Birds: February 2017
Although compensation for missing yesterday’s Crane-fest (by some way an SBBO record number) took some time in coming, at least 11 Common Buzzards were soaring over Worth in bright sunshine just before mid day.
In a strong SSW wind, gusting to gale force in the first post-dawn hour or so, a two-hour seawatch proved very disappointing, with only a few Fulmars, Gannets and auks to be seen. However, the Red-throated Diver, sadly quite badly oiled, was on the scrape, but in the event of what has been a pretty quiet month, a stunning flock of 36 Cranes flew N over the Estate in heavy rain in the early afternoon.
An overcast and charmless morning was notable for a Great White Egret that flew over the Obs before doubling back and dropping down towards Worth first thing, at which point the birding went substantially downhill, although 2 tundra Bean Geese were found on Worth later on.
The Red-throat was still on the scrape and 2 Bonxies were seen offshore. The less said about the Bay’s first record of Canada Goose this year, the better.
With Doris having scuttled off into the Low Countries, it was a much nicer morning with plenty of sun and a not-too-bad NW breeze. Without doubt the bird of the day was a first winter Glaucous Gull on Restharrow Scrape, which flew off after a wash and brush-up, while 4 Siskins were kicking about around the Haven and 4 Razorbills were seen offshore. Later in the afternoon, a Red-throated Diver, slightly oiled, appeared on the scrape.
Storm Doris gatecrashed the party as promised, bringing severe gale force SW winds but less rain than forecast, although visibility out to sea was compromised, to say the least. It was difficult to get a handle on how many Gannets were milling about, but 60 seemed a reasonable minimum, while a few auks and Fulmars flew by.
A bit breezier this morning ahead of Storm Doris, who promises to visit the north later today, so most interest was offshore. There were probably similar numbers of Great Crested Grebes to yesterday, though the choppiness of the sea made counting difficult, a Bonxie flew by and around 200 Gannets, almost all of which were adults, were feeding in the shallows of the Goodwins.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, today’s grebefest amounted to a probable Bay record 836 Great Crested Grebes, while 123 Red-throated Divers flew by ahead of a passing fishing boat.
For all you grebe fans out there, this morning was a red letter day, with 512 Great Crested Grebes on the sea; the most since 604 were counted in February 2013. Otherwise, 4 Siskins flew over but good coverage of the Estate and Worth produced not much more than the usual suspects, the best of which were 2 Buzzards, 2 Marsh Harriers and 3 Little Egrets.
OK, I confess. Stung by yesterday’s Treecreeper sighting, the decision was made to find it, but it not until 10.35 that it was located as it burst into a bit of song for the first time. Actually, it was an enjoyable morning, with at least 8 Song Thrushes in full voice, at least 5 Coal Tits, which also began singing very late, and 107 Redwings that emerged from a line of trees that had appeared to hold about 6!
Another clear blue and increasingly warm day (for February anyway) was pretty soporific, though a local rarity in the shape of a Treecreeper was seen along the Green Wall.
A walk to the Point on a steadily warmer morning was very quiet, but an adult Caspian Gull on the beach was some compensation, 3 overflying Siskins were the first of the year and a Grey Wagtail flew along the beach, hinting at some early spring movement.
This seems to be that lull between late winter and early spring, with very little going on, though by late morning today it had become almost spring-like in places. This morning’s high spots were restricted mainly to a Raven and a hunting Peregrine over Worth. This shot of a Sparrowhawk was taken at the weekend outside the Observatory, capturing its mood pretty much perfectly.
Lydden Valley WeBS count day was notable for 3 tundra Bean Geese that flew over Roaring Gutter, while a walk across New Downs, whilst not producing many Golden Plovers, did turn up the 4 Bewick’s Swans and a Common Sandpiper on the river. A first winter White-fronted Goose was seen on Worth, as was the ringtail Hen Harrier that has been around for the last three days.
It’s all relative, isn’t it? Wandering along the spillways at New Downs in gloom that would not have been out of place down a mine and a cold NE wind that would, a Mistle Thrush was singing lustily from the hawthorns in the Sampher, clearly of a different opinion as to the state of things. Otherwise, most of the waders had been spooked by constant attention from one of the local Peregrines and the tide was particularly high, reducing available resting places along the river. However, there was a strong movement of gulls along the shore, mainly involving 600 or more Herring Gulls but with at least 35 intermedius Lesser Black-backs, which were moving for the first time in much smaller numbers yesterday.
Oh dear. This morning’s wind was raw, making an hour and a half looking at the sea quite unpleasant, not helped by the absence of anything interesting, the best on offer being 10 Red-throated Divers and a similar number of auks.
Another gloomy day with a light but chill NE breeze looks like the first of several to come, which is nice. This morning’s efforts comprised a trek across Worth, which produced the 4 Bewick’s Swans that came in from the N to settle with the local Mutes, a Little Egret and an adult male Marsh Harrier, while a notable 3 Bonxies were seen offshore along with around 800 Cormorants.
Updates for the last few days: 12 White-fronted Geese continue to be present around the scrape, a calling Tawny Owl was a notable record for the Estate on the 5th, while the female Scaup remains at Backsand. The four Bewick’s Swans appeared back on Worth on the 3rd and a Common Sandpiper was seen on the river on the 5th, presumably having evaded detection since December.
As for this morning, it was dull and drizzly, though at least it wasn’t cold. A few Redwings were kicking about in the murk and 75 Great Crested Grebes were floating offshore but, frankly, visibility was so bad out to sea and inland that it was difficult to put an accurate figure on anything.
Bright and sunny for a change, with a gathering S breeze that had become quite strong by mid morning, an hour’s seawatch produced at least 850 Cormorants, 550 or so of which came in from the north from beyond Ramsgate, while around 300 were gathered on a sand bar off Pegwell. The 12 Whitefronts were back on the scrape along with an adult Mediterranean Gull, and the dubious-looking Egyptian Goose was seen along the Green Wall. A Harbour Porpoise was seen again, doubtless attracted to the same food source as the Cormorants.
The new month opened with continuing gloom and light rain from mid morning, but at least it was warmer than yesterday. A trek across New Downs was notable for over 2,000 Lapwings, while over 1,000 more had appeared on the Estate, where the Snow Bunting was seen again. The female Scaup was still on Backsand scrape and there seems to have been a small influx of winter thrushes, with more than the usual Fieldfares in particular, both on the Estate and New Downs.