Fingers crossed, the Elmley/RSPB website saga could soon be rectified. It seems that the mobile phone connection we use for our computer system at Kingshill Farm has been routing requests to access the website to a different address & so the operation "times out" before the mistake is realised by the computer. Hopefully, I'll be back on line very soon.
I'm at Northward Hill again today, so no problem with access here and so a swift up-date seems to be in order. As has been noted on the Forum, the drought continues - a measly 7mm of rain in September & not much more so far this month. On the plus side, the dry conditions have allowed me to get the tractor & discs out onto the pool at Wellmarsh (& one or two other main rills) & scarify the substrate in preparation for re-flooding. Now we just need the rain..We're also starting to get a bit short of decent cattle grazing on the marsh, so I've turned out a big bunch of cows onto the seawall to graze that down. We don't cut the grass along the walls (although the Environment Agency do), allowing it to get quite rank, for the benefit of small mammals, nesting skylarks & invertebrates. However, it's important to allow some grazing to control the ranker grasses & weeds and allow the more delicate wild flowers some room. At some point soon, I will probably have to direct visitors using the existing disabled carparking facility through the other gate to allow the cattle access to that bit of wall. I've found that cattle & parked vehicles don't mix all that well.
The month began in fine style, with the discovery of a buff-breasted sandpiper on the fields below Kingshill Farm. This American rarity was part of an almost unprecedented arrival of Yank waders into the UK on the back of Hurricane Katia and attracted quite a few visitors to see this distinctive little bird, which in a reflection of it's normal prairie habitats, found the short-grazed dry grassland to it's liking for a couple of days. Waders are still using the dry pool at Wellmarsh to roost over high tide and amongst the ringed plovers & dunlin, we've had a few little stints & curlew sandpipers and even a very late little ringed plover last week. There is also still the odd greenshank & spotted redshank about, although these are now more likely to be birds that will winter on the Swale, as opposed to migrants
But eyes are now focussed on arriving winter visitors: a very early female snow bunting has now been joined by a smart male bird and they seem to have settled in the area around Swale hide, where there was also a departing wheatear y/day. Hen harriers & short-eared owls are now being seen much more regularly - we're due a short-eared owl year, after two duff ones. A flock of fieldfare flew over Kingshill Farm on the 13th. The expected winter raptors (merlin, peregrine & buzzard) are regularly seen & there was a report of a migrant rough-legged buzzard at the eastern end of Sheppey y/day, so we will see if that sticks around/ventures our way. Duck numbers have been slow to build, presumably as a result of the unseasonal warm, dry conditions, but there are currently c.1000 teal, 500 wigeon and a scattering of pintail around the site and a female common scoter has been present out on the Swale.