Bexley RSPB Crayford Marshes bird walk, 23rd September 2014

Ralph and Brenda Todd write:

Twelve members joined us for a 3 hour walk in glorious sunshine and warm conditions. We met in Moat Lane then walked past Howbury Manor and moat where 4 male Chaffinches were busy feeding. Twelve Collared Doves together on the ground then a group of Ring-necked Parakeets feeding on the ground drew our attention.

Whilst looking for the elusive Little Owl a further 22 Collared Doves were noted perched in on Willow. Despite close inspection by many in the group, the Little Owl couldn’t be found until John Turner picked it up (on the branch we’d all investigated) but it immediately flew so a rear end view was the best some of us had.

A single Song and two Mistle Thrushes were also noted. A Cetti’s Warbler called, a Chiffchaff and Whitethroat gave brief views. Up onto the River Darent path, low tide, little to be seen apart from 3 Little Egrets feeding on the river’s edge and a few Teal and Mallard.

Upon reaching the River Thames with views across to RSPB Rainham we checked out the gulls against fairly difficult light but noted only Lesser Black-backed and Black Headed. Approximately 16 Ringed Plover, a single Dunlin and a few Redshank were feeding on the exposed mud on the Dartford side of the Darent.

Walk attendees look out across the Thames toward Rainham marshes

Walk attendees look out across the Thames towards Rainham marshes

Having already seen a Common (Harbour) Seal making its way up the Darent we were surprised to see another, larger seal loafing on the tideline – despite much discussion and a few photographs taken we still cannot be sure if it was common or grey?

Seal seen hauled out on the mud

Seal seen hauled out on the mud

As we continued our walk alongside the assortment of scrap yards Brenda noted a single wader that was initially and wrongly identified as Grey Plover – it was in fact an odd plumaged Knot. What was probably a family party of Stonechats entertained us as we continued towards Erith Yacht Club. By the time we left the scrap yards behind and were viewing the open grazing marshes the tide had already engulfed the saltmarsh so very few waders were visible (one Dunlin and 22 Redshanks had been seen flying towards the Darent). The Stonechats continued to perch obligingly on surrounding hawthorn bushes and a group of approximately 20 Meadow Pipits also flew up into on bush. Two Kestrels were busy hunting and at least two Wigeon were on the river.

11.15 – time to turn round and further investigate the gulls and waders at Crayfordness: an adult Yellow-legged Gull was easily seen with the Lesser Black-backed. There was no luck with the Little Owl but a Sparrowhawk did make a brief appearance.

Despite there not being the number and variety of birds we’d hoped for (perhaps the recent good weather and calm conditions had effected the autumn movements) it was a most enjoyable walk in lovely conditions.

Species list: Little Egret (3), Grey Heron (2), Mute Swan (pr+4 young), Mallard, Teal, Moorhen, Kestrel (2-4), Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Lapwing, Ringed Plover (16), Dunlin (2), Redshank (48), Knot (1), Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail (6), Meadow Pipit (c20+), Lesser Black-backed gull (6), Yellow-legged Gull (1), Black Headed Gulls,  Collared Dove (34), Wood Pigeons, Ring Necked Parakeets, Stonechat (5),  Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush (2), Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay (2), Carrion Crows, Jackdaws, Starlings, Chaffinch (6) Reed Bunting (1) Linnet (2). 40  species seen

Common Seal (1) plus second seal difficult to ID.

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