Saturday 31st

It was hard work in the windy conditions but a good variety of birds were on offer. The Great Grey Shrike was still on Worth marshes, with 200 Golden Plovers, two Caspian Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull, and a late Hobby seen. A Pomarine Skua and two Red-breasted Mergansers flew south offshore.

Friday 30th

The Great Grey Shrike remained on Worth marshes. For those visiting, the Shrike has been favouring the eastern side of the Roaring Gutter area, just past the concrete bridge. Though it can roam around a bit so keep checking the tops of the various hawthorns. The Great White Egret was seen again, as were two Water Pipits.

On the Estate two Crossbills flew over, a Great Skua was seen offshore, and a juvenile Peregrine stooped and took out a Teal from Restharrow Scrape. The latter was quite a sight for those in the hide at the time!

Peregrine and Teal by D.McLean

Thursday 29th

An early start on the Estate to try and beat the rain forecast. There was some light finch passage with 63 Lesser Redpolls, 27 Siskins, and 14 Crossbills over. A Black Redstart on the sea front may have been the same bird lingering the last week or so. There were the first signs of autumn Woodpigeon movement and, after a quite spell, there were a few Corn Buntings near Restharrow Scrape. The Worth duo of Great Grey Shrike and Great White Egret continue to attract a steady stream of admirers.

Wednesday 28th

The Great Grey Shrike was still present on Worth marshes (with some new photos suggesting it is actually a different bird to the one which arrived on 17th October), plus a Great White Egret, three Water Pipits, and a few Brambling. Four Tree Sparrows flying around Mary Bax were presumably the same lingering group.

Tuesday 27th

The Great Grey Shrike was still present on Worth marshes, plus a Great White Egret and a Water Pipit, whilst there was a report of a Siberian Chiffchaff in The Elms. If anyone knows more about it could they drop me an email?

In other news, today marks 44 years to the day of Sandwich Bay’s one and only American passerine, Swainson’s Thrush. Still the only east coast record in the UK.

Monday 26th

The flock of four Glossy Ibis remained on Worth but were a bit more mobile than usual. There were late records of Whinchat and Hobby whilst the Great Grey Shrike reappeared around Roaring Gutter after a weeks absence. There were at least three Tree Sparrows flying around the Estate and a walk along Prince’s Beach saw both Dartford Warbler and Snow Bunting. A Richard’s Pipit was reported from the sandpit area by Dickson’s Corner before flying off towards Restharrow Scrape.

I’ll also draw your attention to the next batch of online talks which are now available. Tickets can be purchased HERE.

Sunday 25th

Very similar to yesterday on Worth marshes with the four Glossy Ibis still present. New Downs was good with two Cattle Egrets, 300 Golden Plovers, and three Grey Plovers, whilst a Pintail was at the Point.

Saturday 24th

The four Glossy Ibis were rediscovered on Worth marshes in the morning whilst two Tree Sparrows were in the same place on the Estate.

Friday 23rd

Three Green Sandpipers and singles of Firecrest, Coal Tit, and Corn Bunting were on the Green Wall in the morning. News then came out of a Glossy Ibis on Worth marshes, but almost straight away the bird was up and heading off south east. Amazingly, a few minutes later a separate flock of four Glossy Ibis were then seen flying south over Mary Bax (with presumably the same flock seen earlier in the morning on Thanet). Despite searching the birds were not seen again, though a Great White Egret was seen on Willow Farm. At one Tree Sparrow was also seen along the footpath behind Restharrow Scrape and the asparagus fields.

Great White Egret by A.Lipczynski

Thursday 22nd

A late Hobby and a few Brambling were on Worth marshes and a ringtail Hen Harrier hunted over Hundred Acre field. There was also a report of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the The Elms, a very rare bird around here these days.

Wednesday 21st

Wet and windy all morning but a Black Redstart was by the Cellars and a Rock Pipit on Restharrow Scrape.

Tuesday 20th

A little quiet this morning but there was a good count of six Ravens over Restharrow Scrape and a few Crossbills.

As we’re approaching Christmas i’ll point out that the Observatory has some cards for sale (see HERE). You can drop by the Obs on Sundays between 11:30-12:15 or purchase them online. It’s an easy way to support us in this difficult time.

