Birds: February 2018
Bright but with a freshening and very cold easterly wind after some more snow overnight, with overnight temperatures down to minus 4 and not much warmer during the morning, the weather was summed up by the local Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls cowering in the lee of the wind behind mole hills outside the Observatory. The scrape was mostly frozen and numbers of wildfowl well reduced, but a Dunlin popped in for a brief slither and slide before getting fed up and flying off to somewhere a bit more hospitable, wherever that might be.
Snow from just before dawn was enough to give a light accumulation by early morning and although the rest of the day was sunny it failed to get more than a suggestion above freezing and the wind, particularly on the shore, was even more spiteful than yesterday. Unsurprisingly, most things were keeping their heads down, but three adult Mediterranean Gulls were standing around on the fields across on Worth, no doubt luxuriating in the incongruity of their name.
As promised, the NE wind had intensified to the point of being face-stripping, while bemused Lapwings standing around in silly places testified to how cold it has become. Snow flurries blew through all morning, though very little accumulated, and although the birding was predictable one of our number had the good fortune to be passed on New Downs by a superb adult male Hen Harrier; only the second Hen Harrier of the year down here.
Away from the biting E wind it was actually quite pleasant, if necessitating full winter plumage. Little has changed in the current cold weather, though a Firecrest was showing well at the edge of the Elms and a very smart adult male Sparrowhawk was seen nearby.
The BBC recommended us to enjoy the ‘warm’ weather before the cold spell hits. Not sure what I think about that. Today’s icy but bright conditions saw good numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers still around Restharrow Scrape, where a Green Sandpiper popped in briefly. A Little Egret flew south and at least 145 Stock Doves were hiding in the asparagus fields.
Wary of the intentions of the steadily increasing NE wind, we decided to walk inland across Worth, but even there it was pretty chilly. Avian interest was fairly limited with most things keeping their heads down, but a very impressive flock of 350 Linnets and 100 Chaffinches was tumbling about in a weedy field near the railway, where they have spent much of the winter. Highlights on the Estate included 350 Golden Plover and a Firecrest in the Elms.
Groundhog Day. More or less a repeat of yesterday, but without the birds, though 2 Coots are now on the scrape, so that’s the end of peace and quiet for a while.
Some gathering brightness took the edge of an enthusiastic north-easterly, which looks like a precursor of the meteorological perdition forecast for next week. A Marsh Harrier drifted in from the NE early on and it may be that some late winter movement is taking place, with a few more Fieldfares kicking about in the Oasis and a couple of parties of Great Tits moving along the edge of the golf course.
A real soggy moggy of a morning was in stark (if it can be stark if it’s soggy) contrast to yesterday. A walk around New Downs for the WeBS count was pretty disappointing, probably due to weekend disturbance, but was resurrected from total tedium by a very smart Water Pipit at the south pond.
The monthly Lydden Valley WeBS count was carried out in bright and eventually quite warm conditions. Although there were no real surprises, it was probably the best count of the winter, with 465 Golden Plover, 4 Bewick’s Swans, ca 500 Wigeon, 3 Jack Snipe and 22 Common Snipe the highlights.
The run of frosty starts with glorious sunshine continued and made for a welcome stroll along the Green Wall. There were no new discoveries but singles of Treecreeper and Coal Tit put in an appearance and there was plenty of bird song to warm the spirits. A brief look on Worth saw at least two Bewick’s Swans visible along with 1,100 Lapwings.
A lovely, still and sunny morning made it a real pleasure to be out and birds were suitably responsive, with a mooch over Worth producing a Merlin, the 3 Bewick’s, a Bearded Tit, a Green Sandpiper at Roaring Gutter and at least 8 Buzzards.
This winter continues to be a case of re-visiting old favourites, this morning including Jack Snipe, Bearded Tit and 3 Bewicks’ on Worth and 3 Dartford Warblers along Prince’s beach. 3 Bearded Tits were also found on New Downs and, deepening the Goosander mystery further, one was at Backsand, so presumably there are two in the area. Call in Hercule Poirot.
The best bits on a bright morning with a gentle S breeze were 370 Golden Plovers and 650 Lapwings on the Estate and a Goosander at Roaring Gutter – the Vigo sluice one couldn’t be seen this morning, so perhaps there is only one after all. At least 3 Bewick’s Swans were still tiddling about on Worth.
