The Estate was a little quiet for the last day of the year but a few Chiffchaffs lingered in The Elms and a Grey Wagtail was at the Observatory. The usual good mix on Worth marshes comprised Goldeneye, Pintail, Water Pipit, two Ruffs, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, and the White Stork.
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed sightings and photos over this past year. I look forward to seeing what appears next year. On the Warden’s wishlist are Twite, Roseate Tern, and Iceland Gull for 2022. Any of those at Sandwich Bay will do! If you do see anything unusual, or took some nice photos in the area, or just want to get in touch with a query, you can email in at email@example.com. Best of luck.
A good mix of birds offshore included a female/imm male Velvet Scoter and a Shag. The regular White Stork was mobile around Worth today whilst c.100 White-fronted Geese were also present.
The big flocks of Lapwing were still in the area with 5,200 on Worth alone. Four Ruffs were on the flooded fields near Restharrow Scrape.
At least 50 Barnacle Geese were still on Willow Farm, viewable distantly from the Drove, and five Water Pipits were on the pools on the other side of the railway. The biggest talking point was the massive arrival of Lapwings. A minimum of 7,400 birds were in the area.
A grim day with rain on-and-off. A few Chiffchaffs and a handful of Redwings were the best on the Estate but two Little Gulls were seen offshore.
I hope everyone had a good Christmas Day. A wander out in the afternoon to burn off the turkey also produced two Dartford Warblers in the gorse bushes by the Drove, and then at least two, perhaps up to five, Woodcocks on the Green Wall.
Around 70 Barnacle Geese were still on Willow Farm, viewable at times from the Drove, and 11 Pink-footed Geese were new in with them. The White Stork remained on Worth and a drake Pintail was on the pools. Five Short-eared Owls, a Marsh Harrier, and a Hen Harrier were quartering between Restharrow Scrape and the Chequers in the evening.
The wintering Hen Harrier put in a brief appearance flying through the Estate heading towards Worth marshes. At least 220 Golden Plovers were in the field next to Restharrow Scrape. The winter geese were hard to see again but at least 42 Barnacle Geese and 50 White-fronted Geese were on Willow Farm, with four Brent Geese and the White Stork on the other side of the railway. A Black-throated Diver was offshore.
It was much harder work compared to the last few days but the White Stork was still around and some of the White-fronted Geese were just about visible on Willow Farm.
A mixed flock of nine Brent Geese, 55 White-fronted Geese, one Pink-footed, five Tundra Bean, and 68 Barnacle Geese were on Worth marshes, with the Hen Harrier and White Stork also seen. The size of the Barnacle Goose flock is particularly notable, with this being the largest number in the area since the record influx of December 2010 (which peaked at 390 birds!).
With all these Geese around at the moment it is worth drawing your attention to the many cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 in the UK this winter, confirmed in both captive and wild waterbirds and birds of prey. Large numbers of dead birds have been found on the Solway in particular, including around 4,000 Barnacle Geese. Other outbreaks are being reported widely across the UK. Birdwatchers can be of great assistance in staying alert for unusual cases of mortality or sickness in wild birds. If you notice unusual sickness or mortality in the area, you should report them by calling the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm) and selecting option 7, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all birds may be picked up for testing but collating this information may reveal patterns. It should be stressed that HPAI is a disease of birds. It is of great concern for the poultry industry but does not appear to be a major issue for human health in the UK. The advice is that there is no danger from normal birdwatching activities. Sensible basic hygiene should be used if you do come into closer contact with birds.
Two Velvet Scoters flew north offshore. There have been a number of sightings of Velvet Scoter recently so there may be a a few birds lingering in the Bay and moving back and forth with the tide. Hopefully they will stay for the winter. At least 40 Barnacle Geese appeared on Worth marshes, presumably the flock seen in Pegwell Bay yesterday. The flock moved around a bit before settling on the Willow Farm side, viewable distantly from the Drove or the path behind the sandpit area. Up to 18 White-fronted Geese and a Merlin were also on Worth, and a Tree Sparrow was seen again in the sandpit.
The ringed Eastern Lesser Whitethroat from two weeks ago re-appeared in The Elms in a mixed Tit and Chiffchaff flock. There’s every possibility it could winter in the area so keep an eye out. At least 26 White-fronted Geese were still on Worth marshes, as well as the Goldeneye and the White Stork, whilst the Dartford Warbler and five Tree Sparrows were in the sandpit area again. Another Dartford Warbler was seen in the Sea Buckthorn along Prince’s Beach and over in Pegwell Bay there was an excellent count of 42 Barnacle Geese and two Tundra Bean Geese. A Velvet Scoter flew along the shore too. Not a bad haul considering the dense fog for most of the day.
A reminder that a ‘Telegram’ Group has been set up for SBBOT members to share sightings of scarce, rare, or sought-after birds (and other taxa) in or around the SBBOT Recording Area. It works like a communal WhatsApp group and is a great way to get real-time updates from the area. If you wish to participate (or just read updates) you will need to first download the Telegram app onto your mobile phone and then email your name and mobile number to email@example.com. You will then be sent a link to join.
An excellent day of winter birding. Good coverage of Worth discovered a mixed flock of Geese consisting of at least 27 White-fronted Geese, one Tundra Bean Goose, and nine Barnacle Geese, among the Greylag Goose flock. They spent most of their time on the Willow Farm side, viewable from the public footpath behind Restharrow Scrape, though were equally mobile and secretive at various times. There were further totals of one Goldeneye, one Woodcock, three Green Sandpipers, 49 Snipes, six Jack Snipes, and five Water Pipits, with the White Stork still present.
