Thursday, 20 March 2014


The Elmley track looked great on Wednesday morning. Lots of water and lots of birds. Good numbers of Redshanks probed the soft margins of the many pools and ditches, man made or otherwise that line both sides of the approach to the main reserve.   

 I drove very slowly and stopped frequently to watch and photograph the comings and goings of these appealing waders, their appeal enhanced for me by their easy identification. I'm still not too good at the small ones which I don't see too often.

 Lapwings unsurprisingly outnumbered the Redshanks. Their displaying flight and evocative call, together with an accompaniment of singing Skylarks gave a real feeling of seasonal change, despite the bitter wind and grey skies. 

 Marsh Harriers, small murmurations of Starlings, distant Little Egrets, Mute Swans, a Kestrel, Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Little Grebes and Oystercatchers (below), were also noted before reaching the car park.

 The strength and coldness of the wind was a bit of a shock when I left the warmth of the car. I wondered about the wisdom of embarking on the long walk to the hides but I braced myself and after the customary checking of the Owl boxes from the side of the ladies 'facilities' I headed off. There were no Owls to be seen by the way.

 The walk to Well Marsh hide was pretty uneventful. A few Meadow Pipits, more Skylarks and a few Reed Buntings braved the wind and a Brown Hare came hurtling round the corner on the track before seeing me and showing a clean pair of heels as it hurtled into a nearby reedbed.
The scrape in front of Well Marsh has been 'adopted' by the Black-headed Gull fraternity. Dozens of them screeching their raspy calls at each other as they swirl around arguing and bickering with any other gull who is deemed to be in their air space or on their territory.
On and around  the small islands a surprisingly large number of Turnstones, Avocets, Dunlins (I think), Grey Plovers, Godwits and a couple of Ringed Plovers laid claim to their bit of turf among the squabbling Blackheads. In the distance the Marsh Harriers and occasional Buzzards were constantly putting up flocks of birds. There were Wigeon, Shelduck, Gadwall, Shovelers, Greylags, Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Avocets and the odd Pintail. All distant but a great spectacle in the air en masse.
Soon after I sat down in the hide trouble arrived in the shape of what I think is a Lesser Black-backed Gull, although the colour of its legs is a bit confusing. 

The Blackheads were outraged and did their best to see it off.

But it quickly spotted an egg on one of the islands and stole it.

With lunch safely on board, it headed off with an angry escort to a nearby island where it was quickly consumed.

I'm really not sure who the owner of the egg would have been. It seems a bit early for the gulls, but doesn't look big enough for a duck.

The Avocets mainly kept their distance from the hide but a couple with other things on their mind strayed a bit closer.

 She left him in no doubt what was supposed to happen next and he didn't need telling twice.

With skies still dark grey and the wind whistling around the hide I was feeling the cold and decided to make my way back to the car park. 

In the bushes close to the farmhouse a small flock of House Sparrows were hunkering down and fluffing up to keep warm.

The occasional eye opened to check me out.

But after a quick look they soon went back to sleep. I didn't blame them, it was freezing.

Also in the area, attracted by the feeders were Chaffinches and Goldfinches. They must be made of hardier stuff than the Sparrows.

The drive back to the entrance was just as interesting birdwise as the drive in. This time though I also managed to see four distant Brown Hares.

And the Little Egrets came a little bit closer.


Bob Bushell said...

Brilliant shots of all birds, especally the Avocets, lovely.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
I agree , the track to the car park looks really good , lets hope the water stays for the migrants .
I too find the walk to the hides very quiet .
Re. the egg thief , the egg of the BHGull and Mallard are the same size , according to my 1962 Observers Book of Birds Eggs , but couldn't ID the egg .
Dopes one shot show the LBBG lifting the egg with it's feet ?
Good job you posted after the watershed for the Avosex .
Like the eye of the Oystercatcher .

Phil said...

Many thanks for your comments. Just wish there had been some light to show the Avocets at their best.

Phil said...

I can't make up my mind whether the LBB Gull lifted the egg with its feet or picked it up in its beak and dropped it as I took the picture. I still can't get to grips with its leg colour either!

Jason K said...

Another fine read Phil. All those wader shots are making me think that I need to visit one of the local wetlands soon!

Phil said...


Thanks very much.

JRandSue said...

Great post Phil,love those Avocets.

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil.
The tree that you wanted ident for looks like a Rhus ( Stags horn Sumach ) Great photos