The old favourite strikes again.
Today we realised that all the media speculation about autumn being on its way was probably right, as huge numbers of black-tailed godwit were already gathering in post-breeding flocks. Many juvenile birds were found including pied wagtail, shelduck, lapwing, coot (over 100), reed bunting, little grebe, starling, mute swan, greylag goose, mallard and avocet. Many birds were also in either eclipse or virtually breeding plumage (as with the godwit) showing that they are already off the breeding grounds and on their way south.
A male marsh harrier hunted most of the day, staying particularly low over the pastures and giving us great views. Kestrel also hunted over the distant fields, and that also had tail feathers missing as it was starting to moult.
The starlings were starting to gather in their large groups with just a hint of the dramatic swirling clouds that gather in the autumn. Curlew and whimbrel were found on the edge of the Swale and gave us a good opportunity to compare their sizes – when you see them side by side you don’t quite understand why you would have a problem telling them apart – the whimbrel being dwarfed by the larger, bulkier curlew not to mention the length of the bills.
Reed warbler, sedge warbler, cetti’s warbler, linnet, whitethroat and bearded tit were seen around the reed beds. As we moved along we also found common darter, ruddy darter, emperor dragonfly and possibly broad-bodied chaser (although we didn’t have great views). In the afternoon we added scarce emerald damselfly one of the species we have surveyed on RSPB reserves in the past.
Butterflies were represented by large skipper, gatekeeper (the first I had seen this year), green-veined white, and either small or essex skipper. The photos I have of the latter do look to have dark antennae, but it could be shadow. We also found an emperor moth caterpillar, a stunning creature.
At lunch we watched the tide come in and with it common and little tern feeding. We were particularly thrilled to see the little tern as the decline in breeding success has led to them being classed as “amber status”. Sally later found sandwich tern to add to our collection. Greenshank and common sandpiper were also found and then two ruff, one of them in partial breeding plumage – in fact the most marked bird I have ever seen in Kent! The long “ruff” feathers were blowing in the breeze as this highly coloured male fed. Two garganey in eclipse plumage were found by Malcolm.
It seems as if our summer visitors may soon be on their way south, so don’t delay, go out and see them!