Bird Count Day - mild and sunny morning, cloudy afternoon, NW3 - Our traditional NYD bird count kicked off in fine style with three calling Little Owls at St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh under a clear still sky with Venus and the Moon shining brightly. Along with Chris and Phil we headed for the Low Weald and a Barn Owl on Shirley Moor before settling down for a dawn chorus in nearby Park Wood. Tawny Owl, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Jay all went onto the list amongst a host of regular woodland birds.
At the canal zone of Kenardington and Warehorne we jammed in on two Green Sandpipers and a flock of four Goosanders in flight, plus Great White Egret and Little Egrets, Bullfinch, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and the first of many Buzzards seen today. Crossing the Marsh Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Golden Plover and 30 Bewick`s Swans at Horse`s Bones Farm all went onto the day list.
At Pigwell while we dipped on the Woodlark we scored well with Grey Wagtail on the sewage works and a cracking male Dartford Warbler in gorse by the cycle track and a Stonechat. At Scotney the pace really picked up with Spotted Redshank, a wintering Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Redshanks, Goldeneye and Barnacle Geese on the front fields, plus two Whooper Swans, Corn Buntings and a pair of Pintails out back the highlights. We also watched a hovering Buzzard get hammered by first a Kestrel, then a Sparrowhawk and finally a male Peregrine! At Lydd camp a Little Owl enjoyed the warm winter sunshine.
It was then onto a busy Dungeness and a seawatch from the fishing boats where at least two Bonxies were active offshore. Hundreds of Guillemots were on the sea along with scores of Kittiwakes and Gannets, Red-throated Divers, a Razorbill and a single sub-adult drake Eider, west, while at least two Caspian Gulls were on the beach.
At Littlestone we duly bagged all ten species of waders on the bay, but with low counts of Ringed and Grey Plovers, Barwit and Knot. We finished the day mopping up on the bird reserve including Pink-footed Goose and three Cattle Egrets at Boulderwall; Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tit from the ramp and the final species of the day, a Yellow-legged Gull on Burrowes making a respectable 112 species of birds during our 57 mile low-key birding tour.
Many thanks to Chris for driving, Phil for listing and for a great day in the field in fine company.