On our last Wednesday trip out we decided to visit Kent Wildlife Trust reserve Oare Marsh where we were surprised to see 150+ Black-tailed godwits, still in their lovely red breeding plumage. It seemed early for them to be returning from their breeding sites. A welcome sight nevertheless, along with almost 60 other species of birds. Redshanks, avocets, and at least one ruff, still with his colourful ruff, were feeding on the scrape. Swallows and swifts were everywhere. This reserve is such a super place to see birds close to, particularly waders. We had expected it to be very quiet and, to tell the truth, our reason for visiting was to see the Bonaparte’s Gull that had been reported. Happily we did indeed see the gull, which was feeding alongside the black-headed gulls that it very much resembled! The smaller size and diagnostic black spot on the neck was obvious though – thankfully.
This Wednesday we visited another couple of KWT reserves to see flowers and butterflies. Conditions were ideal for insects, warm and sunny. And, though Oare was impressive, generally at this time of year birds are much harder to see and hear. They have almost finished breeding and so are less active and of course are singing less. Some indeed, are moulting into their winter plumages and have become quite secretive.
We parked at the now redundant Burham Church and followed the footpath to KWT’s Burham Marsh, a reserve of low-lying grassland and tidal reedbed. The path is on the river wall which follows the meandering River Medway. Blackcap, wren, and goldfinches were still singing from the hawthorn bushes, while a couple of reed warblers chattered in the reeds and dashed up and down the ditch, perhaps feeding young. Swallows and house martins were about, the latter going to and fro their nests which they have built on the walls of the new houses near the river edge at Snodland. Insect life was not as abundant as we had hoped but there were blue-tailed damselflies and meadow brown and tortoiseshell butterflies about. The tortoiseshells and a comma butterfly fed on the thistle stands, showing what a useful plant this is for encouraging insects.
After lunch in the picnic area at Tyland Barn, where we enjoyed the noisy enthusiasm of a school group having lunch there too, we visited KWT’s Burham Down. This was very difficult to locate but on the way we enjoyed a wonderful display of Nodding, or Musk, Thistle, Carduus nutans. The huge purple flowerheads attracted bees, butterflies and gorgeous 5-spot Burnet moths.
Unfortunately we did not see the special butterflies that should be on the Downs now, such as Adonis Blue and Marbled White, but there were orchids, knapweeds and scabious plants in flower to brighten our long walk to find Burham Down. Sally