Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Oare Marshes

Yesterday I had intended to go to Dungeness, but due to the changeable weather I opted for Oare Marshes instead. I arrived just before and was greeted with the sound of a distant Cuckoo, I made my way up to the river bank and looked out over the estuary to see the tide going out. I scanned the whole stretch for waders – not a single one, however Black Headed Gulls littered the exposed mud with a couple of Herring Gulls in the distance. I heard some warblers off to my left so headed that way first. There was a bank of Reeds in which two were singing from, but none showing, then a third started from my left, he had chosen an isolated plant to sing from which showed him in plain sight. Out with the Canon, however the heavy cloud cover gave very poor light and the wind was strong enough to knock the tripod over, which it almost managed a couple of times. These were the best of the lot. I believe it is a Sedge Warbler (please correct me if I am wrong).

Sedge Warbler - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Bludgeoned by the wind for 15 minutes watching the Sedge Warbler I turned round and headed East looking for some shelter in or behind the Sea Wall Hide, on the walk there I saw some Shelducks on the Sheppey shore and a Common Tern fishing along the waters edge nearest me, there were also a couple of Oystercatchers and an Avocet on the mudflats near the hide. On the East flood side of the path a few Reed Buntings flew by and I heard both Sedge and Reed Warbler, eventually finding a Reed Warbler in the distant reeds. In the high wind nothing was hanging around for photographs and any bird flying either dove straight for cover or got a tailwind and was off like a bullet before identification of any kind. My next photo opportunity came as I walked up the Creek, my attention was drawn to a number of Greylag Geese who appeared to be running a crèche. I sat and watched them for 10-15 minutes, all this time the adult birds had their necks craned on the lookout in all directions whilst the youngsters grazed.

Greylag Geese & Goslings - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The creek held nothing other than more Gulls, mainly Black Headed, as I neared the sluice I looked out over the East flood there was a nice bit of variety on and around the nearest island including Teal, Black tailed Godwit, Redshank and Coot. I turned towards the road and walking along the path I heard a Pheasant from the Pheasant Farm Extension and several calls from a large clump of bushes ahead which sounded like a Lesser Whitethroat. I sat on a nearby bench and watched the bushes, after 5 minutes I was rewarded with this little fellow who popped out and stood on a Bramble, then sat down on the Bramble as his legs got tired waiting for his next food delivery. I believe it is a Whitethroat (though I am not discounting Lesser Whitethroat perhaps those more learned than I can confirm).

Juvenile Whitethroat - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I never saw the parent birds and as I did not wish to scare them off from their offspring I did not hang around too long either, instead I moved on to the East Flood Hide. From here there were clear views of Tufted Duck, Cormorants, Avocets, a Little Grebe and some more Common Tern. During the day I had seen a family of Swallows feeding their young on the wing, but in the high wind they had not hung around at all, now as I had neared the hide I had seen them take off from some nearby fence-posts so when I left the hide I did so quietly and yes, they had returned. Sadly the distance, the wind and the low light (it was now heavily overcast) did not help with photography, but I had to show this one of the youngsters with mouths agape waiting for food, a parent is the blur above the left hand youngster swooping in with food. 

Swallows awaiting food - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
As I was doing this I heard a nearby squeaking, it took about a minute to trace and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a young Swallow not 15 feet away. A post was in the way however every few shots I edged out to get more of the tail, eventually it flew off with its parents.

Juvenile Swallow - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The excitement was not over yet, as I walked back to the car I was passing the wooden landing stage when an aggressive Avocet forced a group of Mallards on to the bank, then a Little Egret landed there and was also immediately set upon, I am not sure what the Avocet was defending as I could see no birds sitting nearby. It was almost comic the way the Avocet menaced the larger bird with its upturned beak looking like a bent sword, the Little Egret moved off, but at its own leisurely pace.

Avocet disagreeing with Little Egret - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
After this a nearby gentleman called my attention to a Marsh Harrier, it cruised by over the flood towards the Creek being mobbed by various birds as it progressed. Then a Heron in the flood dropped down by a small island and was immediately mobbed by some Common terns.

Heron - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The final spot of the day for me was 3 linnets who flew past me on my way back to the car park. Sightings on this walk not mentioned above were Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Lapwing, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, House Sparrow, Starling, and Swift. Heard but not seen was a Sky Lark. Not a bad day all round, shame the bad light affected the photos.

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