As this was the last trip of 2018 hopes were high as (a lucky) 13 of us set out on a fine, sunny and still winter’s day to see what the Medway Estuary had in store.
As it was low tide we were greeted by acres of mud and decided to set out for Horrid Hill in the hope that a merganser or two may still be having a late breakfast close to land. On the way we saw a good variety of waders including redshank, knot, oystercatcher, lapwing, ringed plover, curlew, a solitary black-tailed godwit and a huge flock of avocet at long range. In the berry laden bushes fieldfare and redwing joined blackbird in the feast.
We saw a flock of brent geese flying over the River Medway and great-crested grebe fishing in the remaining water, but no mergansers. Also on the mud were a good variety of duck including wigeon, shelduck and a couple of pintail. A few of the group had a brief view of a greenshank but this disappeared off westwards before we all had chance to see it.
From Horrid Hill itself a buzzard was spotted sitting on a post at long range – a very good spot. Having not found the mergansers on returning to the shore a number of the group set about finding the greenshank again so we set off westwards. Experienced birdwatchers that we are, we stood for several minutes debating whether some 30 large corvids in a tree were crows, rooks or jackdaw without coming to a firm conclusion!!
A few of us saw a sparrowhawk flying by and we spent some time looking at a small clutch of gulls that included black-headed, common and herring gull and allowed us to compare the differences at close range. Then, as we passed the ‘corvid’ tree we could see a large field behind with many pumpkins that crows and jackdaw were feeding on – the mystery was solved.
We carried on westwards close to the reserve boundary and found a deep gully that still had a good depth of water and, in the middle, a couple of greenshank giving us excellent views whilst they fed in the shallows. On the mud there were also a good number of duck and we had further excellent views of pintail, wigeon and teal.
We returned to the main car park through the wooded area and had good views of goldfinch and jay. Then off to the cafe for some well-earned refreshments having seen a total of 42 species in the morning.
Thanks to all those who attended and we look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Jim and Clare
Ed: Thanks to Jim and Clare for leading a great winter walk and Steve and Terry for the excellent photographs.