Elmley is definitely living up to its reputation as a winter wildfowl spectacular! If you wrap up warm and make the walk down to the reserve (particularly good either side of high tide) you will see thousands of Wigeon and Teal – particularly from Southfleet Hide and around the reservoir. Also Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall and even the odd Goldeneye have been spotted.
1000+ Dunlin are making use of the islands in front of Wellmarsh Hide along with Grey Plover, Turnstone, Knot, Snipe and Ringed Plover. Dark Bellied Brent Goose are close to reaching a count of 100 and can be seen grazing in the fields along with Lapwings, Golden Plover and Curlews digging in the mud for invertebrates.
As Graham mentioned in his blog there are plenty of raptors about. Marsh Harriers, Merlin, Buzzards and the Peregrine are all being seen on a daily basis. Short Eared Owls and Barn Owls are out and about hunting. Early evenings are the best time to see these although if you are lucky you will sometimes see the Short Eared Owls hunting during the day.
Hello, bit of a Blogger change for what will probably be the last update of the year. I’m Graham Hill one of the regular volunteers on the Elmley reserve.
In the last post Lyndsey, said it was feeling wintery, well, it has well and truly arrived now. Regular visitors know how bitter it can get down here, so you can imagine how the dusting of snow has confirmed winters’ arrival and the mandatory wearing of thermal underwear!
I was fortunate enough to have a Volunteering day sanctioned by my employer on Friday, I didn’t wear thermals so my advice above is heartfelt (well lower than heart!), but despite the bitter northerly winds, I had, as ever, a great day helping out around the reserves.
The weather has brought in a fantastic influx of winter wildfowl. Really good numbers of Wigeon and Teal, Brents and Greylags abound. The constant background babble of “purring & chattering” Brents and the “whistles” of Widgeon, keeping us company in this isolated location. Best views and ambience from Southfleet hide.
As ever, plenty of raptors around on the eye for a ready meal.
The LEO in the orchard, had been a bit of a star attraction, however probably thinking it too cold to sit around all day, has finally moved on(not been seen since mid-November), I must admit I’d have done the same given the weather!
Please take extra care when driving on to and off the reserve, as the conditions can be challenging, I know the tracks route pretty well having travelled it many, many times, but I still had a bit of “moment” on Friday.
It is really beginning to feel wintery on the reserve. Raptors are really making their presence known with Hen Harrier, Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Shorteared Owls and Barn Owls all spotted over the weekend by visitors.
From Spitend Hide the estuarine waders can be seen in relative comfort out of the wind. These are including high numbers of Curlew, gulls, Dunlin, Turnstone, Blacktailed Godwits, Knot, Oyster Catchers, Lapwing and Plovers to name a few.
On the reserve there are still a few Green Sandpipers, greenshank, Snipe, Wigeon, Teal and Pintailed ducks along with Canada Geese, Brents and Greylags. Around the farm carpark there are quite a few small birds hanging around the bird feeders and bushes including Robins, Black Birds, Wrens plenty of Goldfinches and I also spotted a Gold Crest hiding out in the Orchard. Long Eared Owl was last seen on the 8th November.
Many may have noticed this year that we have had no trouble raising our water levels. Plenty of rain has meant that the reserve is possibly looking the wettest that most can remember. This is fantastic as it has created a great habitat for the winter bird’s arrival. It also makes our days much more enjoyable trying to get around the reserve as we have to abandon the truck and walk. Rain has not stopped management work either as the never ending maintenance of our 2 electric fences continues. This includes checking for any shorts, cutting back vegetation and re-securing the underlying terram matting. The two extra wires that the volunteers added to the fences this time last year seem to have done the trick with keeping foxes out of the wader nesting areas.
Throughout October/ early Nov the Long Eared Owl has been sitting in the orchard giving visitors fantastic opportunities to see him. Typically on the busiest days he would disappear deeper into the orchard leaving visitors very disappointed if not determined to see him. He was last seen on Thursday 8th November.
We started weaning the calves from the cows on Friday .....this has caused all sorts of drama including cows swimming ditches and wardens not being able to get through gateways. However it should all settle down in a day or two when the cows realise they no longer have their calves around to worry about.
It is getting to the time of year where we start seeing the marsh looking like everyone supposes a marsh should look like.....very wet. With all the rain we have had over the last couple of weeks it is not surprising that the water levels have risen and all the rills and scrapes have filled up. This is great, but it does pose problems for the team here to get around! We all try to stay on the main track as much as possible. If we were to start driving in the fields we would soon find we have a big muddy mess.
It is still vital we get out if only to check on our livestock. They are checked on a daily basis but we are being especially vigilant with our sheep. It is very common at this time of year for sheep to ‘roll’. Due to their big and heavy fleeces a sheep can get stuck on its back which could prove fatal if it is not helped and rolled back onto its feet as soon as possible.
Elmley has always been a great time to see Hares. As I drove into work this morning I spotted 6 sitting on the side of the track. Hares can be seen at any time of the day but early morning and evenings are the best time to look. Normally solitary creatures only pairing up in the spring, it was a real treat to see this small group or ‘drove’ as a group is often known as, I just wish I had my camera on me.
Our Long eared Owl is still making a regular appearance and is currently sitting on his favourite perch as I write this blog. However, being a bit of a tease (especially, it would seem on the days people come to see him) he retreats deeper into the orchard out of sight. Short eared Owl and Ringed tailed Hen Harrier were seen yesterday over the flood, with merlin, peregrines and kestrels all being spotted over the weekend. Wader/ waterfowl peaks for Elmley this month include 1500 Teal, 500 Wigeon, 250 Shelduck, 700 Lapwing.