Apologies for the complete lack of blogs over the past month, but as RR mentioned on a recent Forum posting, I'm still experiencing major problems accessing the RSPB website from Elmley & no-body seems to know why that is. So today, I'm at Northward Hill for the annual Wildlife & Country Fair and have grabbed 5 minutes for a swift up-date. Undoubted highlight of the past few days was the discovery of an immature purple heron by Steve Gordon (Site Manager of the Elmley Conservation Trust part of the reserve) on Thursday in a series of ditches near the access track. There was no sign on Friday, but it had re-appeared on Saturday (much to my relief) & showed quite well to a few patient observers. We've still got a couple of spoonbills, as well as up to 40 little egrets & 20 grey herons. August is THE month for passage waders and we've already had the first returning curlew sandpiper at the beginning of the month. There's also been 2 wood sandpipers, 20 green & 12 common sandpipers, greenshanks, spotted redshanks, ruff, snipe, whimbrel, up to 9 little ringed plovers and the first returning golden plovers. The high tides haven't been quite high enough to push many "grey" waders off of the Swale & onto the Flood, but there are grey plover, bar-tailed godwit & dunlin around. Other highlights include a single eclipse garganey on the 3rd; buzzard, peregrine & hobby for the raptors, a few bearded tits in areas of reed, lots of yellow wagtails, the first returning wheatears & whinchats, willow warbler in the orchard & the barn owl chicks in the nest box have now fledged. No sign of the long-eared owls for weeks now.
The other main wildlife highlight of the past few days occurred on the night of the 3rd, when I ran the moth trap at Kingshill Farm. It wasn't a bad catch, but right at the bottom I found a moth that I thought that I recognised. But on closer examination, I realised I didn't know what it was. In fact it turned out to be a Many-lined, a species that occurred in the UK until the end of the 19th century, but that has been extinct since. There have been a few records of migrants to the UK since 2000, but this constitutes the 1st Kent record. I was quite chuffed!
The pool at Wellmarsh hide is now very dry, but continuing to attract birds (7 LRP the other night) and Swale hide is still closed. We've had a series of quotes for the repairs and, fund-raising permitting, we hope to get it fixed next month.
Right - I'd better get back to the Fair. More as and when.
Another 2 weeks has passed & still no joy in getting onto the RSPB website at Elmley - a real conundrum. I have been sent another possible fix that I will try when I return to Kingshill Farm, but I'm currently at Northward Hill, hence the chance for a further up-date about what's hip & happening on the reserve.
From a management perspective, we've already completed the years "topping" in the fields. This involves cutting the dead seed heads & thistles from the grassland & improves the sward for the grazing animals. The dry conditions have meant that there's been relatively little grass growth this year, so we've been able to knock it off in double-quick time. We have left a small area in front of Cod's House, as bits of the reserve have been selected to feature in a new film adaptation of Great Expectations! Filming is expected to go ahead in November, so the reserve will probably look a little different when the crew come back... The drying out of Wellmarsh pool is progressing well (as has been noted on the Forum) and we will soon be able to get on to manage the vegetation & sediment without getting stuck. The pump & pipes have been used to keep the other pools wet, but there's been relatively few waders using the Flood, mainly as the recent high tides haven't been sufficiently high to push them off the Swale & onto the reserve. I had to assist with a bit of cow midwifery last week: both my assistants were on a First Aid course, so I was doing the livestock check. One of the Sussex cows was lying at the back of the field and at first I feared the worst. However, when i went to check on her, she got up & wandered off. I thought that maybe she'd just been having a kip, as she looked in good shape, but then I noticed something protruding from her back end - the start of a calf! A quick call to the grazier & they arrived within the hour with a trailer & the calf was delivered safely. We had to transfer it to the back of the graziers truck for the journey back to the farm, as there was the danger that the mother might inadvertantly stand on the calf during the journey. You have no idea how slimey a newly born calf is!
The purple heron remained to last Thursday at least, as it's not been reported since to the best of my knowledge. I saw it well on a few occasions, but on none of them did I have a camera with me. Fortunately some friends of mine who were visiting did manage to get a decent image, so if they send me a copy, I will post it. The spoonbills are still being seen regularly, with up to seven present, including a colour-ringed (& flagged) Dutch bird. Best waders of the recent week or so include a couple of little stints that have come up on the high tide, usually with a mixed flock of ringed plover & dunlin. There are still reasonable numbers of green sandpipers moving through, but common sandpipers are down to a handful. Ruff have peaked at 13, with up to 9 greenshank & still the odd spotted redshank or two. Golden plover have increased to 35, but avocets are fast disappearing from the Flood, with only a few not-quite fledged youngsters & their parents remaining. The waders outside the seawall have included grey plover & curlew, with a few whimbrel, bar-tailed godwit & knot. A female eider has been seen in Wellmarsh Creek at high tide on a few occasions. LOTS of young yellow wagtails about, a few wheatears & whinchats; and the orchard at Kingshill Farm has had willow warbler & chiffchaff, whitethroat, blackcap & reed warbler. The long-eared owl re-appeared for one day last week on it's willow tree perch, but hasn't been seen again since, although I'm sure that it's still in there. And there's still barn owl activity in the nest box, although the juveniles have all fledged successfully. Other birds of prey around at the moment include hobby, peregrine & buzzard and I've seen the first of this years crop of wing-tagged marsh harriers - a bird with yellow & white tags.