It might not have seemed a particularly bright start to the New Year when 18 members of the group met at the sea wall in Leysdown, but little did we know what delights were in store. The tide was rising fast. It was to be high by midday, so if we wanted to catch the high tide roost at Shellness we needed to make haste. Of course, our haste is another’s amble, well there are always things to take your time over. We were there to bird watch after all.
So diligently we looked for and saw our first waders along the shoreline. Redshank, turnstone and sanderling. The sanderling were, unusually, not on the water’s edge but higher up the beach with turnstones looking for food amongst the stranded seaweed. Looking landward there were large flocks of wood pigeon, lapwings and gulls flying over the fields, no doubt also on the lookout for a tasty morsel. Further on, a buzzard was spotted sitting on a post and about 180 brent geese were busily feeding in the fields. Despite all these distractions we made good time and reached the area where it is permitted to remove your clothing.
We all thought about it but declined due to the rather cool climate and instead studied a group of waders roosting just above the water line. From a distance we were unsure of their identity but through scopes we were surprised to find they were mainly a group of grey plover with some knot. I say surprised as a few of us were of the opinion that you never saw grey plover in groups. But apparently you do when they are roosting. Thanks to Roy for that snippet of information. We still had not reached our destination, so we needed to hasten on over the marsh and towards the high tide roost.
More waders were added to our list, ringed plover, dunlin, and curlew. As we approached the blockhouse the roost could be seen with many oystercatchers, knot and what appeared to be godwit. We decided to press on to the end getting closer still, but not disturbing the birds. We were treated to what some thought was the highlight of the day when the godwit took flight and whirled above our heads and revealed themselves to be bar-tailed godwit, a quite unusual sight. Here we added shelduck, mallard, a couple of marsh harriers and a small flock of meadow pipits. Not to be out done some skylark were flying up to greet us as well. As always lunch was beckoning, and we made our way back to eat it on the beach in the shelter of the sea wall. Capel Fleet was our next port of call, so after lunch we started making our way back to the cars. A lucky few of us, who were trailing behind, had views of up to 5 short-eared owls.
But not to worry because on the way to the mound another SEO was spotted sitting on the ground near to the roadside and was later seen, by most of us, hunting over the fields. From the mound, more marsh harriers were seen and a rather nice group of golden plover were mixed in with the lapwing. Some of our group were also lucky enough to get views of a hen harrier (or ringtail as they can be referred to). A flock of about 50 corn bunting sitting on the telegraph wires completed what had been a good start to the year. Thank you to all that came along.
Thanks to Irene and Terry for leading. Thanks to Irene for the trip report and to Steve, Chris and Sally for the photographs.