Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Or should it be Shore Lark or perhaps more correctly Horned Lark. Whatever the name it is a relatively rare bird and a much sought after prize at this time of year. I have never seen one in Sussex so the quest has always involved a trip to the north Kent coast. Previous years it has been to Reculver but this year one was being reported at Minster on Sheppey.

The birds tend to frequent shingle beaches feeding along the strandline and usually have a small territory to which they stay quite loyal. We knew where to look for this one and despite a fisherman, with three or four rods, having set up in the middle of its territory, it was not too difficult to locate. We had good views but picture opportunities were a bit limited. There were regular disturbances from dog walkers, litter collectors and some of the more ignorant members of the Minster community but, a bit like a Snow Bunting, the bird just flew off, circled and then relocated close by.

At one point the bird flew up on to a rock and offered great picture opportunities if we could just get a little closer but we missed the opportunity when the bird was flushed by a passer-by.

As well as the Shorelark, Sheppey offered the opportunity of seeing a Richard's Pipit. We drove to the other end of the island and down a potholed dirt track to the the little hamlet of Shellness. This is about as remote as you can get in the Southeast of England. We parked up and walked a couple of hundred metres out into the Swale NNR. 

The pipit was a bit harder to find but we did get some help from one of the local birders. It stayed in the long grass and gave very few picture opportunities. The pictures shown here are just record shots. They are posted small as they are heavy crops and poor quality but they do at least show sufficient detail to confirm the sighting as a Richard's Pipit.

Sheppey is always good for raptors and we saw quite a few circling high in the sky. Buzzards, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, and Hen Harriers. Others also had sight of a male Hen Harrier but I could not get onto it. I had to make do with Dave's commentary of its progress through the sky. A pity but I doubt that I could have been confident with the identification at the distances involved.

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