Elmley is a family run farm with marshland rich in wildlife, home to large numbers of wintering wildfowl and breeding waders – over 40 species of birds breed and raise young here. The winter rain had filled the ditches rills and pools and near the entrance sheep were grazing and brown hares could be seen in the distance. A large group of curlew were feeding, also mallard, coot, starling, mute swan, lapwing and skylark. As we neared the car park sightings were sparse.
12 of us met in the car park suitably attired with thermals, hats and gloves. We set off with views of stonechat, meadow pipit, wigeon and teal. A few of us saw a reed bunting in the swaying reeds. In the distance buzzard, crow and Canada geese. Nothing was visible from the screen with the tide so far out.
Wellmarsh hide was our first stop for respite from the cold wind and for hot drinks. We had lovely views of marsh harrier harrying wildfowl. A grey heron hunkered down from the wind.
We decided to head for the Counterwall hide for lunch, some brent geese, a redshank, little egret, shelduck and more marsh harriers. Malcolm spotted a merlin and we were all able to get good views before it sped off scattering birds in its wake. Gulls for the day included great black backed, black headed, common and herring.
Moving hides proved the best option and we had wonderful close views of 3 brown hares with their distinctive black-tipped ears. We were treated to the wonderful spectacle of the chase and boxing (the breeding season stretches from February to September. When the females become receptive they have to fend off over-attentive bucks).
We headed back, hoping to find more species with the incoming tide. One lone Great crested grebe, magpie, cormorant, kestrel and greylag geese were seen. Vast flocks appeared – lapwing, golden plover glowing as they changed direction and dunlin. From the screen we watched the beautiful pintail ducks and a lone pheasant in the fields – unfortunately no sign of short-eared owls which can often be seen quartering the patches of rough grass hunting for small mammals. We all agreed it was best to head back to warm up. An enjoyable day with good company.
Pauline and John
As we went back along the track we noticed that some of the lapwings were already displaying and staking out their nesting sites. Thanks to Pauline and John for leading. Thanks to Terry, Sally and Sue for the photographs.