Wildlife Sightings

Thursday 23rd February 2017


Storm Doris can’t keep a marsh harrier down, a fine male graced Black Duck Marsh today. Several lapwing were hunkered down on the foreshore amongst the gulls, 2 shelduck and a snipe made brief appearances.

Wild scenes in this wild place.

Sunday 19th June 2016

The marshes are currently feverish with summer colour – have a look at these beautiful pyramidal orchids that are currently flowering on site! It looks like a good year for them, they are best found along the edges of the main footpath from Botany Marsh towards the river. Whilst they are very beautiful plants, orchids are also a good indicator of interesting habitats and soils.


Pyramidal orchids, Swanscombe Peninsular, June 2016

As is typical for mid-summer, much of the wildlife across the peninsular is busy brooding, feeding young or recovering. Recent visits have seen plenty of reed warblers raising young while a pair of shelduck on the foreshore have had 10 young to keep an eye on! Damselflies and dragonflies are starting to become more active now and moths and butterflies are easily seen on warm, sunny days. This day-flying Mother Shipton moth briefly skipped out of the long grassland on the sea wall recently – can you see the face of a witch imprinted on its wing?! Even our smallest insects have fantastical tales.


Wednesday 25th May 2016


Wall butterfly on dandelion, Swanscombe Marshes, May 2016 (photo: RK)

After an April to remember at Swanscombe, with good numbers of migrant birds passing through, May’s warm, sunny weather has seen the peninsular blossom spectacularly. A walk around Botany Marshes at the moment sees beautiful hawthorns at their most colourful, their pink and white flowers attracting lots of humming insects which in turn provide food for the many nesting birds in this area. A rarer spot at Swanscombe now are orchids such as this man orchid below, the first record that we’re aware of on the peninsular. Flowering soon, these delicate plants can be found along the footpath edges. Along these paths, the sweet smell of cow parsley lingers and on the sunny margins butterflies have been starting to appear in number. Of these, the Wall butterfly has been seen regularly of late – Swanscombe Peninsular is a good site for this nationally declining butterfly (see photo above). If Swanscombe Peninsular is developed it will be one of 20+ species found here to suffer further loss of habitat.

In the early part of May, birds seen on the marshes included wheatear, common and sandwich terns, swifts and house martins. Several red kites have been spotted passing overhead, marking what has been an impressive spring migration for this species in North Kent. A good way to spot birds of prey like this is to watch for the reactions of other birds in the area, especially crows, not much sneaks by without them knowing!

Since early April few visits to Swanscombe have come without the unmistakeable call of cuckoos around the site. At least 2-3 calling males have been seen this year (a good number). The habitat on the marshes is perfect for them in places and a good place to look for them is along ‘Green Manor Way’ – the track running between Botany Marsh and the ‘mound’. Check the telegraph wires or prominent scrub perches in the reedbed. The call of the cuckoo in spring is an encounter to be cherished, how they will be missed. Ever present on site at the moment are reed warblers chattering in the reedy ditches while it is worth checking Black Duck and Botany Marshes for little egrets like this one below. We don’t need to travel far for wonderful wildlife experiences in North Kent…


Little Egret feeding on Botany Marsh


Man Orchid, Swanscombe Marshes, May 2016

Saturday 23rd April 2016

Dawn on Swanscombe Peninsular, looking across Botany Marshes

Dawn on Swanscombe Peninsular, looking across Botany Marshes, April 2016

It has been an exciting few weeks for wildlife across Swanscombe Marshes. The breeding season for many resident birds is well underway and their songs can be heard across the peninsular. Added to this mix has been a great arrival of our migrant birds including blackcaps, chiffchaffs and the evocative call of the first cuckoo of the year was heard on the 11th. Rare annual visitors like redstart have been seen along with several ring ouzels – the ‘mountain blackbird‘. It is a great time to explore and the variety of species seen in recent weeks shows just what a special place Swanscombe Marshes is.

