Trip reports

Capel Fleet and Harty Ferry (Leaders Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich)

Capel Fleet and Harty Ferry (Leaders Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich)
Barn owls [Richard Brooks]

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Seven hardy souls braved the bracing wind for a jaunt around the eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey. We started off at Capel Fleet corner in an endeavour to find the whooper swans and white-fronted geese which had been reported there. Unfortunately, we drew a blank, but Steve found a distant barn owl quartering the fields and we all managed to get onto it. On the fleet itself we saw plenty of shelducks, mallards and coots.

Then it was on to the raptor viewpoint where we saw the obligatory marsh harriers, plus a grey heron, buzzards, great black-backed gull, numerous crows (unfortunately not including the hooded version which is known to frequent the dung heap), reed bunting, chaffinch, stonechat and meadow pipit before the wind became too unpleasant and we adjourned to the Harty Ferry car park. Here we walked the one hundred yards down to the foreshore opposite Oare Marshes and scanned the saltmarsh and Harty Hill. The Swale looked very choppy, but we picked up a group of dark-bellied Brent geese with a single redshank in tow, curlews and a couple of oystercatchers. A hen harrier flew across the Swale with a couple of herring gulls in hot pursuit.

We then re-traced our steps and were invited to set up out scopes on the "lawn" by the clay pigeon shooters' hut. It was relatively sheltered here, and we saw a kestrel, a buzzard carrying prey, house sparrows, chaffinches and a robin.

Our final stop was on the hard standing (courtesy of Burden Brothers) opposite Harty Church. We took the chance to have a hot drink and a bite to eat before we set off along the tracks to the South Swale Nature Reserve. En route we encountered lots of fieldfares feeding avidly on the ground and a little further on smaller birds were coming down to some sweetcorn which had been spilt on the path. In the distance we could see geese and wildfowl on the reserve and then stood for some time watching a flock of around one hundred linnets flying back and forth between the hedgerow and the field where they searched out weed seeds.

As we set foot on the reserve a pair of stonechats appeared on the boundary fence and as we walked along the sea wall towards Shellness we marvelled at the dense flocks of waders at the high tide roost to our right. To our left we spent some time searching through the geese and we were rewarded with a single barnacle goose in amongst the greylag throng. Dark-bellied brent geese kept themselves to themselves and a single gadwall was in with the mallards.

On the way back to the cars a group of seven pied wagtails alighted on the path ahead of us and after saying our goodbyes Steve and I stopped off at the bushes along the Harty Road and caught up with the corn buntings. Our final bird of the morning was a green woodpecker on the roadside grass verge near the prison.

A good morning despite the challenging conditions and a total of 48 for the bird list.

Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich