Birds: January 2015
A perishingly cold start after some wintry overnight showers brought a bit of marking time, with the Bewick’s still on their pond inland of the Chequers, 2 Marsh Harriers over Worth and, by way of relief, a female Red-crested Pochard floating about on Stonar.
The Bewick’s Swans were again on Willow Farm, on a morning that was in complete contrast to yesterday; bright and breezy, if a bit chilly. 2 Water Pipits were also on Worth, 5 Corn Buntings, like hen’s teeth so far this winter, were mucking about with the cows at the Chequers and 2 Marsh Harriers were drifting about.
An increasingly vile morning, with drizzle and light rain driven on by a W wind gusting to gale force was notable almost exclusively for the 2 Bewick’s Swans that were on the pond inland of the Chequers.
Head north, young man was the advice and as it turned out it was not misplaced, particularly as the sun came out, the wind dropped away and it turned out to be a very pleasant morning. A ringtail Goldeneye was on Prince’s reservoir, a Marsh Harrier headed S over the lettuces and the Brent Goose flock on the Sampher still retained their guest Barnacle. On Worth, 2 Bewick’s Swans were still present and a male Hen Harrier and a Merlin were kicking about. Here’s a photo of one of the Bewick’s when it visited Restharrow a few days ago.
An unexpected arrival of geese took place at Pegwell in the afternoon, involving 70 White-fronts off the sea, 6 Bean Geese flying NE and 56 Barnacle Geese, rendering yesterday’s solitary individual rather more signficant than seemed so at the time. A distant 1st.w. Glaucous Gull flew towards the harbour and among the freshly-arrived geese were at least 145 Brents.
2 Bewick’s Swans were again near Mary Bax, with 2 Short-eared Owls nearby, a Woodcock was on the Estate and on New Downs were a Barnacle Goose and a Goldeneye on one of the reservoirs.
A walk over Worth in continuing cold, accompanied thankfully by a light wind, was quite productive. 62 Blackbirds and 19 Song Thrushes were clustered mainly between the Obs and Blue Pigeons, Bullfinches were seen on the Pinnock Wall and the Drove, 2 Bewick’s Swans were on the new scrape on Willow Farm, with 2 Marsh Harriers close by, and a Raven flew N with a bunch of Rooks. Otherwise, 2 Goosanders were on the scrape, the Black Redstart was still at the sailing club and a Chiffchaff was calling from a hedgerow near HQ.
A walk to the Point from the Obs unearthed appallingly few small birds, but 2 Jack Snipe were on the Hundred Acre Field, a Peregrine was standing on the beach, gazing at the roosting Oystercatchers, and on the way back a Chiffchaff was flitting about with some Goldcrests in the pines by Green Barn. Earlier, a Barn Owl was seen between the scrape and HQ and 3 Goosanders were still on the scrape and the Black Redstart was found again on one of the shoreside lawns. Just to prove it, here’s a rather nice photo by Steve Ray.
Not much to report today, except that it was perishingly cold and the 3 Goosanders were showing very well on the scrape, actually swimming about for a while rather than just loafing.
A hard frost decorated the landscape as the sun rose, only to be thwarted by wintry showers that lasted into the afternoon. A couple of Peregrines were hunting over Worth, 2 Goosanders were asleep on the scrape first thing an, offshore, a Bonxie was sitting on the sea in between bouts of harassing the local gulls.
Much of the weekend was taken up with the monthly WeBS counts, which ensures enhanced coverage of the area, though it has to be said that the results did not fully repay the trudging through heavy mud and the occasional plunge into water deeper than expected. 3 Goosanders remained on the scrape, 18 Pink-footed Geese were seen on Worth on Saturday, with one on the scrape this morning, 300 Golden Plover were swirling about over Worth (there were none to be seen in Pegwell on the morning tide) and the scrape held the bulk of Lydden valley wildfowl, including most of the 45 Gadwall and 40 Shoveler and almost all of the 845 Teal. 9 Little Egrets were scattered about and other bits and pieces included a Hen Harrier and 2 Merlins.
Well, back yesterday to reality after two fabulous weeks in Colombia, to find mountains have appeared in Sandwich – mountains of paperwork, that is! Decided on a round of the Estate this morning instead of more cross-eyed computering and it was actually quite rewarding. The scrape held 5 Pintail, a Water Rail and a showy Kingfisher, a Woodcock flew over the car park, 4 Stonechats were scattered about and a Black Redstart was standing on one of the seafront houses. Here’s a photo of one of the recent Short-eared Owls, taken in sunshine by Nigel May a few days ago.
