Warblers return to migrating hotspot
AFTER weeks of less than average birding returns on the land, the migration hotspot of Dungeness returned to form with a rush of summer migrants in early May.
Cool, damp weather conditions with a blocking northerly airflow had prevented many birds from continuing their northwards quest, but eventually they had to push on regardless.
May 4th saw a phenomenal arrival of grounded warblers, chats and flycatchers along the south coast headlands of England with Dungeness receiving birds throughout the day.
Many were in poor condition, literally flopping down onto the beach after the sea crossing; many more probably didn't make it and either drowned in the Channel or were predated by waiting gulls and crows.
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By the time I arrived on site that memorable day every bush was alive with birds. In the vanguard were hundreds of warblers, notably whitethroats, blackcaps and willow warblers; in places small flocks formed, 20 here, 30 there, it was an incredible sight.
Along with most other birdwatchers I'd never seen anything like it before in the spring and the ringing staff at the bird observatory were kept busy all day processing a host of trapped migrants.
The garden in the old lighthouse was teeming with warblers, several pied and spotted flycatchers, redstarts and whinchats, while around the power station boundary groups of tired willow warblers and chiffchaffs greedily snapped up insects trapped in the fenceline.
Inevitably with such a large movement of birds other scarcities came to light. These included a couple of nightingales and wood warblers, turtle doves, cuckoos, ring ouzels, wheatears, redpolls, redwings, tree pipits and even a short-eared owl. But it was the sheer number of warblers that will live long in the memory from that day.
Swifts, swallows and house martins also put on a show with a steady stream of birds making the Channel crossing during the day before eventually ending up over the gravel pits on the RSPB reserve.
Most of these summer visitors feed on small insects and it must have been something of a shock to their system having travelled from the heat of the tropics to be confronted with the cool, damp spring of northern Europe.
For the very latest bird sightings around the Marsh check out the Plovers blog via the website: www.plovers.co.uk
Paul Trodd, together with his wife Pat run Romney Marsh Birdwatching Breaks.
For further details see www.plovers.co.uk