Monday, 4 January 2010

Sightings of Twite

Pegwell Bay's tidal surge was impressive, as the sea rapidly covered the expanse of mud, making the bait-diggers and wading birds hurry along ahead of it. It was only four hours from full low tide to full high tide, and flocks of knot, golden plovers and lapwings flew in circles above the water, before heading inland to roost on the fields.

Feeding on the vegetation around the pools in front of the hide were many reed buntings, and also (they had to be pointed out to us by Dylan, doh) a flock of four twite, an unassuming bird that breeds in the hills and mountains, and winters on the coast. You may not be able to ID them from the photo above, so I've stolen another from Steve Ray, below.

One of the reasons for visiting Pegwell was to try to twitch Phil Milton, who has just published the 2009 edition of the PIgwell Bay Berd Riport, and I wanted to get a signed copy. He must have been busy signing them at Waterstones, so we were unlucky; but he has kindly allowed me access to his records.

: (declining migrant/winter visitor) A bird that was present in large flocks in times long past, declining to the point that during the winter of 2008/09 none were seen at all for the first time in recorded history. Older documented records include: 500+ in December 1963, 300 in December 1983, 209 February 1984, 90 in January 1985, 150 on January 3rd 1988, 65 in October 1989 and 95 on November 6th 1991.

Annual peak wintering numbers since 1993:

1993 = 12 1994 = 15 1995 = 50 1996 = 42 1997 = 9 1998 = 30 1999 = 26 2000 = 20 2001 = 8 2002 = 71 2003 = 72 2004 = 60 2005 = 46 2006 = 15 2007 = 9 2008 = 6 2009 = 0 2010 = 23 (so far)

Clearly there has been a distinct collapse in numbers wintering here since the 1960s, 70s and 80s, in line with the national trend, but the sequence of peaks followed by declines is intriguing. A number of the birds were ringed, which may point to the survey being carried out in the Peak District, where there is a project aimed at improving breeding habitats in the upland areas.

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