Birds: March 2014
Calm and warm with some watery sunshine, a troll around a steadily drying Worth marshes produced totals of 8 Chiffchaffs, 11 Song Thrushes that were clearly migrants, a Raven over Willow Farm, a Buzzard and, on the scrape, a sleepy drake Garganey. There was also late news of a Hobby, flying over the Great Wood in the afternoon.
Typical of days with an easterly breeze, it was a morning of high cloud, watery sunshine and indifferent visibility. There was little change from yesterday, though on the scrape was a very interesting adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that on the basis of absence of contrast between the black of the upperwing and primaries and delicate build with an almost Common Gull-like head shape was almost certainly a Baltic Gull L.f.fuscus.
A bit like the flopsy bunnies after too much lettuce, this morning was rather soporific, though one Wheatear was bouncing about on the field south of the sailing club, the drake Garganey was still on the scrape and the Blackcap was mumbling to itself in the Elms.
The morning brought a moderate trickle of 120 Linnets into a chilly NE breeze, with a Raven and a party of Carrion Crows scrapping nearby, 3 Firecrests and a Coal Tit in the Elms and a drake Garganey on the scrape. Probably of most interest, though, were 3 Harbour Porpoises, one of which spent nearly an hour in the shallows very close to the beach.
A calm, overcast and fairly mild start soon became truly character-building as a cold SE wind set in. Birding was predictably hard work, but there was a drake Garganey on the scrape, a Firecrest was fiddling about in conifers in the Little Elms, a Peregrine put up everything around the Observatory and 7 Chiffchaffs were on the Estate.
A hard frost came as a bit of a shock to the system, but it soon dissolved and the rest of the morning was sunny with a barely perceptible breeze from off the sea. Best bird was a Spoonbill that flew N over the scrape, while at least 15 Chiffchaffs were scattered about, a Blackcap was singing in the Elms again and someone re-discovered one of the Shorelarks along the beach.
Cloudless with a cold W breeze there was virtually nothing moving along the shore, though 7 Chiffchaffs, a Firecrest and a Blackcap were on the Estate and 2 Buzzards were soaring over Worth.
Bright and blustery again, it was mostly quiet, although 7 Chiffchaffs were located between the Chequers and the Estate, one Wheatear remained along the shore and 2 drake Garganey were on the scrape.
Overnight rain cleared around 8.30 to introduce a contrastingly sunny morning with a developing W breeze. A male Marsh Harrier flew N soon after the sun came out and 6 Wheatears remained along the shore opposite Prince’s, but it remained quiet until arriving at the Elms where a Blackcap was singing.
’tis the vernal equinox and thus the first day of spring! To celebrate the event, 8 Wheatears had arrived along the shore, where a male Snow Bunting in nearly full summer plumage, found by the ringers yesterday, was still showing well at Prince’s new accommodation block (photo by Andrew Lipczynski). 4 Chiffchaffs were singing on the Estate, but a buffeting SW wind made it rather hard work, despite the wall-to-wall sunshine.
A dull start with a light WSW breeze was enlivened first by a Serin that flew N along the shore, then by two Bearded Tits that flew from Mary Bax and then on to Restharrow Scrape in front of an appreciative warden. A Peregrine was also seen over Willow Farm but all of this was rather against the run of play.
Coverage of the Estate, Pegwell and New Downs on an eventually sunny day with a developing SW breeze produced no surprises, although an Avocet was in Pegwell and a Common Buzzard flew N over Prince’s.
6 Chiffchaffs were present between the Chequers and the Estate, while some desultory overhead movement included a Redpoll, but little else.
On a bright day with a WNW breeze, there was a light but persistent trickle of Linnets and Meadow Pipits along the shore, where the Shorelarks were seen again and a Black Redstart was seen briefly, while the Crane, obviously having roosted overnight, flew south at 07.30. A handsome Firecrest was in the Elms, 3 Siskins were recorded and the afternoon brought reports of 6 Red Kites over the Chequers; apparently part of a substantial influx into the county from the south.
At least the breeze drove the fog away this morning, which featured a probable Long-eared Owl in off the sea, 2 Sand Martins, 130 Redwings and the Shorelarks, still enjoying themselves on the beach. There was news in the afternoon of a Crane flying north across Worth.
Although fog was again very slow to clear, it proved to be a very pleasant morning. 2 Black Redstarts were present along the shore, 31 Brents flew N over a glass-calm sea and the Shorelarks were showing well on the beach opposite the Chequers. The sun eventually appeared around 11.30, illuminating 4 superb drake Garganey that had arrived on the scrape.
Fog, with visibility of less than 200m, persisted until late morning but eventually lifted to reveal a sunny, warm day. A few parties of Black-headed Gulls and 48 Brents flew N in the gloom, a female Merlin was on the fence bordering the golf course and the Shorelarks, though very hard to find, were relocated on the beach again.
