A dozen of us met in the car park at Oare for this Saturday morning walk. High tide was due at around 3 pm, and we know from experience that this means that the mud on the Swale will be covered by 1 pm, so we opted to start off on the seawall.
A scan of the slipway revealed curlew, whimbrel and a huge number of black-headed gull. Over the west marshes a male marsh harrier hunted, with two white wing tags, unfortunately we couldn’t make out any numbered tags. In the shallow pools little grebe fed, little egret stalked along the edges, a small group of mallard were sleeping on one of the small islands and coot busied themselves, pecking at anything that stayed still long enough.
From the Swale a group of around 20 golden plover flew over. Their brilliant golden hues catching the sunlight, then as they turned we had a great view of their black bellies and chests, as only one or two of them were out of their full summer plumage. We later caught up with them on the East Scrape and they looked stunning.
Turning east-wards, we heard the distinctive “pinging” of bearded tit, there were several of them, but it was hard to discern their whereabouts as their calls were being buffeted about in the wind. After waiting patiently for some while, most of us eventually had fleeting views as they skimmed over the reed beds, trying to stay out of the breeze as much as possible. From the hide at the end of the creek we saw more black-headed gulls, and around 70 avocet on the mud in front of the hide, these were being chased by the rapidly incoming tide. A couple of shelduck were spotted on the far side of the creek, the first I have seen in several weeks, presumably their autumn moult was over. Moulting flocks of shelduck can be very large with over 100,000 being counted on occasion on the Wadden Sea alone. Apparently, most pairs leave their partially grown young in a crèche with just one or two adults.
Reed bunting was next on our list, once again, the call and the bird being buffeted by the wind, but one tenacious male hung on bravely to his bramble branch. We found a few yellow wagtails feeding in the salt marshes on the edge of the creek, patience was once again needed though, as they weaved in and out of the sea lavender and low marsh plants.
Huge flocks of black-tailed godwit flew into the reserve as their feeding grounds were being covered by the tide. Swallow and house martin were seen feeding over the water. From the hide overlooking East Flood (where we took lunch) we had great views of the godwit, there were over 1,000 birds in all. Some were still showing a reasonable amount of summer plumage, but the overall hue is now decidedly more muted than a couple of weeks ago. Mixed in with the godwit were a good number of redshank, about a dozen dunlin – most still sporting their summer black bellies – and a couple of ruff. One looking rather tatty as it’s summer feathers gave way to the more muted winter coat, the other already in full winter plumage.
Other visitors of note were, shoveler (brilliantly spotted by Sue P), common gull, sandwich tern (found by Jeff), a flock of common tern flew over catching the light as they banked and swooped over the reserve before deciding to move off along the Swale. We also noticed an eclipse drake wigeon. A common buzzard was spotted over the fields as we moved off to the West Hide.
Grey heron, mute swan, starling, lapwing, and greylag goose were all present as we made our way back to the car park, a few goldfinch and linnet
Thanks go to Jeff for leading, and all participants for making it such a great day out.