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Birding London trip report, 29 May

Shorne Country Park, Cliffe RSPB reserve, Oare Marshes, Kent with Bill Mies and Jim Larson — led by Jack Fearnside

Itinerary and weather

Jack met Bill and Jim at 6am outside their Kensington hotel. We travelled south out of London to our first stop, the wooded Shorne Country Park. Here we spent time walking a circular route through the older established sweet chestnut woodland and scrub areas near the fishing ponds and park centre. From here it was a fairly short drive to Cliffe, a new reserve recently bought by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. We drove the rough track stopping at the raised viewing points and walking out to the shore of the Thames where a first-summer Little Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull were a bonus. We returned to the M2 motorway and drove south to Faversham and Oare Marshes on the Swale river opposite the Isle of Sheppy. The afternoon was spent in a circular walk of the area, stopping at two hides for a while on the way. When it was time to leave we drove out towards the M2, stopping to listen for birds in the chestnut coppice on the way and enjoying great views of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker low down on the boles of the standard trees.

It was mostly cloudy skies with light winds, but the sun did come out for some periods during the day and we waited out the only short shower of rain in one of the hides at Oare Marshes.

87 species were seen or heard during the day.

Species list

Little Grebe — Good views of adults in summer plumage at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Great Crested Grebe — A single bird showed well on the first pit at Cliffe.

Great Cormorant — Several birds were seen at Cliffe with closer views of others on the marshes at Oare.

Grey Heron — Our first was at Shorne CP with others at Cliffe and Oare.

Little Egret — Many birds were seen at Cliffe and Oare Marshes. Who would have thought it was a rare bird in Britain only a few years ago!

Mute Swan — At least one was on the fields at Cliffe with large numbers of non-breeding birds on the west marshes at Oare. A breeding pen was watched from the blind as she made herself comfortable on her nest while the cob floated nearby with wings raised in display.

Greylag Goose — Common at Oare Marshes where one family of young goslings had already hatched.

Canada Goose — Some distant birds were on the fields where we stopped to study the Rooks at Cliffe.

Common Shelduck — This large, mostly white duck was much in evidence at both Cliffe and Oare Marshes. Some young ducklings were out among the shorebirds.

Gadwall — Small numbers were at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Common Teal — A pair flew in to the east marsh pool as we watched from the blind. The white horizontal stripe on the side of the drake was noted. Now split from the Green-winged Teal of North America.

Mallard — Seen at all sites.

Northern Shoveler — A few males were seen at Oare Marshes.

Garganey — A drake slept at Oare providing poor views.

Common Pochard — Some good drakes were seen at both Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Tufted Duck — Seen well at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Ruddy Duck — Present at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Western Marsh Harrier — Our first were distant birds across Faversham creek but we eventually had better views where the male’s grey wing panels were seen.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk — Typical views of a bird dashing through the woodland at Shorne CP.

Common Kestrel — We had excellent views of a perched female on fence posts at Cliffe, with more hovering birds at Oare Marshes.

Red-legged Partridge — One showed well on a drying scrape at Oare Marshes.

Grey Partridge — A calling bird was heard at Cliffe but did not put in an appearance.

Common Pheasant — Seen at Cliffe and Oare Marshes, where the exotic and colourful head of a male protruding from the grass was one of the most memorable sights of the day.

Water Rail — A bird ‘sharming’ from a reedy dyke at Oare Marshes was the best we could expect from this skulking species.

Common Moorhen — Common, seen at all sites.

Eurasian Coot — Seen at Cliffe and Oare Marshes, including some small red-headed chicks.

Eurasian Oystercatcher — Good views at both Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Pied Avocet — Good numbers at Cliffe with a few birds on both the marshes and foreshore at Oare Marshes.

Ringed Plover — A few birds at both Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Northern Lapwing — Common at both Cliffe and Oare Marshes where the ‘peewit’ call and exotic plumage were good memories.

Dunlin — A few birds in summer plumage fed on the shore pool at Cliffe.

Black-tailed Godwit — Good numbers at Cliffe, with others seen at Oare Marshes.

Common Redshank — Common at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Common Sandpiper — A single bird fed on the drying scrape at Oare Marshes.

Little Gull — A first summer immature was with a few Black-headed Gulls on the shore pool at Cliffe.

Mediterranean Gull — An adult flew up the Thames as we stood chatting to a local birder at Cliffe.

Black-headed Gull — Common at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Lesser Black-backed Gull — A few at Cliffe and Oare Marshes where the best were two adults loafing on a spit in good light.

Herring Gull — Our first was on Blackheath as we left London with others at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Great Black-backed Gull — An immature flew over at Cliffe with a distant adult on Horse Sands off Oare Marshes.

Common Tern — Small numbers at Cliffe.

Feral Pigeon — Seen on our journey out of London and specifically noted at Shorne CP.

Stock Dove — Small numbers seen at all sites.

