Dare I say it was almost a bit "samey" on the reserve today?
Two little stint, a spotted redshank, a few black-tailed godwit and a green sandpiper on the Flood? Check.
Raptors- Peregrine, buzzard, merlin, marsh harrier? Check.
Nah! Let's face it - that's a pretty decent days birding, even if I did see them all yesterday! The Swale was worth a look too: the first 2 red-breasted mergansers of the winter, together with 100+ avocet, 1000 dunlin and a few bar-tailed godwits. There's a few sparrowhawks floating about at the moment, but hen harriers seem to have disappeared for the time being and short-eared owls are still in pretty short supply.
As for the deadly hunter - I was checking the orchard at Kingshill Farm this morning, as a goldcrest had arrived overnight & I wanted to see if anything else had - although, with the exception of a great spotted woodpecker, there wasn't a lot. Getting to the pool at the end, I noticed what looked like a piece of vegetation waving around in a slightly mad way. A quick check through binoculars revealed the tail of a stoat, with the stoat it was attached to intent on it's breakfast - a rabbit about twice it's size. It never ceases to amaze me how an animal the size & build of a stoat is able to hunt down & overpower prey several times larger & more powerful than itself. I watched it until it had finished feeding (it didn't eat all the rabbit) and sloped off to sleep off it's meal.
Any day with a stoat in it is a good day
Our sheep grazier rang yesterday to let me know that he was bringing up his rams to the reserve today (next years lambs!) and that the flock of tegs (last years lambs) were due their inoculations. So it was out on the quad this morning to drive the 213 tegs off the Flood and into the pens. They've certainly done a good job over the past couple of weeks and the wigeon should like the nice short sward that they've left. We just need to get the reserve a bit wetter to bring in the wigeon. However, there are still already quite a few duck out there: I flushed a few hundred wigeon and a good couple of thousand teal, along with a few mallard & pintail during my shepherding duties. There was also a few snipe, one green sandpiper and at least four ruff in a flock of lapwings.
High tide produced a single spotted redshank and 23 black-tailed godwit. There were a few ringed plover & dunlin too, but the arrival of a hunting peregrine chased those off, along with a flock of c.40 golden plover. A merlin was getting some grief from a magpie up at Kingshill Farm this morning and a barn owl was hunting around the farm buildings at the beginning of the access track this evening.
Things have been a bit quiet on the reserve over the past few days, although even in "quiet" periods there's usually something of interest around the reserve. On the 25th, a short-eared owl, a wheatear & 3 brambling were around Kingshill Farm. On Monday, 2 little stint were present on the Flood, along with a green sandpiper, 60 golden plover, 4 ruff & 7 snipe.
It's pleasing to report that small coveys of grey partridge have been around rather more regularly just recently and Tuesday was no exception with 4 at Kingshill Farm and a pair at the start of the access track. Highlights today: at least 2 Lapland buntings flying NW over Counterwall hide. Waders included 2 little stint, 4 spotted redshank, 1 greenshank, 2 ruff, 1 green sandpiper & 70 golden plover. Raptors were 3 buzzard, 2 peregrine, a merlin & a barn owl. Also 4 grey partridge again at Kingshill Farm and a couple of calling water rail along the track to the hides.
The single female snow bunting was still present at it's favoured patch by Swale hide today (22nd). But while we're welcoming our winter visitors, don't forget that there are still summer birds heading south: also around the reserve today a swallow, a wheatear and a chiffchaff.
A ring-tail hen harrier was around again today - there are certainly at least 3 birds hunting the reserve: an adult male and two ring-tails (females or immature males). Also present were at least one peregrine & merlin. A single little stint was with 4 dunlin on the Flood, where there was also 15 black-tailed godwit and there are still at least 4 green sandpipers around the reserve. A flock of 150 golden plover were in the fields below Kingshill Farm. A single stonechat was feeding along the fence line at Southfleet hide and small parties of bearded tits can be found in most of the reserves areas of reeds.
Out bright & breezy this morning to check the livestock and to instruct our digger driver on the days jobs, I drove round the corner of the seawall at Swale hide & flushed a snow bunting from a small patch of saltmarshy vegetation near the hide. "Great! The first of the winter" I thought, not knowing that the bird had been seen & photographed by J. Martindale the previous evening. So thanks to him for the excellent photos of the snowb and a juvenile merlin (the blue colour of the bill & eye-ring ages it) that he's posted in the gallery. The bunting didn't seem too fussed about flying away, so hopefully it will stick around for a while - this section of seawall from Swale hide going eastwards seems to be a favoured area for the species.
A short-eared owl was seen again today and a ring-tail hen harrier and 2 buzzards were present in the morning. At least 3 green sandpipers can still be found around the reserve (one in the borrowdyke behind the seawall between Wellmarsh & Southfleet hides this morning) and a goldcrest in the orchard at Kingshill showed that autumn isn't quite over yet.