Wednesday 8 February 2023

Kentish Nature Walks #65 - Motney Hill in the Golden Hour - 8th February 2023

Andrea had her cataract removal operation at 4pm today in Gillingham and so after dropping her off I popped straight down to Motney Hill with what appeared to be a recently turned tide, no wind, blue sky and the sun behind me… surely not!

The tide was initially as my last visit a week ago with duck dotted around on a glassy Medway but it never ceases to amaze the speed at which the water recedes and the birds instinctively follow.  The Spotted Redshank was waiting for his moment on the wadery spit from the other day and Turnstones and Oystercatchers were napping on a large concrete block.  The light was magic and the prospect of some nice images kept my eyes peeled.

Spotted Redshank and buddies

Turnstones, Oystercatchers & Black-headed Gull

Cetti’s Warblers and Chiffchaffs called from the reedbed and Redwings and Fieldfares were gathering in the taller trees while cawing Rooks headed towards the country park.  The Pintail and Shoveler glowed and you could hear every sound coming from the incoming Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and Grey Plover mixed with the guttural laughing of the Shelducks and grumblings of some Brents that I had not even found yet.


Shelduck & Shovelers

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gulls

The exposed mud was fizzing and hissing as air escaped from the burrows of a myriad of worms and bivalves and there was not one other person there to enjoy it.  A female Marsh Harrier spooked a vast shimmering line of Avocets that waved around the end of Motney Hill but stayed away from the bay although there was often a sudden dread when a new flight of Godwits came in to land having whooshed in from Otterham Creek.  Two Rock Pipits nipped ahead of me and Dunnocks and Robins were feeding along the exposed tideline below the curious chalk micro cliff that slowly dips away to be overlain by layers of more distinctly human origins.


Black-tailed Godwits

Grey Plovers & Dunlin

I followed the sandy chalk beach around towards the point finding the Brent family on the way with their very impressive five youngsters.  Redshank alarmed in front of me spooking Curlews, Turnstones and a couple of mournful Grey Plovers before a dashing female Merlin hurtled over the hill and across the bay throwing waders in all directions.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese family



I rounded the point and found myself with 330 Avocet out on the mud in a splodge of black and white but the Marsh Harrier returned and pushed the whole flock right past me and into the low evening light where they glowed almost apricot.  Two Great Crested Grebes and a party of Canadas and Greylags were drifting out on the tide but again there were no sea duck or divers.


I was unsure if the little car park had a gate and so started back with the bay now a shimmering mud flat where water had been minutes before.  It was now a scene of silhouettes and gold with thousands of waders creating and aural landscape so resonant of the south-easts estuaries. There was no gate on the small car park but I still moved it back up the road so that I could continue to watch the spectacle unfold as the sun set over the Medway towns.  Flocks of Knot and Dunlin appeared further out and caught the last rays of the sun and Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in huddles still belly deep in the now distant tidal margins.


The winter Thrushes headed for the scrub to roost and three Song Thrushes started singing within ear shot of each other while the male Marsh Harrier spent the final moments of light patrolling the reedbed where I suspect he also roosts.  I could hear another calling on the deck so suspect at least one had already dropped in.  Water Rails squealed and Cetti’s Warblers shouted one last time before the day and my time was up and I had to go and pick up Andrea with her ‘new eye’ just 90 minutes after leaving her at the surgery…