Birds: September 2020
Despite an early burst of rain it was excellent conditions for visible migration to continue and it was worth getting out there. Finches were much lower than recently with hirundines dominating today. At least 2,800 Swallows and 3,650 House Martins went north. A Tree Pipit was at the Chequers and a Tree Sparrow was flushed from near Dickson’s Corner before going south. At least 15 Stonechats, 43 Blackcaps, and 59 Chiffchaffs were seen on the Estate plus an interesting sandy Lesser Whitethroat which could’ve come from the east. Over in Pegwell an injured Corncrake was discovered and taken into care, with a Ring Ouzel also present.
A frustratingly damp, drizzly, start to the day. Birds had arrived overnight as indicated by 14 Song Thrushes and about 50 Chiffchaffs around the Haven/Whitehouse. Once the wet lifted late in the morning a pulse of 2,600 Swallows moved through. There was a noticeable arrival of Stonechats (as seen elsewhere around the Kent coast) and a Ring Ouzel was at the Hoverport in Pegwell. In the late afternoon a Honey-buzzard was escorted north over the Green Wall by the local corvids.
The wind finally started to decrease and with a thick layer of cloud it was possible to see as well as hear the Siskins flying north. By 13:00 over 4,000 Siskins had been counted. They were accompanied by smaller numbers of Lesser Redpolls, Crossbills, Meadow Pipits and Swallows. Singles of Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher were at the Chequers, on the sea an adult Little Gull flew past, and a Honey-buzzard put in another appearance on Worth marshes.
Another stormy morning with sea-watching being the main focus. A long spell on the seafront produced totals of 927 Brent Geese, 722 Wigeons, 158 Teals, 19 Pintails, 61 Common Scoters, one Scaup, one Long-tailed Duck, nine Ringed Plovers, seven Grey Plovers, 26 Knots, ten Sanderlings, 79 Dunlins, four Little Gulls, 20 Mediterranean Gulls, two Yellow-legged Gulls, 30 Sandwich Terns, and one Great Skua. Three Redwing flew out of the Whitehouse late afternoon and a Rock Pipit flew north.
Considering the huge numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and assorted Skuas moving along the north east of the UK it would’ve been silly not to attempt another sea-watch. In a few hours this morning there were six Arctic Skuas, two Great Skuas, a Yellow-legged Gull, a few wildfowl, and continuous passage of small flocks of Dunlins, Knots, and Grey Plovers.
With the weather so foul yesterday it was good to be out again though still dodging the squalls. Two Arctic Skuas went by offshore in the evening and singles of Brambling and Rock Pipit flew north.
The bird of the day was clearly the American Golden Plover which was relocated after the morning downpour had passed. Originally at the Chequers, it was very mobile and flew off towards Worth marshes before rediscovered in a stubble field behind Restharrow Scrape and the asparagus fields (approx. TR355569). The bird showed well enough but after a while it took off again with Golden Plovers and went down on private land out of view near the railway. Currently your best chances of seeing the bird is taking the public footpath which runs from Mary Bax, behind the back of Restharrow Scrape and the asparagus fields, and comes out by the farm buildings by the Observatory. Scan the stubble fields with a scope but don’t enter the field as there is no public access. Also be careful of the cattle on the footpath. The bird represents only the seventh record for Kent.
Also of note was a Redstart behind the Observatory and at least 850 House Martins moving around.
A busy morning on the Estate with a fall of 223 Blackcaps and 162 Chiffchaffs. Also 65 Siskins, 32 Lesser Redpolls, 70 Meadow Pipits, two Tree Pipits, 1,200 Swallows, and 800 House Martins (though it is likely many more went through before i reached the shore). Late in the evening news came in of an American Golden Plover in the field immediately north of the Chequers. Despite searching after it seemed to have disappeared.
Our first Yellow-browed Warbler of autumn was calling from the Great Wood on Worth marshes today. Look and listen for the bird from the public footpath which runs alongside the wood (no access inside). There were also over 100 Blackcaps on the Estate and 200 Siskins flew north.
Another good spell on New Downs in the sunshine with over 300 waders on the north pool including a Grey Plover, a Curlew Sandpiper, and a Spotted Redshank. Wildfowl numbers are beginning to build too and there were a handful of Wheatears and Whinchats.
