Our Wednesday walk was planned for Elmley this week, with a stop off at Bedlams Bottom on the way. Sheltering from the wind behind the car we managed to spot over 100 black-headed gulls, over 100 avocets, several oystercatcher, greenshank, redshank, turnstone, lapwing, kestrel, little egret, great crested grebe, and two cormorants flew over.
We finally moved on to the Isle of Sheppey, and as we turned off the main road and entered the Elmley Estate we saw first one, then two, and eventually had 5 marsh harriers in the air at once, it appeared to be a family group with an adult female looking extremely tatty with primary feathers missing (in a similar state to the one we saw at Northward Hill yesterday). At one stage a peregrine mobbed one of the young birds before speeding off. Nearing the RSPB reserve swallows were feeding low over the crops in the fields.
We reached the car park and looking out over the wall by the side of the toilet block we noticed several yellow wagtails, again a family group with juveniles in various stages of plumage. Three green sandpiper were sharing a pool with two little egrets, common sandpiper, coot, and moorhen. Pied wagtail fed on the field with meadow pipit and canada geese were grazing on the far field. A hare sat in the field protected by the reeds at the side of the pool.
From the Wellmarsh hide we saw 7 spoonbill, an adult and two juvenile little ringed plover, two more common sandpipers, avocet and black-tailed godwit.
On to South Fleet hide and in the bushes as we approached we saw reed bunting and meadow pipit. Teal, mallard and shelduck added to our list as we enjoyed watching more black-tailed godwit and avocet. We had another green sandpiper, greenshank and grey heron. More marsh harriers were flying, with a smart male being the most notable.
We managed to do a couple of butterfly surveys as we walked. [All you have to do is note down the butterflies you see in a 15 minute period and then log the results on the Butterfly Conservation website. Due to the recent weather the survey has been extended for a further week, so you have until the 7th August to find a sunny 15 minutes to add to butterfly conservation.] We saw a remarkable number of species given the cool grey breezy day, with common blue, gatekeeper, red admiral, peacock, large white, small skipper and essex skipper.
Back at the reserve office and we were looking for long-eared owl and barn owl – both of which eluded us, but it’s always worth a look. We did however watch over 80 swallow gathering on the office rooftop, presumably preparing for migration, whitethroat and house sparrow also gave us great views.
On the lane leaving the reserve we managed to add little grebe.