Birds: April 2018
Weather doesn’t get much worse than it did today. A day of wall-to-wall torrential downpours and a force 8 northerly gale. Sneaking out briefly to Restharrow Scrape brought rare rewards in the form of a flock of 27 Sandwich Terns and a summer-plumaged Turnstone.
It’s almost May but a serious chill in the air meant it was back into winter plumage with hats and gloves essential. A trickle of Whimbrels were heading past offshore and at least 11 Wheatears were spread between the Sailing Club, RCPGC, and Dickson’s Corner.
Out early on Worth to try and beat the showers forecast for mid-morning. Rewards were thin on the ground with the two Egyptian Geese putting in an appearance between the Observatory and Worth track, 40+ Swifts heading over, and good numbers of breeding warblers. An Arctic Skua was harassing the Sandwich Terns in Pegwell where our first Garden Warbler of the year was also singing. In the evening a Whinchat was a rare spring find amongst the Wheatears at Dickson’s Corner whilst 14 Whimbrels and a Bar-tailed Godwit dropped in at Willow Farm.
A cloudy, grey, and cold start to the day only seemed to get worse as rain hit just before midday. Things were surprisingly quiet with little sign of migrants grounded by the overnight cloud and showers, though Restharrow Scrape delivered a fine pair of Egyptian Geese. However late in the morning a few things starting moving including two separate Great White Egrets north over Worth and the strange sight of a Fulmar heading south over the Observatory. Pegwell brought us our first Curlew Sandpiper of the year, 18 Whimbrels, and a delightful male Redstart.
Another day, another Ring Ouzel. This time a dapper male on Worth marshes in the morning. At least four Swifts were recorded amongst a trickle of hirundines and further overheard passage consisted of three Yellow Wagtails and a handful of Linnets along the shore. Only the second Arctic Skua of the year was offshore, a Cuckoo was in the Cellars, and 52 Whimbrels were in Pegwell.
At least this morning was bright, though the cool breeze was still nagging away. A trek across Worth produced a singing Grasshopper Warbler, a Cuckoo, and ten Wheatears. More Wheatears were evident along the shore as well, with eight along Prince’s beach and six on the Estate beach in the best arrival of the species so far this spring. Six Mediterranean Gulls flew over the Green Wall and singles of Ring Ouzel and Hobby were probably the best of the rest
Well, the hot spell is well and truly behind us, for the time being at least. Dull with a chilly SW breeze, apart from 3 Med.Gulls N offshore there was little activity until well on into the morning when our first Swift of the spring flew N, with a Hobby not far behind.
It was another bright morning, albeit with a rather chilly breeze, which brought a bit of migrant interest, mainly involving 16 Whitethroats and a Hobby that flew in off the sea, as did a trickle of House Martins and Swallows, while 42 Linnets flew N in dribs and drabs.
It was another one of those spring Kent days with wall-to-wall sunshine and a surprisingly strong but refreshing southerly breeze. A few birds took advantage of the conditions with overhead movement consisting of five Red Kites, and for a few lucky observers, a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW north over Restharrow Scrape.
Hazy but bright throughout the day encouraging a small movement of six Red Kites north overhead (part of a widespread movement over East Kent these last few days). A Shag was sitting offshore and singles of Whimbrel, Greenshank, and Green Sandpiper were flying around over the Estate.
Very similar to yesterday but warmer and without much avian interest, though a Willow Warbler broke the run of blank days and Mediterranean Gulls were again vocal, though largely invisible in the cloudless sky, probably involving 5-6 individuals. A Great White Egret flew over Roaring Gutter and an excellent eight Black-necked Grebes were in Pegwell.
Another day of wall-to-wall sunshine and increasing temperatures that produced a good deal of activity across the area. A Short-eared Owl was the first bit of interest to show, heading inland from the direction of the sea, then a party of 8 Mediterranean Gulls flew noisily over; the first of 12 for the morning. A very smart male Black Redstart was hopping about on a shoreside wall, 4 Ring Ouzels were discovered in bushes along the shore at midday and most warblers had been augmented by new arrivals, though we haven’t recorded a Willow Warbler for several days now and if spring passage is indeed over for them, they really have hit an all-time low. It was a similar story inland from the coast, with increased warbler numbers, 2 Greenshanks on one of the wet rills, a Jack Snipe and a Garganey on the North Stream.
