A Woodlark on the short turf field next to Restharrow Scrape took top billing. It didn’t stay long though and moved off towards The Elms area. Six Whimbrels went north offshore and one flew over the Estate, with a Willow Warbler in the Haven. The first Turtle Dove of the year was on Worth marshes whilst a walk to the Point produced Red-legged Partridge and 24 Whimbrels. New Downs was reasonable too with three Canada Geese, six Whimbrels, two Common Sandpipers, three Greenshanks, three Cuckoos, two Sand Martins, two Yellow Wagtails, two Wheatears, 27 Whitethroats, three Lesser Whitethroats, and 18 Reed Warblers.
Three Avocets and a Bar-tailed Godwit were on Worth marshes whilst five Canada Geese continue to linger in the area. Canada Geese often turn up here in ones and twos around March time, presumably prospecting for nest sites, but rarely stay long. However, this spring has seen larger numbers than usual and they have stayed for longer periods. There’s at least eight birds currently present. With all the recent wetland creation in the area it’s probably no surprise that this species is becoming more frequent.
A pair of Tree Pipits were new in at St George’s bushes. This is a species which can be hard to find in spring with no more than a handful of records each year. Autumn is a lot easier with plenty of birds around in late July and August. Listen out for their distinctive buzzy calls overhead. There were a handful of Whimbrels on the Estate, as well as Greenshank, Yellow Wagtail, and a few Mediterranean Gulls overhead.
A good spell in the northern sectors of the Recording Area this morning. There were 29 Whimbrels, three Wheatears, and four Ring Ouzels (three males) on Hundred Acre field viewable from the public footpath. A Cuckoo was munching on Brown-tail caterpillars on the Sea Buckthorn along Prince’s Beach whilst two Swifts flew north. Over in Pegwell there were excellent counts of 110 Shelducks, 289 Bar-tailed Godwits, 49 Mediterranean Gulls, and 1,410 Herring Gulls. There was also the remains of a long-dead Slavonian Grebe at the Point, presumably take by a Peregrine.
The last few Wigeons are still clinging on to the pools on Worth marshes. There were still seven Whimbrels and 14 Greenshanks on offer and Lesser Whitethroats now numbered four.
Two Pomarine Skuas north offshore started the day well and two Red-breasted Mergansers followed shortly after. Over on Worth there was lots of action as two Little Gulls flew north over Blue Pigeons (part of a huge movement through the UK), a late Water Pipit lingered, eight Wheatears fed on fence posts, and warbler totals increased to 45 Sedge Warblers, four Reed Warblers, one Lesser Whitethroat, and 18 Whitethroats. There was a small arrival of waders including two Snipes, 12 Whimbrels, 13 Greenshanks, one Green Sandpiper, and four Common Sandpipers. A Cuckoo was at the Observatory, two Wheatears at Sandilands, and a Willow Warbler on the Green Wall.
There were three Bar-tailed Godwits and 15 Whimbrels between the Drove and the Chequers, two Bar-tailed Godwits and four Whimbrels on the Estate fields, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits offshore, and a further six Whimbrels on the other side of the railway on Worth marshes. This is peak time for spring passage of both of these species. Some sites along the south coast have seen hundreds passing by offshore and Pegwell Bay is often a good spot for them to stop off on migration. There was also Willow Warbler and 19 Mediterranean Gulls on the Estate, plus three Greenshanks and a Lesser Whitethroat on Worth.
There was no sign of the White Stork photographed by a visitor yesterday afternoon on Worth. New Downs was very pleasant but still remarkably cold. There were nine Bar-tailed Godwits, one Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpipers, and two Common Sandpipers on the pools, plus two Wheatears, a Cuckoo, a Willow Warbler, and an increase in Whitethroats and Blackcaps. There were another 11 Bar-tailed Godwits on the Estate, a Wheatear on Royal St George’s Golf Course, and three Bar-tailed godwits and 18 Whimbrels near the Chequers.
The last few days have been difficult in a blanket of fog. Two Mediterranean Gulls and a Siskin were on the Estate this morning with a Siberian Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler on Worth marshes. Late news then came in of a White Stork on Worth marshes.
As it’s now nearing the end of April it’s worth remembering that not everything you see will be passing through. Many birds are now breeding so take care when visiting the area. Don’t stray off footpaths or encroach too close to nests. I also recommend having a read of THIS guidance on rare breeding birds, in particular the parts relating to photography, disturbance, and social media.
