Our last visit to this lovely reserve was in October 2019 and the weather on our long overdue return was spot on. We arrived at the same time as
another coach from the Bromley RSPB local group and although the entrance was quite busy, we were soon on our way around, albeit in various directions. The sand martins were busy collecting food, then returning quickly to their nest holes in the bank. The wooden bridge area gave us four spot chasers and azure damselflies, whilst blackcap and whitethroat sang in the nearby trees. A very vocal chiffchaff guided us into the busy North hide from where we saw lapwing, shelduck, gadwall, shoveler and tufted ducks. Little egret, barnacle, Canada and greylag geese fed on the scrape whilst a female marsh harrier was seen quartering in the distance. Following the coastal trail we made our way along the North wall where we had sightings of swallow, reed bunting, skylark and kestrel. We heard reed and sedge warblers and in the distance a cuckoo was heard but did not show itself. Unfortunately, none of the group managed to see the stone curlew which had been reported here recently.
As we walked along the sea wall a pair of stonechats were seen in the gorse and a ringed plover was spotted camouflaged amongst the pebbles on the beach. There was quite a queue to get into the East hide, so some of us decided to eat our lunch outside at this point and were rewarded with views of Mediterranean gulls and common tern overhead. Once in the hide we had good views of avocet, turnstone, redshank and black-tailed godwit, but it was the black-headed gulls, many with young, who were the main residents here. A highlight for some was a group of 5 moorhens having an altercation.
From here we walked along towards the viewpoint, treading carefully as there were numerous oak eggar moth caterpillars along the path. The sunshine had brought out several butterflies, including small heath, Adonis and common blue. From the viewpoint we could see both common and Sandwich tern, common, herring and lesser black-backed gull and dunlin.
We turned the corner at the sluice and walked back towards the South hide (adding sparrowhawk and kestrel to our tally) to where Andy was standing outside with his scope. We all lined up to see the single kittiwake which he had managed to find in amongst the other gulls.
Time was against us, so some of us pressed on as we were hoping to get to the bittern hide as there had been several sightings of these elusive birds reported. We walked quickly through the woodland area and climbed up the steps. Again the hide was very busy and although we had some good views of marsh harriers, hobby and a great white egret, we only stayed for a short time, deciding to try our luck at the Island Mere hide instead.
On arrival there we were disappointed to see that it was quite crowded, so we waited outside for a while searching for bearded tits which some of the group were fortunate enough to see. Once inside the hide we added mute swan, great crested grebe and coot to our list. Some of our group who were already in the hide decided to move on at this point and just as Jeff got outside he spotted a bittern going down into the reeds. We joined him outside and were at last rewarded with a spectacular view of the bittern flying towards us and round in a large circle. We were a very happy group indeed and as we celebrated and looked at Ron’s telephone photos, we heard water rail squealing in the background too!
By then it was time to head for the café for a quick cup of tea before returning to the coach. We walked back along the trail and just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better a red kite was spotted overhead.
A total of 81 birds was seen by the Group throughout the day, with speckled wood, peacock, red admiral, brimstone, painted lady, large red and red-eyed damselflies and a Norfolk hawker being species of note.
Below – wren, male reed bunting, four spot chaser, Oak Eggar caterpillar, bittern, common tern. and marsh harrier.
Many thanks to Hazel for organizing the trip.
Thanks to Ron, Steve, Sue and Terry for the photographs.
Hazel and Steve.