New Years Day Bird Count - 2013 - Mild, sunny, wnw 2 - Kicked off the New Year in the company of the Joker, Listman and Marshman for a `leisurely` day birding across the Romney Marsh and Low Weald. With Marshman at the wheel and a lifetime on the flatlands we criss-crossed the flooded lanes and byways in effortless style rattling up 104 species of birds and covering 61 miles. The weather today was superb after the tempest of yesterday, which together with the Bank Holiday brought forth many local birders into the field.
First port of call was the Orlestone forest for woodland species where Tawny Owl, Jay, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, 2 woodpeckers, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, and a Siskin were the highlights. To be fair it was hard going with the best bit the area around the car park in Faggs Wood.
Down on the Marsh and Warehorne Bridge. Always a good scanning spot which delivered our only flock of winter thrushes, singing Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Yammer, Pied Wagtail and 2 Little Egrets in a tree by the RMCanal. Driving across the Marsh we commented how bereft of birds the farmland was, particularly now the large flocks of thrushes from last month had move on.
At Midley we stopped for a chat with local birders and were alerted to a single Waxwing atop a hedgerow. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Tree Sparrows, a few Mipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings also went onto the list, while opposite the model flying club field a herd of swans included at least 40 Bewicks and 2 Whooper Swans. Next stop (an inspired choice may I say...) Lydd Airport, where although the fields were largely empty the airport apron delivered our only Stonechat and Black Redstart of the day.
Scotney pits was full of common wildfowl, a Pintail, Golden Plovers, Dunlins, a Bittern and gulls and the only place we saw Dabchick, Shelduck and Brent Goose.
We arrived a little late for shorebirds at Lade but still managed Curlew, Oycs, Knot, Sanderling and Barwit. Out on the bay hundreds of Great Crested Grebes, gulls, a few Gannets and a small flock of Common Scoters. Dungeness next, and by now there were people everywhere enjoying the weather. The sea was disappointing with only a few Guillemots, Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kitts of interest, plus Turnstones, Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gulls at their usual stations.
En-route to the bird reserve a pit stop on the causeway road racked up Goldeneyes, 6 Smews, 2 Great White Egrets, Bittern and 3 Chiffchaffs on New Diggings and ARC, plus hundreds of common wildfowl. Predictably the reserve was packed with birders, but even with all the extra eyes out in the field there was little of note on the sightings board. However, we did add to our day list a RCP at Dengemarsh, Cetti`s, Beardies and Water Rail on Hookers and Raven over Burrowes, plus more Pintails and Smews. We couldn't find a Goosander and reports of Black-necked Grebe sounded a bit stringy from the comments we heard.
We finished the day in grand style at my favourite spot on Walland Marsh where the flooded fields and marshland held thousands of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Starlings, feral geese and wildfowl. Quality birds came thick and fast with Snipe and Ruff added to the wader tally, a `grey ghost Hen Harrier, Peregrine and stunning views of Barn Owl. At least 19 Marsh Harriers were preparing to go to roost in the area, and as we left site the evocative sound of Bewick`s Swans coming to roost on the flood against the backdrop of a stunning Marsh sunset was a fitting end to the day. As if that wasn't enough on the way back home we had a perched Barn Owl near Old Romney to end another cracking NYDay birding. Thanks to Marshman for driving, Listman for keeping the tally and the Joker for a constant stream of, well jokes, even if we had heard most of `em before!
Also reported today was the Common Crane at Walland Marsh (BB et al) and Marsh Tit at Park Wood, Appledore (NB et al).