The Swale Wader Group is an informal group of amateur birdwatchers and ringers (banders) who study the waders and other birdlife around the Swale in North Kent, UK.
The Swale is the narrow stretch of water which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the Kent mainland. It runs from the River Medway near Queenborough in the west to the Thames Estuary near Whitstable in the east. It is only about 200 m wide at it narrowest in the west and opens out to about 1.5 km in the east. It is a saltwater channel, not a river, and has a tidal range of up to 6 metres.
The Swale forms part of the Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area a designation used by Natural England to make sites comparable in terms of area. The Swale and much of the surounding lowland wet grassland marshes have been designated an SSSI, Ramsar site, SPA and IBA.
The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) report for 2004/05 shows that the Swale holds internationally important populations of seven species of birds, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank. A further eleven species are present in numbers that exceed the figure for Nationally important sites. In 2004/5 the Swale was the twelth most important site in the UK with a peak assemblage of over 83,000 wildfowl and waders.
The area is important for breeding waders with over 500 pairs of Lapwing and over 300 pairs of Redshank nesting. The Swale has the highest numbers and density of breeding waders on lowland wet grassland in the UK.
The Swale is also a good area to observe birds of prey with breeding Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine and Marsh Harrier along side Barn, Little and Long-eared Owls. During the winter as well as the breeding species, Buzzard, Rough-legged Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and Merlin are present together with Short-eared Owls.
There are a number of well known reserves bordering the Swale: