Wildlife : Birds

Since 2013 a weekly survey has been conducted of the birds in Westgate Parks. The survey includes the 4.3ha Whitehall Meadow, immediately south-west of Toddler’s Cove, which is not part of the Westgate Parks but is owned by Canterbury City Council and managed as a nature reserve. A total of 93 species have been recorded.

  • Mute swan : Doesn’t nest here, but frequent throughout the year on the river, sometimes in family parties of up to eight.
  • Greylag goose : Very occasionally seen flying over, usually in small groups of 3-6, but very occasionally up to 48.
  • Canada goose : Extremely rarely flocks of up to 20 have been seen flying along the valley.
  • Mandarin : Occasionally seen. A pair has bred in a hollow willow tree in Toddler’s Cove at least twice, and in 2019 a female was seen with a family of nine small ducklings.
  • Gadwall : In early 2015 a single bird was present in Whitehall Meadow. Probably injured, and never seen to fly.
  • Mallard : Up to 70 are always present, mainly in Westgate Gardens, where they are fed by the public. There was an exceptional count of 129 in Whitehall Meadow when the whole area was flooded in November 2013. The Parks are too heavily used by the public and dogs for mallard to have much chance of nesting successfully, but every spring several broods of ducklings are seen on the river.
  • Teal : Single bird on Bingley Island in 2017.
  • Tufted duck : A single bird in Whitehall Meadow in September 2017 and three birds on the Stour at Toddler’s Cove the same month.
  • Pheasant : Very rare. Singles occasionally seen in Whitehall Meadow, with six there in August and September 2017. Five seen once in Toddler’s Cove, single record from Tannery Field and three from Bingley Island.
  • Little grebe : Up to 8 were present on the Stour in winter 2013 and 2014, but numbers have declined since then, with a marked decline since 2019, and in 2021 1-3 were only occasionally seen. One or two birds very occasionally seen in the channels around Bingley Island.
  • Great crested grebe : Single bird on the river on one day in August 2015.
  • Cormorant : One or two occasionally fly along the river. Singles very rarely seen on the river, on one occasion actually fishing in Westgate Gardens.
  • Little egret : Single birds very occasional, in Whitehall Meadow, Tannery Field, and Bingley Island, particularly during flood episodes. One landed in Westgate Gardens early one morning when there was no one about.
  • Heron : Single birds very occasionally seen on Whitehall Meadow and Bingley Island, which are both much less disturbed than the rest of the Parks area.
  • Red kite : A bird flew over Westgate Gardens in June 2015.
  • Marsh harrier : One flew over Bingley Island in January 2020.
  • Sparrowhawk : Single birds very occasionally hunt over all areas of the Parks.
  • Buzzard : Eight records.
  • Kestrel : Single birds very occasionally seen flying or hunting over all areas apart from the Gardens.
  • Hobby : Single record of a bird flying over Tannery Field in June 2015.
  • Peregrine : Very rarely seen flying over, once over Whitehall Meadow, but on four other occasions over the Gardens at various times of year.
  • Water rail : Three records from Bingley Island. Otherwise all records are from Whitehall Meadow, where one was frequently seen in March and April 2013, and again from September 2014 to March 2015.
  • Moorhen : Resident in all areas of the Parks. Up to 14 have been counted in the Gardens, though the figure is more usually around 4-6. During winter up to nine sometimes feed on the grassy areas of Tannery Field, and as many as 23 on Bingley Island, which is the best place to see a group. A few pairs breed each year, even in the Gardens, where adequate cover is in short supply.
  • Coot : Singles very rarely present on the river. Four counted when Whitehall Meadow was flooded in February 2014.
  • Lapwing : Single bird in Whitehall Meadow in April 2015, and one flying over the same area in February 2015.
  • Snipe : Apart from a single bird on Bingley Island in October 2016, all records have been from Whitehall Meadow, where up to 16 were regularly present in the last three months of 2015. Otherwise, just the very occasional record. The field is currently not grazed, and the vegetation is too tall to see any birds, which probably would find the area unsuitable because of the height of the grass.
  • Woodcock : A single record from Bingley Island during snow in March 2018.
  • Green sandpiper : Single bird in Whitehall Meadow in July 2013.
  • Common sandpiper : One along the river in May 2013, three in September 2015, and one in May 2018. They probably regularly fly along the Stour on migration, but are unlikely to be seen unless visiting at dawn before they get disturbed.
  • Mediterranean gull : A flock of five birds flew over Whitehall Meadow in March 2020.
  • Black-headed gull : A winter visitor, absent from April to June. Numbers vary enormously from week to week and year to year, partly depending on how wet the ground is. Highest count is 539 on Whitehall Meadow when flooded in February 2014. During the winter there is usually a flock of birds resting on rooftops neighbouring Westgate Gardens, descending into the Gardens whenever someone throws out food. Up to 56 have been counted in the Gardens.
  • Common gull : Rarely present, but up to 13 have been present on Whitehall Meadow during wet winters.
