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WINTER BIRDING ON THE ISLE OF SHEPPEY
Saturday 4th February 2017

The day started rather murky with light rain most of the morning but this didn’t hamper us in any way as we made our way down to Leysdown. A scan out to sea produced small numbers of RED-THROATED DIVERS plus a few GREAT CRESTED GREBES in the very still conditions.

We headed off to the Shellness National Nature Reserve where we took a stroll along the seawall. Good numbers of MARSH HARRIERS and COMMON BUZZARDS were sitting around on the many fenceposts.

In the distant fields we located a large flock of around 200 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE plus a few GREYLAGS thrown in for good measure. From the hide overlooking the grazing marsh we picked out a very dapper male MERLIN perched on a gatepost and a COMMON CRANE fed in a distant field.

CORN BUNTINGS and REED BUNTINGS were seen in the scrubby bushes as we wandered back to the carpark.

Lunch was enjoyed overlooking the mudflats where we noted BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, SANDERLING, DUNLIN, CURLEW, GREY PLOVER, DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE and OYSTERCATCHERS.

Afterwards we spent the remainder of the afternoon down at the Harty Marshes Raptor watchpoint. The conditions were now perfect with no wind and even warm sunshine and we soon picked out a hunting SHORT-EARED OWL over the rough grassland which gave excellent views.

Another male MERLIN sat in a field eating its lunch and CETTI’S WARBLER and GREEN SANDPIPER were seen adjacent to the carpark. On the roadside wires were around 20 CORN BUNTINGS and the COMMON CRANE gave us a lovely flyby right over our heads!

As the afternoon wore on a BARN OWL appeared and was often seen hunting alongside the SHORT-EARED OWL which was good to see. A perched raptor turned out to be a juvenile male HEN HARRIER when another HEN HARRIER flew past it rounding off an excellent day in Kent.