Birds: March 2019
A change in weather means a change in birds, so the old adage goes. Cold north easterly winds certainly moved things around with two Velvet Scoters, Goldeneye, Eider, Great Skua, three Mediterranean Gulls, and 135 Brent Geese passing offshore. A cracking male Lapland Bunting on Royal St George’s Golf Course and an adult male Black Redstart near the Little Elms were equally nice, and two more Garganey’s were found on Worth, and in the afternoon another drake dropped into Restharrow Scrape. However the best was left for last with Martin Sutherland’s ‘nocmig’ coming up trumps with a NIGHT HERON recorded flying over the Oasis at 0024 (4 calls). It becomes only our third record and the first since Oct 1982.
A Shag south offshore was the best whilst waiting for the sea fret to burn off. Eventually it turned out to be a really nice day. A drake Garganey and four Ruffs were on Worth, with another Ruff in Pegwell along with 18 Avocets, a Water Pipit, and a Yellow-legged Gull.
A frustrating morning covered in fog. When all eventually cleared late morning a Red Kite drifted over and a Swallow zipped through, but there was no sign of any Garganey. At least three Water Pipits were looking nice in Pegwell, along with six Avocets and two Whimbrels.
The forecasted sunshine was a little late with a mostly grey and misty morning. A group of wildfowl rafting offshore provided most interest with Wigeons and Teals mixing with Common Scoter, Gadwall, a drake Pochard, and four Garganeys. The Garganey’s were soon off though and thankfully landed nearby on Restharrow Scrape. Not long after the Garganey floodgates opened with another four joining the previous on Restharrow Scrape, a fantastic 13 in Pegwell, and another three on Worth. The total of 24 birds is a new Bay record. Additionally, a Cetti’s Warbler was at the top of King’s Avenue again whilst a few Blackcaps were in the Elms and seven Goldcrests were spread around.
Three Swallows, three Coal Tits, single Water Rail and Siskin, and good numbers of Cetti’s Warblers were the highlights along the Green Wall this morning. Two Wheatears were still along the Point dodging dog-walkers, with three Ruffs again on Worth, and on the Estate a Marsh Harrier drifted over, two Blackcaps were in the Elms, and a Firecrest was ringed.
Bits and pieces were moving through in the morning. Single Swallow and Rock Pipit flew over, another trickle of finches, but most interesting (for me anyway) were corvids heading north, including a flock of 33 Magpies. A Cetti’s Warbler at the top of King’s Avenue was a rare spring record for the Estate and even rarer was the discovery of a pair of Coots nest building in the Haven. Elsewhere the White-fronted Goose was still lurking on New Downs and on Worth two Ruffs, a Brambling, and a dapper Water Pipit were highlights.
The Little Gull remains loyal to the Garage Pool at Pegwell and a Ring Ouzel was nearby at the Hoverport. Elsewhere two Red Kites flew over Worth.
A long day in the sunshine with the Warden even getting his first sunburn of the year. WeBS counting in the ‘northern sectors’ produced the Spoonbill and White-fronted Goose on New Downs, and ten Sandwich Terns in Pegwell, but the Point/Pegwell was spoiled again by joggers and a rogue zodiac. Meanwhile a Swallow zoomed over the Observatory, two Bramblings were ringed, and a female Ring Ouzel showed briefly around the Oasis. In the afternoon at least 20+ Buzzards were spied with many eyes to the skies looking for a White-tailed Eagle which flew over Bockhill, Eastry, and Ash, avoiding Sandwich unfortunately
The Little Gull was showing well in Pegwell on the Garage pool accompanied by two Avocets, whilst the Spoonbill and the Egyptian Goose dropped in along the tide line, and two Shags were out on the sea. Out on Worth six Black-tailed Godwits were new migrants in but were swiftly chased off by a hungry Peregrine. A stroll around New Downs in the evening discovered 33 Corn Buntings coming into roost by the south pool.
A decent wander around Worth with excellent counts obtained, obviously the birds were very active today. A Greenshank was the highlight but Treecreeper and Woodcock were nice. Late March often sees a light passage of Woodcocks as they head back east to their Russian breeding grounds.
Grey and overcast conditions grounded a few new migrants on the Estate. At least seven Chiffchaffs were dotted around the Whitehouse area, a Wheatear was on the beach, and a Woodcock was in the Little Elms, whilst a Black-throated Diver flew north offshore.
A long trek across the vastness of New Downs was particularly productive with 73 species recorded. A cracking adult Spoonbill on the North Pool was a surprise this early in the year, as was a Greenshank amongst seven Black-tailed Godwits. The White-fronted Goose was still in with the Greylag flock, a male Merlin flashed by, a Mediterranean Gull flew over, and two Firecrests were near Prince’s Reservoir. All in all a good walk. Out on Worth a female Pintail was on Willow Farm, only the second there this year.
Lovely weather all day. After a week of gale force winds it was good to be able to hear the birds singing again. Walking along the Green Wall produced a flyover Crossbill, a singing Treecreeper, six Chiffchaffs, and a Siskin, whilst back at HQ at least seven Buzzards drifted north. A Wheatear was a good find on Worth whilst back north to Pegwell saw the Little Gull again, and the strangest sight of the day, a pair of Mandarin Ducks on the Garage Pool.
A trickle of overhead passage throughout the morning produced 31 Meadow Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, one Coal Tit, one Brambling, and six Siskins north. A Firecrest was in the Elms, the Little Gull was seen again in Pegwell, and a Rock Pipit popped into Restharrow Scrape.
