I enjoyed my last recent visit to Elmley NNR and Thursday a last minute decision saw myself and Alan Roman heading back for another look.
The field on the right before you enter the reserve gave us an early surprise in the shape of several Med Gulls (sorry about the rubbish picture) feeding alongside the usual Blackheads, there were also several Linnets in this area. The Med Gulls were a feature of the entire visit, our attention often drawn to their distinctive calls as they constantly flew back and forth over the reserve.
We took a very slow drive along the approach track, the dizzy heights of second gear never being attained. You see much more if you stay under about five mph and this also avoids the constant and tiresome "bing bong" of big brother telling you to fasten your seatbelts.
In one of the water filled ditches Alan noticed some movement among the reeds, this turned out to be spawning fish, reasonable sized Carp I think, although it was difficult to be sure. Thankfully the Grey Herons hadn't spotted them yet, although they would have been a bit of a challenge, even for their voracious appetites.
The whinnying of Little Grebes from several locations along the way caused us to stop and enjoy some nice views of these super looking little birds. Looking resplendent in their Summer plumage and already paired up for breeding, they busied themselves with a little gentle nest building alongside the Coots who as always were one step ahead.
All the usual Elmley track species were seen as we ambled along including Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrel, Lapwings, Redshanks (one of which decided to sit in the middle of the road playing chicken), lots of Little Egrets, a Brown Hare (also playing chicken), so close to the car I couldn't get a picture! A nice surprise too in the shape of three male Yellow Wagtails who stood out like Canaries against the green grass. And all of this to the accompaniment of Skylarks (above) who poured out their liquid song from on high all the way along the two mile track. Perfect.
Although the weather was overcast, it felt agreeably warm as started to walk to the hides. This meant good numbers of early butterflies on the wing, including this Green-veined White above. The only one of these we saw. Peacocks (below) and Small Tortoiseshells were much more abundant, especially the latter who mostly looked worn and ragged now.
Bird wise there was little to see along the way, the odd Reed Bunting was about as exciting as it got. Until that is, the unmistakeable pinging call of Bearded Tits cut through the wind blown reed bed. I soon located them, there were four and one showed quite well. I'm not sure if i've ever seen them here before. If it hadn't been for said wind I might have got my first ever decent shot of one, but the swaying reeds and poor light meant this was as good as it got. Maybe next time.
It was nice to see the odd Lizard basking on the warm rocks, this one was a particularly dark little specimen, good for absorbing the weak sun no doubt.
Just before we got to the first hide I spotted my first Grass Snake of the year. It moved off quite slowly and swam straight into the flooded ditch. The water temperature must be quite low and probably not what he needed right then. I fired off a few shots and left him to get out, dry off and warm up.
The scene from the hide was pretty much the same as last time with Black-headed Gulls (below) the predominate, very noisy species. There were about half a dozen Med Gulls also on the water and plenty flying over to the adjacent fields. Waders were in short supply, probably because the tide was still low but the large flock of Turnstones, a handful of Black-tailed Godwits, a couple of Oystercatchers and the Avocets provided some alternatives from the gulls.
We ended up with 50 bird species during our day, this included a single Blackcap from the farmhouse area. All in all, another good day at Elmley, but a few more migrants would have been nice.
I had my first Orange Tip in the garden at home during the week and today Carol spotted another Red Kite over the house drifting South East in the early afternoon. The fourth since we moved in just over a year ago.