Whilst viewing the aforementioned Geese, a Dartford Warbler and a Tree Sparrow showed briefly in the sandpit at Dickson’s Corner. There were now 12 Snow Buntings south of Sandilands on RCPGC and seawatching was just as productive with another eight Barnacle Geese north, a Shag, and a Little Gull.
The light north-easterly breeze meant that it felt much colder today. Time looking offshore was again worthwhile with 170 Red-throated Divers, 363 Cormorants, 129 Wigeons, seven Teals, one Red-breasted Merganser, two-three Velvet Scoters, ten Common Scoters, 49 Great Crested Grebes, and 104 Auks. Two Mute Swan were also a strange sight sitting on the sea. A Snow Bunting flew south along the shore and a Brent Goose went over the Estate.
The low cloud with not a breath of wind made for a mild morning around the Estate. The flock of 11 Snow Buntings were still by the raised tee on Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course (south of Sandilands) and a flock of Siskins were in the Haven. The sea was a millpond with lots to see, namely 317 Red-throated Divers and 172 Great Crested Grebes, but also a handful of Razorbills. Over on Worth marshes the highlights were two Water Pipits and the White Stork.
New Downs produced a Green Sandpiper on the flooded fields and over 1,000 Lapwings. Four Pochards were on Prince’s Reservoir and at least two separate Bearded Tits were calling from reedbeds around the South Pool and the North Pool. Over on Worth the White Stork was still feeding in the arable fields near the Round House, with a Hen Harrier and Water Pipit also present. In the evening seven Water Rails were calling along the Green Wall and three Water Pipits came into roost.
There was an arrival of Meadow Pipits and Water Pipits on Worth marshes, with at least five of the latter. A Woodcock was on the Estate, 11 Snow Buntings were seen on RCPGC, and at least one Dartford Warbler was refound at Dickson’s Corner after going missing for a few weeks.
A little look at the records so far this year show a handful of ‘missing’ species that usually turn up at Sandwich Bay. They are Bewick’s Swan, Quail, Black-necked Grebe, Kentish Plover, Glaucous Gull, Yellow-browed Warbler, and Crossbill. The latter two were particularly unusual. Crossbill is known for ups and downs corresponding to irruptions to the south coast. Last year was excellent for Crossbill so perhaps it is not too surprising how few are around this year, though it is still unusual not to record a single bird all year. Yellow-browed Warbler is missing largely due to the lack of easterly winds across Europe at the right time of the year. It’s still time for a Bewick’s Swan or a Glaucous Gull to appear if we’re lucky so keep looking.
Ten Snow Buntings and a Tree Sparrow were in their usual spots around the RCPGC/Dickson’s Corner area. Worth marshes was productive with Goldeneye, Water Pipit, Brambling, Hen Harrier, Mediterranean Gull, and an increase in Wigeon and Teal. The White Stork was still nearby at the Round House.
Restharrow Scrape is still busy with wildfowl and proving to be one the favoured hunting grounds for the local Hen Harrier. The ringtail was seen a few occasions throughout the morning. Singles of Blackcap and Brambling were caught by the ringing team and six Snow Buntings were on Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course.
At least six Tree Sparrows were still around Dickson’s Corner. On the Green Wall three Water Rails, a Green Sandpiper, and a Brambling were the highlights.
A nice male Merlin was on Worth marshes, as well as the White Stork and Goldeneye, and a Shag joined the melee of Cormorants offshore.
The Tree Sparrows made a welcome re-appearance around the sandpit area with at least 16 present in the scrubby undergrowth and nearby Hawthorns. At least 1,434 Cormorants were offshore and at high tide in Pegwell Bay there were flocks of 49 Shelducks, 310 Wigeons, 882 Oystercatchers, 265 Lapwings, 128 Curlews, 101 Redshanks, 420 BH Gulls, 590 Common Gulls, and 435 Herring Gulls. Two Avocets and 31 Black-tailed Godwits were unusual for mid winter. Three Water Rails, a Green Sandpiper, and a Coal Tit were also on the Green Wall.
In the aftermath of Storm Barra it was a nice enough morning. The main conversation point was the return of the Cormorants. Many of you will recall that the last five or six years have seen large numbers (4,000+) offshore during the winter. They typically roosted at Stodmarsh overnight and could be seen heading out to sea each morning. They have been coming back each winter, often resting in Pegwell, though reduced numbers were seen last year. At least 900 birds were offshore early on today. A Great White Egret was also on Worth marshes briefly but flew off towards Ham Fen. The White Stork was still probing around the fields and the predictable Goldeneye, Pintail, and three Green Sandpipers also present.
A Lesser Whitethroat that was trapped and ringed during the morning showed features of one of the Eastern races, mostly like blythii, or even halimodendri. There were a few Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll on the Estate and still lots of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. The White Stork was still on Worth marshes.
A Great Northern Diver offshore was the best of the day. The White Stork continues to attract a steady stream of visitors on Worth marshes, with three Green Sandpipers, Pintail, and Goldeneye as support. A Merlin was at Dickson’s corner which has been a good area for this small falcon recently.
Hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, and Starlings were between the Drove and the Estate. Two Merlins and a Hen Harrier were making the most of it and a Barn Owl drifted from post to post. The White Stork remained.
A Red-breasted Merganser was the best on offer out at sea and Teal numbers rose to 715 on Restharrow Scrape. Meanwhile the White Stork flushed a Woodcock on Worth marshes!
The White Stork was still on Worth marshes with an influx of Gadwall onto the pools. A drake Goosander was nice offshore.
Singles of Pintail, Goldeneye, and Hen Harrier were on Worth marshes, along with the White Stork, meanwhile visibility was good for seawatching and rewarded us with Great Northern Diver, Shag, and Great Skua offshore. A Merlin was near Restharrow Scrape.
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