Birds: October 2017
The last day of October saw low cloud interspersed with light showers; the cue for another movement of Chaffinches. Just over 2,600 were logged heading north through the recording area with nine Bramblings, 130 Lesser Redpolls, 60 Goldfinches, 48 Siskins, and two Bullfinches tagging along for the ride. More thrushes were evident with Worth marshes producing a Ring Ouzel, 65 Fieldfares, 46 Redwings and 35 Blackbirds. The Green Wall was fairly productive too with a ring-tail Hen Harrier flying through, a Peregrine hunting Lapwings, two Water Rails squealing away near the white bridge, whilst at least ten Jays is indicative of some local movement.
A switch in the strength and direction of the wind meant there was little visible migration overhead but a few birds were still re-orientating offshore after yesterday’s gales. A decent count of 550 Brent Geese headed north alongside 50 Shelducks, 37 Wigeons, 11 Teals, four Gadwalls, six Mallards, 12 Eiders, nine Common Scoters, one Red-breasted Merganser, and one female Goldeneye. At least 300 Gannets were still drifting through and a single Bonxie was picked out amongst them. The only other birds of note being a first-winter Arctic Tern, and a handful of unidentified distant Auks and Red-throated Divers. A party of four Ravens and a Peregrine had some fun over the asparagus fields where 350 Lapwings and 50 Golden Plovers fed with one eye on above. In the bushes an arrival of 85 Blackbirds and 102 Redwings was noticeable, at least five Bramblings were logged, and the first four Woodcocks of the autumn were flushed from the Gullies.
A stormy Northerly gale with all eyes aimed seawards provided a decent tally of offshore movement. Most numerous were Gannets and Auks who were streaming past totaling 1,800 and 2,000 respectively, the latter probably an SBBOT day record. A variety of wildfowl were clocked up heading north including 85 Brent Geese, 19 Shelducks, four Wigeons, six Teals, two Mallards, one Pintail, two Red-breasted Mergansers, 46 Common Scoters and strangest of all one Mute Swan (which was also seen off Folkestone, Deal, and Ramsgate!). Small numbers of waders joined the throng but only 129 Dunlins were of any note. However the few Skuas seen are always noteworthy here with today’s counts adding up to three Bonxies and one Arctic. A Raven was on the Estate whilst Worth again provided Hawfinches with a group of three flying over, plus three Pink-footed Geese.
It was just after 7am and barely light when a vocal Hawfinch flew north over the Field Centre. With this good omen hopes were high for a decent ‘vis-mig’. It soon came apparent small flocks of Lesser Redpolls were on the move and over 100 had passed by 0830. However over the morning the wind swung to a more westerly direction and the birds came to a halt leaving a final tally of 234. Handfuls of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Wagtails, Thrushes, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, and Siskins were also heading north but only in dribs and drabs. A Cetti’s Warbler and a Brambling were caught by the ringers in the Whitehouse and a new Dartford Warbler was discovered at Mary Bax.
A marked change in the weather and a change in birds too. There was no sign of any Chaffinch migration which was strange considering the switch to a northerly wind. However two Hawfinches dropped into the Cellars briefly and another was seen heading over the Great Wood on Worth. Six Bramblings and a Firecrest were on the Estate but most activity was offshore. Singles of Purple Sandpiper and Goldeneye flew north, both of which are firsts for the year. Further movement included 260 Brent Geese, 18 Shelduck, ten Common Scoter, 190 Gannets, a Red-throated Diver and a Merlin. The 1st winter female Goosander was still on the river by New Downs Pool whilst plover numbers are on the increase with 400 Golden Plovers and 520 Lapwings nearby. At least three Dartford Warblers were showing on Prince’s Beach though it was unpleasant to hear of a photographer deliberately tape-luring the birds this morning. It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable behaviour and if anyone notices this happening again please let someone at the Observatory know. Click HERE for SBBOT Disturbance Policy
Continuous mist and drizzle made for mostly unpleasant conditions. A few dedicated souls were rewarded with 1,700 more Chaffinches ignoring the appalling weather and battling northwards overhead with at least seven Bramblings mixed in with flocks. Starlings also seemed to have finally started moving with 830 heading north. An increase in thrushes on the Estate saw at least 20 Redwings new in, a Marsh Harrier flew lazily over the Field Centre, and a Firecrest was ringed. A Merlin was noted offshore and ten Snipe were on Restharrow Scrape.
