Thursday, 14 July 2016

Yellow Wagtails

Dengemarsh - cool, sunny, nw 3 - 0800hrs - A stunning morning with blues skies, fluffy white clouds and a pleasant polar airflow streaming across the Marsh. From Springfield bridge we watched a Marsh Harrier food pass over the reedbed where plenty of Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings and a few Bearded Tits were actively feeding young. A Buzzard drifted over and pulses of high Swifts and Sand Martins moved through.
  Yellow Wagtails are thinly distributed as a breeding species across the Marsh farmland, favouring the wetter Walland section where numerous drainage sewers and riparian ground cover provide secure nesting sites. They will also breed in adjacent fields of silage, oil-seed rape, winter wheat, barley and potatoes, while preferred feeding haunts are amongst stock (cattle more so than sheep), dung heaps, working gravel pit margins and irrigated spud fields.

                                Yellow Wagtail feeding amongst cattle

  This past couple of weeks across the Dungeness NNR we have already witnessed a small post-breeding dispersal and a trickle of migrants overhead as passage commences, usually noted by way of their distinctive `sweep` contact flight call. This morning, however, there was a decent drop in of at least 50 Yellow Wagtails in the hayfields at Dengemarsh as they fed amongst the suckling herds of cattle; the small flocks comprised a healthy mix of adults and plainer looking juvenile birds. As the month progresses numbers will increase and peak towards the end of August and into September. The Yellow Wagtail return migration is in complete contrast to the spring, when they can be thin-on-the- ground, and is one of the most impressive viz mig spectacles down here after the Sand Martin.  
  Numbers are difficult to ascertain, but during the course of the summer/autumn passage its quite likely that many thousands of Yellow Wagtails pass through the Dungeness peninsula en-route to their winter quarters in sub-Saharan Africa.  

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