Since the announcement by the RSPB that they were purchasing a considerable area of Lydden Valley on Worth Marshes I have had a couple of walks around there, but without getting right into the heart of the area. Thanks to Steve Ray, who gave my some information of the foot path that runs across the marsh, I decided to investigate the path, starting from the end furthest from the Sandwich Bay Observatory. Steve also shared some information as to where and photoed one of the Barn Owls yesterday, and the pictures were impressive.
Walking out on a footpath from Hacklinge you get to the pumping station at Roaring Gutter. Not a pretty building, but I'm sure it's essential as a tool to control the water levels in the marsh.
Roaring Gutter Dike (this is the spelling on the OS map, not Dyke). is in fact two parallel channels, which looked very blue today, with the unusually blue sky above, but held few birds other than four Dabchicks and lots of Coot.
Looking straight down the dike Sandwich Bay Estate is about 1.7 miles away, and there is a lot of good habitat in between, as well as the Sandwich to Deal railway line crossing the marsh. There were several Pheasants around and as usual lots of Magpies and Carrion Crows were feeding in the fields.
The Church tower at Worth is almost exactly a mile away and, although much of the land is cultivated, it is an ideal area for various raptors and owls to hunt. I did get a fleeting view of a Hen Harrier, but it disappeared and I failed to relocate it. Black-headed Gulls were spread over the marsh, hawking along the ditches, sometimes increasing my pulse rate as I thought a Barn Owl had arrived.
The foot path along the dike is called Pinnock Way and joins Goretop Lane, at Blue Pigeon Farm.
This is where I photoed the Barn Owls a few weeks ago and, as I was looking across, one appeared in the same area. As the light was great I thought that I might be lucky and get a chance of some pictures, but for some reason it didn't stop to hunt, but carried on and flew towards the fields much nearer the village. This was slightly disappointing, but a few minutes later two more followed the same route, and again didn't stop and feed along the reeds that they have on the previous occasions I've been here. As I walked back towards my starting point I saw a fourth Owl (I assume it was a different one as I hadn't seen one return) feeding along the hedge by the railway. All gave great views through a scope, but none were inclined to hang around for a picture. I presume that for some reason a different field it now a better hunting ground.
One thing that was noticeable today was the lack of small birds on the ground. I saw one Song Thrush, a couple of Blackbirds, and heard Robin, Wren and Blue Tit. As I walked back I was surprised but a large flock of about 250 Fieldfares flying over. They've seemed quite scarce since the autumn influx and I've seen very few feeding in the fields. Several small groups of Mute Swans came over and about 400 Lapwings were roosting in one field, and although they were frequently spooked, I didn't find the cause. A Grey Heron, one Little Egret, one Redshankand two Common Snipe were all I managed on the way back to the car.