Although the breeze had dropped and it was a good deal warmer, with a clear blue sky, it was again much more interesting on Worth where 3 Cuckoos were present, along with the first Grasshopper and Reed Warblers of spring and 2 Great White Egrets.
Bright but with a pest of a breeze the coastal strip was very quiet, in contrast to events on Worth where a Great White Egret was seen again, along with the first Cuckoos of spring, 3 Lesser Whitethroats and 2 Whitethroats. Singles of each were also seen on the Estate and one Yellow Wagtail flew over.
New Downs’ bit of the monthly WeBS count was not the most exciting, particularly as 3 drake Pochards were probably the best birds on offer, although a Red Kite flew N with 2 Common Buzzards as the morning warmed.
Fortunately, having had to endure all that horrid sunshine yesterday, the weather reverted to dense fog that failed to clear until around 9.15 am. Against this background, the sight of a Bittern flying N over the golf course was surreal, to say the least, though apart from 11 Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs there were otherwise precious few migrants on the Estate.
It’s amazing how a few hours can change everything. Dawn saw dense fog over the Estate and barely a bird visible but by mid morning it all had cleared leaving a sunny spring day in it’s wake. Yesterday’s haul of spring migrants couldn’t be beaten alas, but we had fun trying. Two Black Redstarts were frolicking around Restharrow Dunes, a late Woodcock was flushed from Middle Field, and the Firecrest was in the Elms singing away where two smart Bramblings were wheezing at each other. A Ring Ouzel and two Whimbrels were the main highlights on Worth along with three Yellow Wagtails, a Firecrest and 13 Sedge Warblers. New Downs scored with two Little Ringed Plovers, 48 Redshanks, two Mediterranean Gulls, and rarest of all, a drake Pochard.
The weather continues its good cop, bad cop routine, with decent days alternating with rubbish ones. This was a decent one, despite the ongoing gloomy conditions, with New Downs producing a Hobby, a Yellow Wagtail, two Whitethroats, an excellent 31 White Wagtails and – wait for it – two Egyptian Geese. Nearer to home, a Lesser Whitethroat was singing on Worth track, a Little Ringed Plover was on the nearby sheepfold, a Spotted Redshank was heard again in the mist, and another Yellow Wagtail was found in the afternoon. On the Estate a second Hobby, two Wheatears, a Black Redstart, and a/the male Redstart were spotted, though pride of place went to a singing male Wood Warbler in Pegwell.
Another day of Mordor-esque gloom that oscillated between mist and fog. Unlike yesterday there was not much going on, though a Ring Ouzel was found at Roaring Gutter, 2 Hawfinches flew over Worth and, on the Estate, 4 Avocets flew N in the mist and a Whimbrel did so just offshore.
In the spirit of the utterly unpredictable, today’s weather was pretty similar to yesterday but with a lot more birds. There had been an overnight arrival of warblers and their associates, involving 14 Chiffchaffs, 12 Blackcaps and 6 Firecrests and moderate numbers of Linnets, Goldfinches and Meadow pipits flew N. 4 Green Sandpipers flew over Worth and a Spotted Redshank called unseen in the mist, but had the good grace to return at lower altitude so that we could see as well as hear it. However, the bird of the morning was a quite stunning male Redstart, flycatching from the fence bordering the Elms, with a Black Redstart and a Pheasant nearby for comparison.
This spring just refuses to cheer up. This morning’s delectations included early mist that suddenly transformed into fog around 8 am, rendering noisy offshore Sandwich Terns invisible in the murk. Not surprisingly, nothing was moving and grounded migrants amounted to 2 Willow Warblers, 13 Sedge Warblers and about 22 Chiffchaffs on the Estate and Green Wall. The sun did appear briefly at midday but immediately disappeared, fearful of what it was illuminating, presumably.
