A jaunt along the north Kent coast in a strengthening cool breeze was in order and after meeting up with Rob and Jeremy we began our day at Motney Hill on the Medway. The tide was on the point of turning and I was fortunate that there were some waders jammed up under our noses below the hulking wreck on the saltmarsh which gave a good opportunity to show them a good selection in one group. Dunlin and Turnstone huddled down amongst the Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank with the odd big eyed Grey Plover, Lapwing and Curlew. A line of Avocets were roosting in the distance.
|Black-tailed Godwit & Curlew|
The wildfowl all gleamed in the sunshine and the Shelduck looked particularly resplendent while rafts of Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail bobbed about waiting for the tide to drop. This is the only spot where I regularly see estuarine Shoveler and just over 200 were present. I can only presume that they is something in the mud surface in this particular bay that is attractive to them.
A few family parties of Brent Geese moved about in the margins of the flooded saltmarsh grasses while the Teal stayed within its sheltering confines which was probably a good move as Marsh Harriers made occasional low passes.
|Wigeon & Brents|
I scanned for Mergansers, Grebes and Divers but did not find one of any species which was disappointing. Reed Buntings and Chiffchaff called from the reedbed behand and Fieldfares and Redwings were in the Poplar tops.
With the tide still so far in we did not venture that far and after hearing a couple of Rock Pipits we headed back. I had mentioned the chance of a wintering Spotted Redshank but was still surprised to see a silvery Tringa at our feet on the first exposed rocky margin. We enjoyed some of the closest views I have ever had of the species which conveniently had a Common Redshank buddy close by for comparison.
|Spotted Redshank - it is rare for me to post quite so many images of one bird but it was very charismatic and posed rather nicely|
|Common Redshank & Spotted Redshank|
We moved on and wiggled along the coast to Funton Creek where huge flocks of Knot and Dunlin were encountered along with about 200 Avocets and both Godwit species. Brent Geese milled around close to the road and a couple of Marsh Harriers hunted the distant seawall. I always check the paddocks behind us and found two Mistle Thrushes diligently worm hunting while another mournfully sang in the surrounding trees.
On to Sheppey and Shellness and the Swale NNR although I did stop on the way down to scan the sea adding a Great Crested Grebes and line of seven Red-throated Divers which were moving north. The sound of serious artillery testing out on Foulness reverberated through everything but the Brent Geese and dozing Oystercatchers on the beach seemed unphased by the incredible sound wave. There were a couple of Turnstones and a single Sanderling too and Curlews were probing the grassy fields on the opposite side of the road with Stonechats looking out from fenceposts.
We bumped down to car park stopping briefly to check out what I thought might be some wild Swans. They were, and five adult and five juvenile Bewick’s Swans were watched grazing in the winter wheat. A family of five had been around for a while but these had the feel of recent arrivals.
With the tide on the turn and the light in our eyes we opted to head straight along the inland seawall path which immediately got us closer to the Swans which had mostly decided it was time for a nap. Flocks of Skylarks were feeding out over the saltmarsh with a few Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Reed Buntings. Gone are the days of wintering Twite although we did see a small flock of Linnets.
The floods on the inland side looked in grand condition but were strangely devoid of birds with just a handful of duck and Coot. It was all a bit odd. Down towards the hide we found the mixed Goose flock with a couple of hundred Brents around the edges and a mixed group of 20 Greylag, 12 Russian White-fronts and 33 Barnacle Geese, many of which were decked out in either yellow leg Darvics or white neck collars. I know that both schemes are part of the national project to survey the movements of our naturalised Geese species. It was too windy for me to read any of them but others have noted them, so hopefully there will be some feedback that I can report on.
|Four Goose combo|
Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were seen over the woods and crowds of Rooks methodically worked the pastures. With the wind getting u owe about turned and trudged back adding another couple of Stonechats before a sheltered lunch in the muddy car park.
A final stop back at the Raptor mound at Harty was in order and although it was very cool and windy we persevered for half an hour and were rewarded with at least 16 Marsh Harriers, three Buzzards and best of all an immature female Hen Harrier that was hunting super low and dipping in and out of view. A Raven flew over and was my first on Sheppey and a cloud of Golden Plover and Lapwing came up from behind the Fleet although I could not see anything causing such avian consternation.
There were no Corn Buntings on the wires and just a couple of Stonechats and some grovelling Linnets around the car park and with that we packed and headed homewards before the off island traffic built up.