Stephen and I made a visit to Oare Marshes on Tuesday. It was dull, grey and overcast all day, as this photo of a small skein of Greylags shows, it made photography difficult however it was pleasantly warm and at ground level almost windless.
|Greylag Geese - A very grey day - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
We started our day with a look over the Swale from the ramp, Redshanks, Grey Plovers and a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits were on the foreshore with a few Common and Black headed Gulls. A Pied Wagtail was also flitting around the ramp. On Sheppey there was a Marsh Harrier sat on a fence post near the church, sadly in the dull light little else was identifiable including another raptor which seemed to just disappear into the hillside.
We wandered up towards the East flood, passing a Heron looking particularly striking on our right.
|Grey Heron - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
a number of Wigeon were grazing nearby and a pair of Mute Swans were partially hidden in the stream.
|Wigeon - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
The East Flood was very busy with plenty of Tufted Ducks, Pintail Ducks, Shovelers, Coots, Mallards and a couple of Little Grebes occupying the water while large numbers of Lapwings, Starlings and Golden Plovers were on the islands. The islands were also home to five or six Snipe (hard to keep tabs on them as they kept moving about), four Ruff and a few Pochards.
|Snipe nicely showing crown stripe - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
The West Flood is known for being very quiet but there is often something different there, no surprise then that whilst having our lunch in the hide the only activity was a couple of Mallards, three Teal and a trio of passing Greenfinches. The something different was a pair of Gadwall which flew past landing in the depths of the marsh not to be seen again, they were the only Gadwall we saw all day.
We headed back towards the East Flood, near the road was the usual chattering from the House Sparrows in the bushes, which is where we also saw a solitary Long Tailed Tit. From the hide we saw that the Golden Plover numbers had been augmented and were up to about 200, Shovelers were also present in large numbers, a Cormorant had arrived as had a Little Egret, an Oystercatcher and a Little Stint, whilst Greylag Geese could be seen grazing on the grass.
|Male Shoveler - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
|Female Shoveler - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
The walk up to the sluice was uneventful. Walking along the creekside we scanned the only mud flat which was yet to be covered by the incoming tide (yes I had mistimed it again, the tide was well in and only a short stretch remained above the waterline). On it were some Black Tailed Godwits, Redshanks, a large number of Dunlin and three Little Stints. A check of the length of the opposite bank gave a Curlew, some Oystercatchers and more Redshanks. Walking towards the Sea Wall hide we heard a pheasant, but it was nowhere to be seen. One of the highlights of the day was a large flock of about 2000 Brent Geese which had gathered on the Swale, their honking carrying for quite some distance to us over the dead calm water. They were quite restless, flying off in large groups, then returning about 15 minutes later – or perhaps this was just a staging post for a larger gathering elsewhere.
|Brent Geese in the Swale (more arrived later) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
From the Sea Wall Hide the Swale was flat without a ripple and the surface unbroken except for the odd nose of a Common Seal here and there. Searching Sheppey again I eventually found a Short Eared Owl towards the Shellness end, but it wasn’t around for long. The walk back to the Car Park gave us three Rock Pipits feeding among the rocks and disappearing in the holes in the revetment, they were in company of a solitary Turnstone. To our left a Cetti’s Warbler called out, however the birds we saw among the reeds were a pair of Reed Buntings whilst back at the Car Park a Wren sang briefly from a bush.
We had enough light left to wander to Dan’s Dock and back, the journey out gave us a pair of Sky Larks, for once standing out quite nicely against a grey sky and a number of Stock Doves on and around the block houses. Dan’s Dock itself was very quiet, however Stephen scoping towards Uplees and to the West found a hunting Buzzard which we watched for about 15 minutes, first perching on a telegraph pole, swooping down to take a kill, eating it back on the pole and then moving on. Stephen believed it to be a Rough Legged Buzzard but it was too far for my eyesight to confirm. We also picked out in the distance Wood Pigeons and some Rooks. On the return trip we heard a Green Woodpecker, from the West Flood area, while repeated scans of the swale gave us our last spot for the day a Great Crested Grebe.
|Lapwing (on East Flood earlier) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm|
Throughout the day we had seen plenty of Shelduck and the odd Avocet, other spots included Blackbird, Collared Dove, Herring Gull, Moorhen, Magpie Canada Goose and Robin. The full list was 57 seen, 3 others heard (sorry Stephen I cannot count the Rough Legged Buzzard).