Sunday, 9 October 2011

North Kent Coast at the Thames estuary at Seasalter (8th October)

I had a brilliant afternoon out at the huge mudflat/estuary at Seasalter yesterday after spending most of the day in London at my sisters house that she shares with some fellow uni students.  I only got to the coast at 3:55pm and had two and a half hours to scan the massive flocks of waders/ gulls/ geese in the ever fading light.  The sheer numbers of birds was befalling as I am to used to inland sites were any one of the birds present on the accumulation of silt on the estuary would have received far more attention in the Hertfordshire county that I live in.  On the other hand, I was virtually alone on the shingle beach that overlooks the mudflat and surprisingly I was the only birder around.  The huge swathes of birds that fed far out on the mud made my scope come in useful almost continuously as the surf zone were most of the birds were present and feeding was up to a mile out (as I found out when looking at the OS map of the region the following day).  The rich feeding ground hoasted 100's of Grey Plover (in varrying plumages), similar numbers of Curlew, dozens of Redshanks, and Turnstone, whilst Black-tailed Godwits numbers easily reached into the 100's.  As with all bird counts this was clearly the hardest I had come across as the range and number of species spread all the way along the mudflat as far as one could see.  As a result, counting numbers would have proved an enormous task and the short time I was given was insufficient for making a proper estimate so I reside to counting species.  A single group of c.100 Golden Plovers were resting/ feeding closer inland, preferring the seaweed covered mud for resting whilst moving onto the mudflat for feeding whilst several Little Egrets also mingled within the masses.  100's of Dunlin were also on the entrance to the estuary but preferred to feed in the surf range were the sea meets the land over a mile out (according to the OS map mean low tide), whilst other waders such as the dozons possibly 100's of Bar-tailed Godwits (a year tick) fed slightly further inland.  Surprises came in the form of a Skua species, its profile was rather front heavy (less pot-bellied than a Great Skua) the tail appeared to had a small stub (not seen properly or clearly) indicating a possible Pomarine Skua and the white wing bar was thinner than that of a Great Skua, best left in question as I am unsure about the certain species,  it flew over the mudflat in a SW direction over a large congregation of 100+ dark-bellied Brent Geese , surprisingly there was only a single ad. winter Knot resting/ preening closer to the shingle ridge and a possible species of Scoter flew W up the estuary close to the shore as well as 6 Great Crested Grebes out at sea.  From the sea wall I also searched the reclaimed land/ fields were I noted 1 Whinchat a possible Merlin (too distant for certain ID) but unfortunately no Short-eared Owls.  I was picked up later in the evening at 6:30pm after watching the last of the Brent Geese move west along the shore along with large numbers of gulls and waders as they headed to their roost at the mouth of the Thames estuary.

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