The month came to a soporific conclusion, with 3 Siskins yesterday and not much more exciting than a ringtail Hen Harrier and a Black Redstart today.


180 Fieldfares and a Little Egret flew over in the hour after dawn and some movement offshore included 2 drake Eider, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, an influx of 38 Red-throated Divers and another Little Egret. A trudge over Worth was good for the bodily particles, but not much else.


Another dull morning was enlivened by the arrival of a ringtail Hen Harrier from the NE, 70 Fieldfares around HQ and 197 Lapwings moving N in small parties.


In a brief window of gloom before rain set in again after more fell overnight 110 Fieldfares were chuckling about and a Red-breasted Merganser passed by offshore. 


A male Marsh Harrier flew across the Obs car park first thing and a frosty start with a brisk E breeze drove us to the sea, where there was very little going on, although news emerged later that a Slavonian Grebe had been seen in Pegwell. Numbers on the scrape continue to increase and here are some of the Gadwall, taken by Steve Ray with his brand new 500cc Canon.

Gadwall on the scrape by Steve Ray
Gadwall on the scrape by Steve Ray


The morning set out calm, clear and decidedly crisp, with a light frost in the Oasis, where 51 Fieldfares were cackling away like something out of Macbeth. 249 Lapwings flew N in several flocks, 815 Teal were on the scrape, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest were in the Elms, with a female Bullfinch close by, and a Great White Egret was seen on New Downs.


Despite a misty start, the morning was initially calm and sunny, not unlike a still day in March, with Mistle and Song Thrushes singing lustily. 230 Fieldfares departed from their roost first thing and 2 Black Redstarts, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest were on the Estate, while a Kestrel flew strongly N and a Buzzard was perched just inland of Restharrow Scrape, where a wandering Cetti’s Warbler sang briefly before the gloom set in and rain began to fall once again.


After 600 Fieldfares emerged from their overnight roost first thing a rather chilly spell looking out to sea was reasonably productive, with a Great Northern Diver flying S and 16 grey geese that were probably Pink-feet, moving S in the murk. 2 Marsh Harriers visited the scrape with predictable consequences and a different adult Yellow-legged Gull was on Willow Farm.


Apparently 250 Fieldfares dropped in to Worth yesterday afternoon and the influx continued this morning, with over 2,100 arriving from the NE and mostly moving away to the S/SW, mainly in the first hour or so after first light. Otherwise, 9 Snow Buntings were on the shingle and across on Worth were 2 Pink-footed Geese and 12 Whitefronts.


Around 130 Fieldfares either departed from their overnight roost or dropped in during the course of an increasingly overcast morning, 61 Brents flew by offshore, where a small influx of 14 Red-throated Divers was apparent, and 3 Chiffchaffs were fiddling bout in the Oasis. Otherwise, there was a fresh influx of 45 Blackbirds and 18 Skylarks flew S over the sea.


This morning’s early birds included 44 Fieldfares, a Grey Wagtail, 3 Little Egrets and 400 Rooks, issuing forth from their roost at the golf club, and 8 Redpolls. Though most of yesterday’s Blackbirds had moved on, a round of the Estate produced a Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Bullfinch in the gullies, while 397 Brent Geese flew S offshore and a Harbour Porpoise cruised S in the distance.


Overnight rain stopped well before dawn but the morning was calm and heavily overcast with regular light and sometimes prolonged showers. Most activity took place just after first light, as 19 Fieldfares, 60 Goldfinches, 2 Chiffchaffs and 8 Song Thrushes departed in various directions from their respective roosts and a Marsh Harrier flew in from the NE. Otherwise, at least 90 Blackbirds were noisily apparent on the Estate.


A day much like yesterday and folks took the opportunity to head to the sea and walk toward the Point. 2 Black Redstarts remained on the Estate, 6 Snow Buntings were scattered along the shore and the wintering Dartford Warbler was found in its favourite patch of Sea Buckthorn accompanied by 6 Stonechats.  Good numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits took advantage of the calm weather while offshore the Common Scoter flock had increased to 24 and a Bearded Tit was found on Worth.


A calm, dank, overcast morning. A Redwing trapped early hinted that birds had moved in overnight and indeed the number of Blackbirds and Robins on the Estate had increased however it was hard going. A silent (at least to my ears) Firecrest accompanied 3 Goldcrest in the Elms, 2 Black Redstart plus single Chiffchaff and Swallow. A/the huge buzzard-sized Peregrine perched on a fence post on Worth was visible for miles followed later by a peregrine-sized Buzzard.


