The holiday season begins!

Elmley Marshes

Elmley Marshes
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Elmley Marshes

The holiday season begins!

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Returning to work yesterday was somewhat difficult (to say the least) after a week away in the French Alps. Everyone gets the post-holiday back-to-work blues, but a day spent back at Elmley reminded me why I love working in conservation.


Admittedly, half my day was spent in the office, clearing out my inbox, working through my self-imposed list of tasks and with mixed success chasing people on the phone. When I did eventually get outside the sun was out and I could enjoy myself. As I traveled out on the quad bike to check the livestock, I had marsh harriers soaring overhead and skylarks darting across my path. I also heard and saw a number of alarming lapwings and redshanks.


The livestock have multiplied whilst I’ve been away. We now have another bull in with a herd of cows and calves- this time a handsome chestnut-coloured Sussex. A number of other cows and calves have also arrived to be divided between other groups currently on the marshes. Sometimes I wish I had a good digital SLR camera when I’m out and about. Yesterday was one such occasion, with a number of starlings perched up on the cattle mid-morning. It would have been an excellent photo!


Whilst I was on the reserve I saw over 20 spotted redshank in summer plumage and over 180 black-tailed godwits on the flood. The spotted redshanks have now bred in northern Europe and Siberia and are heading south to Europe, Africa and Asia for their summer holidays. The black-tailed godwits will either be UK resident or have attempted to breed in the area. (Most black-tailed godwits in the UK are from the Icelandic race and spend the winter here.) A roosting spoonbill was also seen on the flood, and Gordon witnessed a hobby nearly snatch a meadow pipit out of the air directly in front of South Fleet hide


Coming back to the office I was surrounded by a large flock of starlings dancing around me. The number of yellow wagtails I counted has also been the highest I’ve seen yet at Elmley- simply astonishing considering these are red-list species. In fact, Elmley does pretty well at attracting birds of conservation concern. You can find at least eight red-list species at Elmley at this time of year: grey partridges, lapwings, black-tailed godwits, skylarks, yellow wagtails, starlings, house sparrows and corn buntings. Other red-list species are often persent, and I haven’t even started on the amber-list species yet… If you want to find out more click here.

  • Glad to see you're enjoying yourself. Jealous about the yellow wags and corn bunts. I used to watch these every day while walking the dog after school in Shropshire in the 80s. Rare there now, and don't see many in Suffolk either.

    Hope you enjoyed the Alps. I usually spend a week there in June, but went to the Cevennes this year instead. Both fantastic areas for watching wildlife.

    Best wishes