Birds: May 2017
Please note that access to New Downs and Backsand Scrape has changed since the new Kent Coastal Path was constructed. The Longreach/Old Salthouse raised bank (beyond the obvious metal gates at Bloody Point) is no longer open for access. This is private property and there is a small no entry sign by the metal gate. Unfortunately both birdwatchers and dog walkers alike have taken to walking along the new raised bund causing disturbance to the nesting/migrant birds in the area. Please refrain from doing so. Instead, drop down off the raised walkway from Bloody Point onto the newly laid gravel track (RFK 1004). View the North Flood from a safe distance on the Kent Coastal Path. A telescope may be preferable.
To get to Backsand Scrape continue on the track northwards along to Backsand Point. Here you will get good views of the river and access to the Sampher on the right. There is a small grass path on the left that drops down from the sluice at Backsand Point. It runs between the edge of a narrow dyke and the newly built raised bund on the left (that hides you from the birds on the flood). Upon reaching Backsand Scrape we recommend taking the left fork and following until you see access on the right. The hides were destroyed by the 2013 tidal surge but you can still view the Backsand Scrape easily from their remains. If you have any further questions feel free to get in touch via the SBBOT Facebook page, Twitter @SandwichBirdObs, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come and visit the Observatory in person and speak to a member of staff.
Thanks for your consideration,
Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust
Several noisy Great Spotted Woodpeckers suggested that they have bred successfully and the trees and bushes are beginning to fill with parties of Blue Tits. Otherwise, a Red Kite over the Green Wall was the best on offer. Appropriate for this increasingly mellow time of year, here is an evocative shot of a couple of juvenile Sedgies, taken on Worth this week.
Overcast and slightly fresher than recently, the morning featured a Red Kite drifting about over Worth, a Common Buzzard on New Downs and a diminishing list of the usual suspects as song decreases in the approach to summer.
A phenomenal storm that rolled through during the night was the major talking point of the day. All seemed OK in the morning if a little damp, and on the plus side Restharrow Scrape filled up a bit. A purring Turtle Dove in the Whitehouse/Haven area was a rare sight on the Estate with three Hobbies also of note. Two of the latter were giving great views hunting the fields surrounding Restharrow Scrape in the evening.
Gentle sunny south-westerly conditions gave way rather dramatically to a heavy downpour just before 10am. After drenching all in it’s path the status quo was quickly restored. As migration trickles to a standstill the breeding birds and invertebrates start to take precedence. With plenty of the both around it’s a great time to learn your dragonflies, monitor nests, or run a moth trap.
No a cloud in the sky again, but with a light E breeze taking the edge off the heat, avian highlights included a Green Sandpiper flying over Worth and a Med. Gull calling over New Downs, but it was more a day for counting dragonflies.
17 more Red Kites moved north this morning, though Buzzards were fewer in number, mainly drifted further inland by a gentle E breeze.
This is East Kent, isn’t it? Bright, warm and sunny from the off, everything was proceeding with its usual decorum (a synonym for boring), when Red Kites started to move up from the south at around 9am. The movement suddenly accelerated at about 9.30 when at one point a kettle of 23 Red Kites and 3 Common Buzzards was circling over the North Stream near the Observatory. The eventual total of 30 Red Kites was comfortably an SBBO record, accompanied by 15 Common Buzzards, 11-12 of which moved north, 2 Peregrines, 4 Hobbies, and a Honey Buzzard on New Downs.
It remained warm but increasingly overcast, but ahead of the cloud there was considerable raptor activity over Worth, involving 14 Common Buzzards, a Honey-buzzard and 3 Hobbies, many of which appeared to move north, while 4 Mediterranean Gulls passed noisily over the Estate.
The Great White Egret was seen again on Worth, but the biggest excitements on New Downs, apart from nearly being taken by a monster grass snake, was a Buzzard and hordes of unruly Starlings.