A brisk SSE wind with squally showers, heavy at times, offered little shelter on the sea-front however a sea-watch from 8 – 9.30 revealed a steady stream of Gannets (92) and GBBGs (126) heading S.  In between the showers, a party of 4 Little Gulls (8 past Deal Pier) and 6 f/imm Red-breasted Mergansers close inshore were the highlights.  The scrape held the usual suspects with the Teal at 470/0 by the morning tea interval.


The Estate was very quiet with no visible movement on either land or at sea in the mild southerly wind until just before noon when a large falcon sp. created pandemonium as it went through the locals like a dose of salts.  Otherwise, a male Marsh Harrier on Worth and a ringtail Hen Harrier on New Downs together with eight Grey Herons and 13 Little Egrets were the highlights.


Another bright and breezy morning produced a Kingfisher on the North Stream and Peregrine and Marsh Harrier over Worth, though the Estate was very quiet.


It was a bright morning with a SE breeze kicking the leaves with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy with a tin can, if indeed they do that these days. A round of the Estate was much as expected, with 16 Goldcrests, a Bullfinch (fairly scarce locally), a brief flurry of Skylarks in off the sea and small parties of Woodpigeons moving over from the NE.


Marsh Harrier by Nick Smith
Marsh Harrier by Nick Smith

More rain fell from before dawn and the morning was one of slow-moving showers and occasional bright bits. Not surprisingly, the water level on the scrape has risen by an inch since last Friday and is now ominously more or less at the same level as in mid December last year. Birding interest was limited to several parties of ducks on the sea, probably having been shunted off the scrape by a visiting Marsh Harrier, which was munching a Moorhen at the weekend, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull at the Point.


WeBS count day in the Lydden valley was much as expected, with low wildfowl numbers and few plovers. However, at least 130 Skylarks were on the fields, 6 Swallows were seen, a Siskin flew over the Estate and, best of all, a Ring Ouzel was flitting about with substantial nmbers of Blackbirds along the blackthorn hedge leading to the railway.


Appropriately enough for the time of year, a trudge over  New Downs was not unlike The Somme must have been a hundred years ago, though fortunately without the bullets. The mild conditions ensured low numbers of wildfowl, but 2 Greenshanks were unusual, since they have usually departed by now, and a Swallow flew across the lettuce fields. Elsewhere, 4 Twite and a Short-eared Owl were seen along the beach.


More rain fell overnight, intensifying into heavy, squally downpours, and when the sun broke through in mid morning Merlin, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine were seen over the scrape and adjacent fields.


A bright, cold start brought a real feel of early winter as small groups of Redwings, Song Thrushes and Fieldfares departed from the hedgerows, Chaffinches were audible all morning in the clear blue overhead, several parties of Lapwings flopped N and a flock of 7 Pink-footed Geese, seen earlier over Worth, flew N across the golf course. There were also 17 Redpolls, which are showing signs of increasing in numbers at last and, by way of contrast, 4 Swallows dipped briefly on to the scrape.


The end of the year is shaping up much as last, with more overnight rain and thunder and showers this morning, blending into longer spells of rain with a NW breeze. An hour and a half peering out to sea produced small numbers of Wigeon, Brents, Grey Plover, Knot and Dunlin and, the bird of the day, a Sandwich Tern that flew towards Pegwell. As the rain relented around mid day 163 Redwings flew in from the sea and headed inland.


Yesterday’s rain lasted on and off into the night and only gave way and hour or so after dawn, so it was hardly surprising that a trek around the Estate, on to the Chequers and then along the beach to the reserve yielded very little apart from the Dartford Warbler in buckthorn to the north.


Rain commenced before dawn and lasted throughout the morning, which was notable (if that’s the right word) for 65 Gannets crusing past offshore, some very close, and a Jack Snipe on the scrape.


On a rather fractious morning with a strong SW wind a Pomarine Skua and a Merlin were seen offshore and an Egyptian Goose was seen on the Estate.


It remains almost sub-tropical and birds today included Lapland Buntings on the Estate and at the Point, the first Goldeneye of the year (!) on one of the New Downs reservoirs, a Short-eared Owl, also on New Downs, and a ringtail Hen Harrier.