What to do on an overcast, cold, very windy day? Watch the rugby with a hot mug of tea and biscuits (beer and crisps optional), or go out looking for birds. Well no contest really so Wendy and I joined eleven others at this excellent reserve to see what was about in not very good conditions, but at least it did not rain.
Looking over the sea wall, we saw the usual waders, curlew, redshank, turnstone, dunlin, avocet and others feeding frantically as the tide was rapidly coming in. In a short walk along the west path we saw stock dove, always nice given the large numbers of similar woodpigeon that were around, grey heron, wigeon and teal. A scan across the Swale towards the Ferry Inn revealed several beaters and wildfowlers in action, so no harriers or owls to be seen there.
Back along the east path towards the seawall hide saw a stonechat and a pair of reed buntings sheltering in the lee of the wall. The tide was now well in and looking out over the choppy sea we saw great crested grebe and shelduck bobbing about with the normal range of gulls drifting on the wind. Sheltering along the sea wall in Faversham creek were a couple of Brent geese but no sign of the red breasted mergansers or long tailed duck that had been reported.
A quick cup of coffee in the hide and a brisk walk along to the sluice revealed lots of ducks and waders on the east flood. But as it was so windy we made our way quickly to the hide overlooking the flood. There we saw good numbers of pochard, pintail, shoveler, teal as well as mallard, tufted duck and some greylag geese. Most of the ducks are now coming into breeding plumage and they looked superb. Among the waders there were huge numbers of black tailed godwits with some coming into summer plumage and a long line of avocets showing brilliant white in the water. Large flocks of dunlin swirled about over the water constantly landing and taking off – not sure why, as we did not see any raptors menacing them. Other birds included lapwings, grey plover, oystercatcher and various gulls. A splendid sight really with plenty of movement and lots of different birds. We could have spent more time there but lunch called – so back to the cars for some shelter.
We resumed our tour by retracing our steps to the hide overlooking the west flood. A green woodpecker entertained us and some lucky people briefly sighted two kingfishers as they disappeared along one of the ditches. A soaring buzzard was seen. Although we always go to this hide we never see very much and things did not change this time as a lone little grebe was all we saw.
Back in the carpark some of the group decided to continue with a visit to the Gunpowder Works. This is an interesting historical place where gunpowder was produced from the sixteenth century up to the 1930’s. Many of the old buildings remain but it is good for wildlife as there are streams and pools among the mixed woodland. Wendy and I went home (to see the 2nd half of the rugby match). All in all a splendid day with 45 species seen.
Those of us that remained saw a wonderful firecrest at the Gunpowder Works! Which is why our two birders are so happy!
Sue and Andy made a special effort to record all of the details from the coloured ringed black-tailed godwits that we saw. I think the final total was ten. When we get the results we will report back. Thanks to Jeff and Wendy for leading and for the trip report. Thanks to Sally for the photographs. I think this one is yellow over red over orange and ?over red over blue (a telescope shows it better!)