Birds: January 2017
The sort of grey, chill winter day that leaves you needing a bone marrow transplant was notable, if that’s the word, for the Snow Bunting on the beach and 740 Teal on the scrape, which is probably the most since November or early December.
Dull but largely calm and relatively mild after the last few weeks, the morning produced 2 Woodcock on the Estate and 2 Ravens flying across Worth. Otherwise, flocks of 150 Stock Doves and 240 Linnets were notable, 129 Fieldfares issued forth from their overnight roost first thing and the Black-throated Diver was seen offshore again.
12 White-fronted Geese were with the Greylags at Restharrow again and the Snow Bunting was seen again on the beach.
Just for a laugh the weather threw some freezing rain at us before dawn but by the time the sun thought about coming up it was clear and cold, though thankfully less scarifying on the face than yesterday. 4 Bewick’s were present this morning, another adult having joined them, and 12 Whitefronts were with the Greylags around and on Restharrow Scrape.
A bitterly cold SE breeze and overcast conditions made for a thoroughly inhospitable morning, made even worse by the appearance of a farmyard-type Egyptian Goose on the scrape with the Greylag flock. Otherwise, the Snow Bunting was seen again at the edge of the beach opposite the shrimpers’ path and 3 Stonechats were flitting about.
The first cloud for over a week soon dissipated, but it did at least mean that crampons and ice picks were unnecessary for a change. It was calm as a mill pond offshore, where the Black-throated Diver was seen again, but the general freeze-up has pushed larger numbers of wildfowl on to the RSPB reserve on Worth, where there were over 250 each of Wigeon and Teal.
Another clear and very cold night left all areas of standing water frozen, even the brackish scrape at Backsand. Under the circumstances, the presence of an Avocet and a Kingfisher on the river was good news, but the main surprise of the morning came at the junction of the shrimpers’ path to the shore where a Snow Bunting flew over and on to one of the dunes on the golf course. Out on Worth, the 2 adult Bewick’s have been joined by a young individual, begging the question has it been there all along? Curioser and curioser, cried Alice.
Yet another heavily frosty morning allowed us about two hours of birding before fog descended, just about enough to see the Black-throated Diver offshore again and 5 Stonechats, all fluffed up against the cold like brown pom-poms. The diver was seen offshore yesterday, as were 2 Harbour Porpoises.
Dare it be said, the last couple of days have brought early and rather tentative signs of spring, with Grey Partridges calling enthusiastically and Long-tailed Tits in pairs in likely nesting spots. Otherwise, it continues to be a case of revisiting the birds that have been here for a while, in this morning’s case 2 Jack Snipe and a Dartford Warbler near the Point and the Bewick’s Swans on Worth, which are viewable with the assistance of modern optical aids from the raised bank near Mary Bax.
The early frost wasn’t quite as character-building as yesterday but it was another bright, cold morning, making a walk along the Green Wall very enjoyable. Best of all were 5 Bullfinches, which locally appear to be as abundant as they have been for several decades, 2 Chiffchaffs down by the river and a Coal Tit.
A really hard frost got the day off to a toe-numbing start and despite a thorough search of the marshes there was no sign of yesterday’s geese, though the 2 Bewick’s Swans were still present.
Bright and cold again, little was new, though 2-300 Cormorants were basking on a sand bar between the shore and the Goodwins, while the notable swans and geese were still present on Worth. A flock of 16 Whitefronts was seen in late afternoon and 2 Bean Geese flew over Worth in the morning.
Calm and frosty to begin with, emerging sun turned it into a beautiful winter morning. A trek across New Downs for the monthly WeBS count turned up nothing that would cause an emergency meeting of the records committee, though the female Scaup was still on Backsand scrape, a Raven flew downriver into Pegwell and a Chiffchaff was calling at New Downs New Pool. On Worth, 2 Whitefronts had joined the Bewick’s with the local Mute Swans.
