So, given that we had a great Sunday, we were keen to repeat the experience nearer home, on Wednesday. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and we mulled over our destination for quite a while – long enough for Malcolm to feed the birds, Sally to explain why they had ended up with 4 kg of live meal-worms this week, and Irene and I to be grateful that we didn’t have 4 kg!
Eventually we decided that with windy (potentially wet) weather we needed hides and also somewhere close by, so off to Oare we went.
It was very blowy when we arrived and we were rather reluctant to get out of the car, but with the windows wound down I could hear Whitethroat. By the slipway there were very few birds as the tide was extremely low, but we did find a couple of Ringed Plover, some Shelduck, and Black-headed Gull. Swifts flew overhead, I find it amazing that they can control their flight in such strong gusty wind.
Along the seawall we were virtually blown off the top by the big gusts of southerly winds, and the only bird we could hear was Skylark – again it was bewildering that they could still manage to control their flight in these unstable conditions. We decided that we wouldn’t be able to see anything well from here so moved back towards the scrape and some shelter. At the start of the path which leads west we found Chaffinch, Greenfinch and House Sparrow. A Grey Heron flew in the distance, a Little Egret was in a reed-bed having it’s long head plumes blown about.
A female Marsh Harrier battled against the wind and was mobbed by a pair of Lapwing. Unfortunately we later saw a Carrion Crow take a Lapwing chick, some time later it went back for more but the adult birds appeared to fend it off the second time. Nature can be very cruel sometimes, but survival is the only instinct every other species has.
From the road Malcolm spotted House Martin, and there were several mixed in with a huge flock of Swifts and Swallows. They were all being pushed down low over the water to find insects, as they tried to seek some shelter from the wind.
In front of the Hide south of the East Flood we could see four Coot nests, Tufted Duck, over 150 Black-tailed Godwit, Mallard, Starling, a single Avocet (usually there are many to be seen in the area even at low tide) and several Gadwall were also found here.
We decided to move to the other side of the road and try the hide in the grazing land as the tide was still quite a way out and we needed to stay in a sheltered area. We added Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Blackbird, Moorhen, Peregrine, Hobby, Little Grebe, Shoveler, a pair of displaying Oystercatcher, Redshank, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Cormorant, Canada Geese, Pheasant and the find of the day – a pair of Yellow Wagtail. Not the greatest of views – they shot past us twice whilst we were in the hide, both times they were moving at high speed, but their yellow plumage and call immediately identified them.
Whilst we had lunch the Hobby gave us several fly-pasts and Swallow, Swift and House Martin were also feeding close in to the hide giving us remarkably close views. The rain started, and we decided that it was time to move on, so as soon as the rain stopped we went back to the car park, and on to a new site for us – Milton Creek Country Park.
After an abortive parking up we finally found somewhere to park the car near the main part of the park. This is an area which has been reclaimed from a landfill site, gravel pit and brick works. Although very new the idea is to create a safe green space in the middle of an urban area in Kent. The signage is still to be installed and we needed to use our GPS to get to the creek viewpoint areas, but we still managed to get an impressive list which included Magpie, Starling, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Whitethroat, Linnet, Collared Dove, a pair of Kestrel, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap, Green Woodpecker and Reed Warbler. The highlight of the park came in a thrilling ten minutes when we heard Cuckoo – which Sally and I managed to see as it left a nearby tree – and two Nightingale, the first was signing well close to the path, the second was further in some deep scrub, but still distinctly recognisable.
The Park needs to mature but there is great potential for the wilder areas as it grows. The Saxon Shore Way passes through part of the park along the creekside.