Birds: January 2020
New Downs was interesting with the first two returning Oystercatchers inland, an early sign of the breeding season ahead, plus Green and Common Sandpipers and a good count of 146 Curlews on the Sampher. Five Rock Pipits were at the Point.
A cool, calm, and pleasant day. A search for the recent Bewick’s Swans drew a blank but re-discovered two Tundra Bean Geese and a White-fronted Goose in with the Mute Swan herd (TR354571). They were giving good views from the public footpath behind the asparagus fields. A Dartford Warbler was another surprise, seen by one lucky observer near the Sailing Club. Out on Worth marshes and a Ruff was new in amongst the Lapwing throng and two Cattle Egrets were in with the Sheep by the Worth track.
Just a reminder that from this morning Restharrow Scrape is closed for maintenance. Over the next c.10 days the path will be laid to the new hide and many other jobs will be completed, including giving our current hide a bit of TLC. If you want to be involved in the work party get in touch at email@example.com. Any help you can give will be much appreciated.
Two Snow Buntings re-appeared on Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course after a quiet start to the year for this species, and the first Lesser Redpoll of the year was also seen on the Estate. The Cattle Egret was again by the Worth track and over 500 Wigeons were on the marshes. Just outside our area, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose was in with the Brent flock at Cliffsend.
After an overnight frost there were a lot of people around, especially with the Observatory hosting the UK MOTUS Strategy Steering Group. This is an exciting cutting-edge project involving tracking birds across Europe using radio-frequency tags and receivers. SBBOT has become the seventh site in the UK to become part of this project. Meanwhile two Bewick’s Swans were discovered on Willow Farm, a Cattle Egret was mobile around the Worth track, six Green Sandpipers and a Pintail were near the Great Wood on Worth marshes, and a Sandwich Tern was found in Pegwell.
Restharrow Scrape was bustling with over 1,200 Black-headed Gulls and two Mediterranean Gulls whilst a wander round the Estate produced two Ravens, and for those who started early, a calling Tawny Owl. A drake Mandarin appeared in Pegwell Bay with singles of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gull.
The ‘grey goose’ flock was looked for on Willow Farm but couldn’t be found and may have moved on. However, at least one of the Cattle Egrets was still present near the Worth track. Seawatching was hard work in the light but five Kittiwakes and a Guillemot were highlights, and there was still lots of activity on Restharrow Scrape.
With strong winds and pouring rain until mid-afternoon it was a good day to catch up with paperwork. A Wigeon was new on Restharrow Scrape amongst a record count of 58 Shoveler. A Mediterranean Gull was offshore and 120 Stock Doves in the asparagus fields opposite the Field Centre.
Last night’s storm had calmed down somewhat by the morning. It was hoped a few seabirds would be re-orientating offshore after but an hour’s watch produced only Great Skua and three Kittiwakes. The Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape and two Firecrests on Worth marshes.
The goose flock on Worth had increased slightly again to 28 White-fronted Geese, 12 Tundra Bean Geese and two Pink-footed Geese whilst a Pintail was in with the Wigeon flock and four Green Sandpipers was a good mid-winter count.
A blustery day attempting the WeBS counts in the northern parts of our Recording Area. Four Pintail were in Pegwell Bay and another on Worth marshes. Further highlights also came from Pegwell, with 11 Black-tailed Godwits, one Avocet and two Yellow-legged Gulls, despite many kitesurfers out in the Bay. There were still at least two Cattle Egrets, 23 White-fronted Geese, ten Tundra Bean Geese and two Pink-footed Geese in the Worth area.
An excellent morning exploring the area. A Slavonian Grebe was a good find drifting north offshore with some Great-crested Grebes. The goose flock was then re-found in the usual place between Restharrow Scrape and Worth. There were still at least 23 White-fronted Geese but the Tundra Bean Geese increased to ten and were joined by two new Pink-footed Geese. The two Cattle Egrets were still on offer (viewable from Pinnock Wall) and two Water Pipits too.
