Shellness wader roost

The shifting headlands of cockle shells at Shellness provides shelter to a huge saltmarsh and these are some of the wildest and most natural coastal habitats in Kent since there is no sea wall to keep the tidal waters in check. At high tide, the sea almost covers the entire headland but just stops short of the old blockhouse.

On a day with a fresh westerly, there is a Spring tide and the wader roost quickly fills the small spit that has only been created in the past few years; this time predominantly dunlins and a few knot. Counting the flock of well over 2,000 birds is hard, eye-watering work when looking into the wind. The oystercatcher flock (about 350 birds) is as usual on the far spit and a 100 or so turnstones remain on the beach between the hamlet and the ness. Black-tailed godwits flocks circle overhead, perhaps looking for a roosting site and maybe will join the large flock on the East Flood at Oare Marshes across the Swale. As the tide rises, the dunlins disperse along the beach and other waders head inland to the huge arable fields with the curlews that themselves are removed from the steadily drowning saltmarsh. As the tide rises further, there is a constant and confusing spectacle of different flocks wheeling over the sea at different heights until, under a low sun, the high tide is reached and then everything stops and a temporary calm prevails.

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