Today the Group had an outdoor meeting at Oare. The weather was a little uninspiring, and in fact there had been a few texts flying around, just checking that we were going to bother. Having got up early on a Saturday morning, there was no chance of my staying in!
With a light drizzle falling we gathered on the stop of the slipway to see what was around. With a receding (relatively low) high tide, there were only a few waders within view to start with, but as we watched more appeared to feed on the newly uncovered mud. Dunlin were in high numbers, probably a couple of hundred, with Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit in progressively fewer numbers. A couple of Ringed Plovers also ran about at the very end of the slipway.
We decided to walk back along the road as we had seen a lot of movement in the small copse by the cottages. In the fields by the side of the lane Lapwing stood facing into the rain, Cetti’s Warbler sang from its usual perch in the car park. A small flock of Goldfinch whizzed past feeding on the copious seeds available in the scrub.
On the East Flood we found at least 41 Snipe, 20 Common Gull, 9 Pintail (the males looking strikingly handsome in their fresh plumage), several Shoveler and a Ruff. One bird puzzled us, a very pale Godwit, the head and bill were almost white in the winter sunshine. Large numbers of Starling flew around us all day, gathering in the fields, and then moving in swirling flocks around the reserve. Further away there were Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Grey Heron and Cormorant. Rook and Crow fed amongst the Lapwing in the field.
After a lengthy scan of the copse we had amassed numerous Blackbird, Redwing, Chaffinch, Robin, Fieldfare, and at least three Song Thrush – a species that has been hard to catch up with this year. I have only seen them on a few outings and the last one was in May!
As we continued around the Flood a Pheasant flew in and disappeared behind a nearby hedge. Green Woodpecker called but remained out of view. The Group stopped for some time enjoying the sight of Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Great Tit and Blue Tit. A Swallow flew over our heads and continued to give us a glorious fly-past for several minutes as it continued feeding low over the fields around us.
At the sluice we spotted a Kingfisher sitting on a fence post, its beautiful blue back shimmering in the sunlight. As we watched that a Water Rail walked out of the reeds and proceeded to walk/swim away from us down the water filled ditch. Another species I have seen infrequently this year. On the main pool we caught up with the Pintail again and had some lovely views. We also added Herring Gull, Little Grebe and Coot. On the Swale we found over 30 Avocet feeding in front of the hide. As we continued to watch a further group flew in swelling the numbers to around 80. Several hundred Brent Geese were feeding along the edge of Horse Sands in the River, not near enough to get photographs but a lovely winter sight all the same. A Great Black-backed Gull did battle with a flatfish which it had found. The fish was huge in comparison to the mouth of the Gull, but that didn’t stop it. Eventually, after some 20 minutes the fish had been gradually broken up, swallowed and a rather heavy Gull flew off to digest the hefty meal.
Bearded Tit “pinged” from the reedbed and after a bit of patience we finally managed to see two birds. Many Shelduck and Curlew were feeding alongside the Brent Geese, one Curlew was a rather strange looking leucistic individual. The head and neck were pretty much the usual colour, but the rest of the plumage was an odd pale creamy-white.
Nearer Redshank started to gather on the rapidly uncovering mud, with Oystercatcher, more Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit. A couple of pipits flew in, but remained too cryptic in the seaweed to be identified.
As we returned to the car the rain started to fall heavily and as we ate our lunch we decided to call it a day and return home.
Despite the weather we had a great morning’s bird-watching, but then Oare is always a winner!