|Posted on May 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM|
I started soon after 0700 in the North Kent marshes checking the Swifts and martins around the North Quarry near Cliffe. Several hundered Swifts were present and small numbers of House Martin's and Sand Martin but I could find nothing of more interest!
Onto Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve I drove out slowly to coastguards checking all the pools and looking from both viewing mounds and checking up tracks further into the marsh. It was rather quiet and the large areas of standing water of a fortnight had gone leaving green but dry grassland. There was a steady trickle of Swallow's and Swfts, mostly heading north. A few Wheatear were hopping about on the ground near the river and the song of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler filled the air.
Back at the base of the cliffs near the Radar Pool several Nightingales were in full song and with a bit of patience I got some nice looks though no clear shots. The Nightingale is the subject of an intense survey this spring in Kent and the news so far is one of significant contraction though how much the poor weather in April was to blame is hard to say. Numbers were expected to be down on the last survey in 1999 but so far it looks like we may have lost over a third of these superb songsters.
I had a few Cuckoo and a Hobby and I spent over an hour using my car as a hide to photograph Whitethroat with quite pleasing results. I guess they are also happy about getting some dry sunny weather after days of rain - they were certainly very noisy, active and showy.
My next stop was Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey. A pair of black-winged stilts present for over a week and still there Friday evening were a major factor in my decision but sadly despite a good search they looked to have gone.
Driving out to Kings Hill Farm across the marsh it was good to see that there was quite a lot of water in the scrapes and ditches - it looked a lot better than it had just a few weeks ago - and a number of Lapwing had small chicks.
I had a slow wander down to the main scrape with plenty of birdlife to look at en-route; Reed and Sedge Warblers were in full song, Common Tern's displaying and still plenty of Med Gull's winging about. I visited all of the 3 main hides overlooking the scrape but could not find the black-winged stilts. There was a smart drake Garganey, lots of Avocet but only a smattering of other waders including a few Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover,Redshank and Dunlin and a single Greenshank.
Buzzards - just 10 years ago a notable species on Sheppey - almost outnumbered the Marsh Harrier's. I had 3 Hobby and a few Kestrels.
Back at Kings Hill Farm the Swallow's are nesting again in the toilet block and a male occasionally settled on the fence by the car park giving great views.
On the drive out I came across a Skylark dust-bathing on the track and again from the comfort of the car grabbed some nice pictures.