Having just returned from rather warmer climes, the chill of Sunday morning was a bit of a shock. However, when we gathered at Stodmarsh car park in the sunshine we all felt a little brighter and anticipated a good day’s birdwatching with Ian and Sue at the helm. Waxwings had been reported in the area in the last couple of days, but to manage expectations I should say now that we did not catch up with any despite our diligent scanning.
We did have the delight of a flock of siskin however. Always a great one to catch up with, their high pitched calls heralding their arrival and then with lovely plumage showing off in the bright sunlight – it makes me all poetic! As we moved off we noticed that a large part of the reed bed had been cut back as we continued into the woodland and a discussion on succession management ensued. Blackbird, chaffinch, wren, and great tit followed in quick succession as we continued through the woodland and at the far end a mute swan was quietly preening in a small pool almost hidden by the low branches of the overhanging trees.
Once out in the open our first sighting was of a female marsh harrier flying low over the reedbeds. On the pools there were hundreds of ducks, mainly teal with shoveler, pochard, mallard and gadwall. Cormorant were perched in a tree over the water enjoying the warmth of the sun and one lone bird took possession of the tern raft. A couple of tufted duck were also found. A large flock of greylag geese flew over and finally landed in their usual noisy style.
As we continued along the path blackbirds and robins were moving ahead of us, with their alarm calls announcing our presence to all other species. A few redwing were feeding on hawthorn bushes and a cetti’s warbler called, but as usual remained unseen. A family group of at least 14 long-tailed tits moved through, and a sparrowhawk circled overhead initially causing some identification issues.
Pauline’s eagle-eye spotted a micro-moth which Peter has identifed as Acleris schalleriana. He adds “it flies in August and September then hibernates from October to May. It must have been in a particularly warm spot to fly today. It occurs locally in Kent”. Thanks for the research Peter.
As this part of our walk came to an end we added blue tit, greater black-backed gull and a huge flock of lapwing which were being disturbed by several overflying marsh harriers – including a lovely male. No sign of our tagged bird from earlier in the year this time though. Peter also flushed a kingfisher.
We decided to take advantage of the shelter in the car park for lunch before moving on to Grove Ferry.
The first few yards were in fact the best at Grove Ferry, but that’s the way bird and nature watching goes sometimes. Ian found a group of fieldfare and redwing feeding in a hawthorn some distance away, and as is often the case, the more we watched the more birds we saw. In the fields magpie and crow were feeding and squabbling. On the water little grebe was seen, but there was very little else. A great white egret flew away from us, and gave us an excellent opportunity to note the differences between it and little egret – the flight and wing shape coupled with those black feet and the overall size readily distinguishing it.
We continued to a couple of the hides at this end of the reserve and added more marsh harrier – including one which gave us amazing close-up views as it passed in front of the hide – blackbird, kestrel, mallard and gadwall.
We watched a large groups of cormorants flew towards us in skeins, they appeared to be coming in from the coast to roost on the reserve.
There has been some debate as to the accuracy of these reports over the years, so just to prove that Malcolm was there
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Thanks to Ian and Sue for leading, Peter for the moth id and all those who braved the cold weather.
Only Elmley left of this year’s outdoor programme, we look forward to seeing you on the 22nd December.