Wednesday, 16 November 2011


My visit to New Hythe yesterday was a bit disappointing in some ways, with the assistance and good company of Terry Laws I notched up 46 species during the morning. So what's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, except that it just seemed like the same 46 species as usual. The only different one was in the shape of Greenie, of Greenie In The Wild Fame, who I stumbled across at the side of the Railway lake. He had managed to enter the site undetected, a breach of border regulations I think is the technical term. Anyway, in light of the current furore over the lackadaisical approach to policing our national borders, I will be calling for resignations and the rolling of heads from whoever is responsible for New Hythe's security.
So, what I was trying to say before I went completely off piste, is that I was a bit bored. I like patch watching, I like it a lot, but sometimes I get itchy feet and a desire to see some stuff that i'm not likely to see from the comfort of my own backyard. So today, I went and stuck my beak into somebody else's backyard and this is what I saw. Great to see you yesterday Greenie, by the way!

The bird on a stick is a Short-eared Owl, one of many that are currently residing around the salt marshes at Shellness on the Isle of Sheppey. I arrived there at about 12.45 this afternoon and saw two of these fantastic creatures on the way up to the shoreline, of course the light was awful and the birds were a bit distant, so the usual excuses apply to the couple of pics I did get. But what really struck me as I watched them hunting over the marsh was the brightness of their plumage, especially the upper wings, despite the lack of light, absolutely brilliant.

It was quite difficult to get a grip on the number of Owls I saw in my fairly brief visit because they were quite wide ranging and they constantly dropped to the ground in search of prey, but I eventually saw four in the air at the same time, i'm sure there were more though.

The tide was quite a long way out and this meant there was plenty of space for the many hundreds of Oystercatchers, far more than i've ever seen in one go before. Further birds were arriving in small flocks like the one above every five minutes or so, further adding to the massed ranks already on the beach.

The picture below gives some idea of the total numbers as they were pushed up the shore by the incoming tide. Left clicking might be a better way to view it, especially if you want to count them, I didn't!

Other birds seen here included good numbers of Redshanks, Turnstones, Dunlins, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and a few Sanderlings all sharing the shoreline, along with lots of Mallards, some Brent Geese and a Seal sharing the water. Kestrels, Meadow Pipits and several Little Egrets were on or over the salt marsh, along with a couple of Marsh Harriers, much to the consternation of the Owls.
With time, tide and light all passing by too quickly I decided to pay a quick visit to the raptor viewing mound, pausing on the way to get a picture of this Curlew in a field by the road.

Also in the same field were hundreds of Brent Geese, some of which are pictured below.

As I made my way along the Harty Ferry Road (I think that's what it's called), I noticed the handsome Kestrel below, perching nonchalantly on a straw bale in a farmers field. He gave me the evil eye but stayed put while I reversed back to take the picture from the car.

Another quick shot from the car was this Grey Heron who stood almost motionless in a stream a mile or so from the raptor mound, I just wish there had been some better light.

What light there was was fading faster by the time I pulled into the small parking area but there was just time to see two more SEO's almost as soon as I got out of the car. The picture below, although not very bright, shows in a small way what I was trying to say earlier about the upper wings, although it by no means does it justice.

I saw very little else from the mound, apart from a field full of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, another Kestrel and a distant Sparrowhawk, no sign of the local Barn Owl unfortunately. No complaints though, six Short-eared Owls in a couple of hours is more than i'd seen in my lifetime, the same probably goes for the Oystercatchers too. The good news is that I was able to cross the border undetected, nobody will ever know!


Bob Bushell said...

You caught the best of todays taking. Brilliant shots, especially the Short-eared Owl.

Mike H said...

Fantastic account of your sortie into Sheppey Phil, had the good fortune to repeat that about a week ago. Nice pics.

Anonymous said...

I liked the opening 2 paragraphs, Phil.
I often think about birding somewhere different, but i`m afraid of missing something on my own patch.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Sounds like you might have had quite a session
'on the piste' before you started that post , but I'm sorry I can't mention any cabinet ministers who gave permission for my visit .
Glad you got good views of the SEOs , but better light would have been good as you say .
Like you , my visit produced a lot more of the species than I had ever seen .
Incredible numbers of Oystercatchers .
Good to meet up again .

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, sounds like a great visit, I could watch SEO's all day, I'm planning to head up there again soon as the day I went, was windy and I didn't see any!!!!

Warren Baker said...

All we need now is for the SEO to move inland, imagine one at Newhythe Phil! :-)

PS thanks for the support on my blog ;-)

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Glad you had a good visit to the island, nice photo's to go with it, especially the S/O/Owl.
Hopefully the next time you go, there will be more of the numerous raptors that winter there on show. said...

I really love owls at day time!! and those geese are really especial for me.....never seen them.
Saludos fron Spain!