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Birding London trip report, 7 December

Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve (at Stodmarsh village and Grove Ferry), and Oare Marshes, Kent with Anne-Marie and Pierre Tellier – led by Jack Fearnside


Jack met Anne-Marie and Pierre at their Strand hotel at 0630hrs and we were soon heading south east into Kent. The sky was quite clear as we left London. At the end of the M2 motorway we circumnavigated Canterbury and turned off the Sandwich road towards the village of Stodmarsh.

In the village we found our way down the narrow lane to the car park and started our walk through the flooded Alder wood. We made a muddy detour to look at a Little Owl nestbox but no owl was showing. However, on the way we had brief views of a pair of Bullfinches, a couple of European Goldfinches and a single female Eurasian Siskin. The Alder woods were ominously quiet and as we reached the Lampern Wall it began to sleet in the freshening breeze. This made for an uncomfortable viewing of the main lake where large numbers of Common Teals and Northern Shovelers, with a few Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards, sheltered against the reeds from the wind. We reached the shelter of the woodland near the river where we saw a male Hen Harrier and a number of Western Marsh Harriers over the reeds. We had more, if little better views, of Bullfinches and glimpses of both Goldcrest and a lovely Firecrest. We walked beside the River Stour as far as the Oxbow scrape, which was frozen and birdless apart from a distant flock of Northern Lapwings and a female Merlin travelling quickly up the valley. On the way we heard many song bursts from Cetti’s Warblers, but all remained resolutely out of sight. We retraced our steps in now pouring rain and gale-force winds, stopping for a short while in the Reedbed Hide.

After a late breakfast we drove round to Grove Ferry at the other end of the National Nature Reserve. We braved the weather to walk to the viewing ramp, unusually birdless, and sheltered in the Feast Hide for a while before returning to the car. Near the car park we found a small group of Fieldfares and Redwings feeding on berries in the hedgerow.

We drove back towards London as far as Faversham where we visited Oare Marshes, a reserve of the Kent Wildlife Trust. We drove the car up to look over the Swale where there were a few shorebirds on offer: Common Redshanks, a Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, Dunlins and Ruddy Turnstones. We looked over the east floods where everything was trying to shelter from the now stronger wind. We braved the elements and walked out to the Seawatching Hide. As we started a flock of Common Linnets flew by without stopping and along the sea wall we searched for, and found, at least one Rock Pipit. We settled down in the hide to watch the shorebirds on the incoming tide, but they were elsewhere in the strong winds and the normal flocks did not materialise. Out on Horse Sands we saw a basking Common Seal, with many Dark-bellied Brent Geese and Common Shelducks, a few Great Black-backed Gulls and one sleeping Lesser Black-backed Gull. On the near shore the numbers of Pied Avocets built up from a handful of birds to at least 95. These were joined by three Bar-tailed Godwits and a small flock of Dunlins. There was a Great Crested Grebe offshore.

We battled our way into the wind and back to the car where, after a last look over the east floods, we returned to London and the Strand Palace Hotel, where the trip ended about 1745hrs.

The weather was probably the worst conditions I have experienced on one of these trips: from a clear start we experienced sleet, a little snow, much heavy rain and bitingly cold winds which seemed much stronger at the coast. This no doubt kept many birds in shelter.

65 species were seen or heard during the day.

Species list

Mute Swan Cygnus olor – Several were seen at Stodmarsh and on the east floods at Oare.

Brent Goose Branta bernicla – Large numbers were on the distant Horse Sands and Isle of Sheppy.

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna – Many birds were spread out across Horse Sands at Oare.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope – A small number were with the large flocks of Common Teals and Northern Shovelers on the main lake at Stodmarsh. Also seen well on the east floods at Oare.

Gadwall Anas strepera – A few were seen at Stodmarsh with more at Oare Marshes.

Common Teal Anas crecca – Large numbers were sheltering in the lee of the reeds on the main lake at Stodmarsh, with further birds seen from the Feast Hide at Grove Ferry and at Oare Marshes.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos – Common, noted in small numbers at all sites.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta – Good views of this handsome duck on the east floods at Oare Marshes.

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata – Large numbers were on the main lake at Stodmarsh with further birds at Oare Marshes.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina – A few distant birds were on the main lake at Stodmarsh.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula – Two were on the main lake at Stodmarsh with more on the east floods at Oare Marshes.