  • Lesser black-backed gull : Occasional individuals fly over, mainly in April or May, but occasionally in summer or winter. Up to five very rarely in Whitehall Meadow when it floods, and up to three sometimes amongst other gulls and feral pigeons in the Gardens.
  • Herring gull : 1-3 birds are often present in the Gardens and Toddler’s Cove, occasionally up to 12. Exceptionally, in July 2017 68 birds were feeding in Toddler’s Cove, along with five lesser black-backed gulls. In winters when Whitehall Meadow floods, birds may gather there, the highest count being 143 in February 2014.
  • Feral pigeon : there is a resident flock in the Gardens. Numbers vary markedly from week to week; very occasionally none are present, but up to 69 can usually be counted.
  • Stock dove : One or two recorded, mainly in spring and summer, in Tannery Field, where a pair nests. Much scarcer elsewhere.
  • Wood pigeon : Numbers vary considerably from year to year, but up to 113 have been counted, mainly resting in trees in Tannery Field and Bingley Island. Much scarcer elsewhere.
  • Collared dove : Up to 10 present in the Gardens all year round, but less frequently seen there now. In 2013 up to 4 were fairly regular in Toddler’s Cove, but in February 2014 a line of 35 mature cupressus trees, in which they presumably nested, were cut down and since then the birds have seldom been seen here.
  • Turtle dove : Single birds in Whitehall Meadow in June 2015 and July 2017.
  • Cuckoo : Only 8 records in ten years – 2 in Bingley Island and6 in Whitehall Meadow, and none since 2017.
  • Little owl : A bird was calling from a willow beside the river in Whitehall Meadow in August 2017.
  • Swift : Very scarce, usually just 1-2, mainly over Whitehall Meadow and the Gardens, occasionally up to 8 and an exceptional 20 over the Gardens in 2016.
  • Kingfisher : 1-3 occasional in Whitehall Meadow, particularly in 2013-4, less frequent in Bingley Island, but even one record from the Gardens.
  • Great spotted woodpecker : Occasional in all areas. Not known to have nested.
  • Green woodpecker : Occasional in all areas. Has bred on Bingley Island.
  • Skylark : 1-2 very rarely fly over in winter.
  • Swallow : 1-2 very rarely fly over in summer.
  • House martin : Remarkably few records; very occasional flocks of up to 19 in autumn.
  • Meadow pipit : 1-2 occasional flying over in autumn and winter. 1-2 very rarely feeding in Whitehall Meadow.
  • Grey wagtail : Occasional in all areas, but most frequent in the Gardens, where a pair nested in a gap between stones in the riverbank wall of the Stour near Tower House.
  • Pied wagtail : 1-2 occasional in all areas. Maximum 6.
  • Wren : Resident. 1-4 frequent in all areas. Commonest in Tannery Field and Bingley Island, where up to 7 present.
  • Dunnock : Resident in Bingley Island, Tannery Field and the Gardens, where 1-5 fairly regular. Only occasional in Whitehall Meadow and Toddler’s Cove.
  • Robin : Resident. 1-3 regular in Whitehall Meadow, Toddler’s Cove and the Gardens. Commoner in Tannery Field and Bingley Island, where up to 8 present.
  • Blackbird : Resident in all areas, numbers peaking in mid-summer.
  • Fieldfare : Only recorded on seven dates, three of them overflying only always in the second half of winter. Largest flock on ground was 10.
  • Song thrush : Resident, but with seasonal pattern of abundance, peaking around May, and scarce from September through to April. Apparent decline since 2018.
  • Redwing : Winter in variable numbers. Recorded from all areas, but most frequently in Tannery Field, with a peak count of 38.
  • Mistle thrush : Resident but less often seen August to October. Recorded from all areas, but seldom in the Gardens.
  • Sedge warbler : 2 in April 2013 on Bingley Island.
  • Reed warbler : A pair probably bred on Bingley Island from 2013 to 2017. The only other records are occasional on Whitehall Meadow and once in Tannery Field, all probably a spillover from Bingley Island. The last record was in September 2019.
  • Blackcap : Annual summer visitor, with a single wintering record in the Gardens in December 2015. Annual breeder in Tannery Field and Bingley Island. Occasional breeder in Whitehall Meadow and Toddler’s Cove, and may have bred on occasion in the Gardens.
  • Garden warbler : Only recorded 7 times; five times on Bingley Island (in 2014, 2016, 2020 and 2021), where there is a possibility of breeding. Passage birds also recorded on Whitehall Meadow and Toddler’s Cove in 2021.
  • Whitethroat : Scarce but annual summer visitor. Most consistently recorded from Bingley Island, where it nests most years, and probably also breeds in Whitehall Meadow occasionally.
  • Lesser whitethroat : Single record from Whitehall Meadow in May 2015.
  • Wood warbler : Single record of an obvious passage bird in the Gardens in April 2013.
  • Chiffchaff : Regular summer visitor with occasional records December to February, but mainly on autumn migration. Least often recorded in the Gardens, and most regular site is Bingley Island, where a pair probably nests most years.
