Sandwich Bay is a large sandy bay on the east Kent coast between Ramsgate in the north and Deal in the south.
At the northern end of the bay is the estuary of the River Stour which meets the sea at Pegwell Bay. There is a unique combination of habitats in the area of these two bays that makes it of immense ornithological and botanical interest. Pegwell Bay is now largely a protected area under the management of the Kent Wildlife Trust, Kent County Council, RSPB and National Trust.
The saltmarshes and mudflats of the northern side of Pegwell Bay are part of the Pegwell Bay Country Park and there is a hide overlooking the Stour Estuary.
Further south are open expanses of scrubland at Stonelees that attract passerine migrants in good numbers and across the estuary mouth is Shellness Point.
Further south and adjacent to the beach are the extensive short grasslands of Prince's and Royal St George's golf courses and there are arable fields and pastures with a network of drainage ditches between the golf courses and the river.
North of the town of Sandwich is Stonar Lake, worth a visit in winter for waterfowl and grebes.
South of Royal St George's golf course is the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory where birds are trapped and ringed over a wide area of scrub and dune slacks.
Despite a good list of wintering birds it is migrants and rarities that attract most birding interest in the Sandwich Bay area.
Red-throated Diver, Common Eider and Common Scoter can be seen offshore during the winter with Common Goldeneye, Common Teal and Common Pochard on Stonar Lake and Eurasian Wigeon on grasslands. Waders present in winter include Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Dunlin and Sanderling.
Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting, Twite and Stonechat feed on the dunes and scrub and Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon hunt overhead. This is also a fairly relaible site for Glaucous Gull in winter.
Spring sees upchannel passage of scoters, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and other waterfowl, waders such as Pied Avocet, Whimbrel and Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover and sometimes Eurasian Dotterel and raptors can include Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Northern Hobby. Sandwich Tern is one of the earliest migrants seen from early March, sometimes even wintering and Little and other terns pass through later.
Passerine migrants will appear with Northern Wheatear and Common Chiffchaff usually the first followed by a wide range of the commoner species and one or two scarcities such as Black Redstart, Firecrest and Ring Ouzel. Golden Oriole and Hoopoe are virtually annual.
Summer is generally rather quiet at Sandwich Bay but Common Shelduck, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover breed and a small Little Tern colony survives under strict protection. Common Cuckoo parasitize the passerine nesters which include Meadow Pipit and various warblers.
Autumn wader passage begins from mid July and most of the norther European species can occur. Among the first are often Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper followed by Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and others. Tern numbers build up from late summer, particularly at Shellness Point and it worth looking for skuas harassing the flocks at this time. Black Tern is a fairly frequent passage visitor and gulls include regular Little Gull and increasingly, Mediterranean Gull as well as the commoner species.
There is a notable passage of raptors in September and October with Hen Harrier and Eurasian Sparrowhawk seen in fair numbers. One or two Common Buzzard are regular and there is a chance of Rough-legged Buzzard in some years.
Passerine migration in autumn will involve all the commoner hirundines, pipits and wagtails, thrushes, chats, warblers, flycatchers and finches as well as a good scattering of more sought-after species. The possibility of Wryneck, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher draws birders to the bay and there are usually rarer species such as Red-backed Shrike and Icterine Warbler to be found.
The Kentish Plover was originally described from a specimen taken in this area and although it has since declined this is still one of the most regular sites for the species in Britain today.
Over the years the Pegwell-Sandwich Bay area has amassed a long list of rarities that includes Glossy Ibis and Red-footed Falcon, Caspian Tern and Royal Tern, Sabine's Gull and Little Auk, waders including Pectoral Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper and passerines such as Dusky Warbler and Sardinian Warbler.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Bewick's Swan, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, European Honey Buzzard, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Eurasian Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Eurasian Woodcock, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Skylark, Shore Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, White Wagtail, Eurasian Wren, Dunnock, Eurasian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, (PM,W), Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-breasted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Common Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Linnet, Twite, Lesser Redpoll, Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
The moths and butterflies of Sandwich Bay have long been the subject of serious study and a national rarities are often trapped here.
Botanically the bay is of great importance for its rare plants and Worth Marshes in the south are one of the best areas. At least nine species of orchid are found here including Pyramidal, Southern Marsh and the extremely rare Lizard Orchid as well as the highly localised Bedstraw Broomrape.
Areas of Interest
The gardens of the Sandwich Bay Estate often attract an interesting range of passerine migrants.
Access and Facilities
The main east Kent coast road, the A256, passes the gates of the Pegwell Bay Country Park about 2km past the hoverport turn-off to the south of Ramsgate. Park here and walk the coastal footpath north or south to view the estuary. Return to the A256 and head south for Stonar Lake, keep left at the roundabout and the lake is on the left about 1.5km further on.
For the Bird Observatory head south again and over the bridge, left into Upper Strand Street and right at the junction, sharp left and continue to the Toll Gate. In a few hundred metres the observatory can be seen on the right and from here there are several walks to the best birding areas. The observatory can provide basic accommodation for a small number of visitors if advance booking is made.
Tel: 01843 583333 Ramsgate Tourist Information Centre
- Kent Wildlife Trust, Sandwich & Pegwell Bays
- BBC Seven Wonders
- Ramsgate Tourist Information Centre
- Pegwell Bay on Streetmap
- Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory on Streetmap
Content and images originally posted by Steve
Have now made two visits here, both unfortunately in summer when the birding is not supposed to be too good, but both times have been very enjoyable. The orchids in very early July were an added bonus. The waders in late August, also passerine migrants along Prince's golf course, were good.
- Fairly small area
- most of it easy to get around.