Sunday, 26 June 2016

Elmley Nature reserve

I visited Elmley nature reserve years ago (pre kids) and despite it being a rather cold day my wife and I had several good sightings including a short Eared Owl. The drive in takes you through large tracts of land that are interesting in themselves. We had a Yellow Wagtail land in front of the car after about two minutes, a bird I've never seen before, and then we got held up by a cow in the middle of the path.



Whilst held up we saw an Egret and several marsh harriers which when I've seen them in the past they keep their distance and often just appear as a distance blob skimming reeds. Well we were lucky enough to have a decent close encounter.


In due course the Marsh Harrier had a close encounter with a Lapwing, and then a wader of some kind, gave it a hard time and drive it off pretty smartish. Once the action had abated I decided it was time to move the 'offending' cow out of the way. I grabbed a coat and went round the car in front and persuaded Bessie to move on, as we then did.


Those sightings had made the hour or so trip a success in my mind but there was more to come. Just onto the reserve path we stumbled upon a rather chilled out Hare which casually moved across the stony path, occasionally looking back before doing a left into the long grass. There's just something about Hares isn't there?

 

The industry and nature in close proximity reminded me of the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes, and the dense reed beds harked back to my recent trip to Wicken Fen. With the site being so flat you really get a 360 degree big sky feel.


There is a lot floral variation and one highlight for me was the 'Goatsbeard'. It is nicknmaed Jack-Goes-To-Bed-At-Noon because it opens in the morning and shuts at dinner...but most of these flowers were shut. When I chanced upon an open one it threw me as it was purple as opposed to the expected yellow. Upon getting home it turns out that it's either Purple Goatsbeard or Purple Saxifrage depending where you look on the internet.


The highlight of the reserve birds was probably the numerous Avocets and we had a good view of a nesting bird surrounded by Black Headed Gulls. What neighbours to have.


We also saw a Marsh Harrier dare to show it's face over the water and it was quickly intercepted by a pair of Avocets and it was soon it's more customary distant speck before you could blink an eye. 


We also saw a decent amount of butterflies and moths with this Meadow Brown and Small Magpie moth (the latter looked up on my FSC laminated ID sheet). If you look at the moth picture background you'll see that it was on a hide window, we were the first in them and they were baking hot in the sunshine.

 

We had our youngest with us who huffed and puffed so we didn't make the last hide, but that said we had some ominous dark clouds scudding in so it was probably for the best. The Vetch was quite noticeable on the return leg so a picture was necessary, and I saw my first Toadflax of the year too.


We saw this little bird hugging the edge of the path on the walk back, I think it's a Corn Bunting but further investigation reveals it to be on the red list...So have I?


My wife hasn't heard a Cuckoo this year and as we got near the car park I heard one briefly do one 'Cuckoo' but my wife missed it so I suggested hanging around the car for a few minutes which gave me a chance to have a nose at the flora around the edge. Seconds after snapping this Fat Hen and Scarlet Pimpernel the seasonal nest disturber obliged.


On the way out we saw several Yellow Wagtails but this time I managed to get a slightly superior shot to those when I came in. A quite beautiful bird.

  

And then another laid back Hare which made it's way down the track 'fleeing' from an oncoming car until it decided to swing into the grassy verge, and to finish off, a Marsh Harrier not getting mobbed! Elmley is a reserve with a lot of walking involved but it was worth the trip.










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