Birds: July 2021
Nine Wood Sandpipers and three Common Sandpipers were on Worth marshes still.
A great day with a noticeable arrival of waders. A Great White Egret, 20 Little Egrets, 56 Redshanks, 13 Greenshanks, nine Green Sandpipers, 29 Common Sandpipers, and six Wood Sandpipers were on New Downs. Worth was also busy with a Bittern, eight Green Sandpipers, eight Common Sandpipers, and nine Wood Sandpipers, plus the Great Crested Grebe was joined by another. A Turtle Dove was at the Observatory and four Green Sandpipers were on Restharrow Scrape. Pegwell Bay had yet another Wood Sandpiper, plus 290 Sandwich Terns.
A Great White Egret dropped into Worth marshes and a Tawny Owl was calling on the Estate after dark.
A Pochard dropped into Restharrow Scrape mid-morning. Late summer can often be a good time to see this species in the area. The reservoirs on New Downs tend to be the best spots. A Redwing was also caught by the ringing team. This follows on from a series of sightings in late May, suggesting at least some sneaky birds summered/bred in the area. A Wood Sandpiper was on Worth in the evening.
It was thirsty work on Worth marshes this morning in the scorching sun. There was an excellent count of 61 Reed Warblers with juvenile birds all over the place. The 28 Sedge Warblers was good too, plus two Yellow Wagtails, Hobby, Turtle Dove, and two Green Sandpipers. The first Willow Warbler of the autumn was over in The Elms and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was in Pegwell Bay.
Tomorrow evening there is a group meeting at the Observatory to help clear vegetation and tidy up around the building. Feel free to come along from 7pm and help to get the Observatory ready again. Bring some gloves and refreshments.
Although not over, the breeding season is beginning to come to an end and autumn migration will be in full swing shortly. It was another mixed season at Sandwich Bay with some interesting highlights but also some low productivity for early nesting passerines. There were few Mute Swans or Greylag Geese breeding this year, and although a handful of Canada Geese stayed late into Spring, there was no sign of breeding this year. At least two pairs of Gadwall bred but Tufted Ducks were much reduced from last year. A few pairs of Grey Heron and Little Egret bred again as well as the usual Sparrowhawks, Buzzards, and Kestrels, plus one pair of Hobby.
There was better productivity on the beach (compared to last year) with a few Ringed Plover pairs raising chicks. New this year were at least eight pairs of Avocets on Worth marshes, plus at least one pair of Little Ringed Plovers. The small colony of Avocets continues on New Downs and about 40 pairs of Lapwings nested in the area, mostly on Worth marshes, and four-five pairs of Redshanks.
Gulls continue to increase with c.45 pairs of Black-headed Gulls on New Downs and 20 pairs on Restharrow Scrape, though the young of the latter were unfortunately predated. Herring Gulls nested on the Estate again and it was great to find a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the Discovery Park rooves (viewed from New Downs). This a very rare breeding bird in Kent. The first proven breeding record wasn’t until 2003 and although breeding is perhaps annual in Kent, it is rarely proved. This is a new breeding species for the Sandwich Bay area.
Five pairs of Turtle Dove on Worth marshes whilst Kingfisher bred on the Green Wall for the first time in a few years. Another very special breeder was Long-eared Owl. A pair nested in the Recording Area for the first time but unfortunately failed at the egg stage. This is a rare and secretive breeder in Kent. It often nests early in the year and is particularly susceptible to disturbance.
A few singing male Yellow Wagtails over the summer suggest nesting was attempted whilst a curious number of Redwings were present in late May, with some breeding activity noted. No young have been seen though. A Wheatear pair took up territory south of the Estate but look like they failed unfortunately. Spotted Flycatchers returned to Worth for the second year in a row and a few pairs of Stonechat were dotted around. A Marsh Warbler held territory for a while in the Recording Area but was not thought to have bred.
Monitoring of the nestboxes on the Estate showed a poor productivity from Blue Tits, no doubt affected by the cold northerly spell throughout April. Also affected were early nesting warblers such as Blackcap and Chiffchaff. It was a good year for Greenfinches with a number of displaying males noted through the area and Corn Buntings once again held their own.
It’s sweltering hot during the middle of the day. Better to get out early. A trip around the Estate post-Open Championship was uneventful but nice. There were a few waders around including two Whimbrels, a Dunlin, and a Ringed Plover. A Hobby was pursuing hirundines, a handful of Sandwich Terns were offshore, and a Yellow Wagtail flew over the Oasis.
New Downs was relatively peaceful away from the eyes of 40,000 spectators. A Common Tern on the North Pool was a good find with a few Sand Martins and a Yellow Wagtail over. Waders show signs of building with eight Oystercatchers, eight Avocets, two Ringed Plovers, 73 Lapwings, one Green Sandpiper, 15 Common Sandpipers, two Greenshanks, 17 Redshanks, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Whimbrels, and three Curlews. I expect Common Sandpipers to increase significantly over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for them along the river in particular. Another bird to look out for is Yellow-legged Gull. Across the Channel this species tends to breed a little earlier than our resident Herring Gulls. The fledged juveniles then disperse northwards into the south coast of the UK. At the end of summer, before most of our juvenile Herring Gulls have begun moving around any distance, there is a greater chance of a fully-fledged bird in wholly juvenile plumage being a Yellow-legged Gull than a Herring Gull. You can brush up on their subtle identification features HERE.