3rd April: 1 wigeon, 10 gadwall, 7 teal, 2 tufted duck (pair), 1 little egret, 1 kestrel, 2 oystercatcher, 2 lapwing (pair on Botany), 3 snipe, 21 redshank, 6 turnstone, 2 great black-backed gull (ads), 1 great spotted woodpecker, 4 skylark, 2 pied wagtail (pair), 4 stonechat, 8 wheatear, 12+ cetti’s warbler, 7 chiffchaff, 1 firecrest (singing in trees near substation), 5 jackdaw, 4 reed bunting (PB) plus 12 wheatear, peregrine, common buzzard, goldcrest, pheasant, herring gull, green woodpecker (DC)

Butterflies: Peacock (2), brimstone (3+), small tortoiseshell (2)

7th: male common redstart in the ‘Botany Marsh’ reserve and mediterranean gull (RK)


A spectacular male common redstart, found at Swanscombe by a local birdwatcher. Redstarts spend winter in sub-Saharan Africa before migrating to Europe to breed. This bird stayed for 5 days before continuing its journey.

8th: 1 male ring ouzel briefly in scrub near old Sewage Works, viewed from footpath by Botany Marsh, 1 wheatear (PB, RK)

9th: red kite over, 30 redshank, curlew, dunlin, 13 turnstone, 3 swallow, 2 Stonechat, 22 cetti’s warbler, 2 sedge warbler, 6 blackcap, 9 chiffchaff, 2 willow warbler (AS); m common redstart showing well in the Botany/KWT reserve, also meadow pipit (singing), sparrowhawk and yellow wagtail over (PB)

10th: common redstart, chiffchaff, 2 greylag geese with 8 young, 5 shelduck, 2 shoveler, 2 kestrel (Botany Meadow) (RK)

11th: 6 black-tailed godwit, 2 green sandpiper, cuckoo, reed warbler, sedge warbler, grasshopper warbler (DDL) common buzzard, lesser whitethroat, willow warbler, song thrush, 4 blackcap (AR)

14th: 8 shelduck, 6 gadwall, 5 shoveler, 1 kestrel, 3 collared dove, 2 skylark (singing), 1 yellow wagtail (N), 1 nightingale, 2 stonechat, 2 wheatear, 1 ring ouzel (m), 4 song thrush (singing), 20 cetti’s warbler (c), 4 sedge warbler, 2 reed warbler, 13 blackcap, 3 lesser whitethroat (singing), 6 whitethroat, 11 chiffchaff, 7 linnet (PB/AR)

17th: 2 buzzard, 2 peregrine, 2 yellow wagtail flew north, nightingale, grasshopper warbler, 3 lesser whitethroat (AS/DP)

19th: 3 common tern (on river), 2 redstart, 3 wheatear (Botany Marsh) (PB)

22nd: cuckoo (RK)

Butterflies: brimstone, peacock, speckled wood and small tortoiseshell on the wing


Bee-fly! These handsome pollinators appear early in spring and are found across the peninsular

Thursday 24th March 2016

Spring is here!

Many people look to nature for clues as to the seasons’ passing and two of the most iconic heralds of spring have been seen on Swanscombe marshes this week. On Tuesday 22nd, a fine, sunny day saw the emergence of the first butterflies of the year. Spotted on the wing were five luxuriously pale brimstones (often one of the first to appear) along with several small tortoiseshells and a red admiral. Swanscombe is a good place to see butterflies and it is great to see them adding a sprightly dash of colour to the landscape once again. This small encounter seems especially pertinent this week with the news that two other butterflies found at Swanscombe, the small copper and wall butterfly, are in ‘inexorable decline‘ according to experts.

Of all our migrant birds, sand martins are one of the ‘classic’ early arrivals and today the first birds were seen here in quite striking conditions. As a cold, rain-laden front moved across the marshes mid-afternoon, the warm air that moved in its wake saw 6 sand martins whizzing over Black Duck Marsh for a quick pit-stop before they headed off north over the river to continue their remarkable journeys. Some great birds have been seen recently, including handsome mediterranean gulls (rare breeders in the UK), avocets, curlews and a scarce common scoter. On the river today, a seal was also spotted enjoying a fish supper.

Spring is here, lets enjoy it and hope it is a good season for Swanscombe’s brilliant wildlife. Why not visit or come along for a guided walk this spring (check here for details soon).

