Birds: March 2018
Mixed weather throughout the day as sunny spells competed with sporadic downpours for attention. Four Firecrests were in the usual hotspot of the Elms plus two Chiffchaffs were singing away. Passage was limited to 21 Sandwich Terns offshore and four Siskins overhead.
A jaunt around Worth before the rain came down produced at least eight Chiffchaffs and two Firecrests, mostly around the Great Wood. Two White Wagtails were on a flooded pool whilst a Raven and a Jack Snipe were on Willow Farm. On the Estate two Bramblings north overhead continued the terrific late winter/early spring for this species, three more Firecrests were trapped and ringed, and five White Wagtails were on the Green Wall.
A Shag and four Sandwich Terns were seen offshore, a Raven flew over the scrape and on a generally bright but soporific morning five Siskins and two Bramblings flew over and 110 Carrion Crows were present between Willow Farm and the Estate, indicating some movement through the area.
Even wetter than yesterday! Three Firecrests were dancing between rain droplets in the Elms and a nice Merlin was perched up at Restharrow Scrape. Not sure it was quite worth getting drenched for though.
Essentially a washout today with heavy spells of rain from dawn. A Brambling in the Whitehouse, a Chiffchaff in the Cellars, and a few Sandwich Terns and a flock of 28 Brent Geese flew past offshore. A group of 17 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on Willow Farm, one of our highest counts in a really poor spring for this species. Where are they? And don’t even talk to me about hirundines…
Though the temperature had dropped a few degrees it was a very pleasant day to be out. The Green Wall produced two each of Firecrest, Chiffchaff, and Brambling, plus four Siskins, 23 Redwings, and at least 48 Carrion Crows. Overhead passage was fair with 500 Starlings and 630 Chaffinches, mostly north, and then as the day heated up at least 28 Buzzards drifted north. A drake Mandarin on Worth was a surprise and arguably the rarest sighting of the day. Offshore a mammoth 247 Red-throated Divers was quite a sight whilst small numbers of waders flew north as well as two Sandwich Terns. In the late afternoon at least nine White Wagtails gathered in the field with hay bales outside the Observatory.
The Black-throated Diver put in another appearance off the Estate amongst 226 Great-crested Grebes whilst inland three Firecrests, a Black Redstart, two Bramblings, and four Chiffchaffs were the migrant highlights.
Still two Great White Egrets and a Pintail on Worth whilst a Water Rail on Restharrow Scrape was new in. Singles of Spoonbill and Red Kite flew over the Green Wall, as did a Short-eared Owl over Pegwell, where two Mediterranean Gulls were feeding, and lastly a/the Black-throated Diver was offshore.
Things were not particularly pleasant with continuous light drizzle and a westerly wind. The Elms had at least four Firecrests sheltering from the weather whilst Chiffchaffs were at Restharrow Scrape, the Cellars, and the Chequers. A Siskin flew over, four Sandwich Terns flew north offshore, and the spate of Canada Goose records continued with one on Restharrow Scrape. Just after midday a White Stork flew south from Pegwell, presumably the Swedish re-introduced bird that has been lingering in Kent this week.
It was another morning of grey overcast skies and a trickle of northbound migrants. Chaffinches led the way with around 100 along with dribs and drabs of Linnets, Goldfinches, and Meadow Pipits again. At least six Firecrests were on the Estate again and a corking adult male Black Redstart was singing by the sailing club. Two Bramblings and eight Yellowhammers were in the Whitehouse and four White Wagtails flew through.
Overcast to start with there was virtually no movement, despite a light NW breeze. However, as the cloud dispersed and the early chill lifted a trickle of finches and pipits began, amounting to 44 Linnets, 9 Meadow Pipits and 6 Goldfinches in a couple of hours. However, most interesting was a Great White Egret that dropped on to the scrape and then flew out to sea towards the Belgian coast, while another was seen soaring over Worth. So much for our wintering birds all being from Somerset. There were also at least eight Firecrests and three Black Redstarts on the Estate.
Despite a chill N wind that produced very little in the way of movement there was a grudging attempt by the weather to become a bit less unpleasant and after some rain around dawn it remained dry. The Great White Egret was still on Worth, nine Barnacle Geese were on Willow Farm and a Merlin flew over Restharrow Dunes, where a Black Redstart was sheltering from the wind.
