Birds: April 2017
Please note that access to New Downs and Backsand Scrape has changed since the new Kent Coastal Path was constructed. The Longreach/Old Salthouse raised bank (beyond the obvious metal gates at Bloody Point) is no longer open for access. This is private property and there is a small no entry sign by the metal gate. Unfortunately both birdwatchers and dog walkers alike have taken to walking along the new raised bund causing disturbance to the nesting/migrant birds in the area. Please refrain from doing so. Instead, drop down off the raised walkway from Bloody Point onto the newly laid gravel track (RFK 1004). View the North Flood from a safe distance on the Kent Coastal Path. A telescope may be preferable.
To get to Backsand Scrape continue on the track northwards along to Backsand Point. Here you will get good views of the river and access to the Sampher on the right. There is a small grass path on the left that drops down from the sluice at Backsand Point. It runs between the edge of a narrow dyke and the newly built raised bund on the left (that hides you from the birds on the flood). Upon reaching Backsand Scrape we recommend taking the left fork and following until you see access on the right. The hides were destroyed by the 2013 tidal surge but you can still view the Backsand Scrape easily from their remains. If you have any further questions feel free to get in touch via the SBBOT Facebook page, Twitter @SandwichBirdObs, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come and visit the Observatory in person and speak to a member of staff.
Thanks for your consideration,
Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust
It was a case of heading somewhere away from a stiff SE wind that made the Estate difficult, but even on Worth most things were keeping their heads down, though a Turtle Dove was new for the year and a Garden Warbler was singing lustily.
The switch to blue skies and a southerly airflow certainly increased the temperature if only to produce the first sunburn of the week. Warbler numbers continue to increase with the scratchy sound of 20 Whitethroats dominating the Estate today, interspersed with at least three Lesser Whitethroats. The mysterious overhead trickle of Mediterranean Gulls this week continued with one calling away over Kings Avenue but equally perplexing were the two Canada Geese heading south along the Beach. A Sandwich Tern was distant offshore, a Cuckoo sang near Restharrow Scrape, eight Wheatears were in the usual spots, and of note were two Siskins. Even better, an Osprey flew N in the late afternoon.
It was at least calm to start with, though at a cost of a sharp frost, before the wind got up from the north once again. A circuit of Worth turned up no surprises, but good numbers of Sedge Warblers are now in, 3 Lesser Whitethroats and 18 Whitethroats were singing and Bullfinches continue their resurgence. The Estate was similarly quiet, although 2 Avocets dropped in to the scrape for a while and 6 Wheatears were bouncing about on the fringes of the golf course.
The north wind doth continue to blow, but it was a tad less unpleasant than yesterday. Wheatears continue to show, with 9 on the Estate and beach, while single Greenshank and Common Sandpiper were on the scrape.
As anyone who has dabbled in the dark arts of cricket will testify, sunshine at this time of year does not necessarily mean warmth. A cold NW wind set in overnight and most things were keeping their heads well down in response. However, 5 Wheatears were clustered on the turf field near Dickson’s Corner (coverage of the entire shoreline came up with a total of 30 for the area), a Common Sandpiper was on the scrape, 2 Crossbills flew over Worth, 4 Little Terns were on the beach near the river and a Swift flew in off the sea.
A walk across New Downs turned up a good selection of birds, if nothing heart-stopping, with highlights including 5 Greenshanks, a Common Sandpiper and a Ring Ouzel on the Sampher. Back on the Estate, 2 Ravens and a Red Kite flew N over HQ and one Jack Snipe remained on the scrape, while 26 Whimbrel were mooching about on Willow Farm.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger …… 2 Jack Snipe were on the scrape this morning, while a scattering of migrants included a Garden Warbler in the Elms, 15 Wheatears and at least 6 Mediterranean Gulls overhead.
Intermittent drizzle from dawn until 10am seemed to drag a few migrants down onto the Estate. A male Ring Ouzel was present in the Whitehouse first thing but subsequent searches drew a blank. Restharrow Scrape continues to attract passage waders with a Greenshank and two Avocets notable, but not as surprising as a late Jack Snipe which bobbed away at the edges. A 3cy Yellow-legged Gull popped in briefly to boot. Wheatears of both ‘Northern’ and ‘Greenland’ races continue to show in the usual spots behind the Scrape and at Dickson’s Corner/Cinque Ports, whilst at least ten Mediterranean Gulls headed north overhead.
