Birds: Feb 2014
The month concluded with an appropriately soggy flourish with heavy rain driven on by a fresh ESE wind. There was very little moving offshore, though 2 Eider flew by quite close in.
Heavy rain from just after dawn cleared through by mid morning to leave an increasingly pleasant and warm day. 14 Lesser Black-backs were loafing on the fields next to the scrape, suggesting the start of their spring movement, but there was little else to shout about.
It was a lovely, sunny late winter day with just a gentle breeze. The Shorelarks were still present along the beach opposite Royal Cinque Ports GC and a Marsh Harrier and 3 Common Buzzards were soaring around over Worth.
On a morning of squally showers interspersed with bright, breezy spells, moderate numbers of divers and auks were evident offshore, a few small parties of Brents flew N and a Great White Egret flew across Worth towards Ham Fen, where it was later visible from the Hay Lane bridge.
Coverage of the Estate and New Downs provided little of avian interest, although 13 Fieldfares were hanging about with the sheep near the Oasis, 4 Song Thrushes may have been indicative of some movement and three butterflies were seen on New Downs.
The 2 Shorelarks were discovered again, on the beach fairly well south of where they were the other day, beyond the Chequers. Otherwise, a Siskin flew S and 385 Great Crested Grebes were floating on the sea on what was a lovely, sunny morning.
Drizzle and very poor visibility extinguished any hope of anything offshore, though 2 very smart Pintail were performing on the scrape.
On another nice day a walk to the Point was notable for a Snow Bunting just north of Prince’s Lodge, a flock of 110 Brent Geese on the Sampher that contained an unusually high total of around 20 pale-bellied individuals, a Spotted Redshank calling from the river, 3 Stonechats and a Grey Wagtail flying N.
Mindful of the fact that the sayings ‘the sun shines on the righteous’ and ‘the Devil looks after his own’ are entirely interchangeable, a walk along the shore produced some good fortune in the shape of 2 Shorelarks on the beach opposite Cinque Ports golf course. They flew just a short distance from the path, then fed for a minute or so before flipping seaward over the ridge and out of sight. Otherwise, it was very quiet, although at least 10 Common Seals were hauled out on the new sandbar off the Estate at low tide.
A trudge across New Downs for the month’s WeBS count produced very little of note, although the flooded pond on the Sampher held 40-odd Shoveler and Wigeon and 2 Goldcrests were in conifers near Prince’s reservoir. The most remarkable thing about them was that for once it was calm enough to hear them!
Possibly having exhausted itself, the weather took the day off to leave a day of wall-to-wall sunshine, a hugely welcome change from the recent battering by wind and rain. The Lydden Valley WeBS count was again very unproductive for wildfowl and waders, but highlights did include 2 Ravens, 5-6 Water Rails and 3 Pintail.
We took the opportunity afforded by a window of merely unpleasant weather in between pre-dawn rain and the arrival of really heavy stuff at mid day to take a look at the areas we manage, largely to evaluate the effects of the recent rain. It is difficult to describe in photos how wet it is, but this shot of the Elms, familiar to most who visit from time to time gives a fair idea, though if we get much more even wellies will be insufficient to negotiate the area in view (photo by Ian Hodgson).
Come in number 7, your time’s up. That’s what they used to call on boating lakes when I were a lad and after yet more rain this morning it seems an entirely appropriate recollection. Still, heavy rain cleared in mid morning and the sun came out to provide pleasant conditions for a scull around the area. Although the birding was slow a Coal Tit was singing in the Elms and the local Skylarks were in good voice.
There was late news from yesterday of a Short-eared Owl, flying along the railway line near Roaring Gutter. As for this morning, there was very little offshore and the scrape featured increasing numbers of Little Grebes (4), Tufted Ducks (17) and Gadwall (32) and, best of all, an adult Little Gull that popped in around lunchtime.
Yet more rain arrived on a stiffening S wind a couple of hours after dawn, adding to already ridiculous water levels. There are now no islands visible on the scrape, where the flood has extended well into the field to the north. Many of the dabbling ducks are now floating about beyond the boundary fence and the Tufted Ducks are having the time of their lives, so it’s an ill wind ….
Indeed. More of the wet stuff descended over the weekend and last night and this morning was again dull and wet. A few and pieces offshore were, well, bits and pieces.
The Egyptian Geese were paddling about on the scrape at dawn, but left not long afterwards, and about 25 Gannets were swirling about and diving for fish offshore, but the real talking point was the flooding following yesterday’s rain, which was still falling with gusto at 3am. The marker post on the scrape, which showed 3’6” on 17 October, has now disappeared and the roads are severely inundated, particularly the Ancient Highway beyond the scrape towards Deal. What’s more, there doesn’t appear to be an end to it.
This morning’s seawatch was enlivened very briefly by an adult Little Gull that alighted on the sea close inshore. 2 Egyptian Geese were roosting on the scrape again, but flew off around an hour after first light.
It was stormy, as promised, though overnight rain petered out before our seawatch ,which produced mostly Fulmars, about 40 of which were moving steadily south over the foaming spume, while 2 Red-breasted Mergansers passed by.
It was again bright and increasingly breezy, ahead of more rubbish weather forecast to come in from the Atlantic overnight. Birding was very slow and the highlight was a rabbit attempting an impression of a basilisk lizard as it flitted across the ever-deepening waters of Waldershare Gully. Frankly, it needs to do a bit of work on its technique, which warranted about 1.5 for style.
A bright, breezy day came as a relief from yet more rain over the weekend, but interest was limited more or less to a Peregrine, putting itself about enthusiastically near the golf club, and a Goldcrest in the Elms.