Some days it seems there is not much good news in the world but today I learnt for definite that two black winged stilt chicks, one of the rarest birds in Britain, have successfully fledged from farmland on Sheppey.
The adults have patrolled tirelessly throughout the year to drive off marsh harriers, buzzards and even the RSPB expert who came to see them.
They and the farmers deserve every bit of this success. These are the first birds ever to fledge outside of a reserve in Britain and, for today, that is enough to make me happy.
Think Sheppey is nothing but ranks of caravans and slot machines? Think Again. The Isle of Sheppey is one of the undiscovered beauties of Kent, stuffed with rare wildlife and beautiful skyscapes. Move over Whitstable, Sheppey is coming.
Discover the island for yourself with this festival of talks, walks, rock pooling and beach cleans run by the marvellous Medway and Swale Estuary Partnership. Find out more at
April 2016 – Up with the lark.
April marked the start of this years breeding wader surveys on farms across North Kent. The survey has now been extended to 12 farms stretching from the Hoo Peninsula, across the Isle of Sheppey to Conyer near Faversham. Throughout the next few months we will walk all the sites twice, concentrating on areas with potential for birds such as lapwings, redshank, oystercatchers and yellow wagtails and follow up with a survey conducted by vehicle in June in order to look for chicks. A further survey may be carried out in July. The survey follows on from advisory sessions carried out during the autumn and spring to discuss how to get the best out of each site. Advisory sessions concentrate on getting the grazing and water management right and tackling predation.
This work is part of a long term collaboration between Natural England, The RSPB, Carol J Donaldson Associates and the farmers but, after one season of advisory work we are beginning to see some results. Overall the land is in better condition for breeding waders and, although there is still lots of room for improvement then we have been delighted by the good will and effort which some farmers have gone to improve things.
The cold weather which began the spring will not have done early breeding birds any favours but we are hopeful that numbers of fledged chicks will be up on last years results.
Dawn starts and long walks dominated this month but we did take time out to work with the Bredhurst Woods Action Group to install barriers to prevent illegal trespass off the byway which runs through the woods. It was a welcome change to spend time in this beautiful bluebell woodland after the exposure of the marshes and the baked potatoes for lunch were very welcome.
Meet Barry, the water vole, being held by Megan Philpot of the Derek Gow Consultancy. Barry was caught yesterday out at Great Bells on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent where I am spending plenty of time working for Medway Internal Drainage Board on a scheme to widen a drainage channel. Unfortunately this means that the water voles need to be temporarily evicted so as not to be hurt by the machines. Barry is currently spending his days in a warm container fattening up on Golden Delicious apples before being released later this year.
Still dreaming of boat buying but will, know doubt, end up with something looking more like this beauty, spotted floating near Conyer in Kent….then, again, in some ways it’s my ideal home, so, why not?
photo Simon Houstoun