddy Shelduck. Good numbers of hirundines (with at least 30-plus Sand Martin) were hawking insects along the sea wall, while Black-headed Gulls were taking flying ants over the sheep fields.
A juvenile Nightingale in the first net round, a sprinkling of Whinchats around the estate and a pair of Stonechats in St George’s Bushes, the male of which was a very smart rubicola-type. A Pied Flycatcher flitted between The Elms and Waldershare Gully. The stalwarts at Restharrow Scrape were rewarded with 4 Green and 1 Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank and a pair of Little Stints that dropped in all too briefly. Later three Little Stints were found among a decent collection of waders on New Downs together with the two Ruddy Shelducks and the immature Spoonbill.
A Pied Flycatcher in the nets and an elusive Spotted Flycatcher in The Elms were the morning’s headlines until news came in of an Icterine Warbler bashing through the bushes on Worth in the afternoon.
The weekend’s highlights came mainly from New Downs, where there were up to 8 Ruff, 18 Greenshanks, a Garganey and a Curlew Sandpiper, not to mention the 2 Ruddy Shelducks, who continue to taunt the keepers of Category A with their presence. As for this morning, the Estate was very quiet, except for Little Gully, which held 2 Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher.
There are rewards for those who get out and about and today was no exception. Waders on the New Downs walk included 7 Ruff, 17 Greenshank, 7 Green Sandpipers and a Whimbrel. The two Ruddy Shelduck remain out there as well. Also of note is the number of Linnets building up with 250 around the Green Wall and 150 on Worth.
Some pre-dawn rain arrived at what seemed just the right time to precipitate one of those arrivals that becomes the stuff of legend, but in the event the bushes held about 50 Willow Warblers and 4 Dunlin were on the scrape, with little else to get the pulse racing.
A very smart adult male Black Redstart was at the sailing club and at least 60 Willow Warblers were in the bushes, while the scrape held 4 each of Green Sandpiper and Little Egret, plus a young Dunlin.
A Long-eared Owl was this morning’s highlight, with other bits and pieces including 20 Med. Gulls offshore (80 were at the Point yesterday), a Buzzard and a Peregrine over Worth and 4 Green Sandpipers on the scrape. Later in the day, a Redstart turned up in the garden of the Observatory.
The Spoonbill had changed its tactics this morning, fairly predictably outwitting the unwary by turning up on Restharrow Scrape, while a Wood Sandpiper and a Great White Egret were seen on Willow Farm.
Well now. Just in case anyone was doubting the fairly extraordinary Med.Gull numbers of a couple of days ago, our visitor from Bardsey unearthed a flock of at least 352 this morning, feeding on a ploughed field between the Green Wall and New Downs. As before, at least 95% were adults. Other goodies included a Spoonbill that flew over Worth and then to New Downs, where it was seen with 2 Ruddy Shelducks, and a Hobby over the Estate. Later in the evening over a restrained amount of Gadd’s ale, it transpired that there were at least 431 Med. Gulls on the field in the afternoon, with several parties arriving from across the river, presumably from Stonar Lake.
Gloomy with occasional rain again, the morning was notable for a party of 6 Ruddy Shelducks that flew S along the beach and on to Willow Farm before decamping towards Deal. 3 Green Sandpipers and 3 Little Egrets were on the scrape again, but the most interesting event of the morning was arguably a Grey Seal making short work of a substantial skate or ray in the shallows offshore. Appalling table manners, it has to be said.
Overnight rain had turned to drizzle by first light but it remained overcast, leaving a seawatch as a reasonable option, particularly after the events of yesterday. As it turned out, only one Med. Gull flew by and that was a juvenile, while an Arctic Skua was harassing anything it could find, a Hobby tried to take a House Martin just off the beach and a flock of 14 Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits flew S. on terra firma, 3 Whinchats were seen at the sailing club and 3 Green Sandpipers were on the scrape.
A flock of no fewer than 96 Mediterranean Gulls flew from the shore and on to the beach before heading S, only for 152 others to be discovered on the sea offshore about 45 minutes later. With one-two on Restharrow Scrape and New Downs the total of 251 set a new SBBO record by a country mile. The great majority were adults, presumably having vacated the Medway en masse after breeding. A second Wood Warbler was flitting about in a poplar near Kings Avenue, at least 300 Swallows and 230 House Martins had gathered over the golf course and fields and 18 Golden Plovers had appeared on fields near the Chequers. There was also the first substantial arrival of Willow Warblers on the Estate – 43 in all. A pretty fair start to the new month and to celebrate here’s a nice shot of a Green Sandpiper on the scrape this morning.