Woodpigeon — Common at all sites.

Eurasian Collared Dove — Noted on our journey, in villages such as Cliffe and Oare.

Eurasian Turtle Dove — A good bird for the day, spotted sitting on a dead branch by Bill in Shorne CP.

Common Cuckoo — Good views in the scope of a singing bird from the first viewing ramp at Cliffe.

Common Swift — Present in small numbers at all sites.

Green Woodpecker — Seen only at Shorne CP, where it was not very obliging. The first glimpse was a bird flying up from the ground in the car park and many were later heard calling. We spent a little time looking for one close bird but had only poor views as it flew off.

Great Spotted Woodpecker — Much better luck with this woodpecker when a female was seen well on dead branches from ‘Cardiac Hill’ in Shorne CP; also excellent views near Oare when another female fed low down on oak standards in cleared chestnut coppice.

Skylark — Good numbers of this declining species on the fields at Cliffe and om the marshes at Oare.

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) — Small numbers gave good views as they tried to land on the mud of the drying scrape at Oare Marshes.

Barn Swallow — Seen in small numbers at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

House Martin — Surprisingly scarce: a single bird was high over the woodland at Shorne CP.

Meadow Pipit — Good numbers collecting food for young on the open fields and marshes at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Yellow Wagtail — A pair were seen on broken ground near the Thames at Cliffe. Eventually they flew off and the male gave good, if distant, views as it sat on top of some vegetation.

Pied Wagtail — Unusually difficult with only two juvenile birds seen on the drying scrape at Oare Marshes.

Eurasian Wren — Commonly heard singing from the undergrowth at Shorne CP.

Dunnock — Good views of this subtle bird at Shorne CP with others at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

European Robin — Common and easy to see at Shorne CP.

Eurasian Stonechat — A nice male sat on distant bushes at the second viewing ramp at Cliffe.

Northern Wheatear — What was possibly a late migrant or local breeding bird was seen on the sea wall at Cliffe.

Common Blackbird — Lived up to its name and was common at all sites.

Song Thrush — One of these smaller thrushes was seen well singing its repeating song at Shorne CP.

Mistle Thrush — Heard singing at Shorne CP, it was seen very well on a bush top at Cliffe and noted too at Oare Marshes.

Sedge Warbler — Plenty of these stripy-headed warblers at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Reed Warbler — Though they were singing well we only optained short views of this skulking species at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Common Whitethroat — First seen at Shorne CP we saw many more at Cliffe and Oare Marshes.

Blackcap — We spent some time looking for a singing bird at Shorne CP without success. Later in our walk a bird singing high in an oak tree was tracked down by Jim and gave good views in the scope.

Chiffchaff — Seen singing its onomatopoeic song from the tree tops in Shorne CP.

Willow Warbler — One gave close views in the scrub near the fishing ponds of Shorne CP.

Bearded Tit — The typical ‘pinging’ calls were heard from the reeds at Oare Marshes and we had flight views of at least one bird (a female).

Long-tailed Tit — Good views of a family party of these attractive birds near the park centre at Shorne CP.

Blue Tit — Not easy to see in the dense woodland, but we found a pair feeding young in a nest sited in a life preserver case near the fishing ponds at Shorne CP.

Great Tit — Poor views in the leafy woodland of a few birds at Shorne CP.

Eurasian Jay — Only a glimpse of this shy woodland bird at Shorne CP, but the rasping ‘tearing calico’ calls were heard well.

Common Magpie — Seen at all sites and on the journeys between. Split from Black-billed Magpie of North America.

Western Jackdaw — First seen on dead trees near ‘Cardiac Hill’ at Shorne CP, better views were of birds on the open fields at Cliffe.

Rook — We stopped to look at these gregarious crows on the open fields at Cliffe where the grey base to the bill was noted.

Carrion Crow — Common at all sites.

Common Starling — Seen at all sites with young birds now out of the nest.

House Sparrow — Seen at Oare Marshes and en route, but not common.

Common Chaffinch — Heard singing at Shorne CP, and seen at Cliffe (a female in a bush near the sea wall) and Oare Marshes (eventually a good singing male).

European Greenfinch — Poor and distant views only, a singing bird near the entrance track to Cliffe did not show.

European Goldfinch — After a poor fly by at Cliffe, we had good views of this attractive finch near the east blind at Oare Marshes.

Common Linnet — Small numbers were seen at Cliffe and Oare Marshes. Birds were scoped sitting on fence wires near the sea wall at Cliffe.

Reed Bunting — Seen at Cliffe and Oare Marshes. The male was quite attractive with its black head and white collar and moustache, but the song is really boring!

Other species

Common Rabbit — Seen at Shorne CP.

Grey Squirrel — Shorne CP.

Marsh Frog — These bright green and vocal introductions to SE England were common at Cliffe.

Common Blue Butterfly — Seen near the sea wall at Cliffe.