Birds: March 2020
Another eventful day in lockdown with it (or another) immature WHITE-TAILED EAGLE appearing around midday over Betteshanger CP. It flew slowly north over Worth marshes being mobbed by Lapwings and Buzzards as it went before settling down on Willow Farm. After an hour it flew off towards the Observatory, veered over Restharrow Scrape (scaring absolutely everything), and eventually gained height over Worth and moved off north. A spectacular sight. The Eagle stole the bird of the day title from the Manx Shearwater which flew south offshore early morning. Visible migration was also reasonable with 338 Chaffinches logged heading south.
Buzzards were moving around in the sunshine today and a few new migrants made landfall with the first Sedge and Willow Warblers of the year on Worth marshes. Five Crossbills also flew over and five White Wagtails were near Dickson’s Corner.
Blustery conditions intermixed with hail and rain showers might not be everyone’s idea of fun but any change to the routine is welcome during this lockdown period. An afternoon’s wander to the beach produced a Sandwich Tern north offshore, a 2cy Yellow-legged Gull messing about in the surf with Herring Gulls, and six Corn Buntings on the shore, the latter a particularly strange record.
The strong wind was integral to the poor numbers seen today. Worth marshes had a female Marsh Harrier, 21 Golden Plovers, three Little Ringed Plovers, two Ruff, and an increase in Lesser Black-backed Gulls to 19 and Starlings to 800.
Not much new activity today in a strengthening wind. Two Black Redstarts were still near the Sailing Club and there was a clear increase in Linnets with 160 on the Estate and 135 on Worth.
A brief walk to the beach at first light produced over 150 Chaffinches south, a female Marsh Harrier in off, and a party of three Black Redstarts on Sandilands lawn. Meanwhile the Ruddy Shelduck and the Little Gull re-appeared on Worth marshes.
Biggest news of the day was an immature WHITE-TAILED EAGLE which flew slowly north over Worth and the Estate in the company of a Red Kite and five Buzzards. This constitutes the first sighting for Sandwich Bay (though some birds were shot nearby in the 1880’s). There was also a singing Firecrest in the Elms and small groups of Chaffinches flew south totalling 60+ birds. On Worth marshes there were two smart Water Pipits, six Knots and six Ruffs, and our earliest ever Hobby.
A sunny stroll across Worth marshes was a welcome distraction from thoughts of global pandemic. An adult Little Gull was hawking over the deep pool by the Great Wood, a nice summer-plumaged Water Pipit was by Roaring Gutter, and the pools were busy with waders consisting of one Grey Plover, five Black-tailed Godwits, five Ruffs, three Redshanks, one Ringed Plover, two Little Ringed Plovers, six Snipes, two Green Sandpipers, and one Common Sandpiper, plus five White Wagtails. A female Hen Harrier hunted near the railway and two Bramblings also appeared. On New Downs best sightings were Mediterranean Gull, Little Ringed Plover, and five White Wagtails whilst a Ruddy Shelduck on Restharrow Scrape was a very strange record. With these south-easterly winds i wonder where it’s come from?
However, in line with Government advice the hides at Restharrow Scrape are now closed. The rest of our reserves are still open for people but i do suggest that people stay at home as much as they can. Sightings are likely to reduce now that people are not coming in but i will continue to census as my ‘one exercise a day’ and update here as much as i can.
There’s not been much change in the weather these last few days with clear skies, bright sunshine, and strong easterlies. A bit of low cloud wouldn’t go a miss. The two Cattle Egrets were in with sheep by the Worth track whilst out on the marshes there was a Grey Plover, nine Golden Plovers, and five Ruffs. Two Little Ringed Plovers and ten Dunlins dropped into Restharrow Scrape whilst on the Estate 28 Siskins flew south and a Firecrest was in the Elms.
All visitors are still welcome on our reserves but please take note of Government advice and maintain your distance from each other. Sandwich Bay is a wide area intersected by many different public footpaths. Use this opportunity to try out these lesser-walked footpaths. You might be surprised by what you find.
The Estate held a Wheatear on the beach and Worth marshes provided a Brent Goose, 18 Chiffchaffs, and six White Wagtails.