A smart start to the day with a male Ring Ouzel discovered feeding in the field outside the Field Centre. At approx 0900 a trickle of Chaffinch passage overhead turned into a serious movement with wave after wave pouring over. By 1100 over 4,700 Chaffinches had gone north and then all of a sudden stopped, as quickly as it began. Two Hawfinches were picked out heading north over Worth where two Marsh Harriers were also hunting. A sea-watch was surprisingly productive with one Little Gull, two Bonxies, and 430 Gannets all noteworthy, whilst a check in the Sea Buckthorn on Prince’s Beach revealed at least two Dartford Warblers. A stroll around the Green Wall in the evening produced a vocal Water Pipit and a rather late Yellow Wagtail.
Tepid was the word of the day. A clear-out of thrushes left little of note with offshore movements of 112 Brent Geese, two Red-throated Divers, and three Sandwich Terns doing little to liven the mood. There was a Merlin apiece on the Estate and Worth, two British Coal Tits also on the former, and our first Goosander of the year was photographed on the river by New Downs.
It was clear from dawn that there had been a small arrival of thrushes in the area. A smart male Ring Ouzel around the Oasis was followed quickly by two more in the Gullies, three more on Worth, and then finally 12 in Pegwell. Though Redwings, Song Thrushes, and Blackbirds have been present for some time this autumn it took until today for the first Fieldfares to appear. Two were ringed on the Estate and a flock of 12 were on Worth. Also featuring on Worth were a mobile flock of six Pink-footed Geese and at least three Bramblings, whilst six Bullfinches and three Firecrests were further highlights of the Estate. A brief sojourn to Prince’s Beach also produced at least three Dartford Warblers, though more may be present in the swathes of Sea Buckthorn. Visible migration over Pegwell produced five Tree Sparrows and six Hawfinches whilst at least ten Bearded Tits and a Black Redstart were also present.
A morning of twos, with a brace each of Hawfinch, Tree Sparrow, Firecrest, and Raven taking top honours. The first two fly-overs at Pegwell and Worth respectively, and the latter two on the Estate.
A day of torrential downpours and gale force winds. Usually there would be little to write home about but we’re an optimistic lot. SBBOT finally got in on the Hawfinch invasion with a flock of eight south over Pegwell soon after dawn. Sea-watching was difficult in the squally conditions but rewarded observers with one each of Bonxie and Red-throated Diver, 32 Mediterranean Gulls and 310 Gannets. A Merlin and a Brambling were on the Estate whilst a surprise Little Stint found the puddles of Restharrow Scrape to its liking.
The morning was spent gazing out to sea as strong westerlies ripped through the Estate. Passage was decent for Sandwich Bay standards with 500+ Gannets heading north over a two hour period. Handfuls of Common Scoter, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, and Wigeon hurtled by with two female Red-breasted Mergansers heading south close in only the second record this year. Twenty Mediterranean Gulls and 55 distant Auk sp heading northwards were both noteworthy counts, whilst an Arctic Skua was glimpsed briefly and a female Kestrel was seen coming in off. At least one Dartford Warbler was still present in the buckthorn on Prince’s beach.
The Estate looked promising at dawn but little of note materialised. Small numbers of thrushes skulked in the bushes with three Firecrests and a Brambling perhaps the highlights. Continued tit passage was highlighted by the 50 Long-tailed Tits present today. Three Bearded Tits were at the Hoverport at Pegwell and one was seen again near Roaring Gutter on Worth.
