Capel Fleet & Shellness 12th January

The weather may have been overcast but the birding was anything but dull.  We started at Capel Fleet Raptor Viewpoint where we had prolonged views of a ringtail (female / immature) hen harrier - one of only a handful in Kent this winter.  A common buzzard and a peregrine were perched conveniently on fence posts.

Later in the morning we headed for Shellness Point, passing a flock of several hundred brent geese on the way.  Within minutes of arriving at the remote car park at the end of the rough track a short-eared owl appeared before vanishing completely from view.  Whilst standing on the sea wall a distinctive 'too-wit' call alerted us to the presence of a spotted redshank on a small pool in the saltmarsh.  The same individual has probably overwintered in the area for several years now.  After taking the path across the saltmarsh to the beach we found a single red-throated diver offshore and three or four rock pipits catching insects from the concrete wall.  A common seal had hauled itself out onto the mudflats.  As the tide came in the waders gathered to roost on the shell beach and we enjoyed close views of knot, grey plover, dunlin and turnstone.  Back at the car park a green sandpiper was seen briefly in flight.

We finished the day back at Capel Fleet where marsh harriers were arriving from all directions to take up their communal roost in the reedbed.  About 25 were counted going to roost - fairly modest by Capel Fleet standards.  A flock of  corn buntings flew past.  With darkness approaching, and the group going their separate ways, we received news of a barn owl further down the Harty Ferry Road. To the delight of those remaining it provided wonderfully close views as it perched on a fence post beside the road.  Although clearly curious about our presence, it appeared unconcerned as we took it in turns to watch from our vehicles only a few feet away.