11th: mediterranean gull, 14 wigeon (highest number this winter), 2 chiffchaff, 2 oystercatcher (RK)

13th: 13 avocet seen from Grays (DDL)

15th: 35 gadwall, 85 teal, 32 mallard, 10 shoveler, 3 little grebe, 1 great crested grebe, 7 grey heron, 2 ringed plover, 1 dunlin, 60 redshank, 1 green sandpiper, 16 turnstone, 3 mediterranean gull (adults on foreshore), 600 black-headed gull (c), 14 common gull, 1 great black-backed gull (imm), 1 green woodpecker, 2 stonechat, 6 cetti’s warbler, 1 jay, 30 chaffinch (PB)

19th: adult mediterranean gull, 9 avocet, 2 curlew, 107 redshank, 6 turnstone & 2 Scandinavian rock pipits in summer plumage (AS)

22nd: 2 common buzzards over black duck, 2 Oystercatchers sitting on the liners of the new settlement lagoons east of Broadness Pt. Also 5 brimstone, 4 small tortoiseshell & a red admiral butterfly (RK)

24th: female common scoter on Thames drifting downriver; also 6 sand martin over Black Duck Marsh c1500 then N. 4 shelduck, 2 little grebe, 2 great crested grebe, 22 gadwall, 45 mallard, 65 teal, 11 shoveler, several occupied grey heron nests, 1 green sandpiper, 7 starling, 2 singing skylark, 4 meadow pipit, 1 singing chiffchaff, 2 linnet, 2 reed bunting. Also a seal feeding mid-river (PB)


A seal off Swanscombe Marshes, March 2016

Wednesday 9th March 2016

A mild day with weather veering between drizzle and blue skies. Nothing stops birds though at this crucial time and the marshes were alive with activity today. Sightings included:

10 shelduck (Botany Marsh), 10 shoveler (Black Duck Marsh), c90 teal, grey herons, 2 water rail, little grebe, kestrel, 2-3 marsh harrier, 3 turnstone, 2 oystercatcher, redshanks, 22 lapwing (Botany Marsh), 1 lesser black-backed gull (with black-headed gulls on Botany Marsh – gulls not often seen gathered here), 3 common gull, snipe, green sandpiper, green woodpecker, 10+ stock dove, meadow pipits, water pipit (on foreshore by Ingress Park at HT), 8 fieldfare, redwing, song thrush (singing birds), 2 chiffchaff, 5+ cetti’s warbler, 5+ stonechat, linnets, 2 skylark, bearded tit (heard, Black Duck Marsh), 12+ reed bunting (PB/DDL)

A raven put in an appearance too, not a very good photo but look at its size compared to the greylag geese – amazing birds!


Thursday 25th February 2016

Spring moves ever closer. At Swanscombe the signs are there in the blossoming blackthorn and the herons shuffling tentatively about in their nesting trees again. Bird song is a great indicator of spring’s onset and this week two of the most iconic British birds have been heard flexing their voices on the marshes – the blackbird and the skylark.The latter was heard singing this evening over the saltings by the jetty. Everyone deserves to hear a skylark and its wonderful repartee of notes tumbling from the sky. This week has also seen the first spring ‘migrants’ return to the peninsula with several oystercatcher back on the jetty. In a matter of weeks we will have our first african migrant birds back too, like sand martin and wheatear. Lots to look forward to.

Recent sightings from the marshes:

25th: 39 gadwall, 40 teal, 2 shoveler, 1 wigeon, 1 little egret, 1 marsh harrier, 1 grey plover, 10 turnstone, 3 oystercatcher, 25+ redshank, 1 green sandpiper, 1 short-eared owl, 1 skylark (singing), 2 stonechat, 28 chaffinch

22nd (Black Duck Marsh): 2 mute swan (flew off river), 4 shelduck, 4 shoveler, 7 grey heron (some nest building taking place), 3 marsh harrier, 16 coot, 1 grey wagtail, 4 cetti’s warbler, 5 blackbird (1 singing) (PB)

21st: kingfisher (Botany Marsh) (R/LK)

16th (Botany Marsh): water rail calling in the ditch by the mound

12th: 3 greylag goose, 2 marsh harrier over Botany, 2 peregrine, kestrel, little egret, jack snipe, 7 stock dove, 30+ fieldfare, chiffchaff, cettis warbler, dartford warbler (RK)

Friday 5th February 2016

Brilliant turnout for Swanscombe wildlife walk!


Nature lovers descend on Swanscombe Marshes!