Despite a rather unforgiving countenance and a grudging refusal to warm up, at least there was little breeze and it turned out to be a good morning. Wader passage included 4 Green Sandpipers, a Greenshank and a Wood Sandpiper at Restharrow and 7 Whimbrel on Willow Farm with 3 others N offshore. Otherwise, 6 Med. Gulls flew N and a significant influx of warblers on Worth included totals of 42 Sedge, 6 Lesser Whitethroats and 19 Whitethroats, while 5 lingering Fieldfares were a reminder that the weather could be worse.
It didn’t take long for a clear, frosty start to be overcome by cloud and a rather chill SW breeze. Although there was little apparent movement 2 Spoonbills flew S over Restharrow and a very interesting grey-looking and intensely black-streaked Meadow Pipit, probably an Icelandic bird, was consorting with a couple of Wheatears, one of which looked like a Greenland type.
The overnight easterlies brought in 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 10 Wheatears, all but one of which were males, and several more Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers. Otherwise, 2 Ravens flew across Worth from the south and 3 Whimbrel were seen on Willow Farm.
Brief but heavy rain about an hour before first light did more than place some long-awaited puddles in the road, with the usual round of the Estate producing a Ring Ouzel, singing in the Haven, at least 22 Blackcaps, 10 Chiffchaffs and 3 Willow Warblers, while 87 Linnets flew along the shore into a stiff NE wind. A circuit of New Downs was fairly predictable, with a couple of Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank and 2 Wheatears the highlights.
By the standards of some Easter breaks this one has been fairly reasonable but this morning was typically chilly with spells of light rain and a testy NE wind that made a seawatch the option of choice. It turned out quite well by Sandwich Bay standards, with Black-throated Diver and an immature Shag on the sea and 18 Whimbrel heading upchannel in ones and twos. A few Swallows and Linnets trickled through but unsurprisingly there was little that was obviously new.
Coverage of Worth and the Estate revealed a few more migrants, notably 8 Wheatears on the Estate, while 6 Whitethroats represented a small increase, as did 12 Blackcaps on the Estate. Northward moving migrants included 2 Yellow Wagtails, 12 Swallows, 5 Sand Martins and a party of 8 Meadow Pipits and a Grey Wagtail was disturbed from one of the water features near the Delf Stream. Then, just before midday, the day’s highlight came through in the form of an Alpine Swift. Initially spotted hawking over the Chequers Pub on the Ancient Highway, the bird showed well (though would range over a large area all the way to Deal). In the afternoon the first Cuckoo of the year was found on Worth.
The weather was once again much colder than in recent weeks with a stiff north-westerly breeze that increased throughout the morning, whilst the brief shower at dawn was the first rain seen here in two months. Offshore passage once again held the day’s highlights with a Common Tern watched heading north the first record of the year and a pale phase Arctic Skua only the second to be seen. A brace of Red-throated Divers, 11 Dunlins, six Whimbrels, two Sandwich Terns and a distant Great Skua completed the set. On the Estate two late Fieldfares ‘chacked’ over with further movement consisting of seven Sand Martins, 23 Swallows, four House Martins, a Dunlin, and the second Greenshank of the year. Two Wheatears were along the shore and a solitary Whimbrel was showing well in the field behind Restharrow Scrape.
A chilly overcast start to the day was a good omen with expectation of grounded migrants. As it happened it was movement offshore that proved most interesting with two Red-throated Divers, five Fulmars, 16 Gannets, one Little Egret, nine Bar-tailed Godwits, nine Whimbrels, two Mediterranean Gulls, and a Sandwich Tern passing by. An influx of gulls into the area was noticeable with 1500 Herrings a minimum, bringing with it a 2cy Yellow-legged Gull which dropped into Restharrow Scrape briefly. Along the shore 16 Swallows, two House Martins, one Yellow Wagtail, and 49 Linnets passed over. When the sun appeared mid-morning a female Marsh Harrier drifted north over the Estate, where a single Whimbrel hid in the grooves of the asparagus fields. Finally, a small flock of nine Dunlins graced Restharrow Scrape for less than a minute before continuing northwards.
