Common Buzzard used to be a screaming rarity in the south-east of England. Some time in the late 1980s they started to appear with more frequency, although it was still a good day if you saw one. My first in Surrey and Kent was not recorded until 1995. By the turn of the millennium numbers were definitely on the rise, to the point that it was no longer a surprise when one flew into sight, but they were normally encounters with single birds. Then came the multiple encounters, and the rest, as they say, is history.
At Dungeness, the Common Buzzard story is a similar one of gradual infiltration as a regularly encountered species. It is now a few years since a scan of the horizon - especially from the RSPB reserve towards Lydd - almost guaranteed seeing Common Buzzard. In recent times there has been a new dimension to sky watching here - that of 'raptor days' - primarily on sunny and calm days in April/May and August/September, and the Common Buzzard is a major component of them.
Today saw a rewriting of the record books. There was little sign of any movement until c14.00hrs, but while birding at Galloways, Mark H and I were aware of six Common Buzzards drifting above the shingle in an easterly direction. We soon moved to Springfield Bridge for a better vantage point, to be joined by Sean C. For the next hour a further 31 Common Buzzards moved through, arriving from the NW to N and drifting off between E and SW, after gaining height. We felt that the movement had ended by 15.45hrs. We were wrong. At approx 17.30 Martin C, scanning from his Lydd garden, was able to count 14 in the air together. We also learnt that Barry W, birding at Caldicot Lane during the mid-afternoon, recorded 27 moving through - some of these were almost certainly the same as ours.
These numbers are unprecedented at Dungeness. They leave in their wake a number of questions. Where are they going? What makes them move? Are they 'local' youngsters just exploring? Do some cross the channel or do they head back inland? This is what makes birding fascinating - nothing stays the same and we are always learning, always questioning.