Warden, Ian Hodgson
I don’t recall exactly when I realised that Fulmars weren’t gulls, or that some gulls come with a ‘five plumages for the price of one’ offer, but I do still vividly recall the bird that got me hooked. It was a Wheatear. Even though it was a relatively dull autumn bird, its elegance and distinctive black and white tail marked it out as something special and I was soon looking forward to seeing them in spring the following year, and I still do.
Since then, it has been my good fortune to be able to travel to places like the Indian subcontinent and Borneo in the east, Israel and Turkey in the Middle East and, more recently, countries from Costa Rica to Brazil in the neotropics. They are all great places with some wonderful wildlife, but I’m still fascinated by the comings and goings of our own birds and they way they respond to weather, changing seasons and, now, a changing climate. If anything, birdwatching for 30-odd years has taught me that, enjoyable though it might be, a trip overseas is a just a snapshot and that such changes can only be appreciated by studying the often subtle changes that take place in an area over a whole year, then more years. To say nothing of how much there is still to learn.
It is a real privilege to be Warden at the Bay and to be able to work with the enthusiastic band of people who contribute so much. I am pleased to have provided and encouraged fuller coverage of the recording area, brought the annual report back on track, organised breeding bird surveys and ensured that butterfly and dragonfly surveys are carried out each week during the spring and summer.
I’m am keen to involve others in getting the best out of being at the Bay and to encourage visitors to discover the wealth of interest, in all areas of natural history, which the area has to offer. So, come and see us!
We are sad to say that Ian has let us know that he will be retiring in 2018. His will be a hard act to follow but we hope that we will find someone to fill his wellie boots. No doubt he will still be around long after August 2018, he just won’t have to be!
Assistant Warden, Steffan Walton
My road to Sandwich started in 2015 with Bardsey Bird Observatory shutting its doors during the winter months. I negotiated my way off the Welsh windswept island and down south to set up shop as a temporary volunteer at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. With eager eyes I set about the census areas documenting all I could find and scribbling it all down in my notepad. Straight away the common mainland birds of Britain caught my eye. I ran round watching all those birds that avoid little Welsh islands. I’m talking about the birds you mainland folk take for granted; Coot, Mute Swan, Green Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Grey Partridge and the first Pochard I’d seen in two years! After savouring the little things I began to pick out a few more notable sightings too including Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, Jack Snipes, Goosanders, with an overwintering Siberian Chiffchaff perhaps the most notable. Other interesting finds include my first Continental Coal Tits and flurry of rather late (December) Swallows. When not on census I enjoyed helping out the Ringing team whenever possible. This worked particularly well being the only person wanting to ring Blue Tits (there’s none on Bardsey to practise!). Staying on site had its benefits including my own personal Starling roost which appeared each evening over the fields surrounding the Bird Observatory. I would watch over 10,000 swirling birds avoiding the talons of Peregrines and Sparrowhawks, whilst both Short-eared and Barn Owls hunted nearby.
In the summer of 2016 I found myself drawn south again and spent three weeks helping out at the Bird Observatory. Birds were yet again abundant with waders particularly so, the cherry on the top being a dainty Kentish Plover at Pegwell on a glorious summer evening! What amazed me most though was the incredible invertebrate diversity. The ground was a carpet of Common Blues, the air thick with Migrant Hawkers, and the daily emptying of the Moth trap was a veritable smorgasbord of southern species. With a little effort, the hidden gems of Restharrow (moth), Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Willow Emerald Damselfly were discovered.
With the seed firmly planted I jumped at the opportunity to ply my trade as Assistant Warden at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory in 2017. Life on the mainland will be different, and I will no doubt miss my time on Bardsey, but there’s something very special about this little corner of Kent. Why not drop by and see for yourself what Sandwich’s hidden gem has to offer?