Nineteen members of the Gravesend group met last weekend to kick off the 2020 programme with a visit to Shellness and Capel Fleet.
The optimal time to visit Shellness is during high tide when thousands of waders can be seen on the high tide roost. This year however the first weekend of the year did not coincide with a high tide during daylight hours, so the tide was receding as we parked up at the sea wall. We therefore spent a leisurely time walking from the sea wall to the Shellness hamlet spotting the birds on the tide line.
We soon found oystercatcher, turnstone, redshank, sanderling, brent geese, curlew and dunlin. Out on the Swale we found both red-throated and black-throated divers as well as great-crested grebes and cormorants.
Looking in land across the reserve we saw several marsh harriers,kestrel and flocks of wood pigeon, fieldfare and approximately 100 linnets.
With the tide out we could walk on the seaward side of the hamlet and stopped here to have our lunch (it was a very slow walk down!!) Further scans of the mud revealed bar-tailed godwit, shelduck, grey and ringed plovers. We also added common, black-headed, herring and great-black backed gulls.
We managed to reach the ‘block house’ and then turned back, picking up robin, little egret, mute swan, stonechat, house sparrow and reed bunting.
After an essential ‘comfort break’ at Leysdown we moved on to RSPB viewing mound at Capel Fleet. This can be very rewarding for birds of prey and owls especially towards dusk. Although no owls showed while we were there, we did see up 14 marsh harriers, presumably moving to their roosting site, one buzzard and one ‘ring-tailed’ hen harrier (ie female). Also recorded by the group were corn bunting, pheasant, red-legged partridge, grey heron and in the far distance a murmuration appeared as moving cloud towards the Sheppey bridge.
With a total of 41 species seen this was a good start to the year even if the tide was ‘wrong’.