After what turned out to be a year with more spare time than usual, I’ve really got to know the Recording Area for the Observatory. Since October, I’ve been visiting the Bay regularly being fortunate enough to see some very cool species, and even find some of my own including Caspian Tern, Sand Lizard and Garganey. It’s not long before I’m due back for my final year at the University of Reading studying Zoology. After having time to familiarise myself with the places I had on my doorstep, it was obvious to me that I wanted to focus my dissertation around the Bay and the wider Stour Valley. Thankfully, the warden team at SBBO kindly gave permission for me to survey the birds around the area.

Drake Garganey by Steve Reynaert

You may have seen me out at a few of the places the Observatory monitor, mostly Worth Marshes, Pegwell Bay and New Downs. These are three of the five sites I’m surveying within the Stour Valley. My goal is to survey reedbed specialist bird species, in reedbeds of various sizes, structures and dynamics. By looking at the habitat data more broadly, we are hoping to establish hidden correlations between the species composition and the topography of the Stour Valley. It has been very exciting so far, I’ve done three visits for each site, which include: Westbere, Pegwell Bay, Worth Marshes, Stodmarsh and Green Wall/New Downs (Sandwich).

Reed Bunting by Paul Coltman

I’ve been successful in finding multiple species at each site, from Bitterns to Sedge Warblers. By conducting multiple point count surveys at various locations onsite, it means I’ve been able to record different species compositions depending on the habitat available. For example, Worth Marshes comprises of lots of reed-lined dykes with some larger segments, this has produced Reed Buntings, Reed, Sedge & Cetti’s warblers which is what we were expecting from this site. Compared to Stodmarsh, which contains some of the largest reedbeds in Southeast England; Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Water Rail have also been recorded which was predicted.

Cetti's Warbler by Nick Smith

What I have found interesting so far are sites such as Pegwell Bay, which in places hold very fragmented sections of reeds that can support some species. One small pond covered in reeds has held Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warbler singing regularly and the latter two displaying feeding flights. This came as a surprise to me considering its size and isolation. Once data collection is complete, we are hoping to analyse the data sets and use Geographic Information System (GIS) to help conclude further correlations regarding levels of management, landscapes and anything else we find!

Sedge Warbler by Steve Ray

I couldn’t be more pleased to include these places in my work for University, the SBBOT Recording Area contains some fantastic habitat which I will never get bored of searching and spending time at. I’m looking forward to my final two visits I have scheduled for August and excited to see what else I find through the data analysis in the near future!

Happy birding!

Jonathan Dodds

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