Birds: May 2018
Another day fighting the sea fret produced two Egyptian Geese in a field near the Observatory, a Spoonbill on Willow Farm, a Black-tailed Godwit on Worth, a Turtle Dove north over RSGGC, and another huge rarity in the form of a Sand Martin on Restharrow Scrape.
Refreshed after a good soaking yesterday it was still dull but calm, fairly warm and thankfully dry. A few House Martins were moving N in the murk, a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull flew along the beach and a brood of 12 Gadwall was on the scrape – not a breeding rarity these days but still nice to see.
Sunny stuff on a jaunt over Worth marshes brought the usual good numbers of breeding warblers, in particular Cetti’s which is having a storming year in the area. Three Hobbies, a Turtle Dove, and an abundance of dragonflies and butterflies kept most people happy, though one lucky person was also treated to a brief Golden Oriole singing at dawn from the Great Wood. Two Peregrines were hunting outside the Observatory in the evening whilst the local Starling flock is ever increasing as juveniles begin to fledge, hopefully tempting enough for a vagrant Rose-coloured over from the continent.
Odds and sods continue to be found throughout the recording area with the regular Spoonbill moving around between New Downs and the river, where six Common Sandpipers and a late Grey Wagtail lingered. Worth had at least 14 Buzzards over and two surprise Pochards, by no means common round these parts.
A mixed bag with light rain overnight until 8am, followed by a lovely sunny calm morning, and then increasingly windy, ending with rain again. A Spotted Flycatcher in the Cellars was perhaps grounded by the early showers and is the first to be recorded on the Estate this spring. Bullfinch, Yellow Wagtail, and a few more Swifts were zipping about and a Common Sandpiper was hiding with the Oystercatcher chicks on Restharrow Scrape.
Overcast to the point of being gloomy it was however quite warm, encouraging a walk across the steppes of Worth, which produced a Greenshank and 2 Little Ringed Plovers among the usual suspects, while a Wood Sandpiper was recorded on the other side of the railway.
Heavy overnight showers deposited a few new warblers, mainly Whitethroats, in odd places, a Short-eared Owl was seen over Royal St.George’s, a Sand Martin (yes, it’s that unusual!) flew through with a sprinkling of Swallows and House Martins and a Grey Wagtail flew N, but it was otherwise a rather pedestrian morning. It was warmer than the last couple of days, thankfully.
A small party of three Crossbills in the Elms – 2 males and a female – rescued another overcast and cold day from utter perdition.
There was a bit of northward movement this morning, including 2 Yellow Wagtails, 18 Swifts and 18 House Martins, augmenting a welcome increase to around 19 on the Estate, where they have been worryingly scarce so far this spring. There was also a small passage of waders offshore; mainly 13 Sanderling and 4 Dunlins.
WeBS count day in the northern bit of the recording area was carried out initially in calm, misty conditions before cloud took over after an hour or so. Wader passage this spring has been dire, so a party of 5 Grey Plovers, a Turnstone and a Common Sandpiper on New Downs was slightly against the run of play, while prize for weirdo of the day went to a summer-plumaged Great Crested Grebe on New Downs reservoir. The best bird in Pegwell was a Spoonbill, looming Baskerville-like out of the mist, and a Redstart was found on Worth.
Overcast and gloomy, the only things of note were two new Oystercatcher chicks on the scrape and two Little Egrets that flew south.
Worth was the place to be again, with a female Red-footed Falcon out on the marsh, a Honey-buzzard and a Mandarin.
Another cold start with the NE wind still in place and little by way of warmth until late morning was enlivened by a Bee-eater that flew over Worth and a party of three Common Sandpipers on Restharrow Scrape, though there was otherwise little evidence of migration. Chiffchaffs are singing again, indicating that they are considering a second brood. Presumably the same Bee-eater showed up in the afternoon in Rest Harrow field. As there were not many people around good views of it feeding could be obtained without entering the field and disturbing it.
The cold NE wind continues to blow enthusiastically, but not so severely as to deter a visit to New Downs in the hope of some migrant waders. Some hope. The only individual remotely fitting the category of migrant was a Whimbrel that got up from the river, though the sight of two Yellow Wagtails was unexpected, given their scarcity so far this spring. Back at base, an Egyptian Goose was in the field outside HQ, so everything was all right after all.