Another day, another front and more rain than you could shake a wet stick at! Two Goosander remained at the scrape but attempts to count the duck were thwarted by a couple of pesky foxes. Phil was on station at Pegwell from mid-afternoon ’til dusk counting gulls coming to / at roost (2550 Herring, 2200+ Black-headed, 420 Common, 310 Greater Black-backed, ~15 Lesser Black-backed, three Yellow-legged (2 ad, 1 1st w), two Caspian (1 ad, 1 1st w) and one ad Med.) while noting 2160 Wood Pigeon heading s/west.
A cold start to the day. Fortunately an ominous bank of cloud had the good grace to keep to the French side of the Dover Straights so a walk up to the Point in bright sunshine under an electric blue sky was in order. A ring-tailed Hen Harrier was rocking from side-to-side while quartering the 100-acre and Sampher in the brisk westerly breeze and a Peregrine went after the waders with all the subtlety of a Marlin attacking a ball of bait-fish. 38 Snipe and one (possibly two) Jack Snipe were flushed from a section of the Long Pond and I listened awhile to Rock Pipits wintering in the deep salt marsh channels. Maybe it’s just a matter of acoustics on the open marsh but they do sound different from our resident birds and it begs the question ‘where do they hail from?’ At Pegwell, the afternoon high tide wader counts were lower than recent, perhaps because many were roosting on the beach, otherwise highlights included two adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Bonxie north. Ian and the gang arrived back from Colombia this morning so this will probably be my last blog. No doubt we will be hearing in gory detail, tales of the 500+ species of bird recorded on the trip.
Yet another Atlantic low swept through from the west overnight and while the wind had moderated by morning we were left with persistent light rain. Two Goosander were on the scrape at first light but left early only to return later in the day with a third in tow. A flock of 18 Linnet were feeding on the bund and good numbers of Lapwing (~5000) and Golden Pl0ver (140) were in fields nearby. 39 Great Crested Grebes and 3 divers were offshore otherwise it was a day for doing the paperwork.
Highlights from Sunday included two Goosander and a Water Rail on Restharrow Scrape, the sub-adult male Hen Harrier at Pegwell, a Short-eared Owl hunting over the Ancient Highway and Mike Briggs, leading the Sunday Walk, getting stuck in knee-deep mud on New Downs. Fortunately dear reader he could be extracted before hypothermia set-in.
This morning, the two Goosander were still present together with four Canada Geese, one Greylag, two Mute Swan, four Wigeon, 680+ Teal, eight Tufted Duck, 34 Shoveler, 14 Mallard, 48 Gadwall, three Little Grebe, 10 Coot, 4+ Moorhen and two Snipe – just to prove I can still count and chew gum simultaneously! The Conservation Team were again hard at work in the Whitehouse Paddock pausing only for coffee and cookies and to gaze at the large flock of Lapwing disturbed from the field nearby.
Half an hour looking out to sea this morning was, in hindsight, about 30 minutes that could have been better spent elsewhere. The westerly gales had cleared out the bay apart from my good friend the Common Scoter, 11 Brents, a diver and a Kittiwake all N plus a few disconsolate-looking Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes. All the action was, you guessed it, on the scrape where the band of five red-head Goosanders had reformed and splashed down in front of a gob-smacked Mike Briggs, who then had the temerity to find an adult winter Mediterranean Gull. Back at HQ the ringers were busy maintaining the pond and trapping areas until a heavy shower provided the perfect excuse for an early lunch.
A mild, overcast, almost balmy morning with the thermometer hitting 14°C by noon. The morning was spent with volunteers from RSPB and SBBO planting trees below Cornfield Wood out on Worth. We were accompanied by a mumbling Cetti’s Warbler, a singing Mistle Thrush (they always sound a little off key to me) while ~50 Fieldfare flew N overhead.
Heavy rain all morning and standing water on many of the reserves; surely we’re not looking at a repeat of last winter’s ‘once-in-every 25 year’ floods? Undeterred, the Conservation Team donned oilskins to tackle recent storm damage in The Elms. Bernie kept vigil at the scrape scrutinising each and every drake Teal for anything ‘green-winged’ but without any joy. Otherwise six Snipe and a Canada Goose in nearby fields were new. After the rain relented Short-eared Owls were actively hunting over the 100-acre field and Ancient Highway. Phil counted 4270 Golden Plover and 5600+ Lapwing at Pegwell, 200+ Brent Geese plus 170 (including 6 Pale-bellied) arriving in off from the SE, a Goosander on the Point, a Ruff and Barn Owl.
