Birds: December 2018
A gloomy end to the year saw little new on the Estate except a Water Rail trapped and ringed. At least three Short-eared Owls were hunting the roughs of the nearby Golf Courses and the eight Pink-footed Geese were seen distantly on Worth.
A saunter across Worth was lovely in the morning sun. The eight Pink-footed Geese were still on show on Willow Farm (viewable from the Drove) and three Water Pipits were on the flood pools. Four Ravens were circling about, a Bonxie was off shore, but most unusual was a Red-breasted Merganser which headed inland over the Observatory late morning.
Some really nice flocks are utilising the fields around Restharrow Scrape, the recently cut asparagus crop, and the wider Worth area at the moment. At least 2,500 Lapwings and 550 Golden Plovers were in the area today and an impressive 540 Stock Doves. There was a small increase in Buzzards suggesting a bit of movement, a Grey Wagtail was knocking around the Observatory, and two Water Pipits were on Worth.
A few Caspian Gulls in Pegwell and at least four Short-eared Owls hunting the golf courses were the highlights today, plus a late Blackcap trapped and ringed on the Estate.
A busy day burning off the Xmas turkey. Worth supplied a smattering of good records including a Waxwing which only hung around briefly before flying off towards Betteshanger CP, Water Pipit, Hen Harrier, and eight Pink-footed Geese (from the Drove). On the Estate three Ravens and two Short-eared Owls were floating about causing anarchy within the 2,000+ Lapwings and 400 Golden Plovers, the Bar-tailed Godwit was still present on Restharrow Scrape, and at least one, possibly two, Woodcock were around the Whitehouse area.
Not many people out today (unsurprisingly) but excellent numbers of Caspian Gulls in Pegwell again were a nice present. At least six this afternoon plus three Yellow-legged Gulls too. Merry Christmas everyone!
A wander around the Estate in sunny calm conditions saw the first Woodcock for a few weeks flushed out of Little Gully, an increase in Blackbirds, the Bar-tailed Godwit still on Restharrow Scrape, and at least three Short-eared Owls. Pegwell was fairly productive with a Black-throated Diver, four Caspian Gulls, and ten Goosanders (possibly a record here). I’m sure many people will be thinking more about mince pies than Spring but signs that it’s just around the corner include singing Mistle Thrush, mating Teal on Restharrow Scrape, a pair of Carrion Crows tending to a nest, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee buzzing around Middle Field, and the emerging new buds on the Willow trees. It’s all happening folks!
A bit windy still from yesterday but not bad out there, it made for a refreshing walk actually. Today New Downs held 60+ species despite the local shooting syndicate causing anarchy. The highlights were three Pochards (which have become a lot rarer here in recent years), the mobile immature ringtail Hen Harrier, and a rare sighting of Yellowhammer on New Downs (i think only my second there).
The gales during the night continued unabated throughout the morning with the occasional shower. Despite this the semi-resident Tawny Owl was seen again on Worth. A rare bird round these parts. Offshore a Great Skua was terrorising Great Black-backed Gulls and a major influx of Caspian Gulls saw at least seven in Pegwell plus three Yellow-legged Gulls.
Not nearly as much activity on the avian front as yesterday but the lovely weather made up for it. Not bad at all as we near the end of December. The Estate Lapwing flock numbered over 800 which was an excellent sight to see as they whirled around Restharrow Scrape, with 110 Stock Doves opposite on the asparagus fields too. The lone bird of particular note was a Rock Pipit on the beach. There was no sign of yesterday’s Cattle Egret.
Rubbish conditions in the morning as heavy rain battered down on the Bay. Things sorted itself out by midday though with spells of bright sunshine revealing Cattle Egret, Hen Harrier, and Bar-tailed Godwit on and around Restharrow Scrape, the lingering Velvet Scoter offshore, six Pink-footed Geese on Worth, Black-throated Diver in Pegwell, and over 700 Lapwings on the Estate.
A spell staring offshore saw five Mute Swans head out to sea from inland, one Great Skua south, 158 Gannets south, and 71 Auks south (with at least eight identifiable Guillemots). The Hen Harrier appeared around Restharrow Dunes in the evening with a Cetti’s Warbler also calling nearby.
There seemed to be a lot of activity this morning after the deluge that arrived late yesterday afternoon. A big movement of 2,000 Cormorants headed out to sea from inland in a repeat of the last two winters. They seem to roost at Stodmarsh overnight, depart at the crack of dawn, feed a few miles offshore, and return in the evening. Also offshore were 170 Great Crested Grebes (our highest count this winter period) and an Eider. Wildfowl numbers are building too on Worth with 450 Wigeons today along with Green Sandpiper and Hen Harrier which both seem set to overwinter, as do four Snow Buntings along Prince’s Beach. And finally a shout-out to the Green Wall which seems to get neglected by visitors. At least two Bearded Tits were along the river, as was a Firecrest, and woodland species such as Coal Tit and Treecreeper put in an appearance. However six Crossbills that flew north were most interesting with one bird clearly sounding much deeper as it flew over.