Well, what was around the corner was a galloping southerly gale, and although the worst of it did not materialise until the middle of the day the wind was fresh from the word go and very cold. Two hours peering out to sea was rewarded with a Bonxie, about 400 Cormorants, our first Red-breasted Merganser of the year and 14 Fulmars, numbers of which have been increasing in the last few days.
A frosty and bright morning was nice enough to be out in and although on the face of it there was little change from the 4 Bewicks’ and Goosander on the river scenario, a second Goosander was discovered on Worth, 570 Golden Plovers were milling about over the marshes and Starlings seem to be getting slightly more numerous, so perhaps spring, or late winter at least, might be around the corner.
Bright throughout the morning and with a gathering W breeze it was a little less taxing on the bodily particles than so much of the month so far. The Bewick’s Swans, or at least 3 of them, remained on Worth, with a Peregrine overhead and one Jack Snipe, while a Shag, a Bonxie and 150 Great Crested Grebes were seen offshore. At least one Firecrest was in the Elms.
A walk out on Worth marshes was bright and sunny though cold with frost underfoot. The deep pool by the Great Wood remained unfrozen with 519 Wigeons whistling away whilst two Marsh Harriers hunted nearby. Five Jack Snipes were flushed from an isolated shooter’s pool, four Bewick’s Swans were showing well in the usual Mute Swan herd, and 285 Linnets fed in a fallow field along the Worth track.
With persistent rain and dreadful visibility an attempt at seawatching was slightly more productive than peering into a bowl of consommé, but only slightly, 3 Fulmars and 19 Gannets being about the best on offer. A small party of 8 Fieldfares was feeding outside HQ and a Golden Plover shot in off the sea, but it was otherwise soggy and entirely predictable.
A hard frost this morning, which was again bright and calm – a lovely winter day, in fact. The Goosander was on the river again and although a walk around New Downs turned up nothing unusual, 2 Buzzards were in situ, 3 Bullfinches were in the hawthorns at the edge of the Sampher and it would have been jolly enjoyable had it not been for the fact that everything on the north lake was put to flight by a birdwatcher being where he shouldn’t. Good grief.
Despite a frosty start after overnight snow flurries that failed even to provide a dusting of the stuff, it was a lovely winter morning – bright and calm. A Water Rail was on the scrape early on and one of the Firecrests was found in the Elms, but it was otherwise much the same as it has been, although some of the Lapwings were facing the other way around and the Goosander was on the river again.
Although it remains cold, lengthy bright spells and a slacker NE wind made for quite a pleasant morning. A walk along the Green Wall was worth it for the Goosander, back in its usual spot on the river near Vigo sluice, and a Kingfisher, while the best bird on the Estate was a Woodcock, possibly a product of the recent cold.
Overnight showers turned increasingly wintry and lasted until around 9 this morning, spurred on by a raw NE wind that made spending any time on the shore a test of endurance. In the event, little changed from yesterday, although 115 Golden Plovers were milling about with the local Lapwings and, bad news for Fulicaphiles among us, the Coot had disappeared from the scrape.
A morning of wintry showers, driven on by a charmless NE wind, was notable for a Bonxie and an adult Med.Gull offshore, one Firecrest in the Elms and 3 Snow Buntings on their usual green on Royal Cinque Ports. Whilst it might not make the latest news on Birdguides a Coot on the scrape was the first since last spring and for Linnets, with 150 around the asparagus fields and 300 along Worth track this is the best winter for some time.
The (?) Goosander appears to have returned to the river – it was seen on Thursday – and the Dartford Warbler was re-discovered near Restharrow Scrape. Otherwise, a Brambling on the Estate was the only thing to get the pulse racing.
Another character-building session in a raw NW wind, this time on Worth, produced our fourth Woodcock sighting of the winter, but very little else, at least until 25 White-fronts flew in to roost on Worth
Bright and sunny it was quite pleasant to walk along the shore to Deal for our weekly survey, but turning for the walk back into the strengthened NW wind was very cold. In the event, the bird interest was predictably scant, but 3 Snow Buntings were still on the golf course, close to the shore opposite the Chequers, and a Marsh Harrier kept those cowering in the scrape hide entertained.