Birds: January 2019
Calm, sunny, and cold is often the perfect concoction for a winter’s walk. The Estate was particularly crispy underfoot but despite a good stomp through the undergrowth just one Woodcock was seen. At least 48 Red-throated Divers were rafting just offshore. In the afternoon an intriguing report came in of a Robin impaled on a Bramble bush along the Ancient Highway between the Chequers and the Shooting School. Seems to fit Great Grey Shrike to me?
Despite the forecast for layers of snow it ended up being a lot of fuss about nothing really. It was cold enough to encourage a bit of hard weather movement however with three Woodcocks on the Estate clearly new in.
A clean sweep on the Green Wall saw the Bearded Tit(s) in the reedbed along the river again and both Coal Tit and Treecreeper near the concrete bridge up to Manwoods School, plus also a bonus group of six Crossbills which flew out of the copse opposite Royal St George’s Clubhouse.
A long ol’ walk across New Downs in the wind was hard work but at least it was dry. The wintering Pochard flock remains on the reservoir by the Polytunnels and a few new birds were found hiding amongst the Wigeon flock on the deep pool by the Great Wood on Worth. Pegwell produced two Caspian Gulls at roost as well as a Short-eared Owl and two Avocets; the latter our first returning birds of the ‘spring’.
A walk that was well and truly dampened after the excitement of yesterday. We tried hard but the weather made things just a bit too difficult. The highlight was the lingering Slavonian Grebe still in situ on Stonar and a group of 95 Gannets milling around the breakwater offshore.
Despite strong winds the day got off to a good start with a ghostly Glaucous Gull heading south over Worth marshes. The lucky observer then struck gold with a Great Grey Shrike way out in the no-mans land near Betteshanger CP (not really in our recording area to be honest), and then returning back followed it up with a Red Kite overhead. Not bad at all.
An awful start to the day as continuous rain inhibited all attempts to census the Estate. However we were not perturbed and another shot in the afternoon was far better. Two Short-eared Owls were putting on a show again but it was the numbers of birds present that were the highlight with 350 Stock Doves, 84 Collared Doves, 800 Golden Plovers, 2,450 Lapwings, 13 Bullfinches, and an impressive 28 Grey Partridges.
A mixed day weather-wise as the morning was actually very pleasant wandering around in the frost. However over the course of the day the sky clouded over and the rain set in leaving everything a bit grey. The two Bearded Tits were seen again along the river on the Green Wall whilst on the Estate a Firecrest and Grey Wagtail flitted about, two Yellowhammers were in the Whitehouse, a Water Rail was ringed, and a Cetti’s Warbler was in the Haven.
The Slavonian Grebe was seen again on Stonar but everything else was hiding from the weather to be honest.
Not a bad day on Worth with the Hen Harrier and Peregrine again, a Barn Owl, two squealing Water Rails, and a little Firecrest to warm the soul. The Bearded Tits were on the Green Wall again with a Water Pipit too.
Frosty again first thing but soon burnt off by the morning’s sun. Two Bearded Tits re-appeared along the river on the Green Wall with a Grey Wagtail, six Cetti’s Warblers, and a Chiffchaff all interesting mid-winter sightings too. A Water Pipit was on Worth as was a Peregrine again, whilst the Hen Harrier was quartering the Estate in the evening with three Short-eared Owls.
WeBS counting in the northern sectors on a sunny crisp winter’s morning was very nice indeed. The high tide wader roost at the Point was approachable allowing good views of the hundreds of Bar-tailed Godwits, Knots, Dunlins, Sanderlings, and Grey Plovers present. Snow Bunting parties were seen along Prince’s Beach and on RCPGC again, totaling nine birds.
Still a frost on the ground this morning. WeBS counting on Worth marshes coincided unfortunately with a drop in wildfowl, though perhaps the marauding Peregrine had something to do with it. There were still over 260 Wigeons anyway plus good flocks of 255 Golden Plovers and 800 Lapwings, and the rare sight of a Treecreeper in the Great Wood. A Coot on Restharrow Scrape was a sign of the impending spring and one of the usual Short-eared Owls was posing on the fence posts nearby.
We awoke to the first ice of the year on the Obs pond. The most noteworthy sighting of the day was a Ruff in with the Golden Plovers and Lapwings near Restharrow Scrape. We don’t get too many mid-winter records of them. Two Water Rails were on the Green Wall where 31 Blue Tits was a high count.
Once again most interest came from the sea. The Great Skua was still beating up everything offshore whilst 130 Auks moving south was a decent count (which included the first confirmed Razorbill of the year). Elsewhere a sizeable flock of Stock Doves outside the Observatory numbered 310, and a mass of 700+ Lapwings and 255 Golden Plovers were around Restharrow Scrape.
Strong winds again so scopes were pointed offshore for a spell of sea-watching. There was a bit more moving than of late with totals of 33 Red-throated Divers, ten Fulmars, 166 Gannets, 3,000+ Cormorants, 19 Kittiwakes, 18 Auks, and a Great Skua. A count of 18 Mistle Thrushes on the Green Wall was also noteworthy.
Meandering along the Green Wall this morning provided rare views and sounds of a pair of territorial Treecreepers chasing, singing, and ‘doing their thing’ up the tree trunks. A venture to Stonelees in the vague hope of discovering a Waxwing flock came back fruitless, but the Black-tailed Godwit flock was still on the Garage Pool at Pegwell.
