Trip reports

Shellness and Capel Fleet - Sunday 5 January 2020

Shellness and Capel Fleet - Sunday 5 January 2020
Hen harrier going for a group member by John Birkett

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

On the drive down one car had a red kite by the M25 (ok so not on Sheppey) and a few red-legged partridges flew over the road on Sheppey itself. The seawatch gave a mix of common waders and gulls around the beach with red-throated and black-throated divers on the sea. The first geese of the day were Brents flying around. Meanwhile a green woodpecker yaffled away behind us. As we walked to the hide raptors came in the form of kestrel, buzzard and marsh harrier, while we could see large numbers of geese on the reserve. We were then distracted as one of our members brought our attention to another raptor flying over the marshes. Very quickly we were all watching a ringtail hen harrier. As we neared the reserve we could pick out around 100 white-fronted geese and hundreds of brent geese along with many greylags. We were hoping to scan through the geese at close quarters to check for something rarer when they all took to the air; someone was walking near to where they were feeding! One lucky member managed to catch sight of a snipe as it flew up and off into the distance. Even though the geese had moved we still went to the hide where a Cetti's warbler regaled us. On our way back to the car park we were able to scan the geese, albeit at some distance and were able to see a single tundra bean goose was in with them.
We picked up our lunches and went down to the shore and WW2 bunker. The tide was out so the walk was reasonably dry, although we knew the wader roost would be empty. Scanning the beach near the hamlet we were able to add more waders, including a couple of avocets, to the day's list. Over lunch we admired the mural of a male hen harrier on the wall of the bunker.
Capel Fleet was remarkably devoid of water fowl, but the nearby fields were worth checking. A herd of mute swans also contained a few Bewick's swans. Mixed in with them were more white-fronted geese and several other grey that were likely to be the pink-footed geese reported from there during the day. While sorting these out the hen harrier made another fly past. While watching it, a couple of fieldfares flew out of its way.
Unfortunately, only a few of the group managed to see the corn buntings on the way to the raptor view point. And, disappointingly, no owls came out to play as the light faded and we eventually departed back home. Personal lists for the day are likely to vary quite widely, but my own totalled 59 species (excluding the kite).
John Birkett