Sunday, 25 March 2012

The foggiest idea

Today I went to Elmley Marshes with the Sevenoaks RSPB group. There were seven of us altogether, all blithely expecting another lovely sunny day as it was yesterday. However, the Thames estuary bucked the national trend and remained shrouded in low grey cloud all day. It was therefore not a good photography day, but we saw some nice birds.

First up, along the access track, was this... escapee Harris Hawk. Having given its owner the slip it has wisely headed for one of the best raptor spots in Britain. There was little else along the track, though the resident Lapwings and Redshanks are showing signs of breeding activity. From a distant gull flock the 'yowks' of Mediterranean Gulls were audible among the 'skreearrs' of Black-headeds.

From the car park a look over the wall revealed a herd of Wigeon grazing on the slope, Avocets on the small flood, and a couple of Stock Doves in the tree with the owl box.

Walking along the top part of the path, before it dips down by the sea wall, one of the group spotted a couple of distant Short-eared Owls over the rough grass. One stayed distant, but the other flew a little closer before pitching into the grass and giving us scope views.

We watched for a while, then it took off again and flew down out of sight towards the foreshore.

We carried on towards the first hide, noting this fine Pheasant, a Little Grebe yickering away in one of the channels, numerous Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, and a couple of Reed Buntings in the reedbeds.

A tight flock of about 33 (OK, I counted them) Golden Plovers flickered over shortly before we reached the first hide. Once inside, we could see plenty of avian action, especialy Avocets and Shelducks, but everything was all a long way off.

We went on to the next hide, flushing three Snipes on the way. From here there was even more to see - still distant though. Overexcited Avocets and Redshanks ran to and fro by the water's edge, while further out were numerous Shovelers, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and Shelducks. A few Teals and Gadwalls were among the wildfowl, while distantly a Marsh Harrier quartered and a Common Buzzard circled.

After copulating these two Avocets performed a curious display whereby they locked necks and ran very fast several metres through the shallow water, startling a Dunlin.

Lots of Shelducks were coming in from the shore, in ones, twos, and flocks. They were coming in from entirely the wrong angle for photos, sadly (except this one). Avocet numbers were also growing as small flocks kept arriving.

 We were all really feeling the cold by this point, and it was decided to end things early and walk back. On the way was the most approachable of the day's Meadow Pipits.

Despite the chill, both Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were songflighting all over the place. I managed what should have been a good Skylark pic - bird square and large in the frame, but sadly blurry. These more distant but less blurry shots will have to do - and they have had a bit of Photoshop bullying to bring out a little more detail.

The only other passerines around were Reed Buntings, not singing yet but at least hanging around among reeds as they are supposed to.

I paused at the spot where we'd seen the Shorties earlier, hoping for another showing, but they were nowhere to be seen. A Kestrel provided consolation.

The access track back yielded a lovely but far away male Marsh Harrier, and close views of a gang of Rooks, which for me made a good end to the outing as I rather like Rooks and don't see them often enough.


Marc Heath said...

Lovely account and some nice shots of the day.

Warren Baker said...

Chilly or not, you had some good birds there Marianne, and got some on camera, I think you did well :-)

Phil said...

Cor blimey that was a cold day Marianne! I was in Gillingham and it was freezing.
Didn't spoil the day for those Avocets though did it!
Some nice pics as usual though despite the conditions.

ShySongbird said...

A lovely and very interesting read Marianne. Well illustrated with some lovely photos too, I think you did extremely well in those conditions, much better than I could have. You probably would rather not know but it was glorious here!

My favourite photos are the SeOs, the Avocets (we don't see those at all around here) and the Mipit. I too rather like Rooks, well I like all the Corvids really, so intelligent!

creadur said...

There can never be too many pictures of birds in the world. Thank you :D