  • Willow warbler : Two records – April 2013 in Whitehall Meadow, and August 2020 on Bingley Island.
  • Cetti’s warbler : In the period September-October 2014 there were two records on Bingley Island, plus a further two just to the south-west of the island, but with no further evidence of colonisation.
  • Goldcrest : Present in all months, but more frequently in winter. Most often recorded in the Gardens, and with more spring records, so in some years a pair may nest in the conifers there.
  • Spotted flycatcher : Recorded in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Probably bred in the Tannery/Bingley area in 2013, 2016, and 2019, and possibly in 2015 and 2017.
  • Long-tailed tit : Present all year but rather erratic in appearance. Autumn and winter flocks of up to 18. Spring records tend to be sparse, and not clear if it nests in the Parks annually.
  • Blue tit : Resident in all areas, with up to 16 recorded regularly. Probably nests in all areas.
  • Great tit : Resident. Less common than blue tit, with up to 13 recorded regularly, but with one exceptional record of 19. Probably nests in all areas.
  • Coal tit : A scarce visitor, with all records outside the breeding season. Not recorded 2013-4, but then annually. Most of the records come from the Gardens, where the attraction will be the conifers, and rare records from Toddler’s Cove, Tannery Field and Bingley Island.
  • Tree creeper : Sporadic in appearance. Did nest in a cupressus in Toddler’s Cove in 2013, but the trees were felled the following year. Also thought to have nested in Tannery Field.
  • Nuthatch : Single unexpected record in Toddler’s Cove in July 2018.
  • Jay : Up to five recorded in all months (9 exceptionally in April 2014), but not regularly present. Least often seen in Whitehall Meadow and Toddler’s Cove. Records during the breeding season are rather sparse, and the jay is not known to have nested here.
  • Magpie : Up to 8 regular throughout the year, occasionally more, and an exceptional 63 in January 2017 at a pre-roost gathering on Bingley Island. Lack of grazing in Whitehall Meadow in recent years means that the field is now too overgrown for magpies to forage in, and it is now seldom recorded there. May well breed, but no nest found.
  • Jackdaw : Mainly seen in the Gardens, particularly 2016-9; usually 1-4, but an exceptional 16 in August 2016. Doesn’t nest here.
  • Rook : Very occasional records of single birds flying over, particularly in 2013 and 2014, but the only record of a bird on the ground was at Tannery Field in May 2013.
  • Crow : Up to 7 present all year, occasionally 10. Much less frequent in Whitehall Meadow now that it is so overgrown. An exceptional 22 in Tannery Field in January 2020 and 29 there in February 2017. Not known to have nested.
  • Raven : One flew over Whitehall Meadow in March 2015.
  • Starling : Present all year, but largely absent August to October. Mainly absent from Whitehall Meadow, Tannery Field and Bingley Island. Flocks of up to 32 each spring in Toddler’s Cove when feeding young. Flocks of up to 60 often gather in one particular ash tree in the Gardens in the winter months, and smaller groups sometimes feed on the lawns.
  • House sparrow : Largely absent in the autumn and winter months, and seldom seen in Whitehall Meadow, Tannery Field or Bingley Island. Occasional in Toddler’s Cove, but it mainly recorded in the Gardens, where up to 25 feed on riverside vegetation, particularly in the May-June period when there are young in the nest.
  • Chaffinch : Present more or less all year in small numbers, with an exceptional 25 in Toddler’s Cove in January 2019. Most reliably seen in the Gardens, where there are up to 8. Less frequent in Tannery Field and Bingley Island, from which they tend to be absent during the winter months.
  • Brambling : Single record of a bird flying over Bingley Island in October 2019.
  • Greenfinch : Formerly more frequent in Toddler’s Cove, with 15 there in January 2015, but has declined greatly since then. The other main site is the Gardens, where up to 11 were regular in 2013, but has also declined markedly since then, doubtless due to the prevalence of the trichomonosis disease, and there have been no Gardens records for the past ten months. Seldom seen in Tannery Field or Bingley Island.
  • Goldfinch : Present all year, numbering in the 20s occasionally, and an exceptional 46 in November 2018. Has become more frequent in Bingley Island since a mulching regime was instituted in March 2018, resulting in a great increase in thistles, which the birds feed on in late summer.
  • Siskin : Given the presence of cone-bearing alders along the river and on Bingley Island, siskins are remarkably rare visitors to the Parks. 18 in Tannery Field in February 2013, and 10 in Bingley Island in December 2015. Otherwise, mainly the occasional birds flying over.
  • Lesser redpoll : Amazingly, the only record is of one in Whitehall Meadow.
  • Bullfinch : Only 16 records since 2013, mostly in May, August or October, and mostly on Bingley Island.
  • Reed bunting : Probably bred beside an overgrown pond on Bingley Island in 2013-5. Apart from that, May records in several years on Whitehall Meadow suggest that breeding may have occurred there.


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