Highlights would be a word too far for this morning, the best on offer being the 3 Cuckoos cavorting around Restharrow, where a drake Pochard was floating about, a Peregrine over the Haven and a Turtle Dove up at the Point.
A sharp westerly breeze increasing throughout the morning dominated proceedings but at least there was a lot less rain than in recent days. Three Cuckoos continue to play hide-and-seek around Restharrow Scrape and a female Marsh Harrier passed over heading north. Worth remains the best place for Turtle Doves with bonus Peregrine, Hobby, and Yellow Wagtail today too. The first Chiffchaff fledglings in Waldershare Gully on the Estate was a sign of how far spring has progressed so far.
Heavy overnight rain abated by dawn but it remained overcast and a good deal fresher than recently. The Great White Egret was still showing on Worth and a party of 6 Black-tailed Godwits dropped briefly on to Restharrow Scrape before moving on.
Although it remained overcast and grey after overnight rain the weather became increasingly humid once again and the conditions brought a bit of visible movement, notably including a Long-eared Owl that flew in off the sea and a Great White appeared from the NE, possibly having done the same.
A rather smart drake Garganey was on New Downs and a Hobby drifted over Worth, but it was otherwise much unaltered from the last few days.
With most of our attention turned to invertebrates in the warm weather, the avian highlights were restricted to an Avocet on the scrape, though 2 new Lesser Whitethroats were evident.
Although the morning was overcast and quite chilly with some light but persistent rain, it did bring our second Spotted Flycatcher of spring on New Downs, plus a Nightingale, singing rather reluctantly from some bramble and willow scrub nearby.
No HBs this morning, sadly, but a party of 4 Spoonbills flew high over Restharrow and out to sea in mid morning and 10 Hobbies were hawking over Worth. Whilst we’re on the subject of Restharrow, here’s a superb shot of the Cuckoo that has been up to its tricks around the scrape for the last few days.
Calm overcast conditions at dawn gave way gradually throughout the morning to strong westerly gales and bright sunshine by midday. A Spotted Flycatcher in the Whitehouse was a belated first for the year whilst decent numbers of House Martins were circling the Estate. A trio of Honey-buzzards drifted south over Roaring Gutter at around 10am heading towards Betteshanger.
A warm, humid start after some overnight rain gradually freshened as the morning went on, but the conditions had clearly produced virtually nothing that was new. However, a few more House Martins were circling about the Estate and, ahead of a pulse of rain that moved up from the south, a Honey-buzzard drifted inland over Worth.
The recent vile weather is thankfully receding from the memory, giving us time to reflect upon the season so far. The overall impression is that it has been pretty good, with most migrants in good numbers and in some cases better than usual. This seems to apply particularly to Lesser Whitethroat, of which there are at least 7 territories on Worth, with 2-3 on the Estate and 4-5 on New Downs, while Common Whitethroat also seems to have arrived in good numbers, with around 23 territories on the Estate and 25 on Worth. Song from Acrocephalus warbler is diminishing by the day but they also seem to have arrived in better numbers than last year. A (or the) Wood Sandpiper appeared on the scrape in the afternoon.
Not as warm as yesterday but still pleasant enough conditions on the Estate. Rewards were thin on the ground with two Cuckoos performing well around Restharrow Scrape perhaps the best. A Marsh Harrier flew through Willow Farm early on but top honours were given to the lone Spoonbill discovered on New Downs at around midday. In the evening a Wood Sandpiper appeared on Restharrow Scrape, the fourth to do so this spring.
The NE wind slackened overnight and although it increased a bit during daylight it was thankfully warmer than recently, though it failed to stimulate the appearance of much that was new, the exceptions being a drake Pochard on the scrape, which is the first record for the Estate this year, and a Whinchat near the Chequers.
