Not been around much recently due to work and social functions (wedding, birthday, party, etc.) so I decided to have a day off work and head out to the marshes for some well deserved nature.
First off was this Redshank sitting right in the middle of the access road. I had to drive around him/her and it finally moved off to the side where I managed to get a really close shot of it. This is a close crop from that shot.
Next a Skylark having a dust bath, again in the middle of the access road. Again I had to drive around it and it too stayed close to the edge allowing me to get another really close shot.
There were a few cars in car park but it wasn't particularly busy (though it was a Friday morning). So I wandered along the access track to the hides, stopping in wonder at the hordes of butterflies in the bushes that fly out as you walk past. Kind of reminded me of those sci-fi films you see where all the butterflies swarm around the alien! :o)
Just along the track was this Sedge Warbler singing its little heart out.
At work we've got a walking challenge starting in a couple of weeks. This is basically a team of six people, each gets a pedometer and between July and October the team that acculates the most steps is the winner. Not sure what they win but the idea is to promote more walking in an industry where most employees are sitting at a desk all day.
So to get in training I headed straight for Spitend to get the maximum number of steps, also it is a pretty much guaranteed close-up views of a Marsh Harrier. It was pretty quiet out there (didn't see anyone else) but sure enough after about 20 minutes the first Marsh Harrier appeared.
About an hour later a second flew and this one got really close to the hide and stayed there hovering over the reed beds searching for a meal. I managed to get these shots and I also realised it was wing-tagged too.
Some of the closest and sharpest shots I've got of the Marsh Harriers so far I think.
It was so close that in the last shot you can see that it was actually looking straight at me as it must have heard the shutter going in the camera. Upto that point it had thankfully been too focused on finding food!
Nothing was going to top the experience with the Marsh Harrier, so I headed back to the car park having clocked up over 17,000 steps in the day! At that rate I could potentially clock up over half a million steps during the challenge! :o)
Anyway, driving back out a group of birds sitting on the fence in the garden of one of the farm houses caught my eye. I started taking photos and realised that it was three (what look like) juvenile Kestrel.
It looked like they may have fairly recently fledged as they were sticking together as a group and also practicing flying and hunting.
Amazingly there were rabbits running about right next to them. Obviously the rabbits were a bit too big for the Kestrels to catch but it did look like the rabbits were dicing with death!
Sorry, meant to also add the link to a short video of another Sedge Warbler singing...
Great selection of pics especially the harrier shots,I have not been able to get any close ups of them yet at Elmley they always seem to be going away from me or on the occasion one flew over me it caught me by surprise and I wasnt ready for it. It sure is a hike and an half to the hides I done it last year and knew about it when I got home, looks as if you enjoyed your day off.
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Thanks Shane. Indeed the harriers have been pretty elusive for me too. It's taken nearly two years to be lucky enough to get that close to them.
All I'd say is be persistent and Spitend seems to be the best place to see them in my experience. They tend to fly in across the fields on the left from Leysdown and quarter along the edge of the reserve. If you're lucky, like I was this time, one will stop and hover over the reed beds right near the hide.
Great photos & video , I do like the Marsh Harriers and with the wing tags, Have you followed that up .
Glad you had a good day .
Hi RR. Hope you are well. Thanks for the kind comments on the photos and video. Glad you like them.
I have followed up on the Marsh Harrier. I've emailed the photo showing the wing tag to the guys at Elmley as I wasn't sure where to send the report. They said they would pass it on for me. I've actually found where I need to send the report now as my mate and I went out to Harty today and there was a notice in the hide out there. It looks like it was one of ten harriers to be tagged and ringed in 2009; white 03 specifically on 10th June 2009 (http://www.swalewaders.co.uk/index.php?id=537). So it is good to see that it is a) still alive and b) still on Sheppey.
On the subject of Harty; if you are over here on the island then I'd certainly recommend checking it out. My mate and I saw loads out there including more Marsh Harriers, Swallow and Swift flying low over the wheat fields catching the flies, but best of all (in my opinion) a Little Owl near the church (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/gary_watkins/5870578827/in/photostream). There are other shots of it and the other stuff we saw on my Flickr photostream.
Also there were parts of Harty and Shellness I'd never been to before. So we ended up doing a monster walk from the church, out to the hide, onto Shellness, out to the café for a coffee and then finally back to the church via the Harty Ferry nature trail. It must have been 8 miles or more and carrying all the camera gear too - I think I'll certainly feel it tomorrow!!!
I'd highly recommend it though. The paths are well signposted and, like I say, there is loads to see. Let me know if you would like any directions.
Keeping well thanks and so must you be, to be doing all that walking with the gear as well.
Lets hope everyone in your team are doing as well.
More nice pictures on Flickr, thanks for sharing.
I have seen the signs from the Harty Inn , I will have to give it a go.
Look after yourself
All the best
Many thanks for the compliments on my photographs. And yes the bird had a lovely song to it. Anyway great shots there Gaz, fantastic marsh harrier shots, one for my list. There was a couple of kestrels flying around the last time I was there, just after seeing a marsh harrier that's just as I got on the main drive/access road, first cattle grid area. but well done, look forward to seeing more..
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I actually heard from the RSPB Communication Officer for Kent about that Marsh Harrier shot. He wants to use it for the title page of a new North Kent Marshes e-newsletter that he is putting together so I'm pretty chuffed.
Also he is planning to build a life-size model Marsh Harrier for children to hold and thinks the shot will help as a source of reference, as it shows the feet in detail and their proportion to the body. So I'm really pleased that it has proved useful in that way too.
Yeah that's the place I saw the Kestrels too.
Good luck with the Marsh Harrier!
Great news on the marsh harrier photo, I could see that it was a great photo. Keep me posted on the e-newsletter, I look forward seeing your photo on the front page. Might have to pop over to spitend, if they come that close in to view, think it was after your sardines Gaz..lol