Friday, 18 March 2016


Calm, sunny mornings are about as rare as hen's teeth lately. So when one dawned last Thursday I headed to Elmley for a slow drive up the track and an even slower walk down to the hides. 

The Redshanks were very obliging and I stopped a few times to snap them in the nice light as they fed along the margins of the various new scrapes either side of the track. 

Lapwings called and displayed all around, and a single Black-tailed Godwit and a few Curlews stabbed the grass in search of food like the Redshank above, Skylarks sang unseen, high against the sky, Buzzards circled on the thermals, a Sparrowhawk and a couple of Kestrels were all searching for their next meal and a couple of Marsh Harriers showed more than a little interest in each other. The male, below, often flying low over a particular area of reeds where the female called to him constantly. 

My plan to walk to the hides however, was thwarted when I happened upon a young man who had broken down along the track. It turned out to be my nephew. Isn't life strange sometimes. Unsurprisingly, he was a bit pleased to see me. I borrowed some jump leads from the farm buildings but they failed to get him mobile again. So it was off to Sittingbourne to buy a new battery which got him going but left me without enough time for my walk.

As I sat in the car deciding what to do next this Brown Hare appeared, possibly one we had seen earlier while sorting the car. I was able to get some half decent views and at one point watched as it appeared to practice its boxing skills.

I stayed put for some time after the Hare had disappeared and after a while another, or the same one, suddenly appeared in the grass right alongside the car. I managed a couple of close ups before it crossed the track in front of me, so close that I couldn't see it over the bonnet of the car. A good Hare day indeed.

I bought a new lens this week, it has more reach than my other one so a trip to Dungeness with Alan Roman the following day gave me a chance to try it out.

To be honest there wasn't much to point it at. But these Common Gulls sitting on posts near the dipping pond on the RSPB reserve were obliging enough to be my first targets. Unfortunately the Long-eared Owl was either absent or sheltering further back in the trees to keep out of the bitter wind.
On the main lake most of the birds were sheltering in the lee of the wind over on the far bank. But we did see several Goldeneyes and a drake Smew accompanied by three females.

On the way to Denge marsh hide we spotted this ragged Peacock butterfly, my first of the year and a welcome taste of things to come. The only surprise from the hide itself was the arrival of seven Barnacle Geese, nice to see whatever their (dodgy) provenance. We tried the mound but the evil NE wind quickly got the better of us and we retraced our steps back to the visitor centre. The return trail is still shut due to flooding. The surprise of the day happened just as we approached Scott hide....

...a Badger crossed the path in front of us and ran up the bank to the right of the hide. It stopped at the top and turned to look back for a couple of seconds. Having decided it didn't like the look of us it ran back down the bank, across the front of the hide and over the shingle to the lake side.

I have never seen a Badger out in broad daylight like that and maybe never will again. The thing that struck me, looking at the hastily taken pics, especially the top one, was how Bear like it looked as it ran away.

From Dennis's hide these gulls were having an almighty bust up. Other birds gathered around the fight. Their screeching and squawking reminiscent of the playground punch ups of old when all the kids would gather around shouting 'fight, fight,' as a couple of boys (or girls) wrestled on the ground. It probably wouldn't happen now.

At one point they appeared to be trying to drown each other. But after what seemed an age they broke up, only to begin all over again a bit further out in the lake.

A brief stop at the ARC side produced a very distant Gt White Egret, a singing Chiffchaff, a solitary Tree Sparrow and a Goldcrest.


Warren Baker said...

A good read Phil, with some nice images. You should post more often mate! :-)

Bob Bushell said...

A best sort of stories I have heard, lovely. And the pictures are one of the best, cheers Phil.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
And not a drier of towel in sight .
Good selection of pics , and yes , the badger does look very bear -like , nice one .
Though I can understand why it decided to run !!
Re. the new lens , you must be into 500mm.+ territory now ?

Phil said...

Hi Fred
No, the new lens is Canon 100-400L IS MK2 . New home needed for Canon 70-300L IS. :-)

Ken. said...

What a great day that turned out to be. To see a badger is one thing, to get a few shots of it is something else. well done.

Marianne said...

Crikey, I'm impressed you had the presence of mind to get shots of the Badger, what an incredible sighting. Hope you are enjoying the new lens (looks like you are!)