Following a very wet Saturday nine members met at Sandwich Bird Observatory on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. On the drive down the signs of the forthcoming autumn were there to see in the changing colours of the road side trees.
We were made aware of a bird ringing session taking place in one of the huts and were invited to have a look, which we duly did. The first sight was of a number of ringers each holding a goldcrest – I think we were all taken by surprise as to how small there really are. A lesser redpoll had also been caught earlier along with various tit species including a number of long-tailed tit. We left the hut and looked back to see the birds being released, all seemingly without any signs of distress.
The plan was to go to the old hide, now looking onto a greatly enlarged scrape. We turned right out of the car park and then a short way past the farm house we turned left on to a footpath across the fields. On the way we saw house sparrow, blackbird and chaffinch. Some way along the path stonechat were busying themselves – always nice to see – and goldfinch in good numbers were flying around.
Slightly ahead of the group Malcom had stopped and was looking at a bush saying he thought there was a chiffchaff in it. Before this was confirmed a number of reed bunting and goldfinch were seen together with a robin and more stonechat flying around. A kestrel landed on a wire behind a bush.
As we walked on a large flock of lapwing were seen in the distance above the scrape. Carrying on towards the Royal Cinque Ports golf course we stopped to look at a wader in the field, was it a curlew or whimbrel? A good look through a scope and a bit of discussion identified it as a whimbrel, with the distinctive eye stripe and a shorter bill.
Skylarks were seen and heard as we carried on along to the old hide. A red admiral butterfly enjoying the sunny conditions was seen along the road. At the hide the most pressing decision seemed to be should we have lunch? Permission was generously given by yours truly. A new, larger hide, with three directions of view, is shortly to be built a short distance away and the old hide removed.
The scrape has only recently been reopened after major works and was still filling up with water, currently around 1.5 meters deep in the channels. The water will continue to rise onto the shallow slopes and banks leaving a number of islands and spits, two of which have been topped in pebbles hoping to attract ringed plovers. Today we saw teal, pied wagtail and a fair few black-headed gulls. The reported Mediterranean and yellow-legged gulls were not to be seen.
After lunch we set off to Elm Wood on the hope of seeing firecrest, unfortunately this was not to be. However, a sparrowhawk did fly over on the way there showing well against the sky. The wood proved a bit quiet although some of us had a brief glimpse of a goldcrest spotted by Sue. The group carried on through the wood towards the beach. Those who were following up the rear stopped and were peering up to the roofs of a large building. Those in front turned and went back to be told there were black redstart on the roof, and so there was, but the light was not good and they were all just silhouettes. The birds, following a polite request from Gunter, then flew to an adjacent property where, with far better light, we were able to see their colouring much more clearly.
The remaining walk back along the shore and Royal St George’s golf course was very quiet, a great black-backed gull was on the beach and cormorants were flying out at sea. Some meadow pipits were to be seen as we entered the golf course. On arrival back at the observatory some of us decided to go back along the first part of our walk, continue past the foot path and carry on to the North Stream. On the way a pair of herons gave us a good fly past. At the river some little grebe aka dabchick were seen and a group of mallards effected a landing. One of this group appeared somewhat at odds to the other mallards and after some discussion we decided it was a hybrid or cross-breed.
On returning to the car park ‘exactly on time’ it was realised that the clocks going back had not been taken into account and it was in fact only 3pm. I think some ‘fake news’ had been given to the leader earlier that afternoon. However, that did mean the centre was still open and hot drinks and biscuits were enjoyed by some.
Overall some 45 species were seen, my favourites being the stonechat and black redstart and it was nice to see at least three red admirals out and about.
Thanks to all who attended and to Terry and Sue for the photographs.
Ed: Thanks to Peter for leading this walk with such aplomb, sorry Karrie couldn’t join us but delighted to hear she is feeling better!