There was no sign of a repeat of yesterday’s Chaffinch passage but a few bits and pieces were moving. Two Swallows were our first of the year, whilst a Crossbill was on the Green Wall. In Pegwell the Little Gull re-appeared in addition to a supporting cast of ten Mediterranean Gulls, three Ruffs, and one each of Slavonian Grebe, Goosander, and Red-breasted Merganser. At least six Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest were on the Estate.
You can never predict these things. There was nothing special about the weather today compared to the rest of the week, with strong winds and low cloud. And yet over 5,000 Chaffinches flew south in the first few hours after dawn. It was all over by 10am. A Wheatear was only other migrant on the Estate whilst the Egyptian Goose was seen again on Worth.
Visibility was worse offshore today and hindered our attempts at a seawatch. However a Shag (possibly two) was sat on the sea not far out, a few Kittiwakes and Gannets were going to and fro, and there were still at least 168 Great Crested Grebes rafting. The low cloud made the morning’s vismig more noticeable and at least 126 Chaffinches were logged. The clear highlight of the morning came in the form a Hawfinch going south amongst the Chaffinch flocks.
Guess what, more wind. A Great Skua was the best on offer out to sea whilst 40 Chaffinches, 13 Siskins, and 320 Starlings moved south overhead. There was no sign of the Bewick’s Swans on Worth and they may have finally moved on.
The wind shows no sign of stopping. An unproductive spell on the sea-front saw Fulmars coming past offshore plus small numbers of Linnets and Meadow Pipits ‘vismigging’. We were then tempted to stray out of the recording area slightly and take a look at the new wetland created on Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club at the north end of Deal. Five House Martins, two White Wagtails, and nice male Wheatear were just rewards. In the evening at least four White Wagtails were in the flock of Pieds in the asparagus fields outside the Observatory.
Another full on gale but despite it coming from more of a northerly direction there was very little in the way of movement. A few Brents, Scoters, Kittiwakes, and Sandwich Terns offshore in two hours was hardly worth it, with four Chiffchaffs the best on Worth too.
Seriously windy. The howling gale raised the difficulty level somewhat but a bit of light vizmig was still detected, 97 Chaffinches and 51 Fieldfares flew south overhead. Our first White Wagtail of the year was on Worth and good numbers of Fulmars were moving offshore.
Another brief spell on Worth produced just the one Ruff today, with Marsh Harrier and the five Bewick’s Swans too, whilst the Egyptian Goose popped over to test the waters on Restharrow Scrape.
It was a lovely morning to be walking across the marshes on Worth. The five Bewick’s Swans still show no sign of leaving (famous last words) as they hide out with the Mutes between the asparagus fields and the railway line. The Egyptian Goose re-appeared in a field nearby but best of all was an impressive flock of nine Ruff’s on the pools, our highest spring count since 2009.
The first signs of spring vis mig this morning with a few finches and wagtails heading over. However the wind continued to pick up and by mid-morning it was really strong with only a Mediterranean Gull north offshore as compensation.
A changeable forecast didn’t help proceedings but a few of us managed to get out early before the rain hit. It was still very very windy out there and a spell staring out to sea produced seven Sandwich Terns, eight Kittiwakes, and a Great Skua. A walk out on New Downs saw the White-fronted Goose still amongst the Greylag flock and three Mediterranean Gulls on the pools.
Bright sunshine first thing saw at least six Chiffchaffs arrive on Worth with the wintering Bewick’s Swan family still feeding in the fields. As the temperature increased so the birds started moving and 12 Buzzards were noted heading north over the Observatory. On the Green Wall the Egyptian Goose flew over and then to top it all off a Woodlark went north. Meanwhile on New Downs the White-fronted Goose was re-found and a nice male Merlin was sighted. In the afternoon eight Sandwich Terns and two Mediterranean Gulls were in Pegwell at high tide.
Despite the south westerly direction the wind had a real cold bite to it today. Typical winter fare such as Hen Harrier and Bewick’s Swans were on Worth and added to the feel, however some spring migrants did show themselves with three Sandwich Terns offshore and six Siskins zipping over. Best of all was a Great White Egret which dropped into Worth. Also of note though was a marked influx in Common Gulls with at least 750 stretching from Worth to the Green Wall.
Considering the conditions outside it was a decent day. Strong winds encouraged over 750 Gannets north offshore along with six Red-breasted Mergansers, two Sandwich Terns, and a Great Skua. Inland a new ringtail Hen Harrier appeared over Restharrow Scrape before moving over the asparagus fields and off towards Worth marshes.
A murky start to the day before things gradually cleared. Two Sandwich Terns were seen offshore again but most of the action came from Worth where the Egyptian Goose and five Bewick’s Swans remained. New in were Ruff, five Dunlins and three Ringed Plovers on the scrapes and pools. Hopefully a good sign of the spring wader passage ahead.
There was only a sniff of northerly in the air but the birds could feel it. In a brief spell looking offshore 206 Brent Geese went north and best of all our first two Sandwich Terns of the year. The two Canada Geese re-appeared behind Restharrow Scrape whilst in the evening a Slavonian Grebe was picked out amongst the Great Crested flock again. Also of note was a flock of 17 Pied Wagtails in the field outside the Observatory in the evening, perhaps forming a local roost? Either way, it’s worth keeping an eye on them in these next few weeks for passage White Wagtails.