Monday 19th

There was no sign of either of yesterday’s Shrikes but two Yellow-browed Warblers, a Common Redpoll, two Black Redstarts, and a Firecrest were on the Estate. The Cattle Egrets on New Downs had increased to three. The main talking point of the day revolved around a few Crossbills seen in The Elms and later outside Middle Field, with some suggesting they show features of Parrot Crossbill.

Crossbill sp. by S.Ray

Looking at this photo (and others online) the bird certainly shows a larger bill than usual. However, the lower mandible lacks an obvious bulge, the bill tip lacks the distinct curvature which should create a blunt and squared-off end, the bill is clearly longer than it is deep, it has a clear forehead bulge, and the head/neck are not stocky. These features all suggest the bird is a particularly large-billed Common and not a small-billed Parrot. But the taxonomy of Crossbills is complex with lots of intraspecific variation. Without sound recordings birds are not always 100% identifiable.

Sunday 18th

The day was spent censusing the northern parts of the Recording Area for the monthly WeBS counts. It was time well spent with lots to see. A Snow Bunting and 120 Sanderlings were at the Point whilst a large pipit along the beach frustratingly avoided firm identification. A Short-eared Owl hunted over Hundred Acre field and two Cattle Egrets were in among the cows by the Sampher. There were lots of Crossbills flying over again with 71 north over New Downs and an additional 24 over the Estate. A fantastic Great Grey Shrike appeared along the Kent Coast Footpath by New Downs Pool (TR338590) before flying off towards the Poplars at the Polytunnels. Thoughts that it may have been yesterday’s bird relocating were discounted when the Worth Great Grey Shrike was seen again around Roaring Gutter. New Downs also provided Firecrest, Raven, Water Rail, Peregrine, Rock Pipit, Hobby, and a few Yellowhammers, whilst two Ring Ouzels were also seen on Worth (the latter two have both been particularly scarce this year). Over in Pegwell the Spotted Redshank was seen again and in the afternoon a Yellow-browed Warbler worked its way around the Obs carpark.

Great Grey Shrike on Worth by A.Lipczynski

Using data from our WeBS survey the Lapwing, Golden Plover, and Curlew counts will be forwarded on to the BTO and the International Wader Study Group to assess the status of their populations in Europe. But you don’t need to be a WeBS counter to take part. Anyone can contribute. If you’ve seen any Lapwings or Golden Plovers this weekend then submit your sightings to BirdTrack to help out. For more information click HERE.

Saturday 17th

It was another day full of action and real quality. Just after 8am a DUSKY WARBLER appeared around the sandpit area between Dickson’s Corner and the Clay Pigeon Shoot. It remained extremely secretive in the brambles, and disappeared quite quickly, but thankfully some excellent recordings of the call were obtained which confirmed the identification. Visible migration wasn’t as pronounced as yesterday but there were still regular passing flocks of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and Siskins overhead. A few parties of Brambling and Crossbill went north, including a splendid flock of 32 of the latter which perched briefly in the Little Elms before continuing on.

Crossbill by S.Ray

There was no sign of yesterday’s Pallas’s Warbler at the Drove but a late Whinchat raised the heartrate for a few seconds. Over in the Whitehouse though, the ringing team turned up a new Pallas’s Warbler. The day continued to get better and better as news then came through of a Richard’s Pipit showing on Worth marshes (field on left, from the track which leads down from Jubilee Rd onto the marshes), a Black-throated Diver flew past offshore, and then, to wrap it all up, a Great Grey Shrike appeared at Roaring Gutter.

Pallas’s Warbler by S.Walton

Friday 16th

A frantic morning with lots of birds to keep everyone happy. The major talking point of the day was the fantastic finch ‘vismig’ with minimum totals of 1,300+ Lesser Redpolls, 1,200+ Siskins, 700 Goldfinches, and an excellent 120 Crossbills recorded going north. The Estate bushes were bustling with Goldcrests with at least 131 recorded (with 45 each also on Worth and the Green Wall), plus two Firecrests, whilst a Dartford Warbler on the Estate beach was a nice find. A Great White Egret flew north over the Oasis and the first Woodcock of autumn was in the Gullies.

