Marshes near Gravesend prepare for annual bird invasion

PUBLISHED: 13:18 27 July 2011 | UPDATED: 13:41 27 July 2011

Oystercatcher flock in flight over water.

Oystercatcher flock in flight over water.


»Thousands of birds will turn the picturesque North Kent Marshes into a bustling avian airport over the next couple of months.

Several species will be stopping off along the Thames Estuary to refuel on their annual migratory journey to Africa and Asia.

The estuary is ranked the fifth most important site for waterbirds in the UK, having 12 species occurring in internationally important numbers. A third of a million waterbirds a year have been recorded on the estuary. Among them are the dark bellied brent goose, teal, shoveler, oystercatcher, avocet, knot, grey plover, ringed plover, dunlin, black tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit and redshank.

RSPB site manager Julian Nash said: “The mud on the edge on the Thames might not look particularly tasty, but it is extremely important for wildlife. It is estimated that a square metre of estuarine mud has approximately the same number of calories as 16 chocolate bars.

“Many of the birds that arrive are on their way to Africa or Asia and rely on these feeding grounds to give them enough energy to complete their journey.”

Three of the best places to get close-up views of these amazing globe-trotting birds are at RSPB Rainham Marshes near Purfleet; RSPB Wallasea Island Wild Coast project near Burnham on Crouch, or RSPB Elmley Marshes, on the Isle of Sheppey.

The RSPB owns and manages some 50 square kilometres of land along both banks of the Thames and has spent more than £50 million during the past decade regenerating land and opening up large areas for people to enjoy.

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