Sunday, 3 April 2011

The car's the star

We both woke up feeling poorly today, with a coldy, fluey thing, and missed aikido accordingly. Later on I persuaded Rob to drive to Elmley - not to walk about but just to take photos from the car along the access track. For those who don't know, this track traverses about two miles of grazing marsh and often gives really close views of whatever birds happen to be around.

This is about 10% of a very big Curlew flock, sadly they didn't come any closer than this. But it was encouraging to see a bit of birdlife from the off.

As usual, there were many Lapwings pottering about in the fields, some very near the track. This one is showing us that it was really quite a windy day.

Some of the Lapwings were doing their territorial tumbling displays. This photo is notable because I took it while the car was still moving - who needs VR?

A Kestrel wheeled about and hovered near the car. Sadly the light was against us and all I got were silhouettes - a bit of digital contrast adjustment was needed to reveal its pretty face.

While we were watching the Kestrel, this Grey Heron came lumbering over. It was one of about six seen during the drive.

Check all the gateposts for resting raptors if you ever come here. I did so, and found a very distant Buzzard. Less exciting, but slightly more attainable distance-wise, was this Stock Dove.

There are very few bushes along the track. I was really delighted to hear a familar key-jangling song coming from two of them. This was the closer of the two Corn Buntings. It was surprising to see the two singing males so close together. This species always (as far as I know) sings from elevated perches - could this actually be a limiting factor on population density.

When we reached the reserve car park, I went for a short stroll around while Rob sorted out his camera stuff. I found this female House Sparrow resting atop a nice-looking nestbox, apparently paralysed with indecision about which entrance hole to use.

And overhead - my first Swallow, and indeed first hirundine, of 2011. Lovely. Though to see Swallow before Sand Martin in any given year surely suggests I'm a lazy birder. Especially as Sandies breed on my local patch. Never mind, it was wonderful to see a Swallow, and astounding to get an almost in-focus flight shot of it as well.

We'd just begun the return trip when I spotted something pointy and dark among the long grass. A bit of car-shuffling later and we were enjoying quite close views of two lovely Brown Hares. Where were you last autumn when I needed a hare photo for my latest book, eh? Never mind. We hoped to see some shenanigans between them but they were more interested in munching grass.

The other hare was a richer, foxier red-brown than the first. It was also more restless, and after a while scampered off down the slope.

While we were hare-watching, this Shelduck pair flew by. Not a great shot but it does show nicely the differences between the sexes. Note the male (bringing up the rear) has a broader chestband, and (for want of a more elegant term) a big red knob. On his bill.

A bit further on, a stunning male Marsh Harrier flew across the track. We'd seen several others, but all impossibly distant. This one was way ahead of us, but we drove to the point he'd crossed and waited in case he came back. Much to our surprise, he did, and crossed back at close quarters. He seemed to have a tiny something in his talons, and was calling constantly. When he was some way away we saw there was a female following him.

Amid this excitement, an adult Mediterranean Gull flew by, faster than my reflexes could cope with. I hope it's IDable from this shot, anyway.

A couple more waders to end with. There were plenty of Redshanks around, but none were very close. I also saw two Ruffs, which were both distant and quick to scarper.

Oystercatchers, doing their piping thing. A lovely sound, even though they look completely ridiculous while they do it.

Just a couple more hare pics, just because :)


Kieron said...

We also went to Elmley today and I have a very similar photo of the Sparrow box! I love the drive in, I always get excited about Lapwing, Redshank and Oyster Catcher and by the time I reach the farm I am more "Oh, just another Lapwing"!

Sad that I missed the Corn Bunting.

IOW Birder said...

Hi Marianne,
Excellent pics and a great read,

ShySongbird said...

You have a most interesting blog, lovely photos on this post and former posts. Love the Hare photos!

The Oystercatchers reminded me of policemen in a line scouring the ground for evidence ;)

Derek Beattie said...

Great Hare pics and strangely enough totally agree about the Oyster-Catchers :)