Thursday, 9 February 2017

Isle of Sheppey

Swale NNR - cold, grey and grim, ne 2 - Its been two years since I last visited the Island in order to research for an article on the `new` Elmley, and part of this trip was a follow up to that article. Today I had company with the ever sharp-eyed Chris Philpott and what a cracking day it turned into despite the gloomy weather. Our first port of call was a scan from Muswell Manor where we were treated to 150 White-fronted Geese and 300 Brents in distant fields along with several Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Peregrine and Kestrel, so not a bad start. More Brents were noted on the sea, en-route to the car park at Shell Ness Hamlet where a walk along the sea wall produced more raptors, Mipits, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Snipe, Curlew and a flock of 200 Golden Plovers.
  With high tide approaching we walked out to Shell Ness. On the beach large flocks of waders were swirling to roost including 2,000 Knot and hundreds of Grey Plovers, Sanderlings, Dunlins and Oystercatchers, 12 species in all and a fantastic sight.

                               Shell Ness waders

Harty Marshes - Moving on to Harty viewpoint, many more raptors were noted along with 100 White-fronts, 10 Blackwits and plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. Around the dump, 50 each of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, 20 Corn Buntings, several Red-legged Partridges and two Stonechats.

                                Pale Common Buzzard, Capel Fleet

Elmley NNR - We spent the afternoon on this fabulous reserve with its wide open spaces and thousands of waders and wildfowl, Stock Doves, corvids and Starlings on the wet meadows. Some of the Lapwings were already displaying and everywhere you looked there were birds of prey; goodness knows how many Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards we saw today. On the walk out to the hides an immense flock of several thousand Wigeon were bobbing up and down on the Swale, while hundreds of shorebirds fed along the beach on an ebb tide. From the main hide we had plenty more wetland birds and raptors including a brown Merlin.
  In the newly designed car park area, complete with bird feeders, we met Philip Merricks, the landowner, who showed us around the recently renovated barn and updated us on the on going conservation work at Elmley. Game cover strips along the main driveway attracted a flock of Linnets, thrushes and the like, and we had close views of a Brown Hare on the way out.
  A terrific day of winter birding was enjoyed with the highlights being the vast numbers of wildfowl and waders on offer, the like of which are unknown back home on the Romney Marsh.

                                Elmley NNR

                               Marsh Harrier and Lapwing


  1. Clearly the birds knew you were coming and needed to impress you, you had far better counts than many people lately. Walking round the marsh part of the Swale NNR at first light this morning I not only half froze to death, I saw very little.

  2. The Swale NNR section was the quietest area we visited, in contrast to Shell Ness and Elmley which were heaving with birds, and yes, it was nippy!