Overcast, misty and quite chilly in a cold NE breeze, it was quite a contrast to the warmth of yesterday afternoon. A stroll across Worth was rewarded by 4 Avocets that got up from one of the flooded fields and headed off north, 7 Sedge Warblers, buzzing away quite happily despite the weather, 7 Swallows and good numbers of Cetti’s Warblers, which happily seem to have survived the excesses of late February and early March unscathed. To the north, 2 Ring Ouzels were found on the Hundred Acre Field and a Great Northern Diver was seen offshore.
Two Hawfinches were seen again, while 15 Swallows flew through, a male Ring Ouzel was in the Oasis and overflying bits and bobs included one Brambling.
Low cloud and a humid southerly breeze looked promising at dawn and sure enough there was plenty to see throughout the morning. In terms of visible migration pride of place went to the two Hawfinches which flew south over the Gullies just after 9am. Further overhead passage consisted of five Swallows, one House Martin, two Bramblings, and 19 Siskins. On the Estate our first Willow Warbler of the year was trapped and ringed whilst three White Wagtails, eight Firecrests, one Black Redstart, and one Wheatear were highlights. On Worth marshes the first Whitethroat of the spring was singing away as were four Sedge Warblers, and two Avocets were on Willow Farm. Clearly warblers had arrived and a combined total of ten Blackcaps and 21 Chiffchaffs were recorded throughout the morning. Offshore passage was notable too for five Eiders, two Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black-throated Diver, and a Common Tern, and it also brought us the most unexpected sighting of the day too, a BEAVER heading south along the shoreline. Madness!
Despite a clear sky, a nagging and rather cold SE wind took the edge off any warmth the sun had to offer and birding was consequently a bit of a struggle. However, one lucky observer was treated to the sight of a male Ring Ouzel south of the Chequers. Five Red-breasted Mergansers flew south, 5-6 Swallows flew through and a Red Kite drifted N over Worth. In the afternoon a stunning summer plumaged Water Pipit was on Restharrow Scrape.
Predictably this morning was nowhere near as good as yesterday, with a chill NW wind inhibiting any movement or, indeed, much enjoyment. 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and an Arctic Skua flew by offshore and another Sparrowhawk flew in off the sea, but it was otherwise very quiet.
Life’s like that isn’t it? A very similar morning to Tuesday, with a brisk S breeze and mostly sunny conditions, produced a movement that far exceeded anything we experienced yesterday, mostly involving birds moving into the wind. Totals included an exceptional 163 Siskins, 524 Chaffinches, 76 Linnets, 2 white wagtails (8 others were seen on the Estate), a Merlin, 2 Sparrowhawks that flew in from the NE and small numbers of other finches and pipits, including 4 Bramblings and 2 Bullfinches, while a House Martin was our first of the year and 2 Great Northern Divers flew N at sea – also a notable local record. 2 Black Redstarts were also present and, away from the shore, a Sedge Warbler singing at Roaring Gutter on Worth was also the first of spring.
Bright spells make it a reasonably warm start and although the brisk S breeze took the edge off things it turned out to be a decent spring morning. 25 Sandwich Terns were sitting on the shore, with at least 18 more flying N, the Estate held 4 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs and 2 Firecrests, while a Water Rail where it shouldn’t have been was probably a migrant. Overhead movement included 118 Chaffinches, heading S into the wind, a Sparrowhawk that flew E out to sea towards the French/Belgian coast and a restless Coal Tit on the shore. At least 5 Swallows included 2 over Worth, where a Red Kite was seen again. The Wheatear remained on the golf course turf field.
Yesterday’s male Wheatear still lingered in the turf field behind Restharrow Scrape whilst a new female-type Black Redstart was showing well at the Sailing Club. A group of 14 White Wagtails on the partially flooded field surrounding the Dragonfly pond was a particularly nice find, whilst seven Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest were dotted around the Estate, and in the evening our first Swallow was hawking around in the rain! Meanwhile the first Little Ringed Plover of the year was on Worth marshes as well as five further Chiffchaffs.
For what is the first day of the butterfly transect season, this was more like a late winter day in Iceland. However, it did produce the first Wheatear to have been recorded on the Estate this year (how often have we reached April without seeing one?), while a possible rubicola-type Stonechat was seen close by. Otherwise, there was nothing moving, except those returning hot-foot to HQ to warm up. In the evening two Firecrests were on the Green Wall and two Goosanders were in Pegwell.