An early start on the Estate felt more like winter with Brambling, Siskin, Fieldfare, and an influx of Song Thrushes in the cold conditions. The sun soon came through and other birds started moving, with nine Mediterranean Gulls, two Bar-tailed Godwits, two Whimbrels, and a Willow Warbler. A dead Sandwich Tern picked up on the Estate was very peculiar but presumably dropped by a passing Peregrine. Over in Pegwell our first Reed Warbler of the year was singing and later a White-tailed Eagle went over Worth marshes. After going missing for a few hours it was relocated kettling over Stonar and joined by a Rough-legged Buzzard! A further cherry on top came when analysing the night’s Nocmig data with the clear calls of a Stone-curlew flying over, as well as Ring Ouzel and Tree Pipit.
Singles of Black Redstart and Wheatear were on the Estate and our first Lesser Whitethroat was in Stonelees. Much larger numbers of Sedge Warblers arrived on Worth with at least 20 present now. A Red Kite also drifted north over the Green Wall.
Yesterday’s White Stork went north over Roaring Gutter on Worth marshes before heading off inland towards Ham and Eastry. Presumably it was from the recent Knepp release scheme but this is a good time of year for overshoots from the Continent. Still on Worth were our first Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit of the year, plus a rather late White-fronted Goose.
Most activity was on Worth marshes today with a Great White Egret, two Blue-headed Wagtails, five Wheatears, three Little Ringed Plovers, two Bar-tailed Godwits, two Green Sandpipers, and a Yellowhammer. In the afternoon a White Stork was reported heading north towards Pegwell.
Rather nippy still even in the spring sunshine. There was some light sea passage including a few Brent Geese, Common Scoters, Whimbrels, and a Bar-tailed Godwit and Linnets moving along the shore. A few Redwings and a Yellow Wagtail were new in on the Estate.
A couple of Whimbrels and the first Fieldfares for some time were on New Downs this morning. There were a few summer-plumaged Golden Plovers on the Estate fields, a singing Firecrest, and some Wheatears on Worth marshes. A drumming Snipe was also reported on Worth marshes by a visitor, which would be an excellent record. Fingers crossed it stays around for the summer.
Another thick frost at dawn but soon the sun came out and revealed a stunning day. New Downs was excellent and produced a total of 75 species, not bad at all for a morning’s work. A drake Garganey on the Sampher pool was the highlight and the first recorded here this year. Other birds of note were a female Pintail, an immature male Hen Harrier, two Whimbrels, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, four Mediterranean Gulls, a Yellow Wagtail, and a Willow Warbler. Worth marshes was also good with a summer-plumaged Lapland Bunting very nice (though a little mobile), a Willow Warbler, and a Water Pipit.
The England Coast Path is one of the longer walks that go through the SBBOT Recording Area. It takes in most of New Downs and Prince’s Beach. The raised walkway meanders from Backsand Point, borders the Sampher at it’s northern most point, runs along the edge of Hundred Acre field and Prince’s Golf Course, and comes out onto the beach. It’s a long walk with little shelter but excellent birding. The grassland at the northern end of New Downs often holds Whimbrels, Curlews, and Yellow Wagtails and the fenceline is good for chats. The Sampher itself is a private area, with no general access, used primarily as grazing for cattle. There are lots of Hawthorn bushes dotted across the field and most of the year a large pool. It is a reliable spot for Ring Ouzel, Lesser Whitethroat, and Nightingale as well Garganey and freshwater waders. Scanning across Hundred Acre field can be productive for raptors such as Merlin, Marsh and Hen Harrier, and Short-eared Owl. It’s well worth a trip. A few maps can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.
With a heavy frost at dawn it didn’t feel spring like at all. Singles of House Martin and Whimbrel were seen flying over the Estate though and there were a handful of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in song, plus a few Whitethroats new in. Give it a week and the scratchy song of Whitethroat will be heard all over the place. I expect Lesser Whitethroat to make an appearance any day now too. The first records often come from the Blackthorn hedges bordering the Worth track so keep an ear out for their ‘rattling’ song as you go through. For a slightly harder quest, try finding a Nightingale this week. They’ve begun appearing at their breeding sites inland so sites such as Pegwell/Stonelees are a good shout.