We are starting to run out of synonyms for the word hideous, but this morning’s NE wind was truly ferocious, making the monthly Pegwell SPA WeBS count characterful, to say the least. New Downs held the usual suspects, along with an adult Yellow-legged Gull and the main point of interest in Pegwell was the gathering numbers of Brent Geese, 1390 of which were massed on the saltmarsh at high tide, while another Yellow-legged Gull was present. A flock of 38 more Brents dropped on to the scrape in late morning, with a party of 11 Barnacle Geese oscillating between there and the shore, occasionally alighting on the fields nearby. Lastly, an arctic expedition to the Point was mostly fruitless though a Jack Snipe was flushed on Hundred Acre.
It appeared to be very quiet offshore this morning, though with the wind directly off the sea viewing conditions were pretty hideous. However, 3 Pintail were on the scrape, where a Dunlin and 3 Ringed Plovers dropped in briefly, a Black Redstart was seen along the shore, a Peregrine was tearing about and a Chiffchaff was calling again in the gullies, while a Red Kite, a Water Pipit, and a Jack Snipe were seen on Worth.
An abrupt change in the weather saw the Estate battered by gale force hail and snow. Sea-watching in the borderline white-out conditions was challenging but also rewarding due to the steady procession of Little Gulls heading south offshore. Over the course of two hours a total of 41 birds flew past, all winter adults, whilst 21 Pintails was notable too. There was little to see in the bushes though a Chiffchaff was forlornly calling in the Whitehouse. Another foray out in the afternoon saw 25 Barnacle and 390 Brent Geese go north offshore close in plus at least six Firecrests around the Elms, and perhaps the biggest surprise . . . a Knot on Restharrow Scrape.
Bright with a light SSW breeze there was again no movement to speak of, though six Firecrests were present and probably more representative of the situation yesterday, while six Chiffchaffs and two Siskins were seen along the Green Wall and the Great White Egret was still present on Worth.
Overcast with light rain and a SE breeze it had all the theoretical hallmarks of a good morning, which of course turned out to be the opposite of what we’d hoped for. Still, despite the near absence of any movement, 450 Starlings flew N or out to sea, 5 Firecrests were present – typical of a SE breeze in spring – and a Chiffchaff was bouncing about in trees on Restharrow Scrape.
Bright from the word go and initially with little wind it was predictably a pale shadow of yesterday. Nevertheless, 196 Chaffinches flew into the steadily gathering SE breeze, along with 700 Starlings (of which 20,000 flew out to sea over Worth at dawn, presumably having roosted overnight) and small numbers of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and a Reed Bunting, while 3 Sandwich Terns flew by offshore, 2 Great White Egrets were seen over Worth and a noisy party of 3 Ravens cronked their way over the Estate and then back again towards Deal. One Black Redstart remained along the shore.
Low cloud and light rain from dawn made for an impressive morning’s census dominated by migration. At least 2,250 Redwings flew north in the first few hours of light before Starlings suddenly took over, of which 9,000 flew south and east high out to sea. At least 111 Fieldfares were caught up in the movement though there were a lot less finches compared to yesterday with just 60 Chaffinches and 14 Greenfinches moving. A handful of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, and Reed Buntings completed the passerine passage. Offshore a Grey Heron headed north, a Peregrine chased migrant flocks, whilst a Shag and a Black-throated Diver were sitting amongst the throng of Great Crested Grebes. Four Sandwich Terns were fresh migrants in Pegwell whilst the Great White Egret was still on Worth. On the Estate four Black Redstarts were along the shore (including one adult male), three Chiffchaffs were new in plus two Woodcocks and a Firecrest still. Lastly, at least 1,000 Black-headed Gulls drifted north over and four Mediterranean Gulls were picked out with them.
A heavily overcast start with a light SE breeze felt good for some late winter movement, but it turned out to be better than expected, as 910 Chaffinches flew into the wind, accompanied by a Brambling and a Merlin. This lasted for a couple of hours but then the wind changed as some rain came through and the movement abruptly stopped.
Overcast with rain from around 5, it eventually ceased to reveal a glass-calm sea on which 3 Slavonian Grebes were perched, along with 345 Great Crested Grebes. Although very little was moving a Woodlark flew N over Restharrow Dunes, the (?) Black Redstart was seen at the sailing club and the Firecrest was displaying to a Goldcrest in the Elms, while a Merlin was charging about in typical fashion.
Conditions were much the same as yesterday with slightly more of a southerly breeze. The clear highlight of the morning was a brief Hawfinch calling from a garden on Waldershare Avenue before flying off north over Middle Field. Presumably a returning passage bird from the large invasion into the UK last autumn. Running a close second however was a Canada Goose on the Estate beach and later seen on Restharrow Scrape. A surprisingly scarce bird here these days. The Great White Egret and male Hen Harrier were seen again on Worth in the morning.