A bright and calm morning started very slowly, with the only interest being a Little Grebe calling from St.George’s bushes, a site that before this sodden winter would have been about as likely as Deal High Street. Otherwise, 2 Redpolls flew N, 2 singing Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest were in the Elms, the Shorelarks were still on the beach opposite the Chequers and there were indications that Starlings are starting to build in numbers, with around 1,000 between the Obs and Mary Bax. However, just to show you never can tell, a Rough-legged Buzzard flew N over the Estate at 10.10.
There was very little on the move on a grey, chilly morning with a stiff NE wind, save for 60 Lesser Black-backs N along the shore, most of which were graellsii types. Otherwise, the Egyptian Geese were on New Downs again and 4 Pintail were decorating the scrape, where 7 Little Grebes were scrapping like fishwives.
A bright initially still morning with a gathering NE breeze produced some long-awaited movement along the shore, amounting to 54 Linnets, 14 Meadow Pipits, 3 alba wagtails and 2 Redpolls. A Chiffchaff was hawthorn-hopping in the Oasis, where a Fieldfare was singing stridently, and 2 Egyptian Geese and 37 intermedius Lesser Black-backs were on New Downs.
As the good weather continued the Shorelarks remained at Cinque Ports, six pairs of Lapwing were displaying over the RSPB’s Willow Farm diggings, over 150 Fieldfare flew west over the Field Centre early on and three Chiffchaffs were singing in the Elms.
A search for spring migrants on a misty, murky morning with a gentle SSW breeze proved fruitless, though a selection of gulls on the turf field held 18 graellsii Lesser Black-backs and five Dunlin and a Redshank were reported from Restharrow Scrape. A party of five Redwing was flitting high through the Elms and our first Chiffchaff of the spring was singing in gardens on the avenue. Water levels in the gullies remain so deep that pairs of Little Grebe and Moorhen have taken up territory in Waldershare Gully!!
A dull, dreary and overcast start to the day with a freshening SW wind and occasional sunny spells. It was evident that many of the Chaffinches and Greenfinches had moved on while the Fieldfare flock in the Oasis had increased to 36 plus four Redwing. Offshore four Red-throated Divers were scattered among 32 Great Crested Grebes, many of which were unpaired. The two Shorelarks, present yesterday, continue to attract a trickle of admirers. Otherwise the highlight was a report of an early Osprey carrying a fish, seen between Hacklinge and Ham.
The good weather continues with sunshine and a cool SW breeze. A stroll over the golf course to the sea revealed the flood waters slowly receding. Chaffinches were aplenty and the local Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks in fine voice. At 08.40 trumpeting Crane/s were heard briefly from the direction of Pegwell Bay however despite keen searching could not be located – very frustrating! Offshore the Great Crested Grebes were down to 17 and the only movement was three dark-belllied Brent Geese and two Siskins south. In the distance on the Sandwich Flats, a vehicle and five blokes were gathered around something stranded by the low tide – Seal? Cetacean?
A lovely warm, dare I say it, spring day. The sun quickly melted an early frost and with a very gentle NW breeze the temperature had risen to a heady 12 degrees C by 10am. The bees were a buzzin, a Small Tortoiseshell nectared on dandelion in the Middle Field and a Peacock flew over the car park. Bird-wise it was quieter than yesterday, although a Yellowhammer was trapped in the Whitehouse and the Shorelarks were found again on the beach (photo by John Ball).
A bright cloudless sunny morning although the cool NW breeze kept a lid on the insects. With 18 Fieldfares in the Oasis Field and more Chaffinches noticeably present it was obvious some movement had occurred although if it was still underway it went unseen and unheard high in the wide blue yonder. Offshore, Great Crested Grebes continue to decrease with only 43 counted on a flat calm sea. The two Shorelarks were refound at their usual place on the sea-wall opposite Cinque Ports GC but were flighty and skittish. The scrape hosted the usual suspects, including 450 Teal, 22 Shoveler, 18 Gadwall and 8 Wigeon while back at HQ completing the log sheet in warm sunshine, a Raven was cronking nearby and found in the field toward Royal St George’s inspecting the fence posts.
Wind again from the SW, a day of sunny intervals and showers with the Bay surrounded by ominous dark clouds. No visible movement on either land or sea. Offshore, Great Crested Grebes were down to 138 while Little Grebes had increased to 3 pairs on the Scrape. Highlights were 2 ‘alba’ Wagtails heading north over Restharrow Dunes, a Woodcock flushed from The Elms close to the road, Ring-necked Parakeets at their nest site on Waldershare Ave and 3 Mistle Thrushes in fine voice. The Shorelarks were seen Sunday but not today despite several folks looking.
Inspired by the prospect of some visible migration in the first NW breeze of the year, 3 hours on the seafront produced absolutely nothing overhead, though plenty of Chaffinches were calling from the bushes nearby. Still, despite the gloom, there was enough interest offshore to make it worthwhile, with northward movement of 24 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 3 Eider, 214 Great Crested Grebes and 4 Pintail.