A storm came through during the night and by the morning the winds were gusting 40 mph. An hour’s seawatch wasn’t great due to the murk offshore but a Great Skua flew north. The fields next to Restharrow Scrape held over 500 each of Lapwing and Golden Plover and the newly-cut asparagus fields had a flock of at least 175 Stock Doves. The Siberian Chiffchaff was seen again at Blue Pigeons.
A wander onto the Worth marshes started well with a Siberian Chiffchaff just over the railway at Blue Pigeons, Worth, TR345567. The bird was showing well whilst feeding low in the ditches either side of the path and called on a few occasions. At least one mobile Cattle Egret was present plus Brambling, two Green Sandpipers, and 830 Golden Plovers. Two Treecreepers and two Coal Tits were on the Green Wall and the Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape.
It was a calm, sunny, winter’s morning with Mistle and Song Thrush song serenading a walk along the Green Wall. Two Firecrest and two Pochards were the highlights. Out on Worth there was another Firecrest and two Cattle Egrets were back on the marsh, whilst Teal numbers were over 200 on Restharrow Scrape.
At least 35 White-fronted Geese and eight Tundra Bean Geese were still in the Willow Farm/Restharrow Scrape area but the two Cattle Egrets strayed closer to the Observatory, as they were seen near this side along the Worth track. Two Water Pipits were also on the marshes and two Ravens on the Estate.
The flock of 37 White-fronted Geese and eight Tundra Bean Geese were back again in the fields between Restharrow Scrape and Worth. The Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape and the two Cattle Egrets were still on Worth, though a little secretive at times. Three Ravens and four Marsh Harriers were mobile around the Recording Area and nine Stonechats was a good mid-winter count. The Point brought Peregrine, Rock Pipits, Corn Bunting, and 870 Oystercatchers, 28 Ringed Plovers, 193 Grey Plovers, 68 Knots, 36 Sanderlings, 550 Dunlins, 154 Bar-tailed Godwits at high tide; a good tally of waders despite the constant stream of walkers and their dogs off leads entering the restricted area.
The flock of White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese were seen again, though had moved up towards the Drove. The two Cattle Egrets were mobile on Worth and the Red-breasted Merganser was still in Pegwell.
Squalls swept through intermittently but a large flock of 37 White-fronted Geese and eight Tundra Bean Geese were again in the fields between Restharrow Scrape and Worth. For best viewing take the public footpath which runs from near the Observatory, behind the asparagus fields, behind Restharrow Scrape, and out to Mary Bax. A flock of 24 Corn Buntings were also on New Downs.
Some good birds on offer today. A mixed flock of two Tundra Bean Geese and ten White-fronted Geese were discovered in the fields between Restharrow Scrape and the railway line. An Egyptian Goose was nearby, with the two Cattle Egrets viewable from the Pinnock Wall on Worth, and a Common Sandpiper too. There were 75 Stock Doves on the Estate, a few Chiffchaffs, and a Great Skua offshore.
And here we go again. Let’s hope 2020 brings us as much excitement as 2019. I’m sure our new developments at Restharrow Scrape will provide plenty of interest throughout the year.
The year began with plenty of folk around the Observatory enjoying the mulled wine and minced pies on offer. A Chiffchaff outside the window was the surprising winner of first bird of the year for the Warden. The two Cattle Egrets, a Brambling, and over 1,000 Golden Plover were on Worth marshes and in the evening around 200 Fieldfares came into roost at the Drove. Pegwell was full of people. As great as it was seeing families enjoying being outside it was frustrating to see so many dogs off the lead and there were at least four different groups walking around on Shellness Point. A reminder that Pegwell Bay and Shellness Point is a designated NNR, SPA, SAC, SSSI, and Ramsar Site and there are at least 16 signs saying not to enter the restricted areas. However, there were also good numbers of wildfowl in the Bay, which included six Pintails and a reasonably high count of 27 Gadwalls, plus seven Black-tailed Godwits.