After the thunder storms of Saturday night it was a relief to wake up to much brighter weather on Sunday morning. Ten members of the group arrived with eager anticipation of migrants with nightingale and turtle dove high on the list. The site of Conyer is an old brick works and I was surprised to hear that the brickworks only closed in the 1980’s and since then the buildings were cleared with just concrete foundations and a brick wharf giving any hint to the history of this interesting site.
Having been left to re-wild, the area now a rich diversity of plants, insects and bird life. It is one of the few sites where nightingale and turtle dove can be heard, and a colony of mediterranean gulls are usually found nesting offshore on Fowley Island.
As we gathered there were sand martin flying overhead, and by the houses we also saw swift, swallow, chaffinch, robin and blackbird. Trevor had already had a wander around and he took us back to the area where he had heard several nightingale earlier. We were treated to several lesser whitethroat singing (some of us had great views of one later on), wren, blackbird, linnet and house martin. After some time of patient waiting, and amusing ourselves with several new species of butterfly and moth for the year – including brown argus, small heath, cinnabar and a beefly – a distant nightingale could be heard. We moved toward the sound and stood around enjoying several birds starting to sing. We moved on and then heard the wonderful “purr” of a turtle dove, the first of the year for most of us.
We worked out that the bird would be heard better if we moved further along the track and as we moved to a more open area we could not only hear it better, we could also see it perched on a tree at the back of the clearing, but in full view. We were then treated to several display flights where we could see the lovely shape of the tail and the graceful flight before the bird landed back in the tree to start up the “purr” again. At one stage we could hear two turtle dove, at least four nightingale and a cuckoo singing. Avian magic at its very best!
We finally moved away to view the fulls on Fowley Island and although the tide was high, it was just below the top of the island – thankfully, as high tides have been known to wash the nests away. Two long-staying brent geese were seen along with tufted duck, shelduck, black-headed gull, mediterranean gull and two common tern. Common buzzard, marsh harrier and grey heron were seen overhead. A small wader flew off the shore ahead of us and after much debate over call, colour and flight we have (almost!) decided it was a green sandpiper.
Lunch called and we decided to go to the Gunpowder Works at Oare. Volunteers run the visitor centre at weekends in the summer and offer very welcome hot and cold drinks and snacks, toilet facilities and an excellent interpretation display of the history of the site. Well worth a wander too, when time allows as it has been managed with wildlife in mind. For more information follow the link here.
Refreshed, we re-convened at Oare, it was high tide so our expectations were not too high, however, as always Oare does not disappoint. Kestrel greeted us on arrival and we soon also saw canada goose, oystercatcher, shelduck and avocet. Moving along the seawall, we were able to watch both the River Swale and the reedbeds and scrape of the reserve. Whitethroat were calling, and we saw several reed bunting, before moving alongside Faversham Creek. A specialist of this site is bearded tit, and we were lucky enough to get good views of a pair which were busy preening low down in nearby reeds, totally ignoring our presence. Probably the best views of this species we could have wished for.
The scrape held gadwall, grey wagtail, mute swan, coot and cormorant. A water rail was heard. By the sluice we stopped to see peregrine on one of the pylons, and then it was back to meadow pipit, skylark, little egret, starling and crow. From the hide we added common sandpiper, and along the road, from where we had great views of black-tailed godwit, we also added greenfinch, pheasant, pied wagtail and linnet.
We had looked for yellow wagtail on the way onto the reserve and a couple of folk managed to see them on the overhead wires, however we had one last try on the fields approaching the car park. Our luck held out an we had two great individuals feeding nearby.
A great end to a fantastic day out.
Many thanks to all who attended and helped to make it such a special day out – all those eyes scanning and ears listening certainly ensured that little escaped us! Also thanks to Steve for the great photographs.
If you’d like to know more about turtle doves or nightingales and the rspb’s work to help save these species follow the links below.
There is still a campaign open to try to save Lodge Hill at Chattenden which at the time of writing has 7816 signatures – only another 184 to reach the target of 8,000.
The area is still under threat from development even though is a key breeding site for Nightingales, please write to Medway Council, we only have until 25th June to let them know your view.