Birds: September 2017
It was overcast by dawn and still with a light SE breeze; ideal conditions for an arrival of Firecrests. In the event it did not disappoint as at least 9 of these delightful little birds were fizzing about, mainly in the Elms and gullies, accompanied by at least 40 Goldcrests. However, the event of the morning was an overflying flock of 4 Tree Sparrows. For several of us, these would have been the first here for about two years, something that would have been unthinkable less than three decades ago.
The best birds on another cloudless morning with no wind to start with were 4 Great White Egrets that flew towards the sea not long after first light, a large owl sp. that flushed from the Haven even earlier and a Yellow-browed Warbler, calling from bushes along the shore. Otherwise it was another story of Blackcap and Chiffchaff but with very little embellishment.
Another arrival of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, with 125 and 88 respectively, meant it was more quantity rather than quality this morning. Still, a distant Bonxie could be see haunting the Goodwins with 60 Brent Geese, 35 Wigeon, 24 Teal, and seven Mediterranean Gulls also moving offshore. A calling Coal Tit did its best impression of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Cellars, two Ravens flew over (again), and 800 House Martins zipped around the Whitehouse early on. In the evening a trip to Pegwell produced the regular Stone-curlew showing well but distantly on the shingle of the Point along with equally regular pair of Spoonbills. However, a Hoopoe discovered on the Hoverport was certainly not regular, an excellent end to the day.
Indian Summers are all very well, but if this morning was anything to go by, this one had better not last too long. Calm, cloudless and misty to start with, there was little in the way of movement and the bushes held no more than moderate numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, augmented by a Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Stonechats.
Predictably, with the wind having shifted to the south and freshening during the morning, it was very much after the Lord Mayor’s Show, although a Ruff and a Grey Wagtail flew N and a trickle of pipits and finches came in from the NE. There were approximately 100,000 fewer House Martins than yesterday.
Calm, cloudless and chilly to start with, it came as a complete surprise to be greeted by a large arrival of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, around 300 of each, which were pouring along the hedgerows near the Observatory and continuing to take our ringing totals, for Blackcap at least, way past the Bay’s previous record. On reaching the shore a huge movement of House Martins commenced, with large numbers of Swallows on the move, generally a little further inland. Eventual estimates, based on regular 5-minute counts for the next three hours, came to 100,000 House Martins, plus several thousand on wires near the Chequers first thing, and 40,000 Swallows. Counting anything else was not easy in the constant stream of birds overhead, but at least 120 Meadow Pipits, 160 Linnets, 4 Grey Wagtails and 12 alba wagtails flew N and 2 Ravens flew over the Oasis in the approach to mid day.
A decent bit of visible migration into a light-ish NW breeze included 202 Linnets, 71 Meadow Pipits, 54 Goldfinches, 8 Grey Wagtails, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Kestrel N out at sea. However, all was brought shuddering to a halt with the news that a BLYTH’S REED WARBLER had been trapped – the first SBBO record. It was released after processing into the Observatory pond area, calling a few times to emphasise its identity, but was not seen or heard subsequently. Other bits and pieces included 2 Redstarts, 4 Lesser Whitethroats and 4 Pink-footed Geese that flew S on a return visit to the shore after the excitement had died down.
Despite an encouraging forecast, the weekend was largely an anti-climax, with more of the same in the bushes, though a Yellow-browed Warbler showed up in the golf course bushes on Sunday, when Shag, Arctic Skua and Osprey were seen offshore. This morning featured a Pied Flycatcher and a gentle procession of birds along the shore, including 4 Grey Wagtails, 66 Linnets, 25 Chaffinches and singles of Brambling and Siskin.
With not a cloud until mid morning and a gentle W breeze it was a morning of flitting Chiffchaffs, furtive Blackcaps and dancing Dunnocks, but apart from a trickle of Meadow Pipits off the sea and a Grey Wagtail N it was pretty quiet.
Yesterday’s wind had eased enough to allow for reasonably comfortable inspection of the bushes, which held at least 70 Chiffchaffs and around 90 Blackcaps. However, by mid morning it had increased again, though not with the ferocity of the previous 24 hours, and the earlier trickle of Meadow Pipits arriving from the NE picked up significantly, 296 flying in off the sea in an hour and a half. An immature Shag also flew by, as did a Razorbill and several Grey Plovers, with a loose party of 5 Bonxies heading S at around 1130.
Storm Aileen rattled through overnight and although it was bright this morning it was still very windy. The sea was predictably quiet, with 50 or so Sandwich Terns feeding in the bay and many more moving by in the distance, but the only bit of variety came when an Osprey was seen flying out to sea from the direction of Pegwell.
Another good arrival of migrants involved about 100 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, while Meadow Pipits have stared to get going, with 32 in off the sea and a similar number on the ground. A Marsh Harrier flew in high from the NE and shortly afterwards a ringtail Hen Harrier appeared over the scrape. By way of acknowledging the increasing numbers of Chiffs, here’s a fabulous portrait of one by Steve Ray, with no apologies for making it as big as the page will allow!
