After a few grey dank days it was great to get out in the gentle sunshine of Elmley today. Along the entrance track it was obvious that the area was extremely dry, with rills and pools completely empty. In view of that we were lucky to see a few birds on the way to the RSPB reserve proper. Marsh harrier, kestrel, curlew, starling and lapwing were viewable from the car. Once we arrived at the car park, we had the excitement of Malcolm trapping Sally’s fingers in the car door (on purpose of course!). Elaine produced an ice pack and after a suitable amount of sympathy for Sally, we were soon on our way. A quick view over the wall near the toilet block added mallard, teal, pochard, wigeon and magpie.
Near the RSPB office linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch and house sparrow fed in the orchard. As we walked the path towards the hides reed bunting were busy feeding in the reeds, a grey heron stood stoically by the side of a nearby pool. In the distance large numbers of canada geese, greylag and golden plover swooped in from the river as the tide rose. A couple of pheasant strutted between the reeds, mute swan flew to one of the remaining pools, and meadow pipits fed along the edge of the same pool. A red admiral butterfly was a pleasant surprise.
In front of the first hide the pool has completely dried up, partly to dry out an algae problem, but the lack of rain has meant that the pool has stayed dry longer than anticipated. A buzzard was spotted high over a distant barn later reappearing on a fence post. From the Counterwall hide (where there was more water) teal and mallard were seen.
A second red admiral greeted us as we moved back towards the river to continue towards the next hide. A stoat ran along the side of a nearby dyke, and a group of hares washed in the sunshine. Just as we approached the path running across the fields a short-eared owl was spotted flying by Ian and then re-found by Irene as it sat on the ground. As we got our telescopes ready the bird flew once more and disappeared behind the reeds beyond the hide. We continued to the hide, where the owl was spotted once more, great views were had by all 14 of the group. Cormorant, little egret, ringed plover and green sandpiper were joined by great black-backed gull, black-headed gull, curlew and more golden plover were present.
Although swale hide is closed we carried on to the area, using the hide as cover as we got to the sea wall. Although there were huge flocks a long way off we did managed to identify avocet, great crested grebe, black-tailed godwit, redshank, turnstone, pintail, brent geese and wigeon. A common seal swam around, watching us as it passed.
Soon it was time to take our leave as the sun started to set, just time to say a big thank you to Ian and Sue for leading our walk.