On an overcast, calm morning 29 Redwings in the field between the road and the Haven was the first sign of some movement, complemented not long after by our first Black Redstart of spring along the shore. The Great White Egret was standing on Willow Farm and the male Hen Harrier put in a brief appearance before heading off towards Betteshanger. A decent count of 106 Red-throated Divers and 169 Great Crested Grebes were sitting offshore and in the afternoon a Chiffchaff was on New Downs (perhaps new in) as well as a female Pochard.
Pre-dawn rain cleared away to reveal a sunny but increasingly blustery morning. A Woodcock was flushed from Big Gully and there was some good news in that the Firecrest in the Elms has survived the recent cold weather, but the bird of the morning was an adult Red Kite that drifted across the road on to Restharrow Scrape meadow where it appeared to be feeding on something before taking off and flying over the Elms. There were two different Red Kites over Worth at much the same time, so some movement seems to be going on.
Dull and misty with spells of drizzle, the birding was pretty much the same, though three Woodcock were seen on the Estate and 230 Starlings flew N in small parties, with 3,000 swirling about over Worth, where a Great White Egret was seen and a drake Pochard was only our second record of the year. The Slavonian Grebe was still on Stonar Lake.
An interesting morning with more than a suggestion of spring movement began with 143 Fieldfares in the Haven and Oasis and continued with gathering numbers of Starlings, now up to around 1,000, and Lapwings, with 800 swirling about over Worth and three flocks totalling 310 heading out to sea towards the French/Belgian coast, while around 800 were recorded over New Downs. At least 26 Golden Plover also flew out to sea with the Lapwings, while one high-flying Chaffinch hinted that they might soon be on the move and 17 Buzzards and a Red Kite were seen over Worth as the morning warmed. A female Merlin and at least two Bearded Tits were on New Downs whilst two Scaups and a Caspian Gull were in Pegwell, with a Slavonian Grebe also on Stonar Lake.
222 Red-throated Divers and a Black-throated Diver were the offshore highlights on an overcast morning with a light S breeze and 3 Pintail had appeared on Willow Farm. Interestingly, after yesterday’s Corn Bunting comment, it seems that five others were seen on New Downs and two were singing on the Estate this morning. Even more interestingly, though possibly not for Corn Bunting fans, a Whimbrel was recorded flying over Stonar at 0200 this morning.
Before clouding over ahead of some afternoon rain it was really quite pleasant and almost spring-like. However, all of the Woodcock appear to have cleared out and there was little sign of anything having moved in to replace them. Still, 3 Bewick’s Swans were still on Worth and the Goosander was on the river again, with 23 Fieldfares on fields near HQ and a Corn Bunting near the farm which, sad to say, was the first for the Estate this year.
A comparatively tropical walk saw seven Woodcocks flushed from undergrowth on the Estate plus the remains of one deceased bird on the beach, 17 Fieldfares and a few Redwings dotted around, 65 Dunlins on the Estate beach, 290 Stock Doves in the asparagus fields and 40 Meadow Pipits fluttering around St George’s Golf Course.
If the current forecast is anything like correct, we only have a couple of days to go before the worst of this current weather is behind us. However, just to keep us on our toes, this morning produced a spell of freezing rain that reduced everywhere to an ice rink. It left the regulars reading rings on House Sparrows using the feeding station outside the HQ window and feeling glad we’re not lambs. Venturing out finally before lunch rewarded one observer with six more Woodcocks on the Estate, a Dunlin on the ice previously known as Restharrow Scrape, and over 400 Common Gulls along the beach. Whilst another intrepid stroll across Worth saw a further 17 Woodcocks, a Jack Snipe, and a Pintail hiding from the elements.
If there is any truth in the saying that March comes in like a lion etc. this one was particularly bad-tempered and not to be approached, even with a handful of Dreamies. The bitterly cold E wind was still up around force 6 or 7 and snow set in around 7.30, lasting for a couple of hours to give a light dusting by mid morning. However, it has had the effect of inducing some hard weather movement at last, with 13 Woodcock flushed from various places around the Estate and eight Whitefronts along the Green Wall, while two Dunlins dropped into the Oasis and Lapwings continue to wander around in strange places. A Shag and a Bonxie flew by offshore, but the scrape was almost completely frozen.