An even greyer day coupled with light drizzle made for a dismal morning. Migrants were thin on the ground though three Ring Ouzels in the Gullies were our first group of the autumn. Five Firecrests were on the Estate and a Shag flew north offshore. New Downs held a Little Stint and an Avocet amongst the Dunlin flock, with a Merlin hunting the fields nearby. The two Bearded Tits were still playing hide-and-seek near Roaring Gutter on Worth plus two more Firecrests were seen.
The main talking point of the day may be the continued haze and half-light as low-lying grey clouds combine with the southerly dust swept towards us by Ophelia. This corner of Kent became so dark around midday that many birds were seen going to roost! Not what you want on a census round. Asides from the Mordor-esque conditions the main avian talking point was the re-discovery of the ringed Dusky Warbler in the mist-nets. Our first Lapland Bunting of the year was hanging out with a group of Meadow Pipits near the Sailing Club, as was a brief Tree Sparrow which popped in briefly before heading off. An over-flying Snow Bunting was the first of the autumn whilst both 14 Stonechats and 58 Long-tailed Tits indicate more passage in the bushes. Two Firecrests completed a decent morning on the Estate whilst two Dartford Warblers and 15 Stonechats were seen in the Sea Buckthorn along Prince’s Beach.
A grey morning brightened up by a Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed in the first net round followed swiftly by a brief Great White Egret heading south over the Whitehouse soon after. There was little to report elsewhere with a single Coal Tit by the entrance to Middle Field, a Bullfinch calling near Restharrow Scrape, and a scattering of Stonechats and Wheatears. There was no sign of yesterday’s Dusky Warbler whilst the nearby fly-through Pallid Harrier failed to enter our recording area.
The clear highlight of the day came in the form of a splendid Dusky Warbler trapped and ringed. Only the 8th record for SBBOT and the first since November 2004.
A Yellow-browed Warbler in the Observatory carpark was a welcome bonus, as was a Cetti’s Warbler also trapped and ringed, whilst three Coal Tits were on the Estate. The Richard’s Pipit was still present on Worth.
The day broke with a stunning sunrise, not a cloud in the sky, and a flat-calm sea. Over the course of the morning though a strengthening south-westerly set in. There was little in the way of overhead movement but the day was not without it’s highlights. Worth scored early on with a Richard’s Pipit in a cattle field near Roaring Gutter, and then produced the autumn’s first Water Pipit nearby. The Estate continues to attract passing Coal Tits with three present today (all of the British form) plus an unusual sighting of a Kingfisher. A winter-plumaged Razorbill was sitting just offshore where 140 Great Black-backed Gulls were also logged. Of note were the 47 Stonechats present in the recording area today, part of a large-scale movement through the region currently.
Pretty much the same as yesterday in many respects, the highlights of the morning were a Merlin, drifting along the shore, and a leucistic Swallow with the hirundine flock near the sailing club. Although overhead movement was nothing to write home about, while chasing a brown, contrasty and interesting-looking Chiffchaff on the Green Wall during an overcast spell, 11o Chaffinches flew N in several small flocks.
Another jumble of a morning so far as movement was concerned, with a few small flocks of Siskins and Redpolls totalling 23 and 28, respectively, several tits moving along the shore with 4 Coal Tits in the gullies and Whitehouse and 24 Reed Buntings flying N with a trickle of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.
A feisty SW wind produced day that covered all bases – dull at sea, little moving overhead and not much of note in the bushes. However, before getting too half-empty, a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling in the Haven and a few small parties of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls were kicking about, the latter showing no obvious resentment at their forthcoming demotion to less than full species status.
A similar mix of species, numbers and assorted directions of movement to yesterday, with the addition of a Dartford Warbler along the beach, where coverage of the sea buckthorn raised the morning’s Stonechat total to at least 31. With 14 more on Worth in the afternoon, 45 was comfortably a recent area record.
