In view of the news from the RSPB regarding the future of Elmley, it was a striking coincidence that we decided to go there this Wednesday for our casual wander.
It was bright sunny day and as we approached the reserve the fields were home to many lapwing, curlew and huge flocks of starlings. A sparrowhawk swooped across in front of the car and gave us a great view as it hunted over the fields.
From the small viewing area near the car park (beside the toilet block in fact!) we could see little grebe, teal, mallard and coot. No sign of the little owl though. Overhead goldfinch were flying, with their chattering call attracting our attention. As we moved towards the orchard area opposite the RSPB office we were hopeful of finding the long-eared owl which had been roosting their recently. Unfortunately, after much patient scanning we (along with several others) left unrewarded. There were robin, wren, chiffchaff, blackbird, house sparrow and a delightful goldcrest to make up for it though.
Moving down the track we could see several marsh harriers, kestrels and skylarks were also seen. Meadow pipits flew away from the side of the track as we wandered along, and several common buzzard were also hunting. During the course of the day we saw many harriers and buzzard, all enjoying the good weather, riding the thermals and hunting over the fields and ditches.
Near South Fleet Hide we found a lovely male stonechat perched on a fence post and keeping a wary eye out for the hunters overhead. Flocks of linnet flew from bush to bush, their chirpy call giving advertising their presence. Several little egret were feeding in the ditches and along the edge of the pools.
Tucked just below the seawall we were able to watch the birds on the mud bank. Dunlin, redshank, great-crested grebe, grey plover, oystercatcher, turnstone, shelduck and black-tailed godwit were feeding on the receding tide. Herring gull, lesser black-backed gull and greater black-backed gull were further out.
As we retraced our steps grey heron flew over.
Back at the car park I saw two pied wagtails on the barn roof, to complete my day list.
A hare scampered away as we drove back down the track.
We did mull over the possible future of the reserve, not realising that the answer was sitting in our “inbox” at home [see http://www.rspbgravesend.org.uk/2012/10/rspbs-future-at-elmley-marshes/]