Sheppey - 0830hrs - mild, sunny, sw 4 - A change of scene today with a trip to north Kent with Marshman, the Joker and, of course Barney. As we left the Marsh the rain band passed through leaving a pretty fair sort of a day, albeit with a blustery wind. The main aim was to check out a couple of sites and take some piccies for articles. I always feel as though I`m visiting foreign parts when crossing onto the island, and always bring my passport, just in case...
En-route to Harty marshes a `ringtail` noted on farmland. From the first bend along Harty Ferry Road the fields held a distant flock of 40 Bewick`s Swans, 10 grey geese (probably White-fronts), several Marsh Harriers, a Common Buzzard and literally thousands of Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Starlings and winter thrushes. The fleet held a variety of common wildfowl including Shelducks and Dabchicks. Was good to hear Skylarks in song and 3 Corn Buntings `jangling` from bushes, plus a few Linnets, Goldfinch and Mipit over. From the raptor lookout the main talking point was a very pale Buzzard, of which we had good perched and flight views. At first glance it cried out to be a Roughie, (it even hovered once or twice) but on closer inspection the shape was all wrong (didn`t have long wings and tail), the white tail had brown sides and it lacked `trousers`. In flight though the underwing pattern was more like Roughie with dark carpal patches and pale under forewing and at rest the whitish breast and `face` was striking. At a distance this bird could easily be mistaken for a Roughie, but most definitely was a Common Buzzard.
Also from the ramp 2 juv Whoopers Swans over, several more Marsh Harriers and 7 very distant Common Cranes in a maize field.
Scanning across the Swale from the Ferry Inn the foreshore and fields were full of birds including Brents, Shelducks, Barwits, all the usual shorebirds, including 25 Avocets, Little Egret, and thousands more Woodpigeons - where do they all come from? At Leysdown the foreshore attracted some close Sanderlings and Turnstones, Brents, Shelducks and Redshanks.
Our next stop on the island (for a site recce) was Warden Point, an odd place which appears to be falling into the North Sea! We had a few winter thrushes and finches and not much else besides; we all agreed we wont be be rushing back, while Barney nearly fell off the cliff ...
Elmley - A drive down the track towards the bird reserve, with flooded fields on either side, was well worth while as it delivered a smart flock of 50 Ruffs, 100 Curlews and thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers.
Oare Marshes - With high tide approaching waders were already streaming onto the east flood with hundreds of Dunlins, Redshanks and Grey Plovers mingling with Snipe, Shoveler, Teal and a few Pintail, while the deeper water held rafts of diving ducks. Also noted Cettis Warbler, Kestrel, Reed Bunting and Rock Pipit,
Denge Wood - Final stop off on the way home was the Hawfinch stakeout at Denge Wood, but by now the wind had picked up whipping the tops of the magnificent Douglas Firs into a frenzy and as a result we drew a blank. Nice finish to the day though with a party of Siskins and Redwings over, plus Redpoll, Coal Tit, Jay and Common Buzzard.
In summary 80 species noted throughout the day with the highlights being the pale Buzzard followed by the flock of Ruff.