Elmley nature reserve field trip report

On a lovely spring day 11 of us met in the car park on the Elmley reserve, having spent 30 or more minutes driving on the approach track to it and observing a number of birds that paid no attention to our vehicles and were seen by the side of the track, in some cases only a few feet away. They included a number of lapwings and lapwing chicks, oystercatchers, redshanks, mute swans, meadow pipits and for the first time for the group this year, yellow wagtails along with a solitary grey wagtail. A little farther away from the track, numerous waterfowl including shovelers and shellducks could be seen and a little nearer to the farm buildings a marsh harrier, a red legged partridge, kestrel, male and female pheasants and a wheatear were seen. Once parked up we saw a few swallows, some perching on the telegraph wires allowing photos to be taken. Later on a few goldfinches were heard with one sighting of a Cetti’s warbler.

Our first walk took us past what looked like two families of ducklings where there where large numbers of what seemed large flies which no doubt accounted for the presence of swallows. In the remains of the old school house (one wonders why such a building was built in such a remote place) we spotted (with some help!) a little owl which was only showing half of itself, the other half tucked into the side of a wall. Venturing down to the old brickworks by the Swale we heard marsh frogs and saw a number of marsh harriers and a common tern fishing – a lovely sight to see them diving, gannet-like into the pools. A little egret was nearby and then we spotted a few skylarks and a solitary whinchat that let us take some lovely photos of it. Onto the Swale we saw a couple more terns resting up with two more oystercatchers, a family of turnstones, one avocet and a single fox sunning itself. By that time the sun was high in the sky and it was lovely to no longer have to wear the heavy coats and rainwear we have been used to recently. On the return to the car park we stopped by the school house and the little owl was still in the same place and just as difficult to see, even though we knew were to look.

After some lunch some of the team went home whilst a few went down to the screen overlooking another part of the Swale then made their goodbyes. Four of us ventured down to a couple of the hides and saw reed buntings, a reed and a sedge warbler and from the hides a number of marsh harriers and large numbers of black headed gulls with more shovelers and other waterfowl. A solitary yellow wagtail was seen but unfortunately no bearded tits. Perhaps on the next visit they will put in an appearance. Arriving back to the car park we stumbled across Simon in his role as the new warden – our best wishes go to him in his new venture.

On the way out of the reserve I saw a couple of linnets, two marsh harriers very close to the track, a hare and many of the birds we saw earlier in the morning. In total we saw just shy of 50 species and everyone had a lovely day. If you go to one reserve only and have transport, try and make it this one you will not be disappointed.

Steve Clarke – field trip leader