It is allegedly going to become warmer later in the week, but for the time being it remains cold with an unpleasantly stiff N breeze. A walk across New Downs was notable for 11 Common Sandpipers along the river, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 singing lesser Whitethroats, though for the most part things were keeping their counsel in the chilly conditions. There was some reasonably interesting offshore movement, including an Eider, about 80 Common Scoter, 23 Ringed Plovers, 21 Dunlin, 34 Bar-tailed Godwits and 56 Whimbrel, while an adult Shag was seen again.
A near summer-plumage Golden Plover on the turf field near Restharrow Scrape provided a pleasant diversion from the continuing chill breeze and a few more Swifts arrived, probably wondering what they had done to deserve it. Worth had the usual spread of Warblers singing heartily away in the cold plus a lone Garden Warbler in the scrub along the railway. Waders were well represented by Green Sandpiper, two Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, and a bonus prize of Wood Sandpiper (calling near the railway). Two Hobbies tussled overhead as four Cuckoos measured up their territories, but the real highlight came about at half 10 when a Black Kite drifted north over and towards the Green Wall. Then just after midday, two Cranes gave us a repeat visit with a northward flight over Restharrow Scrape and seen a few minutes later at Pegwell.
The cold north-easterly blow continues to dictate activity around the Bay with little change. An attempt to sea-watch was aborted due to poor visibility but not before two Red-breasted Mergansers put in a brief appearance heading northwards just offshore (a first for the year no less). The first signs of Swift passage livened things up with 15 north over the Estate and an additional 40 hawking over the oilseed rape on Worth. Cuckoos performed well with vocal males around Restharrow Scrape, Worth railway, and another three on the Green Wall. Worth also produced two Marsh Harriers, three Green Sandpipers, two Whinchats, three Wheatears, Hobby, and two Yellow Wagtails.
Although there was little change in the weather, which remains very unpleasant but at least dry, there were a few bits and pieces offshore, with Little Tern and a handful each of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Sandwich Tern. The Estate was pretty quiet with most things keeping their counsel in the cold wind but, just to show you never can tell, a flock of 10 Greenshanks dropped unsubtly on to Restharrow Scrape where they spent 10 minutes or so before moving on. Hobby and Swift were also recorded.
Another overcast morning with a gathering NE breeze was predictably dull, though a Green Sandpiper got up from a ditch near the farm and at least 5 Lesser Whitethroats remained in situ on Worth and the Estate and 2 Yellow Wagtails flew over; sadly something of a highlight these days. In the evening 23 Sandwich Terns flew N to Pegwell, along with a Kittiwake and a Knot, and a Swift made an appearance over the Elms.
As anticipated, the morning was wet, overcast and with a NE wind about as charming as a cat without biscuits. However, a few bits and pieces offshore included an adult Shag, 8 Whimbrel, a Black Tern and a handful of ‘commic’ terns, while in a vain search for yesterday’s Cranes a Hobby dashed across Worth after 30-40 hirundines that were feeding over some oilseed rape. Another Black Tern and a few handfuls of Sandwich Terns were see heading for Pegwell in the afternoon.
It was a lovely spring day, ahead of some forecast rubbish for tomorrow. There was an obvious influx of Sylvia warblers on the Estate, including 16 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler and 23 Whitethroats, and 2 Avocets were on the scrape. However, Worth was the place to be, with singing Nightingale, Hobby, Whinchat and 2 Turtle Doves. New Downs didn’t add much to the party but a few Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, and Grey Plovers added to the diversity. In the evening two rather stunning Cranes dropped into the field behind Restharrow Scrape. They stayed for half an hour before heading back over to Worth, dropping into Willow Farm near the railway line.
A new month dawned with howling south easterlies. Unlike our compatriots along the coast the sea-watching Gods failed to deliver us any Pomarine activity. However a lone dark phase Arctic Skua was noted and a few brief Common and Sandwich Terns drifted through before rain stopped play. The less said about the Bar-headed Goose which dropped into Restharrow Scrape the better….