Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day! Sunny all day, hardly any wind, fabulous. And lots of people agreed, as I've not seen the car park as full in a long time. Which made it even worse, as I was still feeling like death on a stick, trying to shake off the cold bug that had overwhelmed me last week and so I spent most of the day huddled round a mug of hot lemon & honey. I did manage to pop out for a short while in the afternoon around the farm and was pleased to see an early hunting barn owl, a buzzard and a peregrine, plus the usual flocks of wigeon, lapwing and feral geese (the white-fronts seem to have temporarily moved on).
But I definitely didn't share one (?) lucky observers fortune, when the bird of the year so far drifted over Spitend just about lunch-time
Red Kite - Phil Haynes
I've seen red kites at Elmley before, but to see one on Sunday afternoon, with that light! That would have been special.
Well, there's no denying that we could use a bit of rain, but what a dismal day! The steady rain set in pretty much from the off and then didn't relent all day. Naturally, our cattle grazier had decided to come up today to take off the first lot of cows that will be calving in the next month or two. The cattle still look in very good condition, but a growing calf takes it out of the old girls and so they need a bit more TLC than we can provide. The rest go tomorrow and then we'll be left with a couple of dozen heifers to see us through to the spring. But we've still got the sheep and they're doing well too - our neighbour described the tegs as "fat as toast" - not a phrase I've heard before, but music to our ears!
Since the snow, we've seen more & more duck starting to use the reserve - initially mostly on the Flood, but now spreading out across the whole site. Todays most interesting duck were out on the Swale though - 4 eiders drifting up on the tide. But there's still thousands of wigeon & hundreds of teal, shelduck & pintail around. The only raptor that I saw today in the rain was a single sparrowhawk, but yesterday there was a ring-tail hen harrier, a merlin and a peregrine. There was also a single spotted redshank out on the marsh and there's a regular small roost of assorted waders (dunlin, grey plover, knot & turnstone) on the Flood at Wellmarsh, where there were also 6 avocets today.
A slightly belated new year's greeting from Elmley. I have been back at the reserve since the 30th, but haven't found the time to update what's been going on here. So here's a quick summary.
Natalie found an Egyptian goose by the access track on Boxing Day and up to 4 have been present on and off into the new year, usually north of the track near Straymarsh Farm. This is still an unusual bird in Kent and any records are notable. On the 29th, both a male and female hen harrier were around the reserve, along with a merlin & a couple of peregrines. A singing corn bunting was in the Kingshill Farm garden on the 30th and there was a short-eared owl hunting the fields close to the farm in the evening. I only had the chance to check around the farm on the 31st, but that produced the corn bunting again, 1 woodcock, 30 fieldfare and 3 goldcrests and 2 blue tits that had survived the freeze.
Going out to turn the generator on on New Years Day and I was pleased to hear and then see a couple of hundred white-fronted geese flighting in to the fields behind Kingshill Farm. The gas guns have been sited on the fields around Capel Fleet and so the geese that had been feeding there have now dispersed. There were 360 white-fronts feeding by the counterwall today, including 2 birds with neck collars - part of a Dutch-German research project. I've sent the data to the project website, so we'll need to wait and see what information we get back. For anyone interested in looking for these birds, they had black collars with the white figures "KT 3" and "KK 3". There have been up to 3 buzzards, 2 peregrine and a ring-tail hen harrier around over the past couple of days. Now that the Flood has thawed, there have been big numbers of duck on the reserve - mainly wigeon, with something in the region of 4-5000 out there yesterday; and smaller numbers of pintail, teal, mallard and shelduck. The high tide has pushed a few hundred dunlin, grey plover, knot and turnstone onto the Flood as well.
We'll be pumping water as much as possible over the next few weeks in order to get the reserve nice and wet, so that should increase the numbers of birds using the site.