Birds: March 17
The wind was firmly in the east this morning, turning gradually into the north-east. Light conditions were initially perfect for a seawatch, but after one pack of 73 Brents and assorted fragments some watery sun turned the view into a passable imitation of Turner’s ‘Bacofoil with Gannets’ and we gave up and headed for the Elms, where at least 3 Firecrests were fidgeting about.
A nagging SE wind made birding a tad trying, but at least it has brought a few Firecrests, at least two of which were present, and a summer-plumage Water Pipit was wiggling about on the scrape later in the morning.
Onwards and downwards, there were a few hours ahead of rain and wind spreading in from the west that allowed for a Sandwich Tern and a Bonxie offshore and 3 Firecrests in the Elms and on Worth.
Having clambered up into the eighties on the snakes and ladders board that passes for an English spring, it has been a steady slither downwards since the weekend, with a chilly breeze this morning. Still, there was plenty of sun and it was possible to fine a few warm and sheltered spots, in one of which 2 Orange Tips were fluttering about – the earliest at the Bay by nine days! Summer migrants were represented by the male Wheatear that seems to have adopted the beach at the end of the shrimpers’ path, and 8 House Martins that were cruising around near the Delf Stream on Worth, while a Red Kite flew low over the Observatory.
An overcast morning with a chilly SW wind prompted a couple of spells of seawatching, during which a Bonxie was the only highlight, while ten House Martins were doing their best to keep out of the wind on Worth.
Although this morning was again a bit breezy it was notable for 2 superb male Wheatears on the beach and a first-winter Little Gull that flew by offshore, while at least 9 Chiffchaffs were on the Estate again.
Overcast and breezy conditions made the day a far-cry from the glorious sun of the past week. Having said that, it was far from miserable. The Bay finally joined the Wheatear club with a fine male bouncing around on the Estate Beach, whilst another was later picked out on Worth too. Choppy swell offshore encouraged a Great Skua to head north whilst inland another Red Kite drifted over Restharrow Scrape, where a delightful female Pintail was also hiding. A party of seven House Martins over Worth (the first this year) brought a successful morning’s birding to an end.
It has been so warm lately that it has been difficult to remember that it is still only mid March. However, just to bring us back to reality, this morning began with a chilly WNW breeze, despite which a Swallow flew in off the sea and 20 Chiffchaffs were scattered around the Estate and Green Wall, where a Blackcap was singing lustily and a Brambling flew N.
In wall-to-wall sunshine yesterday’s Firecrest remained in the Elms, 2 Red Kites were at Roaring Gutter and the spring’s first Little Ringed Plover was at the Drove.
Although the Estate was very quiet, apart from a Firecrest in the Elms, a trek across the vast open spaces of New Downs was rewarded by a rather splendid drake Garganey and 3 Pink-footed Geese, as well as (presumably) the wintering Common Sandpiper on the river.
Coverage of Worth and the Estate revealed an influx of Chiffchaffs, of which at least 11 were flitting about, but overhead movement was at a premium and no other migrants were apparent.
A gentle NW breeze and overcast conditions suggested that a decent movement of Chaffinches might be on the cards but in the event we were clearly on the fringe of things as although a few hundred moved north, mainly inland of the shore, it was far fewer than on the high ground to the south. Still, at least 5,000 Starlings were tumbling about the fields on the Green Wall and New Downs, 120 Fieldfares were on fields just north of HQ and a summer-plumage Black-necked Grebe was found on the North Stream.
Calm and overcast but with some watery sunshine, the morning promised much but in the event delivered just a male Blackcap behind the coastguard cottages, a Chiffchaff, singing in the gullies, and an Egyptian Goose that visited the scrape briefly before moving on. However, later on our first Sandwich Tern of the year flew by offshore, a Sand Martin was flitting about over the scrape and 2 white wagtails and a Green Sandpiper were seen on Worth.
Glorious weather brought high hopes of spring migrants but all that could be mustered was a solitary Chiffchaff singing in the Haven. A Bullfinch flew over the Gullies and a Grey Wagtail dropped in at Sandilands hinting at least some birds were still making landfall. Meanwhile, the pair of Ravens continue to show well in the fields surrounding the Observatory. In the afternoon a walk along the beach from Deal produced little more than two Mediterranean Gulls offshore until right at the very end, when Sandilands produced the year’s first Black Redstart.
