to forgive my lack of blogging over the past few weeks. The summer is a busy
time of year on a wet grassland reserve, and it’s been all hands to the
grindstone. As you wander about the reserve in July and August you will see the
grass being topped by tractor- a necessary management technique to remove grass
seed heads and thistles and return the vegetation height to a low, even one.
The cows will now work their magic at creating and retaining a suitable sward
height through the summer and autumn for passage waders, for the wintering
wildfowl in the colder months of the year, and ready for the spring breeding
season in 2011. Topping takes place from July onwards so it doesn’t clash with
the breeding season, when there are still many wader chicks about in the long
grass. This said, there’s still at least one ringed plover nest going on site
that I’m aware of.
and about on the reserve in the past week, birds I’ve picked up on include:
avocets, black-tailed godwits, redshanks, lapwings, oystercatchers, spotted redshanks, common sandpipers,
green sandpipers, corn buntings, two bearded tits (near Counterwall hide), swallows,
starlings, house sparrows, yellow wagtails, marsh harriers and kestrels amongst others. Last week, having been
told to keep an eye out for it, I thought I might have caught sight of a very
rare white-tailed plover at Elmley. I can’t have though, since the bird in
question had arrived at Dungeness RSPB Reserve, having left Rainham Marshes
RSPB Reserve a day or two before. There are plenty of dragonflies around at the moment, and if you are about on the reserve and happen to be near to a fresh cowpat or two, why not keep your eyes open for the rare Maid of Kent beetle, Emus hirtus, too. This beetle resembled a black and yellow bee at first glace, and spends its time diving into fresh cowpats. It was thought to be extinct in the UK since 1950, but was rediscovered at Elmley in 1997 and is now found at only two sites in the country- at Rye Street between Cliffe and Cooling, and at Elmley.
other sites: topping will commence at the Seasalter Levels reserve near Whitstable in the next
week or so. There are a lot of meetings happening at present about this
site since it is a fairly new RSPB reserve and there is a lot of work to be
done here. Exciting developments coming up include a hydrology project to
improve wetting of the site and distribution of water and a programme to
control an invasive plant species: floating water pennywort.
at Elmley have been carrying out a fantastic job as usual. Last week we spent a
day finishing off a wiring job on the electric fence around the flood- a job
that’s been on the cards for some time! We’ve also been carrying out
a lot of vegetation clearance around visitor trails and in front of hides, but
it grows back so fast it’s a constant battle! Last week we also had a group
from Goldman Sachs come in for the day for a team challenge. We worked our way
along the sea wall clearing litter and washed up debris from the start of the
reserve near Wellmarsh hide all the way up to Spitend Point hide, and what a
lot of it there was! Many thanks to all involved- it would have been quite a
task to carry out by ourselves.
fancy volunteering at Elmley Marshes or any other RSPB reserve, why not have a
look at the RSPB volunteering pages online.
A spoonbill was back on the Flood again today until early afternoon, when it flew off south. But it re-appeared at c.7.45pm, dropping in front of Wellmarsh hide, where it fed for a few minutes before flying further back onto the Flood. We seem to be sharing this bird with the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Oare Marshes, on the other side of the Swale. Other waders around the reserve included 20 spotted redshank, 2 greenshank, 2 ruff, 7 dunlin, 3 whimbrel, 12 green sandpiper & 5 common sandpiper.Non-wadery highlights were 3 buzzard, 1 peregrine & a wheatear. Bearded tits were heard again from the small reedbed near Counterwall hide, but they remain elusive. There are now flocks of yellow wagtails in a huge variety of plumages following the herds of cattle on the marsh. I saw 12 sitting on the same gate beside the track down to the hides this afternoon.
The first rare of the autumn was found at Counterwall hide this afternoon. An adult pectoral sandpiper arrived in the company of a couple of ruff & stuck around, often showing very well right in front of the hide. Pec's are usually regarded as "Yanks", but their breeding range extends into Siberia, so an eastern origin isn't impossible. The spoonbill also dropped into the pool at Counterwall hide, so it was the place to be in the late afternoon. Other birds today included 14 spotted redshank, 7+ ruff, 100+ black-tailed godwit, 21 green sandpiper, 6 common sandpiper, 3 dunlin, 2 turnstone, 1 whimbrel, buzzard, peregrine, hobby, wheatear and several small flocks of sand martins, totalling c.30 birds heading south.
After a weeks absence, the 2 sub-adult spoonbills were back on the Flood at Elmley this afternoon, showing from Wellmarsh hide. Not as many black-tailed godwits present as the past few days (the tide wasn't particularly high), but still at least 350, as well as 27 spotted redshank, 2 greenshank & single ruff, common & green sandpipers. A single brent goose again, this time on the saltmarsh at Wellmarsh, along with 250 curlew.
The 2 spoonbills again on the Flood today, although one flew west at about 6.45pm. Also on the Flood 270 black-tailed godwit, but only 8 spotted redshank noted. More green sandpipers today, with at least 11 around the reserve. 2 sand martins flew south, along with small numbers of swift; and 2 juvenile great spotted woodpeckers were in the garden of Kingshill Farm, sharing a tree with a little owl.
Despite the slightly cooler conditions last night, the Elmley moth trap produced the best moth of the year so far: 2 specimens of the Nationally Scarce Starwort, a large moth restricted to saltmarshes in Southern Britain. Otherwise, it was the usual haul of rustics & dark arches, although there was the first buff tip and brown-tail (a localised species) of the year.