Last Saturday (30th Jan) saw a mix of nature lovers and curious locals descend on Swanscombe Marshes for a guided walk in wintery sunshine. Amazingly at least 52 people turned out for the event which was incredible to see. Starting at Greenhithe village we made our way slowly along the river path to take in the view and a variety of birds. Some observers were lucky to see a distant flock of avocets near Stone Ness on the opposite bank, with a larger flock of dunlin nearby. On the river, many black-headed gulls gathered with a few common gulls mixed in. A rock pipit proved very obliging to many as it scurried around on the foreshore with several starling and a grey wagtail nearby.

Once on the marshes, a strong wind whipped off the river but the sun was shining and there were still things to see. On Black Duck Marsh were several shoveler while a grey heron stalked the grassy margins. A pair of stonechat showed nicely in brambles on the sea wall and both meadow pipit and reed bunting were heard nearby. Beyond the famous pylon, flocks of gadwall, mallard and teal sheltered behind the jetty with several shelduck. The creek offered views of Broadness Point where redshank and a few wigeon were seen distantly. The final leg of the walk took in the track and ditches en route to Botany Marsh. Several eagle-eyed observers reported a chiffchaff in a mixed flock of birds roaming through the scrub while everyone was treated to good views of some reed buntings perched on a fence. Botany Marsh saw us gather once more in the hope of seeing ravens but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Still, this scenic spot was a fitting place to finish our walk and indeed to learn about Robert Pocock, a pre-eminent 18th century botanist who lived in Gravesend and visited Swanscombe regularly. Thank you to Malcolm Jennings for his fascinating input and thank you to all who came along, hope to see you again!


Admiring the river views from Swanscombe Creek, 30/1/16

23rd January 2016

10 shelduck, 52 gadwall, 81 teal, 45 mallard, 2 grey heron, 1 water rail (heard, Black Duck Marsh), 288 lapwing (roost on jetty), 2 green sandpiper, 1 short-eared owl, 2 green woodpecker, 1 great spotted woodpecker, 5 skylark, 2 rock pipit, 10 stonechat, 5 cetti’s warbler, 7 reed bunting (PB)

22nd: jack snipe on salt marsh – east side (RK)

17th: Having been re-found by the original finder on the 16th, our wintering dartford warbler was present again on the 17th in brambles around the mound, opposite the flat topped pylon.


A spongy clump of Sea Purslane nestled between driftwood and debris along the shore, Jan 2016


Part of a flock of nearly 300 Lapwing on the old jetty today – such structures in the Thames are important roosts, Jan 2016

2nd January 2016

2015 proved to be an exciting year for wildlife across Swanscombe marshes although one tainted by the threats hanging over the site. One of the highlights arrived between Christmas and New Year with the discovery of a dartford warbler by a visiting birdwatcher (AS) on the 28th! Despite the name, dartford warblers are very rare in North Kent in modern times, with occasional birds turning up in the winter. They are apparently so-named after a pair shot on Bexley Heath in the 18th Century. Small and elusive, the bird was seen in brambles along the track near the lake.

There was no sign of the dartford warbler on the 29th but the following birds were noted:

1 Marsh harrier (m), 1 kestrel, 1 green woodpecker, 1 skylark, 1 dunnock (singing), 1 fieldfare, 5 song thrush, 2 cetti’s warbler, 1 chiffchaff (in tit flock), 40 Chaffinch (+, single flock), 6 Reed Bunting

Another uncommon sighting was that of a weasel seen scampering across a path! This is a first record for some time at least!

Let’s hope 2016 brings more of the same.

19th December 2015

1 marsh harrier, 1 kestrel, 2 snipe, c85 redshank, 1 short-eared owl, 5 stock dove, 2 green woodpecker, 10 starling, 2 grey wagtail, 1 pied wagtail, 7 meadow pipit, 5 fieldfare, 12 stonechat, 30+ linnet, 2 reed bunting. Also a butterfly was seen on the wing – unusual for December! (PB/ET)

12th: 1 wigeon, 20 teal, 1 kestrel, 1 peregrine falcon (hunting over Botany Marsh), 5 meadow pipit, 3 stonechat, 12 fieldfare, 2 song thrush, 2 raven, 50 chaffinch (c, flock), 35 linnet (c), 3 reed bunting