A party of 44 Chaffinches flying high into the stratosphere on a gentle SE breeze briefly raised hopes for the morning, but the rest of it was more suitable to a forthcoming episode of Silent Witness, it was so dead. However, 2 Chiffchaffs were singing on Worth, just to confound the pathologists.
By all accounts last night’s footie was a tad more exciting than this morning’s birding, which amounted to not much more than a good walk in some warm-ish sunshine. However, it did provide the opportunity to concentrate on numbers of common species and, tentatively, Wrens and Dunnocks seem to have held up reasonably well after a fairly cold winter and Robins are clearly more resilient than both of those species put together.
It was all a bit quiet in overcast conditions with gathering light rain; the only ‘highlights’ were a Razorbill offshore and news from yesterday evening of a summer-plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit on Restharrow Scrape, although a Raven and a white wagtail were seen later on during breaks in the rain.
Bright with a light NW breeze it turned out to be an interesting early spring morning, with a gentle procession of 24 Chaffinches, 2 alba wagtails and 6 Blue Tits flying N, with 2 Ravens outside the observatory and, as the warmth turned up later in the morning, a Red Kite, a Sparrowhawk and at least 13 Buzzards were circling over the marshes.
A bright, cloudless morning was a bit of a surprise after driving back from Dorset into the blackest skies we’ve seen for ages. A bit of movement included a Red Kite that flew N over Worth and the Green Wall, a Common Buzzard that appeared to drift in from off the sea and an interesting rubicola-flavoured Stonechat with several others that may have included some migrants. The 2 Pink-feet were again with the Greylags at the scrape and on New Downs the Barnacle Goose was back, becoming less credible by the day, and the female Scaup was still at Backsand.
A brief sea-watch before a monsoon ceased play produced five Fulmars, two Red-throated Divers, 18 Gannets, and nine Kittiwakes heading past. Most surprising of all was a lone Mute Swan sitting offshore trying it’s best not to look out of place. Singles of Wigeon and Dunlin were new on Restharrow Scrape whilst over 140 Stock Doves can still be found feeding in the Asparagus fields. And it was here that today’s highlight emerged from late in the afternoon, a delicious 1st winter Glaucous Gull roosting in the fields. It seems likely that a bird seen earlier at Pegwell too was the same individual commuting between the sites. In a final note, the two Pink-footed Geese re-appeared late in the day, once again behind Restharrow Scrape.
Much nicer conditions this morning made the census of the Estate quite enjoyable. Corn Buntings singing, Meadow Pipits displaying, Oystercatcher’s copulating, and Magpies nest-building. Spring has well and truly arrived. And as if right on cue, a lone Swallow circled Restharrow Scrape for a few minutes at midday before continuing it’s journey northwards. Over 400 Great-crested Grebes continue to loaf offshore but not at a lot else was moving. And so a surprise Shag heading northwards (into Ramsgate harbour?) was well and truly against the grain. Yesterday’s Pink-footed Geese continue to hide in the fields behind Restharrow Scrape, a Merlin was hunting Skylarks over St George’s Golf Course, and the over-wintering Dartford Warbler gave brief views along the beach opposite Prince’s Golf Course.
Yesterday’s Pink-footed Geese were still present this morning and were also seen briefly on Restharrow Scrape; continuing it’s excellent purple patch of late. A trudge across Worth marshes in periodic drizzle brought three Little Egrets, 185 Wigeons, and a wide-ranging male Marsh Harrier. In the afternoon a scan of the high tide at Pegwell produced a smart 1st winter Glaucous Gull. Perhaps the bird from Restharrow Scrape just over a week ago?
Blustery south westerly’s meant eyes were to the sea first thing. Unfortunately little more than nine Fulmars plus a handful of Cormorants and distant Auks were to be found. A lone Canada Goose on Restharrow Scrape was due to be the high point in the day, that was until two Pink-footed Geese were found cavorting with the Goose flock behind Restharrow late in the evening.
Ash Wednesday and the start of a new month was reasonably interesting, with the most unusual bird being an adult, apparently unoiled Kittiwake on the scrape, an adult Med. Gull that flew N, Merlin and Raven over Worth, the first Brambling of the year in the Elms and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming nearby. In the evening two Water Pipits performed well on the Garage Pool at Pegwell.