Oare Marshes - 0900hrs - hot, dry and sunny, SW2 - Together with CP and MH we decamped to north Kent for a change of scene this morning to the rarity hot-spot that is the KWT reserve beside Faversham Creek. Despite unfavourable light and tides, plus a work party in progress, we still managed to see a decent range of wetland birds.
A pair of adult Black-winged Stilts with their two locally bred juveniles showed throughout the visit, alongside good numbers of Avocets and at least 20 Little Egrets - prompting comparisons with a recent spring visit to the Somme estuary! At least 12 adult Ruffs in various stages of nuptial dress proved interesting, plus a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and a host of gorgeous Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Redshanks. A mix of eclipse ducks, a Dabchick with five fledglings (my first of the summer), various gulls and Grey Herons completed the wetland ensemble on the East Flood.
Out on the worm-rich Swale mud more waders and gulls were in view, including loads more Little Egrets, Curlews, Redshanks, Avocets, Blackwits (including a colour ringed bird - green over yellow left leg, red over red right leg and two of the Icelandic race), 10 Whimbrels and 20 Oystercatchers; a distant sand bar over towards Shell Ness attracted at least 22 Common Seals.
But it was the gulls that drew most attention as amongst the many Black-headed Gulls feeding on lugworms near the old submerged ferry road was the `resident` Bonaparte`s Gull, a stunning individual still in full breeding plumage. A couple of times it was flushed onto the Swale channel by Marsh Harriers, but soon returned to feed and preen on the gloopy mud.
Also noted during the circular walk: Shelduck, Mediterranean Gull, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Tern, Skylark, Mipit, Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Bearded Tit, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting, while on the way out a Turtle Dove was noted on overhead wires rounding off a superb birding morning `up north`.
By the time we arrived back on the coast it was stinking hot and with a 7m high tide there was only one place to be - in Lade bay for a refreshing, first sea swim of the summer, wonderful!