6th December 2015

As the year slips into its winter routine of grey skies and blink-and-you-miss them days, it’s easy to think that there isn’t much wildlife to be seen. However Swanscombe marshes are still busy with birds in particular making use of the daylight to feed and the shelter afforded by habitats across the site. Highlights of the past few weeks include watching graceful marsh harriers gather and soar over Black Duck Marsh at dusk, what a privilege to have these birds, once rarer than golden eagles in Britain, in North Kent! A water pipit has also been seen, a scarce winter visitor from continental europe and lapwings, perhaps one of the UK’s most beautiful birds, are easily seen swooping up and down along the foreshore.

today: 5 pheasant, 2 marsh harrier (m+f), 57 lapwing, 6 dunlin, 1 curlew, c30 redshank, 1 green Sandpiper, 8 turnstone, 4 common gull, 2 great black-backed Gull, 2 short-eared owl, 1 skylark, 1 chiffchaff (pale bird briefly on fence of builders yard by Ingress Est.) (PB) Also 2+ reed bunting, stonechat and a song thrush

3rd: 5 gadwall, c45 mallard, 5 turnstone, 500 black-headed gull on mud W of jetty, 1 green woodpecker, 1 water pipit (on foreshore near Ingress Park), 1 grey wagtail, 4 stonechat, 1 fieldfare, 1 song thrush, 2 raven, 40 chaffinch, 8 linnet (PB)

24th Nov: 4 gadwall, 1 great crested grebe (on river), 4 marsh harrier, 2 kestrel, 1 water rail (h, Black Duck Marsh), 45 lapwing (on foreshore), 15 redshank, 2 common sandpiper, 1 rock Pipit, 4 stonechat.

16th: 2 marsh harrier, 2 rock pipit, 2 grey wagtail (RK)

Duck trails: mallards on the foreshore, December 2015

Duck trails: mallards on the foreshore, December 2015


Codling caught in the river at Swanscombe, courtesy of a local fisherman

11th November 2015

It has been a mild start to November and this perhaps explains two unlikely sightings at Swanscombe this week. On Saturday 7th, 2 swallows were seen flying east on a strong wind and on the 10th an even bigger surprise came in the form of 3 house martins still hawking along the promenade at Greenhithe. These birds would typically have left British shores by October for the long migration to Africa, so these stragglers have some catching up to do! Given the proximity of a small nesting colony could these birds have been exceptionally late to fledge? As some species leave for winter, others have started to arrive; a small flock of brent geese on the 4th was good to see.

10th: 3 house martins around the promenade at Greenhithe late-afternoon. Common gull and 6+ snipe at dusk on the marshes


House martin a hurry, Greenhithe, November 2015

7th: black redstart still, 5 goldcrest, grey wagtail, kestrel, marsh harrier (fem), rock pipit, 6 stonechat, 2 late swallow (flew east) (PB)

6th: black redstart (by work site at Ingress Park Est, opposite Black Duck Marsh) (RK)

4th: Nine brent geese on the mud by the jetty at low tide. kestrel, curlew, skylark, c20 chaffinch in riverside scrub. Also 2 grey wagtails by Black Duck Marsh, lots of meadow pipits, redshanks, 5 turnstone and several dunlin on the foreshore.

It's nice to stop and chat. Stonechat, Swanscombe Marshes, November 2015

It’s nice to stop and chat. Stonechat, Swanscombe Marshes, November 2015

31st October 2015

Another special week on the marshes. On the 24th, a firecrest found by local birdwatcher Barry Wright was potentially the first in the area since 1975! A beautiful short-eared owl has continued its stay, a sure sign that there is plenty of food to be found among the saltings and grasslands. Today, a marsh harrier was also seen.

