While visiting Margate over half term, Toby and I joined “Nana” and “Granddad” in a trip to Sheppey (or the Isle of Sheppey to full name it).
It was to be a day of birding and looking for Owls and raptors (we left the girls to go to the cinema, bubs doesn’t do well in cars, a bit like her older brother).lareg
Arriving around 11 we were due to stay as late as possible (dark, although Elmley now closes at 5!) in the great hope that the wintering short-eared owls would put in an appearance.
A Trip to Sheppey
The trip actually started at Funton Creek. It’s an area that is great for roosting waders in winter (although high tide isn’t the best time to visit). It was high tide when we got there! It wasn’t all bad though. Tubs is pretty new to birding so almost everything we were showing him were new. And the 1000’s of Avocet that were turning the far bank white were amazing to see; as were the huge flocks of Knot.
Brent Geese and Shelduck were swimming close to us and Curlew kept dropping into the thick salt marsh just in front of us.
But it was a passing Common Buzzard that gave us the most exciting moments as the large raptor soared over our heads for a good 5 mins passing low to the car at times. It was to be the first of many.
Leysdown on Sea
We headed onto Sheppey properly (not via the new bridge, but instead on the trusty old one) and headed east towards Leysdown, it is a great location to check out the sea from and we were lucky enough to see quite a few Red-throated Divers off out at sea, as well as Turnstone and Redshank on the beach and the usual gulls.
A Brief Pied Wagtail posed well for a few photos as did a lovely Carrion crow. We were also treated to a few views of Stonechat towards the nature reserve that is down that end of the island.
Raptor Watch Point
We headed from here to the raptor watch point down towards Harty Ferry, and we were treated to wonderful long (but often distant) views of male and female Marsh Harrier, a few Kestrels and quite a few Common Buzzards. It was also from here we were able to check through the huge Mute Swan flock and pick out the two resident Black Swan.
I was also lucky enough to photograph another Pied Wagtail (a different take than that of the one above, and a more pleasing one in my opinion). There were also fly over Grey Heron, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Goldfinch.
Pied Wagtail on a Fence
Elmley Nature Reserve
It was now time to head to Elmley nature reserve (formally RSPB but now back under the control of the owning family). A Trip to Sheppey isn’t complete without searching for owls at Elmley. And it wasn’t long after arriving on the entrance track that we were looking at stunning Little Egrets and gloriously glossy Lapwing (you could really see where the name Green Plover comes from).
Little Egret feeding
Lapwing (Green Plover)
As we continued up the long drive, there were more Buzzard sightings and lots more Marsh Harriers flying past, including this stunning female.
Marsh Harrier (female)
Onto the Reserve
Being with a disabled driver (dad) meant that rather than the long walk down to the hides and sea wall we were able to drive (and some of you birders out there who sneer as a car passes really need to get a clue, there are reasons it is set up like this, stop being jealous pricks!).
Along the way we were treated to yet more raptor views, and a couple of stunning Little Grebes in the near by pools, as well as more Redshank, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, more egrets, dunlin and quite a lot more.
after some time in the first hide showing Toby the Shoveller, some geese and a small party of Grey Plover we headed back up the track to sit and wait in along the entrance track in order to wait for owls.
Setting ourselves up with excellent views out over the wet, flooded fields and the old barn; we waited for the sun to lower and hopefully lots of owls to come out.
While waiting we were treated to a spectacular diving and stooping display from one of the local Peregrine Falcons, as well as lots of Marsh Harriers and the odd Buzzard but alas no owls, the only consolation was the presence of a few Hare (although not boxing).
As the clock hit 5pm we headed off, grabbing one last shot of a little egret in the pink glow of the setting sun before finally leaving the reserve and heading home.
Little Egret in the failing light
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