A Honey-buzzard went west over Worth at 08:30. There was a small increase in Golden Plover and Stonechats, with a Whinchat present too. On the Estate two Pied Flycatchers were in The Elms, there was an arrival of Wheatears at Dickson’s Corner and along the beach, 250 Siskins went north, and the first Redwings of autumn were heard.
The wind was quite fierce but in the sheltered spots there were a few things flicking around. A Spotted Flycatcher was in The Elms and a few Wheatears were dotted along the coast. A handful of Swallows and Siskins went north and there was a small increase in wildfowl on Worth marshes. Grey Partridges seem to have had a good breeding season with large flocks appearing all over. Good spots to see them currently are around the Oasis field, in the field immediately north of the Haven, and in the Drove/Chequers area, though you will encounter them elsewhere too.
It didn’t quite happen today. A few Wigeon and a Pintail were offshore and a juvenile Cuckoo was around Dickson’s Corner. But there’s easterly in the wind so hopes are high anyway. The first Yellow-browed Warblers have made landfall along the east coast further north from us, so we should see our first one soon. Our first arrival last year was on 22nd September. The first Pallid Harriers, Little Buntings, and Red-breasted Flycatchers have also occurred in the UK this week whilst there’s also reports coming in of a good breeding season for Red-flanked Bluetails in Scandinavia. So one of these could be on cards (two previous records here). Taking that into account, these next two weeks could be exciting to be out along the coast.
Visible migration provided today’s highlights with two Crossbills, a handful of Grey Wagtails, 20 Mediterranean Gulls, over 200 Meadow Pipits, all mostly heading north. Plus at least 55 Reed Buntings were recorded between the shore and Worth marshes.
The weather was similar to yesterday with clear skies overnight causing a bit of low-lying fog/sea mist at dawn. It was burnt off quickly though leaving a scorching day at the Bay. New Downs was hard work in the heat but rewarding with three Curlew Sandpipers, a Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 159 Dunlins, 130 Redshanks, five Greenshanks, three Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers, a Snipe, 82 Golden Plovers, three Ringed Plovers, and 141 Lapwings. The bushes held 36 Chiffchaffs, two Coal Tits, and a few flyover groups of Siskins. There seems to be a few more Kingfishers around than usual and Cetti’s Warblers have certainly become more vocal again. Rarest bird of the day went to the Ortolan Bunting recorded flying over the Observatory just after midnight.
The White Stork was still on Worth marshes this morning but was seen flying off towards Betteshanger CP just before midday. Meanwhile, a Curlew Sandpiper was in among the wader flock on the beach by Sandilands and a Kingfisher was near the Chequers. There were also the first signs of Blue Tit and Skylark passage along the coast.
A busy day again. The two Pectoral Sandpipers continue to show on Worth marshes to a steady stream of admirers. Just before midday a Honey-buzzard lifted out of the Great Wood and then later in the day a White Stork appeared on the pools too. It later transpired to be another one of Knepp’s released birds, known affectionately as ‘Doris’. The first big House Martin movement of autumn occurred between 0800 and 0900, with at least 2,600 going north. There were also 430 Siskins and a few Grey Wagtails. A late Cuckoo was on the Estate.
A good spell of ‘visible migration’ along the shore produced 756 Siskins and 1,450 House Martins north.
A Short-eared Owl in off the sea at dawn was a good omen. Sure enough it was clear there had been a large arrival of warblers with 180 Blackcaps and 65 Chiffchaffs on the Estate alone. Vismig was late getting going but eventually over 350 Siskins were logged heading north. Large numbers of Meadow Pipits have been seen moving further north so we should start seeing more of these over the next few weeks. The two Pectoral Sandpipers were still present on Worth marshes as well as the Great White Egret.
Changeable conditions with sun one minute, low cloud the next, and switching between northerly and southerly. The Barred Warbler was reported by a visitor, as was a Great White Egret, whilst the two Pectoral Sandpipers were still present. A Great Skua flew over Worth marshes in the afternoon and touched down near the Great Wood. What a bizarre record and continues this little purple patch for Worth marshes. It is clearly the new Fair Isle. Away from Worth there was a fall of at least 40 Chiffchaffs around New Downs New Pool and singles of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper on the North Pool, plus a Turtle Dove in the Observatory carpark.
