Normally the Isle of Sheppey would give rise to thoughts of Elmley, Capel Fleet and Shellness, but on this occasion we decided to take a different tack, and go for some potential migrant habitat along the north coast.
We started out at Warden Point, a place I have only ever visited once before with rather soggy results – a cloudburst soaked us within minutes of our arrival. On this occasion though, the sun was shining and the sky clear and blue – so off we set in eager anticipation.
From the car park we wandered towards some rough ground which looked prime insect habitat and with Swallow and House Martin swooping over our heads we watched Gatekeeper, Large White and Small Copper butterflies, and chased after grasshoppers galore, whilst listening for bush-crickets.
Linnet and House Sparrow were flitting around in the nearby brambles, as we carried on along the cliff top. We were aiming for a small wood further along the coast. Blue Tit and Great Tit were calling – I haven’t seen either species for a couple of weeks, so it was good to see family groups with several downy juveniles being trained in the art of foraging. Blackbird and Green Woodpecker called, whilst several Woodpigeon coo-ed from the tree tops. Collared Dove, Chaffinch, Crow and Robin were all in this small area. Sadly, as there were several well-walked paths through the trees, we were also having to be careful not to step in or on litter and rubbish which had been strewn around.
Emerging onto the cliff top by a caravan park we were met with several butterfly species including Small Tortoiseshell, Clouded Yellow – including the first male I have seen this year, Large and Small White. On the beach below we could see Little Egret, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Magpie. Near a small playing field we had Wren, Starling, a stunning Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Speckled Wood butterflies.
Time to move on and our next stop was Leysdown and lunch by the sea. Here we added several more sea birds and waders including: Oystercatcher in their thousands, Curlew, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. Highlight of lunch wasn’t the food today, but a huge downfall of insects which set Malcolm off on a mission to find as many different flies, beetles and various other species as he could. They appeared to like the paler clothing of Irene and myself, but the car also provided a great backdrop – anyone passing would have been amused to see us all eyeing up the paintwork with eye-glasses at very close quarters!
Our final stop was Leas Cliff, where many families were enjoying the lovely weather, setting up camp on the beach and munching ice-creams. We, of course, had far more important things on our mind, and wandered off towards the more wild end of the beach where the cliffs are gradually being eroded. Swallows were flying west on migration, but there was precious little evidence of any other migration. More Linnet, Starling, Woodpigeon, and Herring Gull were joined by a great little group of Ringed Plover and Turnstone on the shoreline. To complete our bird list a Mediterranean Gull was seen at close quarters as we got back to the car.