Thursday 31st

57 Linnets and 12 Meadow Pipits moved along the shore beneath overcast conditions into a light N breeze. 3 Wheatears were also present and 12 Chiffchaffs were scattered about in the best arrival of spring so far. Otherwise, singles of Firecrest and Blackcap were the best of the rest.

Wednesday 30th

Bright and sunny, this morning troll around the Estate was rewarded with 3 Coal Tits tree-topping across the gullies, 2 Wheatears on the shore, 2 migrant Stonechats by the coastguard cottages, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Harbour Porpoises, which seem to be regular offshore at this time of year. Returning from a Great White Egret on Worth, a Willow Warbler was discovered in the nets; the Bay’s first of spring and, last but not least, a House Martin was at a nest box in Sandown Road in the afternoon.

Tuesday 29th

Breathing a bit more easily after the passing of Storm Katie, which despite winds gusting to 69 mph left surprisingly little damage so far as we could tell, it was a bright and fairly breezy morning. 3 female Wheatears were on the shore, 4 Chiffchaffs were scattered about, a Firecrest and 2 continental-type Coal Tits were in the Elms and there was a gentle passage of Linnets along the shore – 24 in an hour, which were the first this spring.

Sunday 27th

Easter. A heady mix of sunny spells and intense but fast-moving showers, egged on by a gathering SW wind that we are reliably informed is the front end of Storm Katie. There were a few bits and pieces before the wind got up, including a Sand Martin over the scrape and 5 Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest in the Elms, while a Swallow was pond-dipping near the Drove.

Saturday 26th

Swallows were seen over the Green Wall and near the Elms this morning.

Friday 25th

An overcast start with residual light rain from overnight soon turned into a bright morning with a light NW breeze. A male Hen Harrier flew out to sea and a Sparrowhawk flew high N early on and subsequent inspection of the bushes revealed at least 8 Firecrests, 15 Goldcrests, a Blackcap and 4 Chiffchaffs, while 2 Wheatears were seen along the shore and a Sand Martin flew N. Later on, another Hen Harrier flew N at midday and a Great White Egret was seen on Worth.

Thursday 24th

Firecrest in the Elms by Steve Ray
Firecrest in the Elms by Steve Ray

At last, despite more gloom and a light NW breeze bringing little in the way of overhead movement, a Sand Martin flew N and a very nice male Wheatear appeared on the turf field at Dickson’s Corner as some watery sunshine poked through. There was also a ringtail Hen Harrier and a small arrival of at least 5 Firecrests, so spring does seem to be making a positive move at last. Then again, it’s nearly the Easter weekend …………

Wednesday 23rd

In gloomy, overcast conditions with a light NW breeze  small parties of Starlings continued to move N all morning, amounting to 700 or so, while Chaffinches were often too high to detect unless sighted accidentally while looking at something else. 2 Bramblings were trapped, including a superb nearly fully summer-plumaged male, and a Red Kite flew N, but bird of the day was a Lithuanian-ringed Blue Tit, probably constituting the longest British recovery of this species on record. Its biometrics confirmed it as a Scandinavian bird and it was much brighter than our birds, while its occurrence fits in neatly with the recent records of northern Long-tailed Tits.

Tuesday 22nd

A bright and calm, if frosty start to the day was ideal for carrying out a census of resident breeding species, but progress was interrupted by a Long-tailed Tit in the Observatory track that turned out to be a white-headed northern bird, which gave cracking views for ten minutes or so before fidgeting away. The rest of the circuit of the Estate turned up a handsome male Black Redstart, 2 probably migrant Woodcock and a Blackcap in sub-song in the Elms, occasionally bursting into a typical flourish of spring song. As for the residents, 24 singing Wrens may well be a record number for the Estate; a result of increasing suitable breeding habitat and the mildness of the recent winter, which does appear to be relenting at long last.

Monday 21st

Highlights on New Downs of 2 Ruff, a Red-throated Diver on Prince’s reservoir and a Short-eared Owl were rather overshadowed by a Great White Egret on the scrape, which stayed for half an hour before flying out to sea.

Sunday 20th

With the wind stuck firmly in the NE it continues to be a month for the departing rather than those that might be thinking about arriving. The Starling roost on Friday night contained at least 30,000 birds, maybe more, with large parties arriving from the direction of Ash Levels as dusk approached. The thrush flock outside the Observatory increased yesterday and again this morning, with 420 Fieldfares and 160 Redwings on the ploughed field near HQ and visible migration amounted to a Grey Wagtail, a Woodlark, singing as it crossed Restharrow Dunes, and 420 Chaffinches. We are clearly on the fringe of things so far as Chaffinches are concerned, as over 5,000 flew N over Thanet early this morning, while ours were arriving at some height from inland and heading out to sea in an arc between SE and NE.

Friday 18th

As spring Sandwich Bay seawatches go, this morning’s was pretty good. Overcast with a light but chilling N breeze totals included 385 Dunlin, 10 Avocets, 96 Brent Geese, a Velvet Scoter, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, 313 Black-headed Gulls, 46 Common Gulls and a decent selection of other bits and pieces. Curiously, there was virtually nothing overhead, despite setting out with high expectation for a big Chaffinch movement in conditions that seemed highly suitable.