Firecrest by S.Ray

With so many Goldcrests around we knew it wouldn’t be long before a Pallas’s Warbler appeared, and soon enough one was discovered in the Poplars at the Chequers  reservoir (later relocated at the Drove). Whilst watching the area a stunning Long-eared Owl also came flying in, landed on the reservoir fence in front of us, and then flew off north towards the Drove. Later, news came in of a Little Auk sitting just offshore before flying off south.

Pallas’s Warbler by A.Lipczynski

Thursday 15th

The morning was mostly spent dodging rain spells and counting Goldcrests. The latter had obviously arrived fresh-in overnight with at least 55 birds recorded on the Estate. Just over 140 Goldfinches went north, as well as 58 Siskins and 17 Crossbills, whilst 160 Starlings came in off the sea. The last few weeks have seen steady Crossbill passage and rarely a day goes by without a sighting or two. The key to finding them is the distinctive ‘chipping’ sound they make as they fly over. There was also a small increase in Robins and Thrushes and 124 Brent Geese flew north offshore. Over on Worth marshes four White-fronted Geese were seen and the Spotted Redshank was seen on the garage pool in Pegwell again.

Brent Goose and Pintail by P.Blanche

Wednesday 14th

The easterlies brought our first Goldcrest fall of the autumn with at least 40 scattered around the Estate. Goldfinches were moving along the shoreline and Crossbills further inland, with at least 70 of the latter recorded. A reasonable spell of movement offshore comprised 150 Brent Geese and smaller numbers of Wigeons and Scoters whilst Pintail, Pochard, and Avocet were recorded on New Downs. A Yellow-browed Warbler was spotted in Pegwell.

I’ll also use this opportunity to draw attention to the Big Bay Birdwatch organised to run between 26th October-1st November. This is a great little initiative designed to get young people outdoors over half-term and spend a bit of time enjoying and appreciating nature, and hopefully raising some funds for the Observatory. Please spread the word.

Tuesday 13th

It was raining all morning but at least 250 Brent Geese, 90 Gannets, 42 Common Scoters, and a Great Skua were seen offshore and 90 Redwings were on the Estate.

Monday 12th

An excellent day dominated by finches. It began with a splendid Hawfinch in the Hawthorn bushes by the Oasis, before flying off strongly north. Soon after Lesser Redpolls began moving and before long there were large flocks flying through every minute or so. Our tally by the close of play was over 1,200 birds! We’re still looking into it but this may constitute a new UK record. Among the large number of Lesser Redpolls ringed by our ringing team were also two nice and pale Common Redpolls which comprise our first records in almost two years. Away from assorted Redpolls there were also four Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 31 Skylarks, two Rock Pipits, 70 Blackbirds, 18 Fieldfares, 153 Redwings, 620 Starlings, two Bramblings, 109 Goldfinches, 90 Siskins, and one Crossbill recording moving north. A late Whinchat was among 11 Stonechats and small numbers of Brent Geese were moving offshore.

Redwing by N.Smith

Sunday 11th

The Estate felt cold, especially in the first few hours, but it was worth persisting with two Yellow-browed Warblers seen. Overhead passage was light but 42 Crossbills, two Bramblings, 200 Lesser Redpolls, and an exceptional 94 Reed Buntings were recorded. A Short-eared Owl was over the Oasis and there was an increase in Redwings. There were now three Bearded Tits on Worth marshes whilst a Purple Sandpiper in Pegwell Bay was the first this year.

Lesser Redpoll by S.Ray

Saturday 10th

A Bearded Tit was a nice find along the Pinnock Wall on Worth marshes whilst a Merlin was also buzzing around out there. An influx of ‘chats’ included 23 Stonechats and a Whinchat, whilst a Buzzard came in off the sea and 25 Crossbills went north.

Friday 9th

The forecasted northerlies brought optimism but by dawn it more westerly than predicted. There was still a good deal of ‘vismig’ to keep everyone happy though. Ten Crossbills, a Brambling, and a Tree Sparrow went over, as well as hundreds of Lesser Redpolls. There was another fall of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs with at least 111 of the former and 134 of the latter. Later another three (possibly four) Tree Sparrows were discovered in the sandy area on the edge of Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course at Dickson’s Corner. An Alexandrine Parakeet has been putting in the odd appearance in the Recording Area over the last few years and today it went north over the Whitehouse area early on.

Looking for migrants along the edge of the Oasis and Royal St George’s Golf Course. By S.Walton.

