As the weather forecast was cold, grey and rather misty, we decided that a local trip with the option of a warming cafe were the order of the day for our weekly wander.
We started off at the Motney (eastern) end of Riverside Country Park. The tide was at its lowest but there were still a few birds braving the mud near the path. Redshank, Lapwing, Teal and Black-headed Gull were the nearest on the shore, with a Collared Dove also feeding in the seaweed.
On the bushes along the path there were Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Robin, Crown and a couple of Dunnock.
As we moved along towards Motney (in a vain effort to keep warm) we saw Dunlin, Mallard and Pintail. It was obvious that there were plenty of birds out in the river, but all shrouded in fog.
Many Blackbird and Robin were seen flitting about as we wandered along, many of them in the leeward side of the shrubs, presumably gaining a little shelter from the biting wind which was whipping in from the river. A couple of Wren chased around, whilst Magpie, Greenfinch, Dunnock, and Goldcrest were also encountered.
On the river Shelduck, Shoveler, Curlew, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Wigeon and Avocet also came into view as the fog swirled around. In the distance a Little Owl screeched – we did go looking for it but nothing was seen or heard again. In a nearby field there were over a dozen Blackbirds feeding with a Song Thrush and Chaffinch joining in.
Next stop was supposed to be mid-morning coffee, but we had (as usual) taken longer than expected and it was lunch time. After warming lunches and cups of tea we were soon back out and heading west along the river towards Gillingham.
Once again, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove were gathered in large groups high in the tree tops – fluffed out against the cold. The most numerous birds were Blackbird, Dunnock (with Irene and Malcolm finding six in one place lined up on a fence), and most pleasingly Song Thrush. Having seen very few during last year, it has been great to see and hear so many in the last couple of weeks. Such delightful birds.
The usual gull roost at the car park were scanned for Mediterranean Gull, but we had to content ourselves with Black-headed Gulls on this occasion. On our return journey we noticed that they they were joined by eight Turnstone. A Jay flew into the top of a nearby tree and managed to camouflage itself rather successfully.
We continued through the Meadows, with Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and Song Thrush all around us. I can’t explain quite how thrilling it was to be totally surrounded by so many of these birds, all going about their business feeding up on anything they could find in the semi-frozen soggy ground.
As we reached the path along the shore the tide was coming in and with it a change in the wind direction which seemed to have cleared the fog. The sun even poked through the clouds and we almost saw blue sky.
Teal were close into the shore as were Avocet, two Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Common Gull, Dunlin, more Redshank, three Red-breasted Merganser.
Not to be beaten by the cold we gave ourselves more punishment by taking a late afternoon stroll at Cliffe. Once again the first birds spotted were Wood Pigeon, closely followed by Robin, Blackbird and Collared Dove. On the pools Pochard (probably around 40), Tufted Duck (45+), Little Grebe (c 38), Coot (40+), Great Crested Grebe (9), Grey Heron (2), Little Egret (7), Wigeon (30+), Pintail (15), Shoveler (28), Black-headed Gull, Greylag Geese.
The islands in Radar Pool have been strimmed and large numbers of waders were roosting on them, the sunlight showing them off to great effect. Here were around 1270 Black-tailed Godwit, over 300 Dunlin, 150 Redshank, 19 Great Black-backed Gull, three Goldeneye, many Lapwing, and Shelduck, a distant Greenshank, and around a dozen Linnet.
Finally the -2.5 degree temperature got through the socks and gloves and we had to give in to the winter cold, but all in all another great day out.