It was 4 degrees when we arrived and that was without the wind chill so we quickly made our way to the sea watching hide where it was nearly as bad when the windows were open. The main species seen were Shelducks, Avocets, Curlew, Redshanks and the occasional Oystercatcher, most of which seemed to be heading towards Shellness in the distance. We noted several flocks of Brent Geese in the far distance and some very large flocks of Lapwings which also appeared to be heading to or from the same area of Sheppey. Perhaps the best bird seen from this hide was a Skua species heading West to East, the concensus in the hide was that it was an Arctic Skua but it wasn't confirmed, good to see though.
In an effort to restore circulation to cold extremities we started walking along to the East flood hide, just as it started to rain. We managed to get inside without getting too wet and without seeing much either, and that was the story for the rest of the morning really. Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and all the commoner duck species were present but not very active.
The only real entertainment came from a Cormorant that was wrestling with a sizeable Eel which was wrapping itself around the beak and head of it's captor in a valiant attempt to avoid being eaten. It failed. A few minutes later we saw the Cormorant swallowing water and stretching it's bulging neck skyward as it struggled to get it's slimy, writhing, twisting, smelly lunch down it's gullet. This made us feel hungry, so we did the same, only not with eels. The only other moment came when a male Marsh Harrier did a low pass and put everything up in panic including a large flock of Black tailed Godwits, which until then had sat motionless on an island facing into the wind with their heads tucked back. They circled briefly en masse, their black tails and white wingbars looking superb even in the almost non existent early afternoon light, before landing and striking their earlier pose as if nothing had happened. Marsh Harrier, what Marsh Harrier?
Even on a good day the west flood hide can be quiet. This wasn't a good day, say no more. A couple of Greenfinches, a couple of Greylags and a Green Woodpecker. Oh, nearly forgot the Magpie.....
On the way home I decided to have a very brief look at the two Alders lakes at the bottom of my road after hearing from Alan Woodcock that the female Goldeneye had returned. I soon found it but I couldn't get very close, it's very shy, so the above was the best I could do in the fading light and distance. In the few minutes I was there I also saw a Goldcrest, you can't move for the little blighters now, a Green Woodpecker, a Gt. Spotted Woodpecker, doing what it says on the tin, and a Wren. It's now 19.00hrs and my feet are still cold!