Birds: November 2017
Even more wholesome than yesterday, the morning brought a few early snow flurries on a really cold NW breeze and tales of a covering of white on the hills to the south. An hour and a bit of sea watching produced a Bonxie, 37 Shelducks, 50 Brent Geese and small numbers of other wildfowl, while 2 Snow Buntings were feeding on one of the golf course greens.
Well, that was worth waiting for – a raw NW wind with the odd very brief and light shower brought a real taste of winter. The sea and the Estate were very quiet, although 600 Lapwings were on the fields near the golf course and 4 Snow Buntings flew along the shore, and the female Goosander was still on the river along the Green Wall.
Whilst it wasn’t exactly like the Bahamas the forecast cold weather is clearly still to reach us and this morning was variably cloudy and calm with a few not-very-enthusiastic spots of rain. Offshore were a Black-throated Diver and 51 Great Crested Grebes, highlights on the Estate were 4 Firecrests, at least 3 Chiffchaffs and a couple of Siskins and a Goosander was on the river near Vigo sluice. We also found a quite superb blue fungus in the Elms, which appears to be cobalt crust.
A Slavonian Grebe was perched on the sea with the scoter flock this morning, which was otherwise pretty grey and miserable for the most part. Three Bonxies were seen offshore in the afternoon.
Sub-zero temperatures overnight made for a frosty census indeed. A cold vigil in the Elms produced the Siberian Chiffchaff and a Firecrest but it took until midday before the Pallas’s Warbler finally revealed itself. There was little else on the Estate asides from two Bramblings, plus a female Marsh Harrier spooking 330 Lapwings and 160 Golden Plovers around the asparagus fields. A brisk walk along the Point struck gold with a single Lapland Bunting and four Snow Buntings on the beach, plus one Dartford Warbler in the buckthorn and a male Marsh Harrier hunting over the fields nearby.
Calm and sunny, it was a quite beautiful early winter morning which encouraged thoughtful and optimistic mooching, which eventually resulted in counts of 6 Firecrests, at least 16 Goldcrests, 3 Coal Tits, and an increase in the offshore scoter flock to 41. The Pallas’s Warbler was playing hard-to-get but was seen on a few occasions near the Elms where a Siberian Chiffchaff also lurked. Inland, 2 more Firecrests and a Treecreeper were on Worth with a Goosander also on Roaring Gutter. Another three Goosanders flew south offshore whilst two Water Pipits, two Bearded Tits, four Water Rails, 70 Blackbirds, and two Treecreepers were on the Green Wall.
Last night’s storm had mostly moved on, although for two or three hours squally showers kept us entertained. However, apart from a close-in Shag the sea was almost completely unproductive, so it was left to re-finding the Pallas’s Warbler which this morning had taken on the character of avian Alka Seltzer it was fizzing about so much. Although for the most part it was in the Elms, it was also seen briefly in the gullies and in nearby gardens, though it did seem to like the company of the local Coal Tits. 2 Firecrests were also present.
Emerging at last from the dark depths of disease and despondency (you guessed it – Man Flu) the morning turned out to be pleasantly enervating, with a seawatch that included 3 Bonxies and, as the wind began to really get going around mid day, the re-discovery of the Pallas’s Warbler that was recently ringed, this time fizzing about in the Elms with at least 2 Firecrests, several Goldcrests, a Coal Tit and the local Long-tails. Avian Paracetamol, that’s what they are!
Trips out to the extremities of our recording area for WeBS counting provided a few interesting observations (when the rain stopped). Pegwell held four Caspian and three Yellow-legged Gulls in the roost plus two Goldeneyes, six Black-tailed Godwits, an Avocet, a Jack Snipe, a Merlin, and at least three Snow Buntings. New Downs had an assortment of usual waders plus four Bearded Tits, whilst two more Snow Buntings lurked on the Point. There was no sign of yesterday’s Pallas’s Warbler on the Estate unfortunately.
Another day of chilly conditions highlighted by our second Pallas’s Warbler of the autumn trapped and ringed. Three Firecrests were on the Estate, a Goldeneye was on the North Stream and three Peregrines patrolled over Worth.
It was all rather cold out there again today with the low temperatures accentuated by the increase in wind too. And there was little in the way of new migrants to warm the heart either. Most notable (for recent years) was a single Tree Sparrow which flew north along the Estate beach mid-morning. Our tiny flock of Common Scoters offshore reached the heady heights of seven today, hopefully just the start of things to come. The build-up of sea-duck in the Bay was one of the real highlights of the winter months last year. Elsewhere a Woodcock was flushed from near the Elms and 55 Blackbirds were logged. There was no sign of the Red-necked Phalarope in Pegwell.
