I paid a long overdue visit to Elmley NNR last week. I took a leisurely drive along the two mile long entrance track giving a chance to see and photograph the wealth of lapwings which feed and breed on the marshes.
Redshanks were also plentiful but harder to photograph as they fed non stop, pausing only briefly to lift their head to check for danger. The biggest danger to them is from the many raptors present on this site. Marsh harriers were everywhere on this particular day, along with buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrels and even the diminutive merlin who spend their time terrorising the flocks of starlings and the skylarks.
There was no sign of short eared owls from the car park area so, despite the bitter wind I decided to walk down to the first hides, about a mile or so down the track. There were many wigeon, shelduck, gadwall and various other water fowl on the scrapes and hundreds of greylags all across the marsh. I also spotted a small flock of godwits (black-tailed I think) feeding not too far from the track and managed a quick picture, below.
Unfortunately there was nothing to see on the scrapes in front of the hides so I returned to the car park, accompanied for a few yards by a hare, which burst unexpectedly from the undergrowth and ran ahead of me for a short while before disappearing into the long grass as suddenly as it had appeared.
While driving back along the entrance track I noticed this common snipe hunkered down out of the wind alongside a small pool of water, its cryptic plumage rendering it almost invisible to all but the sharpest of eyes.
Little grebes are plentiful at Elmley but being so small and wary are often difficult to photograph. So I was pleased to spot one diving repeatedly in the reed lined margins, quite unconcerned by my presence. It soon managed to catch a perch which it eventually subdued enough to swallow, spines and all, before resuming its search for more prey.
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