31st: marsh harrier hunting over black duck marsh, 2 curlew, 17 redshank, 40 lapwing, 2 common sandpiper, 4 rock pipit, 11 stonechat, 18 cetti’s warbler, bearded tit, raven & 2 common darter (AS via LondonBirders)

4 gadwall, 28 teal, 2 kestrel, 2 peregrine falcon, 62 redshank (Broadness Pt), 3 common gull, 1 short-eared owl, 1 kingfisher, 1 skylark (over), 40 meadow pipit (+, roosting on saltings), 5 song thrush, 1 bearded tit (heard, Black Duck Marsh), 35 starling, 23 reed bunting (PB)

A wall butterfly was also living up to its name in a sunny spot today! Wall butterflies have declined rapidly across England, brownfield sites like Swanscombe are important havens for species like this:

A wall butterfly at Swanscombe Marshes, October 2015

A wall butterfly at Swanscombe Marshes, October 2015


Kestrel pair watching over Swanscombe marshes, October 2015

30th: short-eared owl, 2 jack snipe and a seal off Broadness Point (RK)

24th: firecrest in scrub by the pylon, 5 chiffchaff, bearded tits, 2 swallow, 7 stonechat, 5 lesser redpoll (BW)

24th October 2015

It has been an exciting few weeks on Swanscombe Marshes. The highlight was a great grey shrike found by local birdwatcher, Peter Beckenham, on the evening of Thursday 22nd! The bird was seen in an area of grassland and scrub just north of Botany Marsh. Small numbers of these stunning birds migrate to Britain in autumn from North Eastern Europe to spend the winter on favoured sites – often heaths or open forests. This year has seen good numbers of great grey shrikes appearing. There was no sign of this bird the next morning but it is a great record for Swanscombe marshes.

A ‘record shot’ of the great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor) at Swanscombe Marshes, 22nd October 2015 – by P Beckenham

On the same evening a short-eared owl was also seen!

Other Recent sightings:

23rd: Little egret, water wail showing in the ditch at base of the mound, west of botany marsh, 30 linnet, skylark, 8 chaffinch, 6 reed bunting around Broadness Point, 2 green woodpecker, kestrel

22nd: 28 greylag goose (flew in to roost at dusk), 1 kestrel, 1 peregrine falcon, 21 lapwing (Broadness Pt), 1 snipe (at dusk), 3 green sandpiper, 1 common sandpiper, 3 turnstone (Broadness Pt),1 kingfisher (perched by jetty), 8 meadow pipit (+), 2 stonechat (+), 1 song thrush, 4 cetti’s warbler, 2 chiffchaff, 6 goldcrest (flock together in river scrub), 2 Raven, 3 Linnet (PB)

17th: 3 lesser redpoll at the eastern end of Black Duck marsh & 3 goldcrest at Botany Marsh. Other counts were 8 stonechat, 3 common sandpipers at Broadness Point, 1 rock pipit, 11 lapwing, 13 redshank, 7 cormorant, 1 little egret, heron, 1 great black-backed gull (with red leg ring) & a curlew. Also 7 chiffchaff’s, 3 cetti’s warbler and raven. (RK)
a ring ouzel was seen on Swanscombe marshes (per AS/London Birders wiki)

3rd October 2015

It was a foggy start to the day on the marshes with the top of the Swanscombe pylon disappearing into the mist but our first public wildlife walk was a success with an excellent variety of wildlife seen and heard on a calm autumn morning. It got off to a good start with a chiffchaff singing in the birch by our meeting point in Greenhithe village and swallows swooping over the rooftops!

Along the river’s foreshore gulls loafed on the mud including an adult yellow-legged gull and several lesser black-backed gulls while a common gull drifted past. One or more water rails squealed from the extensive cover of Black Duck Marsh and a stonechat flicked  into view on a nearby perch. Several reed buntings and bearded tits were heard. At the eastern end of the marsh numerous blackcaps and chiffchaffs were darting around the scrub, the former giving some nice views as they fed on blackberries.

House sparrows along the foreshore at Swanscombe

House sparrows along the foreshore at Swanscombe

Walking along the path towards Botany Marsh we enjoyed a noisy green woodpecker and overflying meadow pipits calling as they went. A sparrowhawk momentarily appeared to chase something successfully before dropping out of sight. At Botany the scrub along the path edges was full of birds including more reed buntings and stonechats, blue tits, robins, wrens, a cetti’s warbler and a reed warbler. A movement in the grassy bank here revealed a small mouse (possibly a wood mouse) darting for cover. As we took in this peaceful corner of the marshes a distant ‘cronk’ call had us scanning the horizon before a fantastic raven flew into view and passed right by us!

With the sun breaking through the clouds we explored the shore again where lapwings and teal were seen near Broadness Point. A final highlight came in the form of glorious clouded yellow butterfly along the embankment which everyone had great views of and provided a stunning dash of colour to end the walk.


