Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sheppey Magic 15/12/12

Last Saturday saw the first annual South London birders Christmas bash, in the form of a jaunt down to the Isle of Sheppey. It was an excellent day out and a chance to put some names to faces finally...

Meeting just south of Leysdown around 10ish, we parked up next to the beach where a small flock of Sanderling were skittering back and forth on the rising tide. In amongst them were a good few Turnstones, Oycs and a single Dunlin, while Redshanks and Curlews shrieked nearby. Offshore, large numbers of birds alternately bobbed and shifted on the water - Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and Brent Goose making up the bulk along with a distant flock of Common Scoters and a few grebes and Pintails in the mix. In the adjacent fields, the crop had recently been cut leaving vast tracts of muddy pools and stubble. Four Marsh Harriers patrolled in the distance, flushing bucket loads of Woodpigeons and what looked like Snipe. From the scruffy clumps of hedgerow we passed, Reed Buntings called and Linnets squeaked by over head. Save the fact that I fell on my arse twice, I love the walk along this stretch of the coast.

Sanderlings on the shore...somewhere

Miggers (L-R): Ernie, Steve, Martin, Dave (socks)
"That says 'naturist' guys, not 'naturalist'..."
Down at Shellness a much larger flock of Dunlin spooked at our presence and bolted off round the other side of the Hamlet, twisting like sea starlings. With the tide now high, endless flocks of Oystercatchers followed, along with more Turnstones and several hundred Grey Plover. With the weather rolling in a bit the saltings were pretty quiet; several Skylarks chirruped and drifted by, with Meadow Pipits pinging up here and there like little streaky flares. A contentious pipit held up proceedings a bit as it scuttled about on some weedy shingle nearby and I tried in vain to convince the others it wasn’t a meadow. It just looked a bit too ‘sturdy’ I felt, with broader streaking...they weren’t having it though. It probably was a meadow but with a trip to Berkshire in mind, I no doubt had pipits in the brain. ‘Mock Pipit’ indeed.

After a bit of lunch by the old pillbox, which served as a useful windbreak, we skirted round the marsh before heading back as showers licked our feet. The next stop was Capel Fleet to watch the harriers coming in and try for a Short-eared Owl. We didn’t get the latter but the harriers were magnificent as ever. A slow procession over an hour and a half saw around 16-18 birds by my reckoning. Best of all was a ringtail Hen Harrier which cruised by, jinking low over the fields in the late-afternoon light. Real class, you don't get them in Dulwich. To top it off we stopped in at the Ferry for a nice pint and warm up before home. All in all a really enjoyable day out, here’s to next one. Happy Christmas you lot!

Ernie goes commando
Oystercatchers on the High Tide roost, Shellness, Sheppey, 15/12/12

Full list:

Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Brent Goose (Dark-bellied), Curlew, Redshank, Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Great-crested Grebe, Common Scoter (offshore), Pintail, Grey Plover, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Woodpigeon, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Carrion Crow, Rook, Lapwing, Skylark, Redwing, Snipe, Mute Swan, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Hen Harrier, Red-legged Partridge, Little Egret, Starling, Blackbird.

This blog is done by a friendly bunch of birders from South London who get out and about whenever they can. We really love our parks and green spaces and all those weeds coming through the cracks. We always love to hear about new sightings...or old ones...or wildly speculative ones, so feel free to drop us a line below. Or get in touch at if you want to gossip, bitch or help us find a sodding Firecrest...Thanks!

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