As we drove the two and a half mile track towards the reserve, various birds were spotted, including marsh harriers, great white egrets and a lovely wheatear. Elmley is a family run farm and covers 3300 acres of wilderness on which to enjoy the wildlife. Fifteen of us gathered in the car park, ready in anticipation for the day ahead, especially as Mick, one of the rangers, informed us that three long-eared owls and one short-eared owl, had been seen recently. A reed bunting was seen in the bushes and juvenile little grebes were calling out to their parents as we set off from the car park. A few swallows were still hunting for a meal, feeding up in readiness for their long journey home to Africa, which could take up to six weeks. Swallows from different parts of Europe fly to different destinations. Ours end up in the very south. They travel down through western France and eastern Spain into Morocco, before crossing the Sahara Desert and the Congo rainforest – finally reaching South Africa and Namibia. Pheasants and curlews were foraging for food in the adjacent field and a common buzzard was spotted sitting on a fence post way in the distance. The tide was in as we arrived at the viewing screen, with great-crested grebe, black-tailed godwit and a solitary brent goose being the best of the sightings. Along the track from the screen, various ducks swam in the lake, whilst lapwings swooped around the sky, just above a large gathering of golden plovers. A few of us were fortunate to see and hear a couple of bearded tits, with a cetti’s warbler joining in with its loud song. Meadow pipit and stonechat were added to the list before a merlin flew in front of us, whilst wigeon went about their business in amongst the reeds. Emperor and migrant hawker dragonflies patrolled their territories along the verges, with red admiral and peacock butterflies gliding in the warm(ish) air. Lunch was taken in the Wellmarsh hide, where a ringed plover was seen on a distant island, not far from a solitary common snipe. Trevor had spotted a bird flying towards us and it landed in the reeds, just in front of us – a green sandpiper! Unfortunately, it didn’t like being stared at and promptly disappeared before our cameras could be raised. More raptors were quartering the area and distant greylag geese were honking to each other. Some members of the group decided to visit the South Fleet hide, while I decided on a slow walk back to the car park. After a few minutes, I received a phone call from Hazel, saying the long-eared owl had been seen by the car park. The walk back was uneventful, apart from a lovely clouded yellow butterfly flying just in front of me. Paul and Emily were already there and had their telescope fixed on the owl, which was hiding in the undergrowth behind a tree (can you see it in the photo?) The rest of the group arrived and managed to find it before we departed, leaving this lovely bird in peace. After a quick coffee break, we headed off towards the old school house. The area is steeped in history which can be found here : http://lettersfromsheppey.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-elmley-schoolhouse.html The resident little owl decided to stay in bed today, but a brown hare did make an appearance in the adjacent field and a kestrel perched nicely for Terry. Further scanning of the fields gave us avocets and linnets. Time was moving on and some of us decided on a cuppa with perhaps some nice biscuits (I can recommend the apple and hazelnut variety). At least six pied wagtails were on the path leading to the cafe and house sparrows flew around us. Luck was on our side today. We had just sat down with our drinks, when a deluge of rain engulfed the area. This lasted about ten minutes, then the sun shone again, with a fantastic rainbow just outside our window. Many thanks to everyone that attended and made it a very pleasant day.
Thanks to Sue ,Terry and Steve for the photographs and more thanks to Sue for organising the trip for us.
For further information on Elmley, please look here : https://www.elmleynaturereserve.co.uk/
Steve and Hazel.
PS : What type of caterpillar is this? Answers below please 🙂