Compared to some of the glorious winter weather we've experienced recently, today wasn't too inspirational, but the team took the opportunity to get out "in the field" anyway. A quick check first of the Elmley livestock: all the cattle have now gone until the spring, with only the sheep remaining. We had to pause briefly to right a "rolled" animal - at this time of year, with a heavy fleece, sheep that get stuck on their backs can't get up on their feet themselves. One of the reasons we carry out daily checks. Moving through the reserve, we paused briefly at Great Bells Farm to the north, where a female merlin was lurking with intent on a section of ditch spoil, before heading east to Capel Fleet & Harty. We had a good close look at the new RSPB fields at Harty to discuss the best way to manage them in the short term. There are still a lot of skylarks feeding in the fields, but we only saw one Lapland bunting (although I was told later that there are still 30+ around). A couple of bearded tits called from Capel Fleet & there was a small flock of linnets bouncing around. No birds of prey seen, although the weather wasn't great for them. However, we did find what was left of a short-eared owl along one of the ditches. Putting on our CSI badges, we noted a couple of owl pellets, so assumed that the owl was roosting there. The feathers scattered around had been bitten through - a sure sign of a fox. Had the owl been surprised by a fox at roost? But the droppings amongst the feathers didn't look like fox - maybe more mustelid. Could a stoat or mink have done for the owl initially and a fox had scavenged what was left? I guess we'll never know for sure.
After lunch, we carried out the Elmley reserve WeBS count. The Wetland Bird Survey is a national monthly high tide count co-ordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology. Ideally, all the counts are carried out on one designated day. But this month in Kent, the actual date of the count saw high tide at 4am or 4.40pm. Not ideal. So we did it today. As usual, the most numerous species were lapwing & wigeon: 3500 of the former & 2800 of the latter. Other peaks included 2500 dunlin, 1000 teal & 550 shelduck. Reasonable counts, but well down on "normal" winter totals. Additionally, the rough-legged buzzard was reported again from Spitend hide, along with a great white egret; and there were peregrine, merlin & buzzard around the reserve. A spotted redshank was seen again and a water rail scurrying across the track was an unexpected surprise.
22nd August I took some photographs of a large stoat roaming around the ditch area on returning from spitend. It was a very hot day, and clear blue sky's, the stoat was walking/hunting along the far ditch from us as we walked back towards the main gate. It was a large stoat, with a white/cream blaze. There is a post on ELMLEY MARSH forum, with photo's of the stoat. I will add the photo's again for you Gordon, under "GORDONS STOAT".