Yesterday’s Barred Warbler was still present on Worth in the bushes down from Jubilee Rd. The two Pectoral Sandpipers were also relocated with a Wood Sandpiper also present and later a Honey-buzzard flew over. A Pied Flycatcher was in Waldershare Gully and there were large numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs still around.
The Cattle Egret was still viewable from the Drove and 12 Wheatears were on the Estate beach. A minimum of 130 Mediterranean Gulls were at the Point in the evening but it is likely far more were present with hundreds of assorted gulls ‘anting’ over Prince’s Golf Course. Late news concerned a Barred Warbler photographed on Worth marshes.
Very similar to yesterday in species composition with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and Siskin the main talking points on the Estate. Though a Grasshopper Warbler showed well in Waldershare Gully and there were also large numbers of Swallows and House Martins heading over. However, two Pectoral Sandpipers stole the show on Worth marshes. They were originally seen on the muddy pool by the wooden bridge but were rather flighty and soon headed off towards Willow Farm with a Snipe. Later they were refound in among the Greylag flock and a Great White Egret was new in.
Its the time of the year when it’s difficult to be everywhere at once. The bushes are alive with warblers, hundreds of birds stream by along the sea front, waders pass through on New Downs and in Pegwell Bay, and sea passage can be good as well. Today was notable for the first ‘big’ movement of Siskins with over 350 recorded heading north overhead. There were three Redstarts in the Oasis, eight Whinchats at Dickson’s Corner, and a small but noticeable increase in Dunnocks, Blackbirds, and Song Thrushes. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were most numerous on the Estate with 172 and 39 respectively. The Cattle Egret was still by the Chequers and at least five Ravens flew over.
By now most of you will have received our new Annual Report in the post. I hope everyone finds it as interesting to read as i did to write it. If you’re a member and havn’t received a copy then feel free to get in touch. And while on the subject of membership, don’t forget you can edit, update, and renew your membership online these days by clicking HERE.
A Cattle Egret in with the cows just north of the Chequers was a nice find and probably the first juvenile to be recorded here. A Grasshopper Warbler was flushed from grass nearby at the Drove with at least 13 Whinchats along the Ancient Highway, another three in the Oasis, and nine on Worth marshes. The rest of the Estate was busy with 89 Blackcaps, three Pied Flycatchers, two Spotted Flycatchers, and a Firecrest. A brace of Curlew Sandpipers were seen on the garage pool at Pegwell.
No Shrike on Worth marshes this morning but a very pleasant wander with 72 species encountered. There was an excellent tally of 35 Whinchats, with 230 Linnets and 81 House Sparrows also notable. Two Spotted Flycatchers were along the edge of the Great Wood and a Treecreeper called from inside. Robins continue to increase with at least 20 on the marshes today, whereas it was only two-three birds a few weeks ago. A sure sign that ‘our’ residents are now joined by continental migrants. There were also double figures of Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail around and a Wood Sandpiper still on the pools.
The weather was neither conducive for birding the bushes or looking offshore, but both were tried. A Pied Flycatcher remained elusive in The Elms and a Spotted Flycatcher was in the Whitehouse. Out on Worth marshes there were 50 Sand Martins, six Ringed Plovers, and seven Whinchats in the morning, with the Red-backed Shrike re-appearing in the afternoon. Another four Whinchats were near the Chequers and a couple of Yellow Wagtails were patrolling around on the Observatory roof.
For those who havn’t heard yet, a reminder that the Observatory shop will be offering limited stock for purchase each Sunday in September from 10:00 to 12:00.
A new Red-backed Shrike was found on Worth marshes favouring the hedgerows west on Roaring Gutter. Also on Worth were singles of Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, and Garden Warbler, six Whinchats, and a few Siskins over.
The Estate was equally busy with Whimbrel, two Yellow Wagtails, Redstart, seven Whinchats, two Stonechats, three Wheatears, 40 Blackaps, four Spotted Flycatchers, three Pied Flycatchers, a Coal Tit, and 40 Siskins.
There was another good fall of migrants on the Estate with 95 Blackcaps, five Lesser Whitethroats, five Yellow Wagtails, two Tree Pipits, three Whinchats, two Pied Flycatchers, 21 Reed Buntings, and a Short-eared Owl. Another 16 Whinchats were on Worth marshes along with nine Ruffs and two Wood Sandpipers. Pegwell had the bird of the day though with a juvenile Red-backed Shrike in the Country Park.