I had a couple of hours to spare today so I decided to head for Elmley, it's not too far and I like the drive along the track and the walk down to the hides which is a good leg stretch. All I saw from the track today were Lapwings, Skylarks, a single Marsh Harrier and loads of Curlew, always a pleasure to see but most were out of camera range, the nearest being the one in the picture above.
As I approached the farm buildings I saw a couple of large flocks of small birds which turned out to be Linnets and a few Fieldfares which were drinking from the small pond.The small wood opposite the house was home to the usual assortment of birds attracted by the feeders as well as about half a dozen Moorhens who, for reasons best known to themselves, were all perching in the tops of the trees, like the one pictured above. They must have had their reasons but I don't know what they were.
The walk to the first hide was uneventful and as I approached I could see just four Shelducks on the now flooded scrape. This is the one that was drained last year I think due to the presence of blue-green algae. Anyway, before I got in the hide they departed and all that was left were about twenty Turnstones on one of the small islands. They left about thirty seconds later. Then there was nothing.
I moved to the next hide, Counterwall I think it's called and it was pretty much the same there. Two other birders were in residence and between us we managed to notch up a few bits and pieces including two Common Buzzards, a fine male Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel, a couple of distant Pintails and hordes of Lapwings and Curlews flying by. We left the hide together to return to the car park, seeing Reed Buntings, a single Stonechat, some pretty impressive flocks of pre roost Starlings and waders, some Little Egrets and best of all two Short-eared Owls which I spotted hunting on the rough ground to the left as we approached the farm buildings. I scanned the trees to the right to see if I could find a Little Owl and sure enough there it was perched in the lower branches of the second tree on the right. As we watched the Little Owl we were startled by the screech of a couple of small birds and the whoosh of bigger wings as a Sparrowhawk, nearly parted our hair for us as it pursued it's quarry low over our heads. Exciting stuff, if you weren't the prey.
One other piece of interest was a Common Lizard lying dead on the track, it was still soft and clearly hadn't been dead very long. I don't know how it had died but it had lost its tail so maybe it was the victim of a Kestrel or Heron or something, but either way I suspect the real reason for its demise is the very mild weather which may have woken it from its slumber prematurely. Its all well and good having temperatures yesterday of 13 or 14c degrees but I don't think it really helps those creatures that hibernate and expect to wake up to more sustained mild weather.