At least one Cattle Egret was still present flying around and there was a clear influx of Lesser Black-backed Gulls into the area. Bird of the day was a Rough-legged Buzzard which flew north over Worth marshes. Two Barnacle Geese were also of note; first seen near the Chequers but moved near to Restharrow Scrape later on. The scrape was also the perfect place to compare Water Pipit and Scandinavian Rock Pipit with two of each present.
Day four of Covid-19 lockdown. It’s very quiet around the Observatory but there’s still plenty of interest outside. The strong north-easterlies whipped up the sea and produced a Black-necked Grebe, two Red-breasted Mergansers, and a Sandwich Tern going north. A Black Redstart was near Restharrow (house) with two Water Pipits and a Scandinavian Rock Pipit on Restharrow Scrape, and a Merlin over. Another Water Pipit was on Worth marshes plus the two Little Ringed Plovers still.
A morning bustling with activity. A stroll along Prince’s Beach discovered the year’s first Swallow going south plus three Wheatears and the lingering male Merlin. On the Estate another two Wheatears were at Sandilands with a new male Black Redstart in Restharrow Dunes, and later another Swallow went over Restharrow Scrape. There was also both Scandinavian Rock Pipit and Water Pipit on the scrape itself. Out on Worth and the two Little Ringed Plovers were still present with an Avocet and three Black-tailed Godwits new in.
Two Little Ringed Plovers were new in on Worth marshes and so was a male Blackcap in the Elms, both new for the year. Two White Wagtails and two Water Pipits were also out on the marshes too.
Sunny and breezy out on Worth marshes today. The two Cattle Egrets were seen early by the Worth track with a Firecrest singing further down the hedgerow. A White Wagtail was on the pools and there was a good count of 20 singing Cetti’s Warblers. A Kingfisher was a scarce sighting on the Estate, especially in spring, and a Merlin went north.
In more important news, after hearing the Government press conference yesterday we have decided to close the Field Centre and suspend all organised activities of the Bird Observatory for the foreseeable future. Our reserves, carpark, and outside toilet behind the ringing room, are open as usual to members but do still take care out there and stay away if you show even the slightest sign of infection. In the mean time, if you are out and about birding in the area you can still report your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wind switched round to the north and the low cloud cleared. Together this put the blockers on visible migration. However, there was a clear arrival of Chiffchaffs overnight with at least 30 logged. A Black Redstart was hopping around the hay bales outside the Observatory and at least 11 Buzzards drifted over on thermals. A Brambling was in Little Gully and a Jack Snipe flew over Dickson’s Corner. Out on Worth there were 19 Dunlins and a White Wagtail.
Despite what the forecast said the murky and drizzly conditions continued through the morning. This prompted a nice movement of over 1,000 Chaffinches south along the coast, plus Brambling, Linnets, Starlings, and a rufous male Merlin. Restharrow Scrape held White Wagtail, Water Pipit, and our first Wheatear whilst a Firecrest was caught by the ringing team.
As this is the peak month for White Wagtail sightings i’ve included a good comparison of White/Pied Wagtails below. Pay close attention to the grey rump, lighter mantle shade, and cleaner flanks, of the White Wagtail at the bottom.
Drizzly rain most of the day. However, the male Hen Harrier drifted over Restharrow Scrape and went inland over Worth marshes, where four Pintails and five White Wagtails were new migrants in. The Siberian Chiffchaff was still present but the two Cattle Egrets went for a wander down to the Sandwich Toll Gate.
The two Cattle Egrets were back in with the sheep by the Worth track and the Siberian Chiffchaff was still along the edge of the Great Wood. The male Hen Harrier also re-appeared on Worth by the Great Wood with a female also seen in the afternoon. There were also three Black-tailed Godwits, three Knots, four Redshanks, and four Green Sandpipers on the pools. A Woodcock was flushed on New Downs whilst on the Estate six Ravens flew over (a sight people would have classed as madness ten years ago), the Black Redstart was still at Sandilands, and the Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape again.
Three Red Kites over the Observatory was a good start to the morning. Later on a couple of Black-tailed Godwits on Worth marshes were new and the two Cattle Egrets dropped into Restharrow Scrape, where the Water Pipit was still present.
