After a five-month residency on the embankment, “our” parakeet is spreading its wings a little, and is now more likely to be heard on the far side of the river. If it fails to pair up with another wandering bird this spring, it will probably move off to try its luck elsewhere. 

It hasn’t been the most exciting of winters for birds on the marshes. The snipe flock is smaller than usual, and by the end of the month had dwindled to just 14. On January 3rd they were joined by a jack snipe, which is considerably smaller, and with a much shorter bill. The common snipe breeds in marshy areas of the UK, though now very scarce in Kent, but the jack snipe is purely a winter visitor to this country from its breeding grounds in northern Europe. Its status here is poorly known as it is such a secretive bird, tending to sit tight when approached, but if flushed flying off silently, very quickly landing again in dense cover.

Numbers of meadow pipits are also falling. This small, streaky bird (left) is another winter visitor to Hambrook Marshes. They used to be seen in a flock of about 15, but numbers have dropped off dramatically, with just the occasional single or couple now being seen. Quite why this should have happened is unclear, but sadly it could soon cease to be a regular visitor to the marshes altogether.

The relatively dry weather over the past six months might account for fewer birds. However, 70 black-headed gulls, five common gulls, and four herring gulls were spotted in Tonford field on January 18th when there was some standing water for a few days. Thirteen magpies were feeding on the Boardwalk field one morning, and a joyful sound was the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker on the 30th.