We didn't manage it last year, but after about a month of furious emailing some of the Helm gang got together for a May Kent birding day yesterday - Nigel, Jim, Rob and I. We met at Bough Beech at 6am - only Jim didn't, perhaps because he'd got very lost last time we'd tried to meet here, and he opted to join us later, when we reached Elmley. Nigel was already scoping the reservoir when Rob and I arrived, but without success ('success' here defined as finding a Mandarin duck). Our other Bough Beech target, however, did oblige - there was a quick blast of Nightingale song from behind a gate as we headed for the visitor centre.
Next stop was Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Rob nipped home to pick up his monopod - he was very sleepy and thought it would help him to stay standing up. Nigel and I collected Egyptian Goose from the access track, Garden Warbler in the car park, and Little Ringed Plover from the viewing mound. Very efficient. We were also entertained by a family of recently fledged Long-tailed Tits, and a showy Blackcap.
On to Elmley, and when we got to the start of the track, Nigel noticed a flock of Mediterranean Gulls on the track ahead of us. We drove slowly along the track in the time-honoured fashion, to meet Jim who was waiting at the other end.
Looking over the wall next to the loos, we saw Avocets around the pool at the bottom of the hill, and Nigel spotted a drake Garganey picking its way along among the Mallards.
Next stop was Oare Marshes. We were hoping to get lucky and find Spoonbills - some have been around the Swale for a while now. We didn't. However, there was a very charming Avocet family right by the viewpoint, which provided a great moment of drama when a Little Egret came along.
Part 2 coming up...