A Hen Harrier toured around various sites in the morning, two Water Pipits were still on Worth, joined by eight Wheatears and 31 Golden Plovers, and a male Redstart showed well in Stonelees.
A female Blue-headed Wagtail was the highlight in a medley of spring migrants on Worth marshes which included our first Whitethroat of the year, three Little Ringed Plovers, 30 Swallows, seven Sedge Warblers, a Merlin, and a Red Kite. Lingering wildfowl on New Downs included eight Canada Geese and a Pintail, as well as a House Martin (which have been a little later coming through this spring). A long trudge up to the Point discovered two more Whitethroats, a Wheatear, a Greenshank, 124 Sanderlings, and passage of four Sand Martins, 22 Swallows, and 53 Linnets north. Across the river in Pegwell there were 160 Sandwich Terns.
A early wander around the Green Wall produced a slew of spring migrants with 13 Chiffchaffs, four Blackcaps, six Sedge Warblers, and one Swallow, plus two Siskins, four Yellowhammers, and a singing Goldcrest. Eight Water Pipits, two Ruffs, two Canada Geese, and a Siberian Chiffchaff were on Worth marshes.
A few things were new in on the Worth marshes pools including a Ruff, three Canada Geese, and a White Wagtail, whilst a Red Kite drifted over. A Merlin and 31 Golden Plovers were seen over the Estate. We’re fast approaching peak Kentish Plover time. It’s definitely worth having a brush up on Kentish Plover identification, have a read of THIS article for some tips. Pegwell Bay is now the most reliable site in the UK for this declining species, so for best results get yourself to Pegwell at dawn and scan through the migrant flocks of Ringed Plovers in the Bay during April and May. Good luck.
Still very chilly out there. There was no sign of yesterday’s Eagle but a steady passage of birds moving through in the northerly wind. At least 116 Sandwich Terns and 29 Common Terns went north offshore, two White Wagtails dropped in on the Estate, two Red Kites went over, and there was a light movement of finches along the beach, mostly Linnets, but also a few Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and Siskins.
The weather has become a lot colder and windier, there was even snow falling late morning. A few bits and pieces went past offshore, namely Brent Geese, Common Scoters, Kittiwakes, and Sandwich Terns, with a Whimbrel the best over on Worth. Late in the afternoon an immature WHITE-TAILED EAGLE flew south over Worth marshes.
Bright and sunny at times. Two Grey Herons and two Buzzards thermalled over the Obs and there was an increase in hirundines on Worth with at least 14 Sand Martins and 45 Swallows. The two Water Pipits remain and are in stunning summer plumage. Look for them on the muddy pool just before the concrete bridge at Roaring Gutter.
The two Blue-headed/’Channel’ Wagtails remained on Worth marshes. The Yellow Wagtail taxonomy is rather complex but across Europe and further east there are a number of different races; some with black heads, some with white throats, some with different calls, etc. The usual Yellow Wagtail we see in Britain is ‘British Yellow Wagtail’ M.f.flavissima and the males are completely yellow. We do regularly see Blue-headed Wagtail M.f.flava in among migrant flocks though. These birds usually breed in France and show dark blue heads with white superciliums. However, there is a small hybrid zone between the British and French populations and these birds show mixed features, these are known as ‘Channel’ Wagtails. The birds currently on Worth marshes show a number of features which do not correlate with pure Blue-headed Wagtail, such as paler and greyer head than M.f.flava with no trace of blue, a thick and (mostly) even-width supercilium – in particular in front of eye, a noticeable white sub-ocular patch, and a yellow throat with minimal white on the chin. These could be features of the rarer eastern race ‘Syke’s Wagtail’ M.f.beema or within the natural variation showed within Blue-headed or ‘Channel’ Wagtail. Several authorities state often regard these forms as inseparable.
Also of note on Worth were five Swallows, two Sand Martins, and our first House Martin in over a month, whilst on the Estate a Long-eared Owl was seen.
Two Great Crested Grebes on the Green Wall were unusual and a Lesser Redpoll flew north (we don’t get many of these in spring). There was a good flock of 24 Sand Martins and six Swallows on Worth, plus the two Blue-headed/’Channel’ Wagtails. Three Whimbrel also went past offshore. I expect numbers of these to pick up over the next few weeks. April is one of the best months for wader passage so look (and listen) out for Greenshanks, Ringed Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, and Common Sandpipers, as well as rarer birds such as Curlew Sandpiper and Kentish Plover.