Monday 26 October 2020

Green Urban Birding - The Hoo Loop - 26th October 2020

With blue skies greeting me this morning I decided to do a big walk and head out towards Hoo with the chance to add to some waders to the stuttering Lockdown Walk List. The end of August became too fine and warm and little was moving around here and I was then away in Lesvos for over two weeks and then indoors afterwards for two more so my chances of picking up autumn waders and passerines such as Whinchat were somewhat diminished.

And so it was with a degree of enthusiasm that I ambled off into Strood at just after 8am with the local raucous Jays flop flop flying overhead between Oak trees. 


The Medway was high when I got to the Submarine but it had turned and this would hopefully mean some foreshore to get down on when I got past Upnor.  Grey and Pied Wagtails pinged along the Prom and my first Scandinavian Rock Pipit came up from the edge stridently calling ‘phist’ as it did so.  The undeveloped riverside areas were wet again and the Black-headed and Common Gulls were back and loafing on the puddles. 

Black-headed Gulls


Black-heads and Common Gulls

Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches called overhead and Goldcrests were calling in the Ivy hedge as I climbed the steep path up to Frindsbury All Saints but as usual, they seldom stay still long enough for a picture! Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits foraged with them and I Firecrest called and briefly appeared too. Meanwhile two Jackdaws watched me with steely white eyes from the top of an Ash tree.

Damn Goldcrest was in the middle!


Pied Wagtail

I crossed over the main road and started down towards Gundulph Pool but the light was in my eyes and I could not see anything on there but having checked another mixed Tit flock in the sycamores and Holly alongside the old house walls in Upnor I was pleased to have two Firecrests start peeping and then appear in an Ivy clad tree where they played chase for a couple of minutes before moving on.



I could hear Buzzards before I left the trees and two were up over the woods. The tide had dropped enough to allow me to venture down onto the beach for a slightly soft walk along to Hoo Marina.  As usual there was not a wader to be seen on the whole stretch which I still find baffling.

There was no one else around other than this Troll who was rather distracted by the VR game he was playing


I wiggled through the boatyards and then up onto the seawall where the newly exposed mud was covered in waders. Redshank were present as ever along with quick running flocks of Dunlin and stroppy Oystercatchers while shimmering flocks of Knots sinuously headed to the south side. I could hear Turnstones and Grey Plovers and both were quickly found with Curlews further out and Ringed Plovers closer to the high tide mark.

Essence of Turnstones, Dunlin and Redshank


I scanned the river for Mergansers but only found the odd Cormorant and Great Crested Grebe and small parties of Dark-bellied Brent Geese were making their way out to the newly exposed island in the middle where presumably eel-grass is to be found.

Brents below the Kingsnorth jetty

A raft of 170 Wigeon were feeding with the outgoing tide and the lazy snoozing Shelduck gradually woke up and headed across to join them.  




All the while I was checking the set aside and ditch edges for the almost expected Stonechats but I still failed to find one.  The odd Reed Bunting erupted from the cover along with a few Greenfinches, Linnets and three Redpolls and a Cetti’s Warbler sang half-heartedly.

Teal were on the re-flooded fields and pools on the inland side of the wall and Little Egrets dabbled their feet in the tidal channels. I even optimistically scanned the top of the Hawthorns for the vague chance of a Great Grey Shrike but had to be content with two Ravens slow rowing their way south.

Little Egret

Little Egret



Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails scampered on clockwork legs around the horse paddocks before I turned off the wall and in towards the fishing lakes.  The view had improved with less leaf cover but the variety of wildfowl had not with just a couple each of Pochard and Tufted Duck and a few Coot and Moorhen although I did hear Kingfisher on two occasions. It will not be long before the path here is under water as the pits and pools begin to link up for the winter months.

I could hear a Green Sandpiper somewhere but could not find it as I swung back towards Hoo church and then up through the field of Asparagus in its golden autumn fern-like form. The wild bird cover strip along the edge that blazed with Sunflowers back in August was now doing its intended job and I put up small parties of Green, Gold and Chaffinch as I moved along and even Wrens, Robins and Tits were coming out of the Elm hedge to forage in it.


I took the path back down through the woods above Upnor only stopping to check another large Long-tailed Tit flock that had several Goldcrest and a lone Chiffchaff tagging along before vaguely retracing my steps into the village and taking the Castle Street footpath through the tangle Ivy strewn wood past the sewage works. It was full of Goldcrests and more Long-tailed Tits and Buzzards circled above the whole time.

When I got back to Frindsbury All Saints I chose a new route home and rather randomly at this point a car pulled up and to my amazement it was Ros (an ex Rainham field teacher) and her husband Derek who were here to do some family tree investigations in the churchyard. 


Frindsbury All Saints

Wall Rue on the churchyard wall

We had a good gossip while admiring the views across the shining Medway towards the M2 bridge and the Castle and Cathedral in Rochester just across the water before going our separate ways. 

Towards the M2 bridge

Towards Chatham

Towards Rochester

The strange half hour did not end there with a panicked exclamation from the front of a house as I passed drawing my attention where a lady was trying to leave her porch was but was simply terrified and frozen to the spot as there was a Bumblebee on her door step. She asked for help and so I obliged and picked up this floundering Bombus terrestris and placed it on some Salvias in the front garden. She was very grateful but possibly even more shocked that I picked it up.  A little bit of bee education took place before I moved on and into town and home.


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