We set off at 0700 so we would arrive just after dawn and have maximum use of the few hours of winter daylight. It was well below zero most of the day but it was fine and mainly sunny.
On arrival in Leysdown we drew up close to the sea wall and peered over. The tide was in and we wowed at the numbers of sanderling and turnstone just in front of us as well as a grey plover. After a short while with these active and interesting birds, we decided to concentrate on the main goal, so we pressed on into the Swale nature reserve, an area served by an exquisitely pot-holed track which made for a tense drive wondering if my rather low-slung car would hit the bottom in some of the deepest holes. In the end it wasn't too bad.
At our first stop we viewed a field teeming with curlew, golden plover and Brent geese - but no white fronts. We pressed on further and stopped on a small hillock giving a good vantage point over the fields. It wasn't long before we picked out a reasonable flock of white-fronted geese among the many more Brents and that put David one ahead of me for the year! Dohhh!!
He deserved to win (243 to 242). He beat me even though he has to rely on others for all his transport. His dedication and tenacity brought its reward.
We returned to the beach where we lay behind one of the groins photographing the turnstones, sanderlings and the odd redshank. This was instructive as well as allowing some fairly close shots. I'd always wondered what sanderlings ate. I'd only seen them racing along the sand at Titchwell, close to the water's edge. Leysdown beach at high tide is pebbly but with many shells. Both sanderling and turnstone ate shellfish - not sure which, could be cockles. I'm no good at shellfish. They seemed to be able to break into the shells with their beaks and pull the fish out. Clever!
Turnstone with cockle?
Sanderling with cockle