Well, despite the rather uncharitable remarks about the weather man the other day, this morning turned out to be gloomy and chilly with a gathering N breeze, just as forecast. The inevitable seawatch was typically Sandwich Bay, with a Manx Shearwater flying S early on, 48 Gannets, also mainly early, but then very little else for the next two hours apart from a trickle of 25 Swallows heading N over the waves.
Another attempt at a sea-watch this morning but you know lightening doesn’t strike twice. Two hours and just a Kittiwake of any note. However inland things began to move as the day went on with at least 12 Red Kites and an Osprey heading north.
After a very quiet weekend it was a promising morning for a seawatch, relatively speaking, given our unhelpful position on the coast. For the most part it was quiet, but in a ten-minute spell a summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver flew by, followed by two Garganey and an adult Pomarine Skua complete with ‘spoons’. It all trailed off again until the afternoon when another Pomarine Skua, three Arctic Skuas, one Black Tern, three Little Terns, and one Little Gull flew north offshore, plus a Nightingale singing in Pegwell.
With continuing clear skies May thus far has done a passable imitation of early June, with plenty of breeding activity but nothing new to be seen. This morning’s best was probably the Marsh Harrier that flew over the scrape.
‘Never trust the weather man’, my old gran used to say as she was boiling the sprouts for the fourth time, and how right she was. Dressed for a slightly cooler version of the last few days it was thoroughly unpleasant with a cold and blustery wind and even a few spots of rain thrown in for good measure. Thankfully there very few birds to distract from the enjoyment of it all.
Although it was a good deal fresher this morning it was another clear night and therefore no migrants were apparent, though a Red Kite flew N over Worth as we were listening to a purring Turtle Dove.
A carbon copy of yesterday, but with fewer highlights, the best of which was a pair of Stonechats feeding young.
Another day of sunshine meant Bank Holiday tourists swarmed the area. A few highlights could still be found namely a female Yellow Wagtail and three Bar-tailed Godwits on Restharrow Scrape. A few late Grey Wagtails flew north and two Hobbies were hawking over the Green Wall.
A long morning’s census in the sun on Worth marshes confirmed most warblers are now on terrritory, with 30+ each of Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, and Sedge Warbler, plus decent numbers of Cetti’s Warbler too. A Turtle Dove was purring by the wooden bridge on the Delf stream and two Greenshanks were taking advantage of all the recent flood water in the fields.
Mostly thankful today for the light northerly breeze otherwise the bright sunshine would’ve been a bit much. A flock of 41 Black-tailed Godwits was a good find on New Downs with a delightful summer plumaged male Ruff hidden amongst them too. Otherwise a Siskin north over the Green Wall was the best of the rest.
A quiet morning’s census with a major exodus of migrants overnight. A few Yellow Wagtails and a Whimbrel headed over but it was left to ten or so Wheatears on RCPGC golf course to provide most of the entertainment.
Yesterday’s wind died down overnight allowing a decent census of the Estate. A male Pied Flycatcher was still lurking, this time in the Elms and a Tree Pipit showed well in Big Gully. A Black Redstart hopped around near Little Gully whilst 20 Wheatears were scattered around the usual haunts. Yesterday’s male Whinchat was still at the Drove with a summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and a five Whimbrels viewable on Willow Farm.
Blustery conditions but at least one male Pied Flycatcher was still present in the Gullies, a male Whinchat was at the Drove, and a Ring Ouzel was in Pegwell. Hard work though.
May kicked off with an exceptional run of spring migrants, a veritable ‘fall’ in Sandwich Bay terms. Highlights on the Estate include four Pied Flycatchers including one smart male, one female Redstart, and the year’s first Tree Pipit over. New Downs was just as productive with a male Pied Flycatcher, at least two male Redstarts, and a surprisingly late drake Pintail. Trekking across Worth scored three Whinchats and a female Ring Ouzel, and Pegwell brought us a Spoonbill, two Little Ringed Plovers and six Green Sandpipers. Off shore a Great Northern Diver drifted south, seven Little Terns and a Shag flew north, whilst a Turnstone was on Restharrow Scrape again. In total across the recording area an impressive 46 Wheatears, 15 Yellow Wagtails, and 102 Whitethroats were logged.