A slow drive along the two mile entrance track to the Elmley National Nature Reserve car park showed the water levels had been raised since our last visit benefiting the many waders, with lots of lapwing and redshank close to the track. We had good views of some of the many hares on the reserve. Marsh harrier and skylark were in the air and reed buntings flew in and out of the bushes onto one of the many feeders. Shelduck, teal, oystercatcher, mallard and cormorant were seen as were curlew, red-legged partridge, pheasant and grey heron. A total of 22 bird species were seen from the track before starting our walk onto the reserve!
Thirteen of us met at Elmley Nature reserve. It was a dry day, but a light breeze made for a chilly start. The reserve is a vast wilderness covering 3200 acres on the Isle of Sheppey.
From the car park we made our way along the path towards the hides. Coot, moorhen, mute swan, meadow pipit and little egret were seen. One of the highs of the day was a corn bunting sitting on a fence post in full song very close to us, and we watched and listened for a while. Golden plover took to the sky, giving a lovely display as they twisted and turned above us. From the screen overlooking the Swale, large numbers of wigeon were seen on the water, while Mediterranean gulls were calling above us. A kestrel landed on a fence post by the first hide but took to the air as we approached.
After an early lunch in the Well Marsh hide, we made our way to South Fleet hide. Common gull, gadwall, and brent geese were seen from here, and some of the group had a good view of a raven. We then turned back towards the car park adding turnstone on the Swale on our way.
We got back to the car park with time to spare. We decided to wander along the track leading to the ruins of the school house in the former village of Elmley. The Turkey cement works took over the site of the brick factory in the 1860’s and the village grew with a school, public house, church and houses and 219 people were recorded in the 1891 census, but with the closure of the works in the early 1900’s the population dwindled. The school closed in the 1920’s and the church was demolished about 1960 (although these dates vary on different web sites). In 1961 only 8 people were on the census. Some of the school walls are still standing and jackdaw and goldfinch were in the trees by the ruins.
A total of 53 bird species were seen or heard, and the weather was very kind to us. Thank you to everyone who came along and made it a very enjoyable day.
NB more information on the school and village can be found here.
Thanks to Sue, Steve and Terry for the photographs.
Sandra and Norman
Thanks to Sandra and Norman for leading (and sweets).