Well, after yesterday’s excitements it was back to a fresh westerly breeze and occasional showers, which brought little except for a Crossbill over the Estate. New Downs was also very quiet, although a Little Stint was with 56 Dunlins on the river at Backsand Point, numbers of shanks and sandpipers being significantly diminished from just a week ago.
A surprise ARCTIC WARBLER trapped and ringed at 0745 and released in bushes in the Observatory car park was the clear highlight of the day. Unfortunately for all who visited the bird was not seen again despite thorough searching. The ever-strengthening wind made things all the more difficult as the day went on. On a rather more mundane note, a Pied Flycatcher was in the Haven and 4 Whinchats and 4 Wheatears were on the fields/fences nearby. Counts of 100 Blackcaps and 130 Chiffchaffs were recorded and continue the impressive numbers noted this past week. The Stone-curlew was seen again in Pegwell in the morning as well as our 4th Wood Warbler of the autumn.
Visitors to the Observatory are asked to park responsibly in the car park provided and in no circumstance on the surrounding roads and tracks. The Observatory is located on a private toll road. Full access to the Sandwich Bay Estate is £7 but only £1 if you tell the people on the Toll Gate that you are only visiting the Observatory. This £1 entry does not grant vehicular entry to all areas of the Estate, only to the Observatory, and you must leave in the direction you came in from.
A Honey-buzzard was seen again over Worth, making 2017 an excellent year for this species. Another hefty arrival of around 300 Blackcaps predominated, accompanied by slightly increased numbers of Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. At least 4 Hobbies were kicking about and there were two Ravens and the lingering Stone-curlew in Pegwell.
Very much after the Lord Mayor’s Show and overcast with some light rain it was chilly enough for gloves for the less hardy heat-habituated among us. There were more Chiffchaffs than Blackcaps this morning, though only around 20 of each, plus 5 Whinchats and a few Goldcrests, but yet again nothing moving overhead.
A pre-dawn shower at around 0500 precipitated a huge arrival of around 400 Blackcaps, which were simply everywhere in the Whitehouse and Haven, though apart from single Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Redstart there was otherwise not a great deal with them, though around 50 Chiffchaffs were also present. However, around 1030 raptors began to appear over Worth and despite a good deal of coming and going a more or less constant stream of 25-30 Buzzards approached from the south and east and mainly moved away to the north, accompanied by 2 Honey-buzzards, a couple of Sparrowhawks and 6 Hobbies, as well as 2 Ravens. Mmmmm, nice.
Another day of westerlies and few birds, the highlight being a loose gathering of 8 Whinchats and 7 Wheatears along the golf course fences, although Blackcaps continued in good numbers.
Overcast with the countenance of a box of spanners the morning featured a moderate arrival of around 50 Blackcaps, plus a Black-necked Grebe on New Downs, with a Grasshopper Warbler nearby, and 7 Ravens that flew N over the Oasis. There were also some impressive wader counts from New Downs, where the high tide roost held 438 Redshanks, 129 Golden Plover, 3 Ruff, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 8 Greenshanks, 2 Knot and 105 Dunlin, as well as 2 Spoonbills.
Overnight rain lingered until a couple of hours after dawn, so not surprisingly the bushes were pretty quiet, save for a Redstart in the Oasis. However, an Osprey was seen in the bay and an adult Pomarine Skua flew by offshore.
Calm and warm-ish the morning saw an interesting spread of species with six Whinchats, five Wheatears and a Spotted Flycatcher around the Estate. Blackcaps again predominated in the bushes with at least 115 present but 40 Chiffchaffs and 11 Goldcrest showed some variety, whilst two Ravens put in an appearance around midday. Worth held an impressive 28 Whinchats, plus two Firecrests, three Wheatears, a local scarcity in the form of a Treecreeper, and a scattering of returning wildfowl including one Pochard. A trip to the Point saw almost 700 Swallows fly north but little more than six Wheatears bouncing about in the bushes and 45 Teal flying around. Pegwell saw the Stone-curlew put in an appearance early in the morning (when will it leave?), the two regular Spoonbills, but most surprising a Great Skua which swept low along the shoreline and headed inland up river.
A day of wall-to-wall sunshine saw two Wheatears on the Beach, three Whinchats dotted around the Estate, a male Redstart in the Gullies, two Spotted Flycatchers (in the Elms and the Whitehouse), and 67 Blackcaps. The first signs of autumn Grey Wagtail movement have trickled through this week with today recording three flying over. An early morning visit to Pegwell produced rewards in the form of the lingering Stone Curlew and two Spoonbills.
A fairly clear night and bright start to the new month with very little wind produced a rather surprising arrival of at least 100 Blackcaps, together with 3 Spotted Flycatchers and in all probability the same 7 Whinchats that were here yesterday. An Osprey was seen over Worth.