A Sunday walk at Northward Hill was the Group Bank Holiday treat. After stormy wet weather yesterday it was great to get out in the sunshine and warmth of a summer day. Eight of us joined Jeff at our local reserve. Our sightings started from the car park with Barn Swallow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Rook and Collared Dove.
At the Marshland Viewpoint we stood and watched the two pools – the sooner the refurbished benches are back the better! We immediately saw Mallard, Pochard and Coot. A Sparrowhawk put up a large flock of Lapwing and four Black-tailed Godwit. I found a Green Sandpiper on the muddy fringes of the island on the scrape, along with Avocet.
Walking towards the marshes there were Roesel’s Bush-cricket (see the distinctive bright ‘U’ shape on the side) and Lesser Marsh Grasshopper or Common Grasshopper, Chorthippus Albomarginatus [with grateful thanks to Malcolm for the identification]. Overhead a Marsh Harrier circled, Kestrel hovered and a Green Woodpecker called from the woods nearby.
Several butterflies delighted us as we walked through the woods, including Green-veined White, Small White, Speckled Wood, Common Blue, Red Admiral and Meadow Brown.
Sally spotted a gall on a thistle which was identified (again by Malcolm) as Urophora Cardui. This is caused by a Canada Thistle Gall Fly which lays its eggs on the stems of its host plant, the Canada thistle. After hatching, the larvae burrow into the stem of the plant and form a gall – which looks like a Gooseberry. The fly goes through a tunnel formed in the gall between June to October.
We decided to have lunch by the Duck Decoy, on of our favourite spots; peaceful and quiet with sedges and reedbeds nearby which give us lots to enjoy as we eat. Huge flocks of Lapwing, Jackdaw and Rooks were spooked by a Peregrine which then used thermals to gain rapid height. Marsh Frogs were croaking as we put the world to rights over our picnic.
Beyond the Decoy, we heard and then saw Bearded Tit. A bright handsome male flew along just over the tops of the reeds, through the middle of the group and then disappeared into the reeds beyond us.
We decided it was time to return via the reservoir. Here were a couple of Little Grebe, Pochard, Gadwall, and Mute Swan. The island in the middle of the reservoir was covered in “rampant vegetation” according to Jeff – summed it up quite well.
So another great walk out on the North Kent Marshes, with Birds of Prey being the stars of the day. Thanks to Jeff for leading and Malcolm and Sally for their expertise and identifications.