After a frosty start, a lovely sunny morning enticed Rodger and I into a walk up to the Point in an attempt to bolster our year lists. The shore was quiet, a flock of 28 Linnets and 8 Skylark being the highlight. At the Point something unseen spooked large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover (~3000 of each) into spectacular displays of aerobatics over a wide expanse of seemingly ever-changing mud-flats exposed by a very low tide. On our return, flocks of Brent (30) and White-fronted Geese (26) in-off and heading due west inland redeemed the day. Nice!
Two Bewick’s Swan flew NW out of / over Worth marshes at 08.40 and 18 Brent Geese flew S later. The large numbers of duck on the scrape and the Lapwing (850+) and Golden Plover (62) on fields nearby are attracting the attention of birds of prey with Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin seen this morning, the latter vigorously pursuing a passerine down the Guilford Road. At Pegwell, an Avocet added to the variety of waders and there were at least two Yellow-legged Gulls (one adult and one first winter) on the rising tide. The recent phenomenal, if not biblical, flood of Cormorants, first noted mid-December, continues unabated. This afternoon, numbers peaked at 368 with Phil counting 81 at the Point plus 71S and 216W inland.
Mondays (and Thursdays) are Conservation Team work days so only time for a quick scan over Worth and a visit to Restharrow Scrape. Wildfowl numbers continue to increase with Teal now at 780. It continually amazes me how attractive duck find ‘our’ scrape, especially now there is plenty of water out on the new RSPB and EA diggings. Otherwise a Grey Wagtail was about it for me. The team continue to tackle large areas of invasive willow, bracken, bramble and rank grass in the Whitehouse Paddock and we are all aching from the brush-cutting, raking and forking – let’s hope we see the benefits in the spring. A smart Water Shrew, found while cutting the bracken, rewarded its rescuer by trying to bite her fingers through a pair of stout gloves. Meanwhile at Pegwell, Phil recorded an impressive collection of waders (1760 Lapwing, 1720 Golden Plover, 1630 Dunlin, 280 Knot, 227 Bar-tailed Godwit, 217 Grey Plover, 150 Curlew, 125+ Redshank, 73 Sanderling, 46 Ringed Plover, two Black-tailed Godwit and one Spotted Redshank) harassed on and off by a Merlin, plus notable high numbers of Linnet (150) and Cormorant (140+).
A chill fog lingered until 11.30 when burned off to give a bright sunny day returning from offshore at 3pm. Despite this, there was decent coverage of the recording area. Early, Graham had two red-head Goosander over the Oasis (one seen briefly on the scrape later) and Gerald found two adult Bewick’s Swan on the RSPB scrape at Willow Farm in a rare moment when the fog parted, viewable for most of the morning as distant elegant white ghosts in the grey gloom. Meanwhile Bernie had found a drake Pintail sleeping amidst the large number of waterfowl on the scrape. Rodger, Andy & Chris led an expeditionary force out onto New Downs returning with tales of two Hen Harrier (a sub-adult male and a ringtail, later seen over Worth), a Woodcock (probably our first record of this winter) and a Kingfisher. Muggins was left to census the Estate which was quiet, the ‘highlights’ being a Water Rail in Big Gully, a Goldcrest in The Elms and seven Yellowhammers on the track.
As predicted, a hard rain did indeed fall and I stumbled on the side of 12 misty mountains to the sanctuary of Restharrow Scrape hide. Alan and I counted 620+ Teal among the usual assortment of duck plus 11 Greylags and an Oystercatcher staking its claim to the far island. 300+ Lapwing and 75 Golden Plover were in nearby fields. News from our foreign correspondent at Pegwell was limited to 150 Redwing at Stone Lees.
A quick look on the sea early this morning to see what the wind had blown in revealed….not a lot! Three Red-throated Divers close inshore, 27 Great Crested Grebes and a Gannet kept the year list ticking over. A scan over the RSPB’s new scrapes at Willow Farm resulted eventually in an adult Yellow-legged Gull and then onto Restharrow Scrape where Teal were back to over 500, Gadwall clocked in at 52, Shoveler at 28 and six Wigeon. At Pegwell Bay, highlights included a 1st winter Caspian Gull, two Black-tailed Godwit, one Avocet and 10 Pintail. Offshore were approx 100 Divers and six Barnacle Geese north
2015 dawned mild, damp and windy for those bleary-eyed souls who believe an early walk in the fresh air is the perfect cure for a champagne-induced hangover. First prize went to Neil Davies for finding two Great White Egrets on Worth flying toward Hacklinge. At Restharrow Scrape, the ice had melted overnight and the usual suspects were back including the Water Rail in its customary corner and a Peregrine checking out the Lapwings. Meanwhile back at HQ, mulled wine, mince pies and sausage rolls were being consumed with gusto by the gathered throng while viewing 5 Yellowhammers feeding on seed and grain on the track outside. Happy New Year one and all.