Clouded yellow butterfly on Swanscombe sea wall 3/10/15

Autumn colour on Swanscombe marshes, Oct 2015

Autumn colour on Swanscombe marshes, Oct 2015

Thanks to those that came on the walk, keep an eye out for more dates soon!

12th September 2015

5 whinchat, 3 chiffchaff, 3 cetti’s warbler and 11 house martins were spotted on Swanscombe marshes today (BW)

6th: 6 whinchat were along the fence line of botany marsh this afternoon while 2 common buzzards drifted high over the peninsula (PB)


Whinchat on Botany Marsh. Habitats like this are crucial to migrant birds as they make their long, hazardous migrations to Africa

4th: A red kite was spotted flying over, headed SW, and a curlew was at Broadness creek. Other birds included : blackcap, common whitethroat, jay, 2 chiffchaff, stonechat (family),  whinchat, kestrel, 2 raven, 8 common sandpiper, 3 reed warbler, 2 cetti’s warbler, tufted duck + lots of swallows / house martins around the centre lake.

1 common lizard was also seen (RK)

27th August 2015

Wildlife seen today included 6 common sandpipers roosting on the jetty and a family party of stonechats near Broadness Point. A cetti’s warbler was heard in black duck marsh. The highlight however was several common lizards! Sites like Swanscombe peninsula, with its large areas of open, rocky ground provide good habitats for sensitive reptile species like this.

This photo below was taken at the weekend and shows a large flock of house martins gathered around nearby Ingress Park. This is a good site for these birds which travel all the way to Britain from Africa, arriving from mid-April. Unfortunately their numbers are declining which makes local encounters like this special. These birds will soon be departing for the south once again.


16th August 2015

The first migrating wheatear was seen today in rough grassland to the east of Black Duck Marsh. A yellow wagtail flew over and a lesser whitethroat was seen briefly in scrub to the rear of the marsh. Several sand martins and house martins hawked over the reedbed where a water rail was heard calling. Linnet and starling were seen and both green and great spotted woodpeckers were heard, the latter being scarcer here. Several swallow were seen including one flying in off the river.

Butterflies seen included at least 4 clouded yellow, 1 fresh painted lady, red admiral, gatekeeper and a good number of common blue.

London-based conservationist and writer Daniel Greenwood visited Swanscombe marshes and has written this wonderful account of the wildlife and sense of place he encountered.

“My single memory from visiting Swanscombe Marshes in August will be the colour of the grasslands…”

It’s a great piece with some striking photographs of some of swanscombe’s smallest and least-known residents. It’s definitely worth a read!

8th August 2015

A hot, sunny Saturday and Swanscombe marshes was looking fantastic. The grassy riverside embankment is currently studded with wildflower colour including purple field scabious, quivering white heads of wild carrot and bunches of red clover. These flowers excel in the undisturbed and nutrient poor conditions of the rocky embankment. Butterflies were busy on this fine day with common blues and small whites abundant, a clouded yellow dashed past too, this is a good site to see them.

The receding water levels of Black Duck Marsh look promising for waders and a flock of lapwing were present while 6 common sandpiper bobbed their way along the foreshore. Common sandpiper use places like Swanscombe marshes as a ‘refuelling’ point on their long migrations to their wintering grounds in Europe or Africa. Elsewhere a family party of stonechats were on the marsh close to Broadness Point. The highlight of the visit though was a seal basking on the beach close to the point!

Other wildlife included red-tailed bumble bee, jersey tiger moth and dragonflies such as black-tailed skimmer, emperor dragonfly and common darter.


a female common blue finds a sunny spot in the grassland


A peaceful, secluded path near Broadness Point and the QEII bridge in the distance


A seal on Swanscombe ‘beach’!