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula – Pierre spotted two asleep on a small island in the east floods at Oare Marshes.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis – A single bird was seen at Stodmarsh.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus – One was on the sea at the entrance of Faversham Creek.

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus – Three were seen from the Lampern Wall at Stodmarsh, with two more at Grove Ferry.

Hen (Northern) Harrier Circus cyaneus – A grey male was seen at Stodmarsh with a female seen later at Grove Ferry.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – Seen on our outward journey. One was at Oare Marshes.

Merlin Falco columbarius – One flew up the Stour Valley as we viewed the Oxbow lake at Stodmarsh.

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus – One was heard giving its ‘sharming’ call from the depths of the reeds at Stodmarsh.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus – At least four noted at Stodmarsh.

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra – Noted at Stodmarsh and Oare Marshes.

Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus – A distant bird was picked out by Pierre on Horse Sands at Oare.

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta – A small flock, sheltering from the strong winds in the lee of a mud bank in front of the Seawatching Hide at Oare, grew to c95 birds as the tide rose.

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus A large flock was seen in flight, and later on the ground, at Stodmarsh. Also seen on the east floods at Oare Marshes.

Dunlin Calidris alpina – Common on the seashore at Oare Marshes.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago – Three were resting on an island in the east floods at Oare.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica – Three were in front of the Seawatching Hide at Oare.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata – Birds were scattered over the foreshore mud at Oare Marshes.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus – Common on the muddy shore at Oare Marshes.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres – A few birds were feeding around the causeway and sea wall rocks at Oare Marshes.

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus – Noted at Stodmarsh and Oare Marshes.

Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus – Two were seen at Stodmarsh, with many more over the sea at Oare Marshes.

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus – One adult of the British subspecies L. f. graellsii was asleep on Horse Sands.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus – Common, seen at all sites.

Feral Pigeon Columba livia – Seen on our journey out of London.

Stock Dove Columba oenas – A flock of six flew over the main lake at Stodmarsh.

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus – Very common, seen at all sites.

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto – Two were on wires as we drove through Stodmarsh village.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major – One was seen in flight at Stodmarsh.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis – One flew off the sea wall path calling as we returned from the Seawatching Hide.

Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus – At least one, possibly two, were feeding on the weed covered rocks at the base of the sea wall at Oare Marshes.

Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes – Seen and heard at Stodmarsh and Grove Ferry.

Dunnock Prunella modularis – Four birds noted at Stodmarsh.

European Robin Erithacus rubecula – Noted at all sites.

Common Blackbird Turdus merula – Common on berry bushes at all sites.

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris – Around 20 birds were feeding on berries near the road at Grove Ferry.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos – One was noted at Stodmarsh.

Redwing Turdus iliacus – Good views of one in a tree, plus many more on berry bushes at Stodmarsh. Also birds with Fieldfares at Grove Ferry.

Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti – Several birds were heard giving their distinctive song bursts at Stodmarsh, but none were seen.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus – One was seen climbing the trunk of a tree beside the Lampern Wall at Stodmarsh.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus – We had brief glimpses of this rare sprite near the River Stour at Stodmarsh.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithelos caudatus – Several roving flocks were seen at Stodmarsh.

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus – Seen in small numbers at Stodmarsh.

Great Tit Parus major – Several birds showed well at Stodmarsh.

Common Magpie Pica pica – Common at Stodmarsh and Grove Ferry.

Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula – Noted overhead at Grove Ferry.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone – Common, seen at all sites.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris – Large flocks were leaving roosts as we approached Canterbury. Seen in small numbers at Stodmarsh village and Oare Marshes.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus – The distinctive call was heard in Stodmarsh village.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs – Three females were in the Alder woods at Stodmarsh.

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris – Two flew over calling at Stodmarsh with another seen at Grove Ferry.

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis – Two were watched in a tree near the farm at Stodmarsh with others heard at Grove Ferry.

Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus – A female fed in an Alder with Goldfinches at Stodmarsh.

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina – A flock of c30 birds flew past along the sea wall as we set out for the Seawatching Hide at Oare Marshes.

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula – Pairs typically played hard to get at Stodmarsh.

Other species

Mammals seen today were Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis and Common Seal Phoca vitulina.