On arrival, where I remember the track, we had to follow the river! Radar pool proved very interesting, in all my birding years I have never seen so many Little Grebes in one place. Meanwhile, two male and five female Goldeneye allowed us to study them as they swam back and forth and amongst the Tufted Duck were some characters baring white markings around the bill but we were not confident these were Scaup although they had been reported in the area. At the back of the pool was our prize, the Velvet Scoter dwarfed the diving ducks as it ambled aimlessly around. An unseasonal Greenshank working the margin was a welcomed addition.
Not being able to wander far for fear of hypothermia, we headed to South Darenth, now well off patch we relied on technology to get there but it worked and we enjoyed views of a beautiful male Red Crested Pochard among the Mallard in the brook. It was not very confiding and avoided the sunlight we wanted but nevertheless we managed a couple of shots the best of which is below.
Next we headed to Capel Fleet for some winter Geese and some viewing from the car if necessary. As a raptor point we were not disappointed; a Kestrel worked from the newly acquired sandbanks and two very pale buzzards sat on fence posts immediately in front of us whilst a pair of Marsh Harriers terrified the Lapwings further away. Most pleasing of all was a pair of Merlins close to the Fleet harassing the Pipit population and then resting on the fence posts. This was a joy to watch but somewhat challenging as they swooped and darted across the fields.
Failing to see any Geese we drove on to Shellness where the sea was more interesting than the land. Plenty of duck on the sea with a variety of waders and a small group of Brents. The maize planted everywhere to protect EC subsidies clearly encourages the Geese to try elsewhere.
With the weak winter light fading our final jaunt was to be the drive up to the farm house at Elmley. Despite the late hour the car park was surprisingly busy and on our return journey we had a couple of highs as we stopped to admire a female Merlin on a post and the male flew directly towards us just clearing the roof in pursuit of prey. Moments later Dan picked out a Short Eared Owl on a tussock. Sadly as more admirers pulled up it moved away before my resident cameraman was ready. However, we managed a few nice shots in poor light. Finally, as we approached Kings Ferry bridge a Hen Harrier was gaining height as it left the Marsh.