And so another year (and indeed decade) lurches to a close and for anyone on the `wrong` side of sixty looking back at the state of the nations wildlife is not a pretty picture. Infact, The State of Nature report in October revealed that 41% of UK species have declined since the 1970`s, much of it in the past decade. Its not difficult to see why: just drive out onto the farmland of Romney Marsh and you`re confronted with intensive agriculture and a biological wasteland - try finding a partridge of either description, while Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting appear to be in terminal decline with Yellowhammer and Skylark not far behind.
This year we recorded 211 species of birds in our travels around Dungeness and the Marsh; a respectable variety then, but drill down into the detail and there were some worrying trends across the decade. The majority of our summer migrants continued to decline with birds such as Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher having been reduced to a mere trickle. Considering the changing environment and increasing human population in Africa, coupled with continuing hunting of migrants around the Mediterranean Basin I can`t see the situation improving any time soon.
For the rarity hunter 2019 was a poor year by local standards with Kentish Plover, Red-backed Shrike,Yellow-browed Warbler, Bee-eater, Serin and Whiskered Tern probably the best of the spring bunch, while a Puffin was new for me at Dungeness. Autumn delivered little apart from several Wrynecks and Roseate Terns, Sabine`s Gull, Leache`s Petrel, a confiding Shore Lark and a couple of Stone Curlews. There was an impressive fall of adult waders in July around the bird reserve, including two Temminck`s Stints, and it was a good autumn for the likes of Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank that passed through in record numbers. Sadly the late season visible migration of passerines was once again a damp squid.
However, all is not doom and gloom, thanks mainly to conservations organisations such as RSPB Dungeness where Marsh Harrier, Bittern, and Bearded Tit all bred, albeit in small numbers, along with over 100 pairs of Common Terns and 50 plus singing Cetti`s Warblers. Egrets of all three species continued to expand their ranges and birds of prey in general did well.
Still, tomorrow is a new decade and I shall be out and about with the usual New Years Day crew from dawn, so watch this space for a report on our outing. Pat and myself would also like to thank our loyal clients for keeping faith with us and we look forward to our 14th year providing Birdwatching Breaks at Plovers.
Good birding to one and all for 2020.