Thursday 17th

Brent Geese on Restharrow Scrape by Duncan McLean
Brent Geese on Restharrow Scrape by Duncan McLean

Cloudless with a gathering ENE breeze, this morning was again good for Chaffinches, this time moving on a narrow band to the north of yesterday’s, but still heading from inland out to sea or south. 703 flew over in just over two hours, while a Woodlark flew NE and six alba wagtails included at least one white, also flying NE. A party of 42 Brent Geese paid a brief visit to the scrape, even though no others were seen moving offshore.

Wednesday 16th

Somewhat perversely, a repeat of Monday’s weather, a cold NE wind with variable amounts of cloud, produced a decent movement of finches. Most were Chaffinches, 604 of which moved from inland to the shore and mostly south, though some parties turned back into the north or east, with 14 Linnets and singles of Siskin and Redpoll heading south. Offshore, 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls flew N, while a female Pintail was on the scrape, a Marsh Harrier and a Little Egret were flying about over Worth and 130 Fieldfares and 30 Redwings had appeared on fields close to HQ.

Tuesday 15th

A bright, only slightly frosty start with a barely perceptible NE drift was a good deal more palatable than yesterday. The Black Redstart was flycatching around the sailing club dinghies and a Black-throated Diver was seen close inshore but it continues to be very hard work to find much more than the usual suspects, although 15 Wigeon had appeared on the rills on Willow Farm.

Monday 14th

Movement was quelled by a caustic NE wind that made birding fairly unpleasant, with the only items of note being the Black Redstart, still bouncing about at the sailing club, the Firecrest in the Elms and 2 white wagtails along the Green Wall.

Sunday 13th

A bright start with a chilly ENE breeze provoked a movement of 188 Chaffinches and 8 Siskins, mostly crossing the Estate towards the sea, and the spring’s first Black Redstart was flitting about among the sailing club boats. Otherwise. the Firecrest was in the Elms again and a Marsh Harrier put in an appearance over Worth.

Saturday 12th

More or less on cue and despite a frosty, foggy start, 3 Chiffchaffs were singing on the Estate and a couple more were seen on Worth. They have been few and far between for a couple of weeks, so these must have been spring arrivals.

Friday 11th

Fog took a while to clear but eventually lifted to reveal a bright morning with a light ENE breeze. Avian highlights continued to be few, although the Coal Tit was seen again in the Elms.

Thursday 10th

Despite the entire Observatory staff being struck down with Man Flu, there were a few signs that spring might be happening at last. 2 Meadow Pipits flew N and a couple of parties along the sea wall may well have been migrants, 2 Great Tits spiralled to about 200′ before heading N and a handful of Chaffinches flew N along The Drove, accompanied by a Bullfinch. The Firecrest was still in the Elms and a/the continental type Coal Tit was in the gullies. In wall to wall sunshine with no wind it could hardly have been a greater contrast to yesterday.

Wednesday 9th

In a SE gale with persistent rain this morning was more or less cancelled, apart from a handful of the usual suspects offshore.

Tuesday 8th

Bright and frosty, it was decided to walk south along the shore in search of migrants but, frankly, another couple of hundred miles would probably not have turned up anything significant. Still, a Pied Wagtail flew N and a Firecrest was performing very confidingly in the Elms and in the approach to midday 5 Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk drifted NW. Bird of the day showed in mid afternoon when a northern Long-tailed Tit appeared at the Drove.

Monday 7th

The wind continues from the NW and this morning was pretty much as cheerless as the weekend, with a walk along the shore more or less birdless and the highlights of the return walk 2 displaying Buzzards and not a great deal else. Apparently it will be a bit warmer in the second half of the week.

Friday 4th

More heavy rain overnight has left the area looking pretty sodden, but after a dull start the sun came out to improve the mood considerably. A thoroughly enjoyable trek across New Downs was rewarded by 2 Buzzards and 9 Little Egrets on the Sampher, 3 singing Cetti’s Warblers, which seem to be spreading into new spots with each year that passes, a Common Sandpiper on the river and a Peregrine over the ponds. Back at HQ a Buzzard drifted over at 11 and a flock of 10 Pied Wagtails was tiddling around the sheep in the field opposite.

Thursday 3rd

An overcast start with a strong NW wind was particularly bleak, though it had the good grace to turn into a sunny morning after a couple of hours. A few Dunlin and other bits and pieces skittered by offshore in the worst of the weather, but movement soon died down and despite the sunshine it remained very quiet apart from a Coal Tit in the Elms and 2 Marsh Harriers soaring over Worth.

Wednesday 2nd

Initially bright with a freshening W breeze, it was a more palatable morning than yesterday, though birding was similarly slow, with 3 Siskins probably the highlight.

Tuesday 1st

March certainly came in like the proverbial lion, with gales and rain for most of the morning and very little to wax lyrical about, except  for those fortunate enough to have been in Morocco for the last ten days. As Gladys Knight and her faithful Pips once observed – it should have been me.