As the days get colder Autumn turns to Winter and a new set of challenges await our wildlife. Pegwell Bay begins to see the arrival of winter ducks like Wigeon, Shoveler & Teal. Brent Geese from northern Russia & flocks of waders join them. Black Tailed Godwit, Grey & Golden Plover, Knot & Dunlin feed along the tide line or rest at the edges of the Salt marsh pools. Snipe can sometimes be seen hiding in the vegetation behind them. Flocks of Lapwing take to the sky with a wonderful display calling as they swirl high in the sky before coming back into land. A few Little Grebe have taken up residence and can be seen diving in the garage pool. If you’re lucky you might spot an Avocet or a Pintail Duck that visit at this time of year.
Our raptors will be busy hunting for food. Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier & Kestrel. At Pegwell there is even a small chance of spotting a rare Hen Harrier or a Short-eared Owl hunting the marsh land either side of the rivers edge.
Closer to home we have a handsome male Kestrel that hunts along the Ramsgate cliff edge using the lamposts as a perch. He is wonderful to watch from the top of the promenade occasionally diving into the cliff scrub looking for mice or voles.
Down at the harbour our Autumn and Winter visitors have so far included Guillemot, Razorbill, Great Crested Grebe, Red throated Diver, Purple Sandpipers and this year the over wintering Kingfisher appears to be a male. Some beautiful Snow Buntings have arrived either side of Ramsgate so hopefully one might turn up locally.
Starlings can be seen gathering in large numbers now and ‘murmurate’ before going into roost. The largest local murmuration is at Grove Ferry & Stodmarsh Nature Reserve but we have our own smaller version over Ramsgate Port.
During the winter months at low tide off Ramsgate westcliff if you look closely you can see a group of small black dots on an exposed sandbank. These are Seals having a rest and can sometimes number from a few to over one hundred (also look out for the hundreds of Cormorants that also rest there before flying to Pegwell and then on in ‘V’ formation up river to roost at Stodmarsh). While over on eastcliff with a pair of binoculars you can see Grey Seals gathering on the Goodwin Sands.
Winter thrushes, Redwing & Fieldfare also begin to arrive from Scandinavia looking for berries to feed on. So it’s a good reminder to put out some additional food & water for the garden birds to help them get through the winter.
Keith Ross @ramsgatebirds
p.s. Look out for a BBC Countryfile Christmas film by Richard Taylor-Jones that includes some of our local wildlife.