Trip reports

Shellness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. Sunday, 6th January, 2019

Shellness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. Sunday, 6th January, 2019
Short-eared Ow by Steve Grayson

Friday, 11 January 2019

Three of us had taken a short detour to Funton Creek where we quickly located the hoped-for large raptor perched on a bush; rough-legged buzzard in the bag for us, but not included in the Group's tally. The small strip of beach contained turnstones and sanderling while flocks of oystercatchers were flying past. Soon after we started the walk we found several coveys of red-legged partridges on the first inland field along with a few lapwings and several marsh harriers were further away. Along this stretch we had a couple of sightings of merlin, with another seen later on. It became apparent that there were divers flying over the sea and we noted then three more on the surface in the middle distance and indentified these as winter-plumaged black-throated divers by their strongly-contrasting black and white plumage and white patch on hind. These three birds soon flew off north but scanning further to the south we found another fairly tight group of ten birds on the water, hardly diving at all, Most, if not all, of this group proved to be red-throated divers. As we continued our walk south, other divers were seen flying past on both northerly and southerly headings. Looking back inland there were buzzards, a flock of about 20 linnets, several reed buntings and house sparrows, plus a couple of stonechats. Over towards the Swale NNR we could see flocks of geese; a hundred or so dark-bellied Brent geese, definite greylags and what appeared to be white-fronted geese. After seeing a few little egrets on the saltmarsh near the car park three of us took the decision to go down to the reserve rather than walking out to the roost at Shellness. The walk down to the reserve was rewarded by views of a peregrine (with it, or another, near Muswell Manor later), several skylarks and, eventually, confirming that there were about 150 white-fronted geese giving fairly close views.
Those who went to Shellness found a flock of oystercatchers stretching in a dense band along the face of the bank of shells was easily the largest component of the big segregated roost of waders, the number of birds present perhaps being around 4,000. Together with the oystercatchers were several hundred each of knot, dunlin and bar-tailed godwit; each species in its own homogenous flock in the communal roost. Away from the roost a couple of knot bore rings on their legs; one of them had colour rings showing that it had been ringed on the Waddenzee in The Netherlands in September 2016 and this was the first reported re-sighting. There were up to four rock pipits in the garden or on the boundary wall of the final dwelling at the southern end of Shellness Hamlet.
Round at Capel Fleet there was a single shoveler. After much debate we concluded that a group of four geese on the fields were pink-footed geese. We then had a short-eared owl, initially in the distance, but eventually giving an excellent close up flying display and occasionally perching. Towards the raptor viewpoint we could see a flock of corn buntings on the wires, with more seen in bushes as we drove past and even more flew in to roost in the reeds near the viewpoint. In all there were well over 100 birds. The final new bird of the day for us was a rather distant barn owl.
All in all not a bad day, with the group's total (excluding the Funton Creek birds) being 72 species.
Based on a trip report by the leader John Parish, and personal observations by John Birkett.