A gorgeous orange-yellow sunrise preceded a promising morning that turned out to be a bit of a hotch-potch of an affair. Overhead movement was subdued and all over the place in the calm conditions but 2 Crossbills flew over and some decent flocks of 40 or more Siskins were fiddling about in the alders, with redpolls joining them from time to time and 17 Stonechats included a loose flock of 12 arranged along the golf course fences. In addition to a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Brambling in the nets the bushes held good numbers of Chiffchaffs and several Redwings flew over, while an obvious influx of at least 40 Blackbirds continued for most of the morning.
Another decent day of overhead passage with 1,500 northward Goldfinches claiming top honours. Siskins numbered 206 with further diverse tallies amounting to six Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 59 Skylarks, 85 Meadow Pipits, four Rock Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, 24 Pied Wagtails, one Brambling, 15 Redpolls, 15 Reed Buntings, and one Corn Bunting. The Estate saw an increase in Robins to 42 along with two Firecrests, a Merlin, a late Turtle Dove, 23 Redwings, and two Bullfinches. The autumn’s first Dartford Warbler was found near Backsand Point on New Downs.
A squally, overcast and rather breezy day proved to be productive with movement off and along the shore providing most of the interest. Twelve Bonxies heading northwards were the highlight amongst 260+ Gannets and 300+ Brent Geese. Over 1,000 Goldfinches moved north with 51 Siskins also logged tagging along, with four over-flying Rock Pipits the highest count this autumn. The bushes were difficult considering the wind but far from quiet with 160+ Chiffchaffs, a Firecrest, and two (presumed Continental) Coal Tits recorded.
A gin-clear morning with a light-ish NW breeze produced about an hour of overhead movement in which 56 Skylarks, 78 Goldfinches and about 120 Siskins flew N. Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs were the main fare in the bushes and while a visit to the near-dry scrape may have qualified for the furthermost reaches of optimism, it was rewarded with the sight of a Pink-footed Goose. The Stone-curlew was seen again in Pegwell on the north side of the Hoverport whilst two Ravens and an Avocet were noted at New Downs.
A feisty westerly breeze got up overnight, turning steadily into a rollicking north-westerly as the morning drew on. Overhead movement, consisting largely of 340 Goldfinches, 54 Linnets and a Redwing, came more or less to an end when a band of rain passed along the coast at 9, but seabirds were pretty good throughout, for these parts at least. Totals of birds moving S included a Balearic Shearwater, 14 Bonxies and 210 Gannets, while a Kestrel came in off the sea and a distant diver and a handful of auks were a taster of things to come, no doubt.
There was a real winter chill in the breeze this morning, which encourage a northward movement of 107 Siskins, 159 Goldfinches, 5 Reed Buntings and 6 Little Egrets, while 28 Meadow Pipits flew in off the sea in small groups. A Merlin flew in off later in the morning, attacked a Meadow Pipit on principle and disappeared off to the south and the bushes were yet again filled with a substantial arrival of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. The latter have now passed the previous record year total of birds ringed by more than 50%, suggesting a very good breeding season, as appears to have been the case with most of the common warblers.
A cloudless sky did not make detection of overflying migrants easy, but northward moving birds included 2 Tree Sparrows, 54 Siskins, 77 Goldfinches, 24 alba wagtails and 6 Reed Buntings. Tits were also on the move, with 12 Blue Tits N along the shore and 7 Coal Tits, all grey-backed continental types. 11 Pink-footed Geese flew N out at sea, turning inland over New Downs, where another 5 flew over later in the morning, with a Grasshopper Warbler nearby along the river.
Far less breezy than forecast, to start with at least, some overhead movement included 800 House Martins, 41 Siskins and 25 alba wagtails, while a Med. Gull flew N offshore and the Stone-curlew continued its long vigil in Pegwell.
A gusty, drizzly start to the new month left little choice but to look at the sea, where visibility came and went as frequent squalls passed along the Channel. In the event it turned out to be quite good, with a reasonably close Pomarine Skua, 2 distant Sooty Shearwaters, 3 fairly early Red-throated Divers and around 100 Gannets.