Apart from another Reed Warbler on Worth it was very much as yesterday, with only a trickle of migrants along the shore and little that was new in the bushes.
A bright start turned to overcast conditions by mid morning, but it was a day that brought a significant number of new arrivals. 2 Greenshanks on New Downs and 2 Reed Warblers on Worth were the first of the year and 2 Whimbrel nearly so, 15 Sedge Warblers on Worth was more than double yesterday’s total, a Marsh Harrier flew N out at sea and over 30 Swallows and 5 Sand Martins flew N, while Blackcaps have become so numerous that we may have to get the Council in.
Another bright morning with barely a breath of breeze brought our first Common Whitethroats of spring, a Yellow Wagtail and 4 Swallows that flew N and 2 Sand Martins, notable in the sense that they have been much scarcer than either Swallow or House Martin so far.
After a fairly pedestrian weekend we were treated to our first Lesser Whitethroat of spring, while 4 Willow Warblers represented a new influx and 139 Linnets flew N along the shore.
Early morning fog drifted off by 8am revealing another day of sunny clear skies. Unfortunately, little was moving on the bird front with the highlights a party of four Sandwich Terns heading north offshore towards Pegwell, a few Swallows darting through, two Bullfinches in Middle Field, and a late-ish Redwing in the Whitehouse. A terrific Weasel playing peek-a-boo in Restharrow Dunes and a Grass Snake in Little Gully more than made up for anything lacking on the avian front.
The undoubted highlight of this morning was the admittedly remarkable sight of at least 73 hot air balloons drifting through an azure sky on a barely perceptible NW breeze, apparently intent on setting a new World Record for a mass balloon crossing of the Channel. Makes you proud to be British. As for the birding, it would be nice to say it competed but it was fairly dire, although a few Swallows flew through, a few more Blackcaps were apparent on the Estate and 2 Green Sandpipers got up from the river along the Green Wall.
Forget jackals, this was the Day of the Red Kite. There were at least 5 over the Estate, with more to the north and inland making a remarkable total of around 20, at least 7 Common Buzzards and 4 Sparrowhawks flew N, as did 19 Swallows and a trickle of Linnets along the shore. A Brambling dropped into some shoreside bushes and at least 4 Mediterranean Gulls were consorting with parties of Black-headed Gulls over the sea.
143 Linnets, a Swallow and a handful of Goldfinches flew along the shore into a gentle NW breeze, a Brambling landed on the wood in Worth and a Little Ringed Plover was seen on New Downs. Otherwise, residents and migrants alike were much as they have been for the last few days, though a party of 8 Redpolls – quite scarce here in spring in contrast to autumn – dropped into the alders in the Haven before moving off.
This morning was heavily overcast and misty with occasional light rain or drizzle and although it didn’t precipitate a huge arrival of migrants a Tree Pipit was flushed from the edge of the golf course, 3 Willow Warblers were singing along the shore and 3 Swallows flew N, as did 4 Sandwich Terns offshore, two of which were being pursued by a pale phase Arctic Skua.
Fog. At least until just before 10, when it quickly lifted to reveal a beautiful sunny morning that was made even better by a striking Yellow Wagtail on the scrape and a quite superb adult male Hen Harrier that drifted by as we were watching the wagtail. Singles of House Martin and Willow Warbler were also forthcoming and 2 Wheatears were bouncing about.
Bright with a barely perceptible NW breeze there was a gentle trickle of 77 Linnets along the shore, 2 Swallows and a House Martin and, as the morning warmed up, 4 Common Buzzards flew N.
A trek along the beach to the Point in grey conditions was brightened up a Jack Snipe flushed from one of the small pools on 100 Acre field. Along route a male Wheatear danced around the buckthorn, two Sandwich Terns flew past offshore, and strangely, over 60 Carrion Crows fed on the exposed mud. The Green Wall seemed to hold good numbers of warblers with at least nine singing male Blackcaps and 15 Chiffchaffs making their presence known.