2 Bewick’s Swans appeared with the Mute Swan flock on Worth yesterday.
The cold wind and last night’s snow showers may have prompted fish to move elsewhere as Cormorants were noticeable by their absence this morning, though the first Fulmars of the year flew by and the Black-throated Diver was seen again. Otherwise, a Water Pipit was flushed from Willow Farm, but apart from 2 Bullfinches making off along the railway most things were keeping their heads down as the NW wind increased and more snow showers moved in.
At least 1,600 Cormorants were present offshore this morning, but estimating actual numbers was virtually impossible. At least 1,000 were swirling about over the Goodwins not long after first light, joined from the south and north by lines of incoming birds, but within half an hour or so the flocks were all over the place and with substantial numbers too far off to count. There were also at least 11 Red-throated Divers, which have been relatively scarce so far this winter, and less than a handful of Guillemots and Razorbills, to which the same remarks apply.
A Waxwing was heard near the shore this morning, but the Cormorant show was a pale shadow (if such an expression befits the Cormorant) of its former self, with only 211 flying S this morning, although several hundred were in the haze and shimmer beyond the Goodwins and at least 780 were on the sea off the Point. Otherwise, the female Scaup was back on Backsand and the Dartford Warbler was seen about 100 metres south of the Hundred Acre field.
This morning highlight was NOT a Cormorant, but a Waxwing that flew N over the Whitehouse, stopping for no-one. However, a mere 1,380 Cormorants flew S this morning – about 1,100 that appeared to come off the Point and another 300 that flew in from the NW at height, presumably having come from upriver or from across Thanet. There is clearly a good deal of interchange between the north-facing coast and, presumably, the Stour Valley as nearly 1,300 were seen leaving the Point and heading upriver on Sunday afternoon and 400 flew N over Sandwich on Saturday. This morning there was a steady procession of birds flying upriver or over Thanet, presumably in addition to those flying past offshore.
Cormorant City was up and running from first light, as a line of them stretched from as far as it was possible to see towards Deal to as far in the opposite direction. An astonishing 2,285 flew S on the horizon, mostly in less than half an hour, with totals of 90 Great Crested Grebes and 56 Gannets adding to the mayhem. Otherwise, at least one Bearded Tit was calling from reeds along the river.
This morning’s excitements were mainly on the scrape, where the gull flock included a rather perplexing leucistic Herring Gull, an adult Med.Gull and the Jack Snipe. While Cormorants have been left to count themselves for the last few days, at least 1,400 were present this morning, either roosting at the Point or feeding offshore, where there was also a distant Black-throated Diver. 3 Bearded Tits were seen along the river yesterday.
Overcast this morning, the Dartford Warbler was seen again at the Point and on New Downs the Scaup was still on Backsand scrape before decamping to Stonar and other bits and pieces included a Buzzard, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk.
A bright and frosty start to the morning was notable for 603 Cormorants, almost all flying N offshore in half an hour from 08.00, with over a hundred in the air together at one point. On the subject of the Point, an adult Dartford Warbler was found along the beach, showing well in the calm conditions, and although no Velvets were seen this morning the female Scaup was located again on New Downs.
The weather seems to be in ‘good cop, bad cop’ mode, so this morning was overcast with a few spots of rain, though the forecast heavier stuff failed to materialise. This morning’s Cormorant tally reached 494 (with a flock of around 400 at the Point containing some that were additional to those offshore), 2 Velvets and 49 Common Scoter were on the sea and the Great Northern Diver flypast took place at 09.30.
A hard frost made for a character-building start to a morning that was pretty much the same as yesterday, with 5 Velvets and a Great Northern Diver offshore and 483 Cormorants offshore.
Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd
Happy New Year and apologies for the tardy updates. The start to the New Year was misty with spells of drizzle and light rain and a breeze frisky enough to keep things well hidden. Highlights on the 1st were few, though at least one Velvet Scoter was offshore, a lone Barnacle Goose was on New Downs and a Jack Snipe was on the scrape. A bright 2nd was a good deal better, with five Velvets and a Great Northern Diver offshore and a staggering 536 Cormorants flying N offshore, with 102 different birds N over the Estate and Worth.