A much colder day with temperatures barely above freezing at dawn. Pegwell continues to be popular with the superb Red-necked Phalarope showing well throughout the day by the carpark. The bay also held our first Long-tailed Duck of the year and two female Goosanders were in the river mouth. On the Estate things were a lot quieter with 85 Blackbirds and a Firecrest the highlights whilst Prince’s Beach held at least three Dartford Warblers in the Sea Buckthorn.
Yesterday’s calm conditions continued with the sea a stunning millpond at dawn, though there was a lot less sunshine this time round. The highlight of the day for many would be the 1st-winter Red-necked Phalarope that showed well from the carpark at Pegwell throughout the morning. On the Estate our latest House Martin since 2006 flew north over the Whitehouse whilst another arrival of Blackbirds was evident with 67 present. A Firecrest and two Bramblings were in the Whitehouse and a stunning Black-throated Diver showed well fishing and drifting north offshore.
Calm and eventually very warm, there was some early activity, mainly involving overflying Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Chaffinches, and plenty of Blackbirds again. 2 Shorelarks were reported from the Point, along with 4 Snow Buntings, a Firecrest was in the Elms and a Chiffchaff was bouncing about near the sailing club. In the afternoon, a 1st-winter Red-necked Phalarope was discovered in Pegwell along with a Caspian Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls, and on Worth a Water Pipit was the highlight.
Another morning of various showers on a background of drizzle. It was far from uneventful though with a few birds moving ahead of the squalls, namely 200+ Chaffinches but also a Water Pipit south and a Snow Bunting north. Blackbirds were once again the most common migrant with at least 85 on the Estate and another 40 on the Green Wall. Wildfowl were noticeable offshore (between the rain spells which rendered visibility to zero) with a female Goosander south the clear highlight, only our second this year. A female Goldeneye on the river by Vigo Sluice (Green Wall) was unusual as was a high count of 21 Grey Partridges on the Estate, whilst the ringing team also caught a Firecrest and 20 Lesser Redpolls.
The effects of yesterday afternoon’s stormy conditions were still apparent offshore, with a significant swell in the distance even though it was calm enough inshore. Birds were far from uninteresting, with 2 Goldeneye and a Black-necked Grebe on the sea, a Shag, 4 Avocets and a Bonxie N and totals of over 100 Dunlins and 200 Brent Geese, also flying N. Inland, at least 80 Blackbirds were scattered around the Estate and a few Redpolls flew over.
Pre-dawn rain continued in fits and starts for an hour or so after dawn, then the wind started to increase, making it feel nice and chilly. Birding highlights were not many, though 2 Snow Buntings were found on the beach and a Little Egret flew along the shore, while a Firecrest and several Goldcrests were on the Estate. Here’s a photo of one of the Snow Buntings by Steve Reynaert.
Near continuous drizzle from dawn until 11am made for a soggy census in poor visibility. Blackbirds were the most noticeable migrant grounded with 84 on the Estate alone but there were also increases in Skylark and Meadow Pipit too, with 24 and 58 respectively. Two Coal Tits roamed around Middle Field and a Bullfinch called in the Elms. A little comfort came from seeing the first Corn Bunting for a few months around Restharrow Scrape, where inside an increased water level had attracted a lone Redshank and a few Snipe.
Some pre-dawn rain hinted that the morning might be capricious and it turned out to be overcast with fast-moving but brief showers spreading in from the W/NW. Apart from a Hawfinch flying over the Oasis, the highlight was the onset of the Cormorant Show, as 362 flew N in wiggling waves shoreside of the Goodwins, with around 35 Gannets moving to and fro, occasionally very close inshore, and a Bonxie, also heading N. It will be interesting to see how numbers of Cormorants develop – they did not appear in numbers until the last ten days of November last year and did not reach this level until the New Year. In the evening one, possibly two, Water Pipits came in to roost along the Riverbank on the Green Wall.
Coverage of New Downs and the Estate gave the impression that autumn is settling gently into early winter, though 2 Lapland Bunting flew over, as did 30 Redpolls, so maybe there are a few bits and pieces left to distract us from the inevitable.
