Wednesday 15 February 2023

Kentish Nature Walk - #66 - 14th February 2023

I had a talk booked yesterday evening for the Faversham Natural History Group so I pottered east out of the Medway fog bank before lunchtime and made my way toward Tankerton for a look for the Pallas’s Warbler that had been around since before Christmas.  It was all blue skies and sunshine when I arrived by the colourful beach huts and the fog was only lingering offshore clouding the turbines from view. 

A chance encounter with Andy Taylor as I got out of the car led to a good catch up about all things ornithology whilst the Brents grumbled along the tide line where countless bounding hounds chased the gulls, Curlews and Oystercatchers from their lunch.

After some tips from Andy I ambled east and down along The Brook and although I did not find the elusive little sprite it was very pleasant and spring like and given the attire of some of the locals I was somewhat overdressed.

A Cetti’s Warbler was giving it large from the streamside Brambles and Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks and three Tit species were feeding in the still bare Elms, Willows and Aspen.  A male Sparrowhawk put on a grand display overhead and attracted a female who powered in with exaggerated wing beats to join him. A couple of Grey wagtails flew over towards the sewage works and a very smart Brown Rat was investigating the margins before sitting up under a Bramble to wash her face and hands.  I even checked some Burdock heads to see if I could find the cocooned larvae of Mertzneria lappella and was pleasantly surprised that I could!


Mertzneria lappella moth pupa in Burdock seedheads

Mertzneria lappella moth pupa in Burdock seedheads

I ambled back and sat on a bench with my coffee and watched the now closer waders on the incoming tide that included scurrying mice-like silver Sanderlings while a Great Northern Diver was snorkelling some way out.

From here I wiggled down to Grove Ferry where I was greeted by singing Song and Mistle Thrushes around the car park.  It was still surprisingly balmy as I headed out and my short walk soon became a long one out to the tower hide on the Lampen Wall. 

I did not see a huge variety of species but it was a magical early evening of golden light, no wind and memorable views. Cetti’s Warblers were vocal and I heard a couple of Water Pipits on one of the floods and a Stonechat kept watch from the top of a reedbed bush.  Bizarrely I only saw one Marsh Harrier although it was a fine tricoloured male.


I cut through to the banks of the Great Stour (passing a ballet dancer photoshoot on the way…) and almost immediately saw a Kingfisher darting ahead  of me.  The river was oozing along slowly  and looks so different in the winter.  I was hoping (as ever) to see a Beaver but once again they eluded me although there were plenty of signs that they are not hibernating with freshly  stropped bark and chewed stumps and five muddy slipways between the Stour and the marsh.  You could see where they had pulled themselves up and slid down and at the top you could see claw marks and even the impression from that amazing tail. Perhaps this will be the summer I get to see them?  Natural England (I presume) had put stakes either side of the mouth of each slide to stop people following suit!

Beaver tail marks

Beaver slide

Beaver slide

A herd of Belted Galloways were feeding out in the marsh and Lapwings circled into the meadows near the middle hide displacing a Green Sandpiper in the process.  A Kingfisher once again flew on ahead and Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits were moving through the Willows while I could hear but not see Bullfinches

Belted Galloways

A large female Marsh Frog was found sitting in the middle of the path looking a little bewildered so I helped her to the ditch in the direction she was facing.

Marsh Frog

As I neared the hide I could hear the rumbling of the Cormorants in the dead trees out on the lake and hundreds more were arriving in ragged phalanxes from both the Reculver and Sandwich coasts. I could not find the Ring-necked Duck from up top and did not fancy pushing on to the Reedbed Hide where I would have found even more challenging light conditions. I did however find a Ceroxys urticae Picture Wing Fly in the hide. The view back the way I had come was bathed in late afternoon sun and I stood for a while and scanned for Bitterns and such like.  



Ceroxys urticae

Fieldfares were ‘chacking’ all around and many seemed to be descending into the dense Willow swamp alongside the path which was decked out in festoons of lichen where a wall of soft sub-singing quickly built up.  I turned around and began the walk back with the sun now behind me.  It was so tranquil and there was no one around – just me and the sounds of a winter marsh winding down for the day.

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