Warden, Steffan Walton
My road to Sandwich started in 2015 with Bardsey Bird Observatory shutting its doors during the winter months. I negotiated my way off the Welsh windswept island and down south to set up shop as a temporary volunteer at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. With eager eyes I set about the census areas documenting all I could find and scribbling it all down in my notepad. Straight away the common mainland birds of Britain caught my eye. I ran round watching all those birds that avoid little Welsh islands. I’m talking about the birds you mainland folk take for granted; Coot, Mute Swan, Green Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Grey Partridge etc! After savouring the little things I began to pick out a few more notable sightings too including Velvet Scoters, Great Northern Divers, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, and an overwintering Siberian Chiffchaff. Other interesting finds included my first Continental Coal Tits and flurry of rather late (December) Swallows. Staying on site had its benefits including my own personal Starling roost which appeared each evening over the fields surrounding the Bird Observatory. I would watch over 10,000 swirling birds avoiding the talons of Peregrines and Sparrowhawks, whilst both Short-eared and Barn Owls hunted nearby.
In the summer of 2016 I found myself drawn south again and spent three weeks helping out at the Bird Observatory. Birds were yet again abundant with waders particularly so, the cherry on the top finding a dainty Kentish Plover at Pegwell on a glorious summer evening! What amazed me most though was the incredible invertebrate diversity. The ground was a carpet of Common Blues, the air thick with Migrant Hawkers, and the daily emptying of the Moth trap was a veritable smorgasbord of southern specialties. With a little effort, the hidden gems of Restharrow (moth), Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Willow Emerald Damselfly were discovered.
With the seed firmly planted I decided to ply my trade as Assistant Warden at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory in 2017. After a fantastic year full of excellent birds I then jumped at the opportunity to become a fully-fledged Warden in August 2018. Keep an eye out for me around the Sandwich Bay area and say hi whenever possible. You can usually catch me listening out for that elusive Serin in spring along the beach, or just as likely deep in paperwork in the office of the Observatory Field Centre.