Bright, breezy, and glorious, a great day to be by the sea and Shellness was our destination today.
Swallows met us as we got out of the car at the top of the road just out of Leysdown. They were swooping over the short grass opposite the seawall, feeding up before their long journey south, and chattering to each other keeping constant contact.
The tide was in and the usual gull roost had taken to the recreation field, with a few Lapwing, and a Curlew joining them. We scanned the gulls for anything apart from Black-headed – Paul found a Common Gull and as they flew over to scavenge from a car nearby, Malcolm and I thought we noticed a Mediterranean Gull. Malcolm is rather more diligent than me and soon re-found the bird. As we tried to get the others onto it, the whole lot flew over our heads which confirmed the identification beautifully.
On the groynes there were many Turnstone, huddled together along the wooden ledges. Others were feeding on the beach as the tide started to recede. Herring Gull, Starling and Goldfinch were also seen. A dozen Sandwich Terns flew past, and Oystercatchers were constantly heard as they squabbled and displayed.
We moved the cars to the layby near Muswell Manor and then walked to the Ness along the sea wall. Unfortunately the fields which are usually grassy on our right have been planted with corn (maize) this year so there is no area for us to see the flocks of Starlings and Lapwing usually gathered at this time of year. It will be interesting to see how the geese cope with the change, and obviously this will impact on both harriers and owls hunting this winter.
By the time we got to the end of the ness the tide had revealed a considerable amount of beach, and we took our lunch in the shelter of the sea defences watching as Cormorant, Little Egret, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and literally hundreds of Oystercatcher went about their business, feeding greedily on the morsels left by the tide.
After lunch Irene and Sally found three Wheatear which were perching on the groynes and flying ahead of us as we carried on to the ‘Little Tern colony’ area. A Marsh Harrier was spotted by Malcolm, and we eventually saw both male and female. A small flock of Linnet and a Grey Heron flew past.
Soon it was time to make our way back to the car and home in time for our Group Meeting.