I nearly stayed in bed this morning, but that would have been defeatist, so off I went with my binoculars and wet weather gear to find some birds.
First stop was Chatham docks – shag and long-tailed duck have been found there in previous years, so there is always a chance of something other than black-headed gulls. Although the gulls were the most numerous species after a bit of scanning Malcolm did spot a distant “small cormorant with a bit of a crest”. Telescope and four sets of binoculars were duly trained on the bird and the more we looked the more we were sure it was indeed a shag, the size compared to nearby gulls made us realise just how small it was. We moved along the edge of the basin to get a better view (and also to get out of the wind) and could then see the distinct steeper sloping forehead and when I checked the photographs later there is also the beginnings of a glossy green sheen to the plumage. A great start to the day.
Two pied wagtails and a cormorant completed the short list here. Continuing our Medway theme we moved off to The Strand. Once again, black-headed gulls were most numerous in the air and on the water. In the gardens behind us we did find some crow, magpie, blue tit and great tit. A song thrush was singing nearby. Feral pigeons flew over, moving quite rapidly in the ever increasing wind.
On old barges which are being used as breakwaters shelduck, oystercatcher and even some brent geese were roosting. The geese also pecked at the grasses which were growing along the side of these old hulks, and further in the channel many more geese were feeding in the grassy patches. Malcolm found two red-breasted mergansers – this enigmatic species have the brilliant knack of appearing and disappearing with alarming ease. After spotting them and watching them for some time, we suddenly lost sight of them and couldn’t track them down again.
Next stop was Bloors Wharf at the Berengrave end of Riverside. Although muddy, we did manage to get some good views over the estuary. More shelduck were perched on the old shipwreck along with a couple of oystercatchers. They appeared to be on look-out checking the river. In the distance we found several great-crested grebe, nearer were many more shelduck, along with teal, wigeon, and a solitary grey plover. I thought I heard the start of Cetti’s warbler song, but if it was the bird thought better of it in the wet windy weather.
Continuing towards the wharf 38 turnstone were feeding along the water’s edge, and as we watched Sally spotted another small bird a little closer – a pipit, meadow or rock? I’m sure Malcolm will add a comment when he has made my decision for me! In the opposite direction nine dunlin were hunkered down on the protected rocky coastline.
The small pools of water on the wharf were being blown in the wind and had small waves lapping over the concrete edge. We were in danger of getting soaked, so decided to go back to Riverside for lunch. After taking a leisurely lunch in the protection of the visitor centre we went off again, this time to Sharps Green where once again the black-headed gulls were hunkered down against the wind.
With the rain starting to lash down and the wind increasing, we decided to admit defeat and return home, but not without noticing a group of chaffinch, a blackbird feeding on ivy leaves and a large number of woodpigeons enjoying the almost-flooded walkway around the pond.
Hope the group outing to Shellness has better weather on Sunday.