Despite the rain, or perhaps because of the rain, it was a really interesting morning. Grounded migrants included over 270 Redwings and at least six Siskins. New Downs was excellent with two Tundra Bean Geese, one White-fronted Goose, and two Canada Geese in amongst the Greylag flock. Two Pochards were on Prince’s Reservoir and a Great Crested Grebe on the south pool was unusual. However, even stranger was a female Red-breasted Merganser on the north pool. Perhaps also grounded by the downpours overnight? Two Egyptian Geese, five Mediterranean Gulls, a Water Pipit were on Restharrow Scrape and the Black Redstart was still by the Sailing Club. A Red Kite drifted over Worth marshes with the Cattle Egrets in with the sheep further towards the Observatory.
Despite the cloudier and windier conditions today there was a smattering of things to keep people interested. Three White Wagtails and three Mediterranean Gulls dropped onto Restharrow Scrape and a Woodcock was on the Estate. The Siberian Chiffchaff was joined by at least six Common Chiffchaffs on Worth with an Egyptian Goose also flying over.
More signs of spring with our first Black Redstart of the year on Sandilands lawn, four Siskins in the Haven, and a steady passage overhead of Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits, and Starlings. Two Red Kites were seen over Worth marshes, the Siberian Chiffchaff was still along the Great Wood, the Cattle Egrets were next to the Worth track, and two smart Water Pipits were beginning to look good on the flood pools, with another Water Pipit on Restharrow Scrape too.
After the early drizzle the Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape again and two Mediterranean Gulls were in the fields near the Observatory. The male Hen Harrier was seen on New Downs in the afternoon and a Raven flew over the Green Wall.
Another enjoyable day highlighted by the re-opening of Restharrow Scrape. Yes you heard that right, it is back open again. And as if by magic the Water Pipit re-appeared on Restharrow Scrape and showed unbelievably well right in front of the hide. Talk about great timing. The gorgeous male Merlin was seen at the Point again and it was good to see new signage up along Prince’s Beach to inform the public on the dog-walking restrictions. There was certainly a lot less dog-walkers than usual and hopefully this will in turn benefit the Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers which attempt to nest on the beach each year. Elsewhere the Siberian Chiffchaff was still present on Worth, with 22 Dunlins and a Grey Plover new in, plus a White Wagtail on the Green Wall, and finally a White-fronted Goose and 22 Corn Buntings on New Downs.
The area remains sodden after yesterday’s downpour but apart from that it was a nice day. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was amongst a throng of gulls on the Estate beach this morning and a Water Pipit was on Worth marshes. In the evening nine White Wagtails were on the salad fields at the back of New Downs, the male Hen Harrier re-appeared between Restharrow Scrape and the railway line, and a male Merlin was at the Point.
A switch to Easterlies overnight and a few hours on the seafront saw 52 Red-throated Divers go south and a Red-breasted Merganser north. The early start was worthwhile as a deluge hit at 9am and didn’t lay off all day. With all the recent rainfall our reserves are saturated at the moment. We’re doing our best to pump water out of the carpark but do still take care in the area. Wellingtons (and possibly snorkels) are a must.
Worth marshes was productive again with Mediterranean Gull, Cattle Egret, and Barn Owl all seen well. The standing water looks fantastic and it looks like the Lapwing are enjoying it too with plenty of displaying birds across the marsh. The first arrivals of Garganey appeared along the south coast yesterday and Worth looks as good as a spot as any to find one.
What a lovely morning to be out and about. A pair of Bearded Tits and a singing Treecreeper were good to see on the Green Wall whilst a White Wagtail and a Jack Snipe were new in on Worth marshes. The Siberian Chiffchaff and Dartford Warbler were still present.
Despite the odd heavy shower it was a good morning on the Estate with a few signs of spring on show. Two Canada Geese north over the Estate were the first this year. March is usually the peak moth for this species at Sandwich Bay presumably as birds move around prospecting nest sites. A Black-throated Diver flew south offshore with 258 Great Crested Grebes rafting on the sea. The best find was probably the male Dartford Warbler in Restharrow Dunes which burst into subsong occasionally from the isolated gorse bushes. There was a sighting here in January, has it been here the whole time? Last but not least two Siskins on the Green Wall were the first this year.
In the aftermath of Storm Jorge there was a good haul of one Sandwich Tern, two Caspian Gulls, three Yellow-legged Gulls, four Mediterranean Gulls, and a Little Gull in Pegwell Bay. Firecrest and Siberian Chiffchaff were still on Worth.