Naturelog: Tuesday 19th January

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Birds, Kent, Natural History, UK
Tags: , , , , ,

A chance to get out of London and travel down to Chatham to look for the Great Northern Diver which is wintering in the docks (I failed to see it on my trip last month). After meeting Keith at the station we walked down through the town to the riverside where we got great views of Rochester Cathedral and Castle.

Rochester Cathedral and Castle

Rochester Cathedral and Castle

There was a lot of mud as the tide was well out but aside from Black-headed Gulls and a few Mallard, the only bird of note was a single Common Redshank.

Common Redshank

Common Redshank

We continued along the riverside paths to the dock basin.

Chatham Dock Basin

Chatham Dock Basin

We scanned for the diver but it was nowhere to be seen. After a hour we went off to get some lunch and when we returned there was a European Shag on a bouy in the basin. This smaller version of a cormorant is a species not often recorded in SE UK so it was a good opportunity to see and photograph it.

European Shag

European Shag

There was still no sign of the diver (In fact as I sit and write this on Thursday morning – I have seen no reports of it being seen since Monday afternoon – perhaps it has finally moved on?). Mid-afternoon we decided to finish the day on Keith s home patch as Abbots Court near Hoo, A mixture of lakes, marsh and pasture on the edge of the River Medway, this is a lovely site which has lots of different habitats. We were greeted on arrival by a large flock of House Sparrows, once a common garden bird all over the UK, their numbers have plummeted in the last decade and in many places they are now rare – I have had one garden record in 12 years! When I was growing up we often had flocks of over 30 birds in the garden.

Abbot's Court

Abbot’s Court


House Sparrow

House Sparrow

As we walked towards the River, a Common Kestrel flashed by and a group of Meadow Pipit flew overhead. Arriving at the river there was a good selection of waders and other waterbirds on the mudflats (the tide was a long way out so views were distant). A Little Egret probed in the muddy pools looking for food and we flushed some Common Snipe from the saltmarsh.

Saltmarsh at abbot's Court

Saltmarsh at Abbot’s Court


Little Egret

Little Egret

In the distance we could see a flock of 500-600 Brent Geese as the travelled from their feeding grounds to the estuary and back. An amazing sight and a wonderful sound.

The sun was setting and what had been a wonderfully bright and warm January afternoon became much colder as we headed back in land.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

  1. Keith says:

    As always, a very good write up of a pleasant day despite the absence of the GND! The adult SHAG made a good understudy!

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