A few Long-tailed Tits were new in (having not bred on the Estate this year) and a Little Egret glided over, along with 29 Swifts and 11 Sand Martins north under the low cloud. A flock of 23 Lapwings were on Restharrow Scrape, a Teal dropped in, and the resident Corn Buntings were still singing away nearby.
Following the recent announcement from the UK Government on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Trustees have agreed that the Observatory building may open again to the public. The Observatory will be open from Friday 23rd July though some restrictions will remain in place. Please wear a face mask in all communal areas, maintain an appropriate social distance, and act responsibly. Hand sanitizer will be provided. The shop is unlikely to be open at this time until volunteers can be arranged. Please also continue to adhere to the restrictions in the hides at Restharrow Scrape. Thank you. We’re looking forward to having everyone back again.
A Bittern was sound-recorded flying over Stonar at midnight last night, with a number of waders also noted recently including Little Ringed Plovers, Whimbrels, and Common Sandpipers.
After the heavy rain throughout the morning there was a short sunny spell in the early afternoon to cover Restharrow Scrape and the Estate. Young Tufted Duck and Lapwing showed well on Restharrow Scrape, with semi-fledged Stonechats, Sparrowhawks, and Herring Gulls around the rest of the Estate. A Great Crested Grebe on Worth marshes was notable and presumably the same adult bird seen on Restharrow Scrape a few weeks ago.
A reminder that The Open Championship is now in full flow next door so be prepared for access restrictions around the Sandwich area, though you can still walk in to visit Restharrow Scrape.
This grey and humid morning saw 16 Sand Martins fly over the Estate, followed by a Honey Buzzard moving West. As the sun came out the House Martins were about, with several small flocks loosely scattered amongst the skies of the Estate. The wader chicks on Restharrow Scrape were still present and cute as well as a juvenile Stonechat by Restharrow Scrape.
In the evening a BLACK STORK was seen on Worth marshes before the persistent harassment of the local Avocets shooed it off towards Betteshanger. Presumably this is the same roaming adult seen here (and other places around Kent) earlier this year.
An immature Grey Wagtail was on New Downs amongst the waders including Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew and 57 Lapwings. A few Hobbies have been seen daily on Worth recently with a Spotted Flycatcher too.
There are large numbers of Corvids now around the asparagus fields between the Estate and Worth as well as Herring Gulls making good use of the invertebrate availability there. Around 140 Swifts moved through in the morning in small, loose groups – you have to check the whole visible sky to count them! Corn Buntings were singing around Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course and Mary Bax, and six Curlew were present feeding on the field near the Chequers. One Turtle Dove was still purring away on Worth, and Sedge Warblers doing display flights in the ditch behind Restharrow Scrape suggest breeding is still ongoing for some.
A lovely sunny day seemed to produce many more butterflies than birds! Skylarks dominated the soundscape around the Estate today with the odd Wren and small flocks of House Martins chirping through. Two Sparrowhawks and two Kestrels were both nice to see, both species hunting successfully in the Dunes. Grey Partridges were hiding unsuccessfully on Royal St. George’s Golf Course. All was quiet on Worth with smaller numbers than usual heard and seen around the marshes. The breeze was really picking up in the evening, getting ready for tomorrows’ gale force winds.
Young Tufted Ducks have finally been spotted on Restharrow Scrape. Present on Worth was a Dunlin, a male Ruff in moult, along with three Green Sandpipers and two Common Sandpipers. Gadwalls are another duck species going into eclipse plumage, so it’s a good time to brush up on your eclipse plumage identification (and get a picture for us to be able to share)! A Yellow Wagtail was spotted at Blue Pigeons Farm and a couple of Turtle Doves are still seen around Worth.
An eclipse drake Shoveler and a Pochard were present on one of the bigger pools on Worth marshes. Three Green Sandpipers were still present and two Turtle Doves were seen flying towards Ham Fen. Two Peregrines were putting on a display at the Point with one being attacked by a bold Oystercatcher.
Finally a gorgeous day! A Peregrine over the Observatory in the morning was a nice start. Three Greenshanks and three Green Sandpipers were present on Worth marshes. Starling flocks are increasing with a flock of around 100 on Worth and 190 on New Downs. Herring Gull and Lesser-blacked Backed Gulls still have young chicks, which are subjectively rather cute in comparison to their parents. Three Greenshank were also flushed from the riverbank of New Downs, and few Lapwing and Oystercatchers were flying around, and a couple of odd Curlew were spotted on Worth and New Downs.
Warblers are continuing to sing from their territories indicating renewed breeding attempts. For instance around the Green Wall, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, and Chiffchaffs are still going strong and Sedge Warblers and some Reed Warblers are striking up again around the river edge.
The main event today was a flock of nine Bee-eaters which flew south in the late afternoon over Sandown Road. As usual there persistent calling drew attention to them.
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