Kent & Sussex: Birding The Garden Of England

22nd – 27th April 2022

Cost: £1099.00 per person
Deposit: £100.00 per person
Single Sup: £100.00 per person

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The tour kicks off at Oare Marshes, an area of saline and freshwater scrapes on the Swale Estuary managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust. The tour starts at around 1pm for a couple of hours birding.  Oare is an excellent site to start our tour list with a great variety of waterbirds!  Waders can include more interesting species such as Common Greenshank, Ruff or Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage. Rarer species are frequent, such as Red-necked Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Temminck’s Stint. Mediterannean Gulls are frequent on the reserve, and nearby Sandwich, Common and Little Tern colonies often feed on the reserve or on the nearby estuary. We also have a great chance to find Turtle Dove, Cetti’s Warbler, and Yellow Wagtail.  Departing around 4pm, we head to our base for the next 2 nights. Overnight Judd’s Folly Hotel.

Day two takes us to Dicken’s Country, an area of grazing marsh, woodland, scrub, and lagoons on the Hoo Peninsula overlooking the River Thames.  Famous for being threatened by airports and major housing developments, the RSPB works hard to protect this wildlife-rich area, where wildlife and humans co-exist close together. The whole area is fantastic in spring with the network of meadows, pools, scrapes and reed-beds.  The Hoo Peninsula is home to Britain’s largest heronry and holds the stronghold for the Nightingale in Britain.  Marsh Harriers hunt over the grazing marsh, whilst Pied Avocets, Common Terns, and Oystercatchers work to defend their nests.  Shorebirds at this time include Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff and Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers as well as the more usual Black and Bar-tailed Godwits.  In recent years Black-winged Stilts have taken up residence here.  The scrub is alive with warblers such as Sedge, Reed, Cetti’s, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, and the reserve still holds a strong Turtle Dove breeding population. The day will be left flexible in order to get the best out of this coastline, but we will have special access to the famous heronry – a real treat with over 250 herons and 150+ Little Egrets busy taking care of their young. Overnight Judd’s Folly Hotel.
We start the day by heading east to the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, a very active Observatory in Sotuh-east England we will spend the morning with the ringers and enjoy this special experience before heading inland. We follow the Stour Valley inland to the Stodmarsh NNR, the largest area of reedbed wetland habitat in the South-east.  Stodmarsh is a remarkable reserve, and one that will warrant half a day of exploration. It is a fantastic place to see Great Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit, but also one of the best places for seeing Common Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Cetti’s Warbler and Eurasian Hobby. In recent years, rarities such as Red-footed Falcon, Savi’s and Marsh Warbler have appeared around this time and the reserve is a wonderful place to spend time listening to the songs of our summer migrant warblers. From here we will travel south along the coast down to the Dungeness Peninsula and Romney Marsh, where we reach our next accommodation base in Rye. Overnight Hayden’s in Rye.
Projecting three miles into the English Channel, Dungeness remains one of the premier migration hotspots in Britain.  Dungeness is famed for its Spring Pomarine Skua passage, seabird migration, passage of migrant passerines such as Ring Ouzel, along with breeding Black Redstarts.  We will make a prompt start to get the most out of our time here. Flexibility is important on this tour and we will spend today birding wherever the weather conditions and birds permit across the Dungeness Peninsula – anything can turn up!  Spring brings passage Wheatear, Firecrest and Ring Ouzel to the peninsula, while Great White Egret and Purple Heron are now regular visitors. The sea is perhaps the biggest attraction for us though, if onshore winds prevail and bring passage skuas close inshore. Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skuas are all possible, while the area also regularly attracts Little, Mediterranean, Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls too. Auks, divers, scoter and grebes could also be passing in optimum conditions, so finger’s crossed we will get to see some passage. We’ll conclude our day catching up with any scarce or rare migrant birds which may be around in the area, before heading back to our accommodation. Overnight Hayden’s in Rye.
Today we will be birding in neighbouring East Sussex and 1066 Country.  We will spend the morning at Rye Harbour NNR, a expansive shingle and coastal reserve famed for its tern colonies, breeding waders and one of the southern-most breeding sites for Northern Wheatears in Britain. From here we will follow the coastline westwards during the day, viewing areas such as the Pett and Pevensey Levels before moving into the South Downs National Park, England’s newest National Park. The park’s rolling chalk downland, silver chalk streams and ancient woodlands form an impressive array of habitats.
We will conclude our day on the famous Seven Sisters Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and renowned migration hotspot of Beachy Head. The Cuckmere valley can produce a range of waders, gulls, terns, warblers, wagtails, pipits and more on migration. Corn Buntings are also in the area, favouring the chalk downland, and of course there is always the chance of something unusual! Breeding Kittiwakes and Fulmars can also be found on the cliffs along this stretch of coastline, and clifftop sward should be checked for passage Ring Ouzels. Overnight Hayden’s in Rye.
Our final day kicks off with a beautiful drive inland to an area known as Ashdown Forest.  This land of ancient woodland and lowland heath is the largest of its kind in the South-east rising high out of an area known as the Weald. This rare habitat will allow us to locate specialist species such as Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, woodpeckers, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Eurasian Siskin, Common Crossbills, Common Redstart, the secretive Dartford Warbler, Firecrest and possibly Hawfinch. This should add a really nice variety to our trip list and represents another different area of terrain and new suite of birds. Heathland in spring is a great place to be, and in addition to the birdlife we might find one or two reptiles such as Common Lizard and Adder, and some early emerging butterflies such as the Green Hairstreak. Tour concludes early afternoon for the onward journey home.
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