Another reminder that the shop will be operating every Sunday morning 9-12 at the Observatory. Feel free to pop by and pick up refreshments, clothing, bird food, etc.

Thursday 8th

The wind built up throughout the night and by dawn there were gusts of up to 40mph. Despite this there was little moving offshore apart from a few Sandwich Terns and Brent Geese. Hirundines were moving through though with 980 House Martins north along the shore, plus almost 200 Goldfinches. The Cattle Egret was still on Worth marshes and the RADDE’S WARBLER was still present in the same area (approx. TR34845591), though still playing hard to get.

Wednesday 7th

Autumn just gets better and better. A cool morning walking around Worth marshes was brightened by a RADDE’S WARBLER playing hide-and-seek in the brambles immediately north of the wooden bridge on the Pinnock Wall. It was rather secretive (going missing for an hour or so at a time) but thankfully everyone present managed to see the bird. There are just four previous records here with the last confirmed sighting in 2009 (though an additional undocumented record from 2015).

Radde’s Warbler by P.Hickson

Down at Roaring Gutter a smart Yellow-browed Warbler was in the bushes by the concrete bridge and over by the Great Wood the adult Cattle Egret was stalking around on the pools. There were also regular flocks of Lesser Redpolls, Goldfinches, and Crossbills heading north overhead to complete an excellent morning on the reserve.

On the Estate there were large numbers of Lesser Redpolls around the Oasis area and two Yellow-browed Warblers in The Elms. On New Downs there were hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers and good numbers of Stonechats.

Tuesday 6th

A superb adult male Hen Harrier drifted south through Dickson’s Corner mid-morning. A flock of Crossbills went over and there were still lots of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, and Lesser Redpolls around the Estate. Just after midday a Wryneck was discovered in the brambles along the track onto Worth marshes from Jubilee Rd.

Wryneck by N.Davies

Monday 5th

The Estate was very busy again with a fall of 147 Blackcaps and 67 Chiffchaffs around the Whitehouse, Haven, and Oasis areas alone. Yellow-browed Warblers were present in the Whitehouse and in The Elms, with a Redstart also in the Oasis. Finch passage was excellent with a minimum of 900 Lesser Redpolls, 300 Siskins, and 15 Crossbills logged around the Recording Area. A new adult Cattle Egret appeared on Worth marshes, and Osprey flew south over the Sampher, and at least one, possibly two, Yellow-browed Warblers were near New Downs New Pool/Prince’s Reservoir.

Sunday 4th

A Yellow-browed Warbler calling the Haven and a late Swift over Waldershare Gully were the highlights in a windy and wet day.

Saturday 3rd

From dawn it was clear there had been a nice fall of migrants on the Estate. Robins and Song Thrushes were particularly noticeable with 93 and 28 respectively. There were good numbers of Chiffchaffs in the bushes, a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Whitehouse, and flocks of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins calling overhead. It was great stuff despite the intermittent spells of rain. At 09:34 the distinctive buzzing of a RED-THROATED PIPIT was heard over Royal St George’s Golf Course. Three observers watched as it flew north towards them calling regularly and carried on low over St George’s bushes, where upon it disappeared into the murk. It may have dropped in somewhere between the bushes and the Clubhouse but more likely carried on. This constitutes only the second Sandwich Bay record with the previous concerning two birds grounded in the famous fall on 15th September 1968.

Firecrest, Tree Pipit, Rock Pipit, Short-eared Owl, and a frustrating Locustella in Waldershare Gully (which refused to be identified) all followed soon after and then, when it seemed to be getting a little quieter, both Quail and Long-eared Owl were flushed from the Whitehouse and Oasis areas in quick succession. Away from the Estate there were 15 Greenshank and a Little Stint on Worth marshes, a Spotted Redshank in Pegwell, and our first Snow Bunting of autumn along Prince’s Beach.

Swallow by S.North

Thursday 1st

After a wet and windy night the day continued wet for a while and then brightened up considerably for the afternoon. A walk along the Green Wall emphasised the arrival of autumn with a Water Rail calling from the reed bed, a Grey Wagtail and 11 Golden Plover flying over, and still plenty of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Cetti’s Warblers were more detectable with at least five calling. Out on Worth marshes the wildfowl are continuing to build up with Teal increasing to 250. Meanwhile a Yellow-browed Warbler was in Waldershare Gully.