A single spoonbill has been around the reserve over the past few days, either out on the Swale or on the Flood. I had assumed that it was one of the sub-adult birds that have been around since the summer. It was back on the Flood again today, but when the Sunday vols came back to the office, they said that it had gone. They also mentioned that there was a good number of dunlin at Wellmarsh, forced onto the Flood by high tide. As the rain had gone off, I popped down for a quick look at the waders, but unfortunately practically all of them had already left to go back out to the Swale by the time that I got there. However the spoonbill was feeding on the pool at Wellmarsh hide and I was able to see that it was a "bird of the year" ie one of this years juveniles and therefore a new bird. I was going to say that it had probably been blown across the North Sea from Holland, but it could have come from as far away as Norfolk I suppose! Spoonbills can generally be aged by their bill colour and by the extent of black feathering on their wing-tips. This bird had a largely pinkish bill, with black tips to it's folded wings, making it a juvenile. Adults have a black bill, with a yellow tip & pure white wings, with immatures somewhere in between.
A barn owl was again hunting around Southfleet hide in the late afternoon (see Gaz's fantastic photos of what is probably the same bird taken on Saturday on the Forum page) and there was lots of marsh harrier activity, probably as a result of them having to spend most of the afternoon grounded by the rain. On the way back to Kingshill Farm, a telescope scan of the marsh north of the track looking for perched raptors drew a blank for peregrine, but did reveal 2 adult and a juvenile white-fronted geese. They were loosely associated with greylags and there were further un-specified birds in a dip in the ground, so it's possible that they were the family party that was reported last month. Short-eared owls remain scarce, although one was seen from the access track on Saturday. Also on Saturday around Kingshill Farm, a merlin, a greenshank, a chiffchaff, at least 5 goldcrests (a fall!), 2 blue tits, a couple of fieldfare & a handful of redwing. A Cetti's warbler has been heard a couple of times by the benches at Wellmarsh and bearded tits continue to "ping" in the reeds.
Thanks Gordon. It's good to hear that the barn owl is still around.
It seems to be doing quite well as, just after it flew off from us, it circled around towards the Southfleet hide. On the walk back to the car we met a couple coming out from the Southfleet hide who said that it had caught a vole right in front of the hide and sat there for some minutes devouring it.
It's clearly got one purpose in mind and it's very good at it!