Isle of Sheppey 10 December 2023

Three hardy souls braved the elements for the walk. At the meeting point a Green Woodpecker landed in the field behind, whilst assorted Turnstones, Sanderlings and Oystercatchers industriously ran around on the shoreline.  Lapwings could be seen in adjacent fields.  Each post on the groynes seemed to have an obligatory Redshank or Grey Plover sitting on top.  There were Cormorants, Shelduck, Herring Gulls, Black Headed Gulls and some Great Crested Grebes, as well as a lone Great Black Backed Gull, further out to sea.  At this stage the weather was calm and dry.

After a short drive to a parking spot nearer to the Swale Nature Reserve the walk resumed down the track.  A splendid sight of around 350 Brent Geese and 24 Curlew was waiting in a nearby field.  Large groups of Starling swirled around.  A further look at the sea revealed a large number of Common Gull bobbing on the water.  A pair of Pied Wagtail flitted around on the sea wall followed by a brief glimpse of a Short Eared Owl hunting over some grassland and a flypast from a couple of Little Egret over the marsh.  A pair of Stonechat could be seen in the roadside foliage.  Meadow Pipits could also be heard.

Towards Shellness beach a male Kestrel was surveying for prey from his telegraph pole vantage point.  Along the naturist beach was a large raft of Mallard on the water and three Mute Swans.  A single Ringed Plover was spotted amongst the Turnstones here while at the concrete bunker large numbers of Dunlin, Grey Plovers and Oystercatchers were assembled on the shoreline. A distant Marsh Harrier drifted low over the land.  The weather forecast was by this time living up to its predictions as grey clouds and a few spots of rain appeared prompting a return to the car, whereupon a Peregrine raced through chasing huge clouds of waders that had suddenly taken to the air.

En route to the RSPB Capel Fleet Raptor viewpoint for lunch, the opportunity was taken to stop off along the road at a small lake full of ducks including Teal, Wigeon, and more Mallards. Two Corn Buntings alighted on some telegraph wires while good views were had of around six Marsh Harriers at the viewpoint. At that point the wind became stronger and the rain started in earnest, bringing the walk to an end.  A total of 37 species were identified for the trip, some in very large numbers.

Isle of Sheppey 1 April 2023

The four members who met at the seawall in Leysdown in a cold wind and unsettled weather might, in the face of their collective belief that Sheppey always delivers, have done better to reflect that it was All Fools Day – but in the end were glad that they had not. Early seawatching produced sparse but good quality sightings. Two distant Great Northern Divers bobbed up on the surface, a Red-breasted Merganser flew by and a Gannet soared among the misty wind turbines. Further along a Red-throated diver streaked north on its spring migration while a Great Skua wove to and fro over the water. By the blockhouse the high tide roost consisted almost exclusively of Oystercatchers while small numbers of Turnstones and Ringed Plovers roamed the sand in the company of a few Sanderlings. Distantly small flocks of Dunlins and Grey Plovers occasionally took to the air while a group of perhaps eighty Curlews and four Avocets could be picked out on the edge of a reedbed. Marsh Harriers patrolled distantly until a male initiated a spectacular dispute with a Peregrine. The latter went on to play havoc with the waders before snatching a Meadow Pipit from the air for its elevenses. From there the group headed for Harty Ferry, birding en route. The streams held a variety of waterfowl including Teal, Shovelers, Shelducks and a couple of Tufted ducks. A Little Grebe was observed as was a Reed Bunting perched on a fence. At the raptor point a Barn Swallow was a surprise flyover while scanning identified two Red-legged Partridges, four Corn Buntings, three Snipe and a Wheatear. Raptors were in short supply apart from Marsh Harriers until the occupants of the last car to leave the location were fortunate in spotting a ringtail Hen Harrier. Three of the group then headed for Elmley NR following reports of a White-tailed Eagle. Sadly that bird had earlier left the reserve but consolation was soon found in sightings of a Short-eared Owl, a Kingfisher and two Penduline Tits, the latter allowing close views as they fed on seed heads near the reedbeds on the track past the old schoolhouse. The final treat was a confiding Brown Hare feeding just twenty yards from the track and quite indifferent to the presence of humans. Despite the conditions an outstanding day had been enjoyed with some spectacular sightings on a list of 64 species.

Isle of Sheppey 13 March 2022

Five members braved the wind and poor forecast to assemble on the seawall at Leysdown. With the tide at its height there was little to see offshore apart from a great crested grebe but a green woodpecker provided entertainment in the thickets. From the Shellness car park a large flock of Brent geese could be seen feeding on the marshes while skylarks ascended in full voice and numerous meadow pipits flitted around. A couple of red-legged partridges flushed. At the shoreline there was a scattering of waders, initially redshanks, dunlins and turnstones but then numerous oystercatchers. From the shelter of the blockhouse a couple of curlews and a handful of ringed plovers could be seen and then a pristine male marsh harrier was spotted chasing a passerine. The sea remained quiet with a possible diver briefly seen but not identified. The next venue was the central beach in Leysdown where the waders at the waters edge included a dozen sanderlings. Following a search of the beach the target was seen; seven shore larks that had spent the winter locally were foraging on grassy scrub no more than twenty yards distant allowing cracking views. The next destination was the Harty Ferry raptor point. From the roadside waterfowl were observed including mallards, coots, gadwall, shovelers, pochards, mute swans and greylag geese. About forty common gulls roosted on the bank and two snipe flew briefly into view. Further along the road a dozen corn bunting could be seen at close quarters while at the raptor point the rain had closed in limiting final sightings to a large flock of stock doves spread over a ploughed field and a Cetti’s warbler in reeds. Despite the premature end of the walk the species list for the day reached 42.