Today was calmer than forecasted but there was still a small movement of birds offshore. A Great Northern Diver heading south was the pick of the bunch but backed up by almost 60 Auks and over 1,000 Cormorants. The eight Pink-footed Geese continued their winter holidays on Willow Farm.
A strong westerly presented itself at dawn leaving the Estate census not much more than a fool’s errand. Nevertheless a Snipe flushed from Middle Field was highly unusual as were five Mute Swans sitting on the sea. A Water Pipit was on Worth along with the eight Pink-footed Geese still, and the four Snow Buntings were on the 10th green of RCPGC. Best birds of the day appeared in the afternoon with a flock of 60+ Barnacle Geese photographed by a visitor as they headed north offshore.
Another Woodcock on New Downs this morning means we know there’s at least four overwintering in the area. There wasn’t much else though except our first Corn Bunting record of the year. In the afternoon a trip to Pegwell saw the spectacle of a few thousand birds terrorised by a Peregrine (and trespassers at the Point again). The Black-tailed Godwit flock was showing well again on the Garage Pool.
Calmer and brighter today revealing a few things moving around the Estate including a small influx of Chaffinches and Blackbirds. The Short-eared Owls were performing spectacularly around the Oasis and Restharrow Scrape and four Yellowhammers were in the Whitehouse. Two Woodcocks, the Hen Harrier, and the eight Pink-footed Geese were on Worth and the Slavonian Grebe was still on Stonar Lake.
A cold wind blows indeed. A wander around New Downs in about 2 °C was worth the effort though. Highlights included 83 Shelducks, four Pochards, two Peregrines, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Water Pipit, seven Rock Pipits, 63 Pied Wagtails, and two Ravens. Meanwhile the four Snow Buntings on RCPGC showed well to visitors, the Short-eared Owls re-appeared after a few quiet days, and Stonar Lake also produced the goods with Slavonian Grebe and Goldeneye.
Hard going again. There was little moving offshore leaving the headline birds the four Snow Buntings on RCPGC plus two Firecrests and a Merlin on Worth.
It was windy enough out there to make birding the bushes difficult but simultaneously not windy enough to make sea-watching very productive. An attempt at the latter produced the first Kittiwake and Fulmars of the year but most things were just specks on the horizon to be honest. At least nine Snow Buntings were at their usual haunts with five at Prince’s Beach and four on RCPGC, plus a Firecrest in the Elms.
A stroll across Worth marshes saw a few welcome additions to the Warden’s year list. Two Tawny Owls in the Great Wood were the pick of the bunch by far. Tawny Owls are rare here at the best of times so when the last record of multiple birds was i don’t know. Some sleuthing through the archives should reveal the answer. Stay tuned on that one. Otherwise the eight Pink-footed Geese were still enjoying Willow Farm, as was the ringtail Hen Harrier, and almost 600 Wigeons were on the deep pool near the Great Wood.
Today saw the Bewick’s Swan family return to Worth from their soirée over to Stodmarsh. On the Estate the first Woodcock of the year appeared, a Firecrest was along Guilford Rd, and two Short-eared Owls were performing spectacularly near Restharrow Scrape. The Green Wall held another Firecrest and an over-wintering Chiffchaff whilst four Snow Buntings were still on RCPGC.
Water Pipit and Grey Wagtail were along the river on the Green Wall this morning with Treecreeper and three Coal Tits nearby along the stretch towards Manwoods School. The Wigeon flock on Worth increased to 500 and the flock of four Snow Buntings were on RCPGC.
A drop in temperature overnight meant this morning held the first frost of the new year. Despite the cold conditions the sunny, calmness of it all made for a nice winters walk. The flock of eight Pink-footed Geese were picked out on Worth again. It’s best to scan for them from the five-bar gate at the Drove but be patient as they hide surprisingly well in the ditches and slacks of the marsh. Four Snow Buntings nearby on the 11th green of Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course were a new discovery, but there was no sign of yesterday’s Bewick’s.
A good day for those looking to kickstart their yearlist. A family party of five Bewick’s Swans were discovered in a field between the Observatory and the Worth track, six Pink-footed Geese were on the marsh near the Drove, five Snow Buntings were showing nicely along Prince’s Beach, two Short-eared Owls were hunting the rough grass near Restharrow Scrape, and at least six Bearded Tits were along the river on the Green Wall.
A movement of 1,500 Cormorants offshore also saw a fair few divers, gulls and wildfowl passing by. A Black-throated Diver was probably the best. On Worth the seven Pink-footed Geese were lurking and a Merlin appeared.
And so it begins. After an impressive 2018 we can only hope that this year is just as good. Last year we put in a new Kitchen, appointed a new Warden, had a tremendous Open Day, put on various courses, made such progress with our Restharrow Scrape Appeal, and seen a fair few birds too. As SBBOT continues to grow we can only thank all of you who make our community so special. Here’s to 2019!
It was hardly all guns blazing out there on our first wanderings of the year. However two Water Pipits were on Worth, the Bar-tailed Godwit continues to enjoy Restharrow Scrape, and wintering Chiffchaff was on the Green Wall.