There is a lot of activity at Elmley Marshes at the moment.The drive down to the car park is fantastic with close views of displayingLapwing and Redshanks wandering closely along the track. I can confidently sayyou are very likely to see at least one stunning Yellow Wagtail and if you aresharp eyed you may also see some Brown Hares. Along with Marsh Harriers, youcan get all this even before you have parked your car!
At the carpark and around the farm Swallows are buildingtheir nest in the toilet block as they do every year and making a mess, howeverwe don’t mind – they are great to watch!
The Reserve is also looking great and supporting a goodnumber of nesting Lapwing and Redshank so please keep to the signposted paths toavoid any disturbance to them. Marsh frogs can be heard in the ditches running around/through the reserve. Whilst you are listening for the frogs keep your eyes openfor water voles sitting on the very edges of the ditches or swimming across.Water Voles are very quick to disappear when disturbed so you will often onlyhear a small splash as evidence of one jumping back into the water.
The recent snow fall may have stopped our work on the reserve but it hasn’t stopped the wildlife. On a recent count just before the snow fell over 7000 Wigeon, 5000 Teal as well as Pintails and Gadwall were all on the reservoir and in front of Southfleet Hide. Heading into Wellmarsh Hide we had Dunlin, Knot, Golden Plover, Bar tailed Godwit and Turnstone and also spotted 43 Barnacle Geese a bit further out in the field. Very high numbers of Lapwing all over the reserve along with Golden Plover, Curlew and 800+ Brent Geese.
I am keeping my eye open for the Cranes that have been seen on Southern Sheppey (on the 23rd they were sighted on the fields along Harty Ferry Road) but not on the reserve yet.
We were able to reopen the path leading to Counterwall Hide today. All over christmas we have had the sluice open to empty the borrow dyke and excess water out into the Swale and have finally got the level low enough to allow access.
A quick update on path conditions: The path leading to Counterwall hide is still flooded and so remains closed. All other paths and tracks on the reserve are extremely wet and muddy so please take care. Our main phone line is currently down so if you would like any information or want an update then please contact Lyndsey - 07714139415 or Nick - 07703717540.
Over the Christmas period staff and volunteers were on the reserve everyday to check on the livestock and make sure everything was in order. However the decision was made on boxing day that there just wasn’t enough nutritional grass to sustain our herd of Sussex cattle and so we arranged to have the grazier come in and take them off. This was easier said than done as he couldn’t get the lorry down to the corral for loading. This meant that our two lucky volunteers who were in that day assisted Nick in driving the herd all the way up the main track to Rose Cottage, the corral on ECT land which is far more accessible for the lorry. It only took an hour!!
Elmley is a wader and wildfowl wonderland at the moment with Wigeon and Teal numbers looking fantastic. 5000+ widgeon alone can be seen on the reservoir when the swale is choppy and they want some calmer waters. Around 200+ Dark Bellied Brent Geese were on the swale New Year’s Day which is always a spectacular site for the start of a new year!
In addition, there are the usual buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Peregrines, Merlins, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels. Also the irregular sightings of both Male and ring-tail hen harrier. Short Eared Owls are still stopping visitors in their track when spotted and also hunting Barn owls.
Mike our volunteer giving the cattle their christmas dinner
We have had to make the decision to temporally close the path leading to Counterwall Hide due to high water levels, we are doing everything we can to lower the levels but the path will remain closed for the time being. The situation will be reviewed on a daily basis.
If you are thinking of visiting the reserve in the near future access to Wellmarsh hide is still available as is Southfleet. Please use the main public right of way track to gain access to Southfleet via the wooden field gate at the entrance to the reserve but please ensure the gate is closed behind you. All paths are very muddy, wet and uneven, please wear suitable footwear.