May 182011

Back on home turf and our usual Wednesday appointment with nature took us to Swale Reserve near Harty on the Isle of Sheppey.

A quick stop at Capel Fleet viewpoint on the way gave us great views of marsh harrier, red-legged partridge, reed bunting, sedge warbler, shelduck, oystercatcher and swallows.   Although windy we did catch the sound of whitethroat in the breeze, then it was on to Harty.

Major works are taking place in the grounds of the Harty Ferry Inn, but we did scan the marsh and shoreline before the noise and dust moved us on.   We did spot common tern, redshank, oystercatcher, lapwing, shelduck, and a wing tagged marsh harrier – since reported.  

Parking at Harty Church, we took lunch in the churchyard and watched blue tit and blackbird feeding young.   A female marsh harrier hunted the marshes while goldfinch and whitethroat perched singing in the shrubs.   Running the gauntlet of a rather noisy peacock in the churchyard we set off along the footpath.

With a high tide oystercatchers, lapwing and redshank were in the fields and on the marshes.   A further pair of marsh harriers were hunting.   A cormorant sat proudly on a fence post surveying the locality and a buzzard was spotted at a distance. 

Common Blue Butterfly

Reed buntings were singing from the reeds and a mixed flock of grey plover and dunlin flew up river.      Both male and female common blue butterfly were fluttering in the strong breeze keeping low to the rough grass.   As we neared the hide avocet flew with lapwing, oystercatchers and redshank seemingly disturbed by a gull.   From the hide we watched shelduck, pochard, wigeon, little grebe, grey heron and more reed bunting.   The unmistakeable “ping” of a bearded tit was heard as the bird flew in front of us and disappeared deep into the reeds – a further sighting as we retraced our steps gave a slightly longer view.

As we neared the end of our walk we spotted a nest of peacock butterfly caterpillars, some were black with the start of spines but others – presumably more mature  – were darker with white spots and longer, sharper spines.   They had virtually decimated the nettle plant that they had been nesting on and were gradually spreading on to the nearby vegetation.  

Back at the church the peacock was still prowling around calling loudly and eyeing up our bags for food.   Being generous souls we managed to spare a few bits of cake and biscuit which seemed to placate him.   

A quick stop along the lane to check the oaks for galls [I bet you can guess who was with us today] and it was time for home.