A frosty start saw seven Pink-footed Geese and the ringtail Hen Harrier on Worth, and two Snow Buntings on Prince’s Beach. A Green Sandpiper was on New Downs and a Barn Owl was flying about near the Sandwich Tollgate. However Short-eared Owls were most noticeable with at least six, possibly more in the area.
Arctic conditions out there today seemed to move a few things around with Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin obviously new on Restharrow Scrape. Five Eiders were seen flying past off shore at 09:05 and amazingly were then recorded passing Dungeness at 10:20. Travelling roughly 40 miles in an hour and 15 minutes suggests a continuous speed of around 32 mph. Not bad! A few other bits off shore included a Goldeneye and the first Fulmar for some time.
Another quick spell on the sea just after dawn proved to be worthwhile. Imagine my surprise when a drake Smew flew north at mid-distance! Asides from a continuous passage of Herring Gulls and Cormorant flocks milling about there wasn’t much else moving. Just as i left though a nice Velvet Scoter materialised on the sea opposite the Sailing Club, no doubt the same bird which has been seen on and off for the last few weeks.
The Pink-footed Geese on Worth today numbered seven, with Water Pipit and four Peregrines also on offer. The Estate beach was bitterly cold but an hour’s seawatch was capped off by a fly-by Velvet Scoter.
Quite a cold morning despite the sunshine. At least five Pink-footed Geese were still loitering on Worth (viewable from the Drove) and two Bar-tailed Godwits were in with the Curlews on the Estate.
A morning’s walk produced Water Pipit and four squealing Water Rails on the Green Wall whilst New Downs scored Raven, Brambling, and a flock of 19 Lesser Redpolls in the alders near Prince’s Reservoir.
Out finishing off WeBS counts in the northern parts of our recording area saw the Cattle Egret still in residence on New Downs. A few Snow Buntings were on Prince’s Beach, whilst Worth had four Pink-footed and eight White-fronted Geese, and the Tawny Owl again. Two Pintails and a Yellow-legged Gull were the best in Pegwell though 1,400+ Lapwings and 700+ Golden Plovers made for a nice sight too.
Brisk and windy conditions again produced seven Pink-footed and six White-fronted Geese in the usual spot on Worth, as well as a rare sighting of Tawny Owl in the Great Wood, but in the afternoon a cracking Rough-legged Buzzard flying north over Stonar stole the show.
All hands on deck on Worth marshes for our monthly WeBS count. There was no sign of yesterday’s Whooper Swan anywhere but nine Pink-footed and six White-fronted Geese were still out on Willow Farm viewable from the Drove. A Firecrest was along the Worth track and three Ravens were tumbling about, whilst off shore a female Velvet Scoter was sitting all on it’s lonesome.
Wall-to-wall rain all morning but the ringtail Hen Harrier was seen again quartering by Restharrow Scrape. In the late afternoon the weather cleared up allowing the discovery of a Whooper Swan on Restharrow Scrape. It only stayed briefly before moving onto the fields next door consorting with five White-fronted Geese and the Greylag Goose flock.
Yesterday’s poor weather hampered sightings but things were back to normal again today. In fact it was better than normal. A busy sea-watch saw over 850 Cormorants, 95 Red-throated Divers, and 150 Teal offshore but it was the quality that trumped the quantity with single Black-throated and Great Northern Divers and best of all, a Puffin! Our first sighting since 2007 and surprisingly our 27th record, though at least 14 of those have been found dead. A long trek to the outer reaches of New Downs also provided interest with the Cattle Egret relocated by Backsand Point feeding amongst cattle on the edge of the Sampher (approx. TR340609). Two Firecrests and a Merlin were decent stocking fillers too.
A brisk morning after cold northerlies through the night. It was however sunny as summer and we made the most of it. Walking the Point produced an exceptional flock of 22 Snow Buntings which is easily the highest here for a number of years. A ringtail Hen Harrier was cruising around on Worth where the Bean, Pink-footed, and White-fronted Goose flock remained.
The day seemed to be in continuous flux with calm spells of sunny weather interspersed with overcast conditions, a strong southerly breeze, and occasional showers. The birds obviously don’t mind as much as us as there was still plenty to see. Yet again Worth stole the show with the residing goose flock. Today it numbered seven Tundra Beans, seven Pink-footed, and eight White-fronted.
Geese, geese, geese. Seven Tundra Beans, seven Pink-footed, and five White-fronted on Worth this morning. Walking along the Point (ahead of the showers) found a delightfully showy Snow Bunting opposite Prince’s Lodge and then a trip to Restharrow Scrape found the Cetti’s Warbler still present along the path.
More-or-less a write-off today. The horizontal rain was particularly unpleasant. A (wet) intrepid explorer persevered and confirmed the presence of seven Pink-footed Geese still on Worth.