Concluding a rather stroppy end to the month a gloomy morning with more or less constant light drizzle brought a SW movement of 230 Swifts.
Scorchio. A visit largely to carry out the weekly butterfly transect, in hot and humid conditions with the lightest E breeze was thankfully much better than the last few weeks. For the first time this year there was something in each of the ten sections and 65 butterflies included 35 Marbled Whites, with everything else in single figures. A few birds poked their noses in, including a Siskin and 8 Swifts N.
Totally calm, warm and cloud-free it seemed that raptors might still be on the move and the morning was not disappointing, with 2 Red Kites soaring around inland of Reach Road for 15 minutes from 0930 then a ringtail Montagu’s Harrier that appeared low over the fields nearby, remaining in view from 0950 to 1005. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was also seen at viper’s bugloss by the track near Fan Bay.
Birding remains very quiet, but a brief visit mainly to look for butterflies turned up our first Ringlet of the summer, equalling last year’s record early emergence.
There was no repeat of yesterday’s sea-fret that enveloped the valley and farm for much of the morning; instead it was mainly calm, overcast and humid. 2 Grey Herons flying NE over the valley more or less summed up the avian interest and the butterfly transect was better than last week, due mainly to a sudden emergence of Marbled Whites, and a Painted Lady was the second of the year.
If the evidence of a three-hour walk through the countryside around our home in Sandwich yesterday is anything to go by, butterfly numbers in the wider countryside are generally poor. So, it was good to record slightly improved numbers this morning, including 2 Small Tortoiseshells, which is the same as last year’s total! As for birds, well, it’s mid-June.
A brief visit mainly to do the weekly butterfly transect produced a few avian bits and pieces, notably 6 Crossbills flying SW and a calling Coal Tit. Butterflies were very disappointing, probably resulting from some recent poor weather and very arid conditions in the valley, but a Small Tortoiseshell was by the lighthouse; incredibly the first of the year.
In a bit of early sunshine before things clouded over one of the juvenile white wagtails was still on Lighthouse Down, 5 Crossbills flew up the valley and 6 Corn Buntings were singing on the farm, much of which is currently a very attractive mass of poppies.
A bunch of unruly Starlings and 2 freshly-emerged Small Blues set the scene for a morning that was a welcome change from the miserable conditions of the last few. A Lapwing and 9 Swifts flew NE, the first family of Lesser Whitethroats was on the farm, a Raven was winding up the local corvids and 3 Meadow Browns were our first of the year and the earliest on record here.
With the weather having returned to something more like March 1,300 Swifts moved into a brisk W breeze, mostly from 0645-0730 before the sun emerged. The local Buzzards were soon up and about and a Siskin flew SW but the main interest of the morning was on Lighthouse Down where the pair of white wagtails was feeding 2 fledged juveniles. The first confirmed breeding of this race in the county was at Samphire Hoe in 2013 and subsequently on Romney Marsh in 2015 but it remains a very unusual occurrence. Here’s a shot of one of the adults, taken recently by Jamie Partridge.
Some reluctant sunshine looks like being the last of the recent settled spell but, for early June at least, there were some interesting birds on offer. One of the white wagtails was on Lighthouse Down, where a Mistle Thrush was the first for over two months, a female Black Redstart was at Fan Bay, 13 Swifts flew NE and 21 Red Kites flew NE between 1000 and 1025. The butterfly transect was affected by increasing cloud but our first Painted Lady of the year was seen on the farm earlier.
A bit chilly in a brisk N breeze this morning, which was a nice mix of birds, butterflies and moths. The first families of Whitethroats were visible along the clifftop and farm, 3 Buzzards were up and about once it warmed up a bit and 2 white wagtails were with the cattle on Lighthouse Down again. Our good fortune with Bee-eater sightings continued with one N across Fan Bay and the lighthouse at 1039 before spending 3-4 minutes catching insects over the windmill then moving off northward.
It has now been just over a week since there was a cloud in the sky and on another azure morning with a light NE breeze 3 Red Kites flew NE along Reach Road between 0905 and 0925 and 2 Siskins followed in the same direction.