Heavily overcast with rain threatening (but proving to be something of a damp squib) and a light NW breeze prompted us to spend 2 hours peering out to sea. Although it was hardly record-breaking, there was a decent variety offshore, including around 120 Gannets, a Goldeneye and 3 Shags (making 32 for the year, which beats our previous annual total of 30).
Despite trekking around the Estate with dwindling levels of enthusiasm it was eventually clear that staying in the car park would have been just as productive, as 4 Pink-footed Geese flew over prior to our setting out. To be fair, 6 Bramblings and 3 Ravens were recorded later on and 220 Golden Plover were on the fields near Dickson’s Corner, but it was all a bit quiet by recent standards.
Dawn brought the first frost of winter, or late autumn to be more accurate – all a bit of a shock to our bodily particles. In the event it turned out to be a frustrating morning, with sightings of a probable Pallas’s Warbler in the Haven and a flyover Little Bunting over New Downs. Those birds that were certain were a Hawfinch flying N along the Haven, at least 7 Bearded Tits on New Downs and 2 Ring Ouzels on the nearby Sampher. There was no sign of the Dusky Warbler.
Gunpowder, treason and Dusky Warbler! The Dusky was still showing well in its clump near the Chequers with a Woodcock nearby, but with a clear night and a cold and crisp dawn there was not much else in the area, though 2 Firecrests and 2 Coal Tits were in the Elms and 2 Bullfinches flew N, while small numbers of Siskins and Redpolls flew over. Here is a rather excellent shot of the Dusky, taken on Friday.
A day of gloom and occasional drizzle brightened up only by yesterday’s Dusky Warbler showing intermittently in the bramble and gorse by the Chequers reservoir. There was no sign of any Yellow-browed or Pallas’s Warblers in the vicinity however. The Estate was mostly uneventful but two Woodcock’s were flushed out of the Elms where three Firecrests and two Coal Tits lingered. Eight late Swallows and a few Bramblings flew over with only small numbers of winter thrushes dotted around.
Well, sometimes you just can’t tell. A foggy start gave way to a bright and calm late autumn morning that was pretty soporific to begin with, with a couple of Bramblings and a few Redpolls flying over, 6 Skylarks coming in off the sea, a few Goldcrests in the bushes and 2 Coal Tits in the Elms, one of which resembled a continental individual. However, all was suddenly awakened by the news of our second Dusky Warbler of the autumn, showing near a Yellow-browed Warbler just south of the Chequers. The Dusky proved to be very mobile, flying on to the golf course and taking in just about every clump of vegetation before settling down in some nettles and bramble near the gorse at the edge of the golf course, where it continued to be very vocal. Whilst searching for it, a second Yellow-browed was found in poplars near The Drove, and then amazingly, a Pallas’s Warbler put in an appearance in the afternoon!
Clear skies at dawn meant it was a chilly start to the day but the bright sun bearing down all morning soon warmed things up a bit. Yesterday’s Yellow-browed Warbler was seen again at the Chequers with a new bird calling in Little Gully on the Estate. In arguably the strangest sighting of the day two Bearded Tits were logged vis-migging over the Estate, whilst 16 Swallows and a House Martin were also moving over. There wasn’t too much in the way of finch migration but 18 Bramblings and 37 Greenfinches are our highest counts of the year, the latter a sign of the times unfortunately. The impact of Trichomonosis has caused a rapid decline in Greenfinch numbers in our recording area and gone are the days where hundreds would overwinter along the beach. On a more cheerful note 750 Golden Plovers at New Downs is an excellent number whilst a walk along Prince’s Beach found an phenomenal eight Dartford Warblers! This easily becomes the highest count for SBBOT and probably one of the highest modern day records in Kent.
Another day another Hawfinch, this time a single heading south over the Estate early on. A decent haul of 130 Lesser Redpolls were new in on the Estate with two Firecrests and three Coal Tits in the Elms. A surprising number of Swallows were seen in the area, 37, which must be a pretty high number for this late in the year. More late migrants included four House Martins and a Hobby. A brief sea-watch was rewarded with a Shag heading north so close in to the beach that a blue darvic-ring could be observed on its left leg. Hopefully, it will re-appear (possible in Ramsgate Harbour) where the code can be read. A Razorbill drifting past on the sea was the only other bird of note offshore. Lastly, a vocal Yellow-browed Warbler was seen near the Chequers and at least two Dartford Warblers were in their usual spots along the beach opposite Prince’s Golf Course.