It was too nice to stay in decorating on Wednesday so, just like Mole in ‘Wind in the Willows’, we left our hole and went out into the glorious Spring sunshine. To Conyer Creek in fact, to watch the birds on the River Swale feeding at the waters edge. Like the Thames and Medway estuaries, the Swale has an abundance of birds, feeding on the rich mud and roosting and breeding on the islands. As the tide turned and started to come in, the birds gradually came nearer and we had excellent views of gulls, waders and ducks. There were Redshank, Turnstone, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Curlew, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, Knot, Oystercatchers and many more waders to see.
Black-headed gulls breed on Fowley Island, the tiny island just offshore. They screamed and called, constantly flying up and round, presumably part of their display. They were very determined to drive off the Marsh Harrier that drifted over the island later.There were Mediterranean Gulls here too, a real treat to hear their distinctive mewing call and see their translucent white feathers against the sun. Two had leg rings – we are hoping to track down where they were ringed.
Other gulls seen included a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gulls and Common Gulls. Hundreds of Brent Geese could be seen on the Sheppey side of the Swale and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers swam in the channel.
There is a scrubby area on the land side of the water, the old brick works. Here we heard the songs of chiffchaff, robin, blackbird, song thrush and mistle thrush. We also heard both Green and Great Spotted woodpeckers. The Great Spotted was drumming it’s territorial ‘song’.
Birds aside, we saw 4 seals hauled out on the sand bank, not far offshore, Red Admiral butterflies flying almost too fast to be identified and many bee flies looking for good sites to lay their eggs on the sea wall.
We stayed for nearly 3 hours as the tide brought the birds nearer and nearer. The sparkling blue sea and sky and the cries of the birds all around us was a lovely experience. We could have been on a Greek island. How ironic that an airport in the Thames estuary, allowing us to fly to beautiful places, would also destroy magical places like this one….