Romney Marsh - cold, grey, light airs - It was a somewhat muted start to the New Year with our usual birding tour of local sites reduced to just two of us due to the virus restrictions. A Barn Owl was the first bird of the day at St Mary-in-the-Marsh. It was then onto Park Wood just before daybreak for at least four hooting Tawny Owls followed by a range of typical woodland birds including Woodcock, Buzzards, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Jay and the first of many Ravens seen or heard today. We then dropped down onto the Marsh where the canal delineates the flatlands from the hill country between Warehorne and Kennardington, one of my favourite habitats. Winter thrushes were numerous along with resident Mistle and Song Thrushes, loads more Jays and plenty of common, wayside birds, including that tricky-to-find trio of Tree Sparrow, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer. Crossing Walland Marsh we logged up to ten each of Buzzard and Kestrel (what on earth do they find to feed on ?), 22 Bewick`s and two Whooper Swans.
Scotney is always a make or break site when day-listing and today proved so with a wide range of farmland and wetland species on offer in near perfect weather conditions and with farming operations suspended for the holiday. A pair of Scaup and a Long-tailed Duck on the back lake were the highlights (the former something of a rarity these days down here) and a flock of 58 White-fronted Geese heading high towards Rye calling evocatively. Also, two Green Sandpipers, two Redshanks, four Marsh Harriers, two Great White Egrets, Little Egret, Golden Plovers, 100 Corn Buntings, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Stonechat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Linnet and a host of common wildfowl and gulls. A Red-legged Partridge on the ranges was also something of a bonus, plus another flock of 65 White-fronts over Lydd.
En-route to the sea we paused on the causeway road for the wintering Glossy Ibis sat on a tiny island on ARC and the Black-throated Diver on New Diggings, plus several Goldeneyes. At Dungeness we eventually located a 1st winter Iceland Gull amongst the throng at the Patch along with at least ten Mediterranean Gulls and a Razorbill, plus a Grey Wagtail on the power station sewage works. Offshore the usual auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers on the move. Back on the bird reserve Ruff, Cetti`s Warbler, Egyptian Goose and Greenfinch went onto the day list. Our final port of call, in fading light, was Lade bay where despite disturbance from dog-walkers we managed seven of the ten regular wintering wader species, plus three Common Scoters crossing the bay and a pair of hunting Peregrines.
A cracking, laid-back birding day in the field during which we racked up 106 species, yet still managed miss the following `expected` birds : Brent Goose, Bittern, Shelduck, Pintail, Water Rail, Dunlin, Caspian Gull, Little Owl and Chiffchaff, while the wintering Dusky Warbler was reported from the ARC car park scrub. Many thanks to Chris for driving.