A spectacular Jersey Tiger Moth at rest on some ivy

27th July 2015

Here are some recent photos of Swanscombe marshes in all its green, summer finery:


A lush carpet of grasses on the foreshore


A flock of much-declined starlings foraging in the riverside scrub


A small skipper butterfly sheltering from the wind on an old knapweed head


One of our local kestrels scanning the grassland from a prominent perch


A bee foraging on a colourful wildflower

Botany Marsh

Botany Marsh

Recent Sightings:

kestrel 3, peregrine, marsh harrier, mallard 25, green sandpiper 2, lapwing 10, grey heron, common gull, black-headed gull, stock dove 4, green woodpecker, house martn, sand martin, swift, linnet 13, greenfinch, reed bunting, blackcap, chiffchaff, cetti’s warbler, reed warbler

23rd June 2015

Recent sightings:

Water rail heard,  sand martin over Black Duck Marsh, hobby over Botany meadows, raven. Good numbers of bumblebees! Also spotted are several Pyramidal orchids – of the formerly scarce white variety.

3rd June 2015

Spring at Swanscombe is a fantastic time of year – this is a time when the grasslands and verges bloom into life. Brownfield sites like Swanscombe are of high nature value especially when it comes to wildflowers, these small patches are in essence ‘mini-meadows’ – a habitat we have lost a tragic 95% of in recent years.

We’ve been sent in some lovely photos showing just how special (and colourful) Swanscombe is in spring:

Swanscombe 300515 Black duck marshSwanscombe 300515 Inner sea wall Black duck marsh 5

Swanscombe 300515 Common BlueThank you! More soon – SSM

9th May 2015

Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Starling, Robin, Wren, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Linnet, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Swallow (3), House Martin (50+), Swift (30+), Wheatear (3), Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Shelduck (1 ringed), Coot, Moorhen


Sedge Warbler

11th April 2015

Some local birdwatchers visited Swanscombe marshes this weekend and sent us their sightings. It’s great to see the return of migrant birds like Chiffchaff and Blackcap – for them and many others, the site’s rich mosaic of scrub habitats provide vital feeding opportunities on their journeys. If we’re lucky they’ll stay and breed. The reedbeds and grassland areas are great for sand martins too as they seek to feed on airborne insects. Common lizards were out too. On warm, spring days the site is full of activity:

Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Starling, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Robin, Blackbird, Wren, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Cetti`s Warbler, Sand Martin, Pheasant.

Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal, Shelduck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing.

Small Tortoisehell, Common Lizard and Buff-tailed Bumblebee.


14th March 2015

8 Shelduck (Botany Marsh), 35 Mallard, 6 Shoveler (Black Duck Marsh), 4 Little Grebe (Black Duck Marsh), 1 Great Crested Grebe (on river), 1 Little Egret (present then flew across river), 2 Marsh Harrier (males), 1 Water Rail (heard), 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Lapwing (Pair on Botany Marsh), 1 Dunlin, 23 Redshank (+), 1 Turnstone, 1 Ring-necked Parakeet (over), 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Skylark (singing), 9 Meadow Pipit, 1 Rock Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Blackbird, 2 Song Thrush, 4 Cetti’s Warbler, 4 Bearded Tit (+, 2 birds showing well, others calling), 1 Raven (flew west c1530), 26 Reed Bunting (inc flock of 21)

Also seen: Red-tailed Bumblebee

5th March 2015

Greylag flock + 8 Canada Geese on Botany Marsh, 2 Shelduck, 2 Shovelers, 20+ Gadwall still on the Thames, female Sparrowhawk, 3 Marsh Harrier in the area, several active Grey Heron nests in Herony, 2 Lapwing, 3 pairs of Stonechat, a small flock of Reed Buntings (both males & females), 3 Cetti’s Warbler chasing each other, Bearded Tits heard.

Signs of spring are evident across Swanscombe marshes now, from budding blackthorn to the impulsive, territorial songs of birds like Song Thrush and Cetti’s Warbler. If you look closely at the trees to the back of Black Duck Marsh you might be lucky to spot several pairs of Grey Heron on their bulky nests of sticks.

4th March 2015

33 Greylag Goose, 6 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Marsh Harrier, 2 Oystercatcher, 11 Lapwing, 1 Green Woodpecker, 12 Meadow Pipit, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, 1 Bearded Tit (heard), 2 Reed Bunting

January and February 2015

Little Grebe, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Water Rail, c140 Lapwing, Grey Plover, Redshank, Turnstone, c150 Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker,  Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Water Pipit, 2 Rock Pipit, 12+ Meadow Pipit, Skylark (singing), 4 Stonechat, Robin, Dunnock, 2+ Bearded Tit, 4+ Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit

A spectacular Grey Heron rises from the marsh, March 2015

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