Should have been working up on the Greensand Ridge today , but at the last minute , the work was cancelled , and I was at a loss , as to what to do .
Quickly decided to head for Elmley , an RSPB reserve on the Isle of Sheppey , probably not one of my best decisions , as the site was wide open to the strong wind , blowing off the North Sea . When I arrived , it was like a gale was blowing , but , I was there then , and made the most of it . As I drove up the track , across farmland , the only birds I could find , were those sheltering in the long grass or on the right side of the many ditches . I was not far along the track , when a large raptor , loomed out of one of the ditches . I quickly got the camera out , and managed a couple of shots , before the beautiful female Marsh Harrier , disappeared into the distance , carried on that wind . I was hoping to find one or two Yellow Wagtails on the track , but they must have already headed South . The most numerous bird seen was the Lapwing . Further on , I spotted a Kestrel , continually hovering , then dropping to the ground , only to fly a bit further and repeat the whole thing . I couldn't see for sure , but I thought it might have been catching Grasshoppers . A few more distant sightings of Marsh Harrier and a couple of Little Egret , was all that was found on the way to the car park . The hides are a good walk from there , so I got all my gear together and set off . I stopped at the Orchard , but there was no sign of the Long Eared Owls at roost , not surprising , as the trees were almost horizontal . Whilst looking for the LEOs , a small bird came into my view through the binoculars , and I was pretty sure that it was a juvenile Redstart , but I only had a quick glimpse . I was pleased when I checked the sightings board on my way out , that one had been recorded in the Orchard yesterday . Heading for the hides , I passed a dumping area for what looked like silt and reeds , dredged from the ditches . I saw movement , so stopped and scanned the piles . It was difficult to stand still never mind steady the binoculars , but I did see 4/5 Wheatear , and in the middle of a rain shower , I got this specimen , which I think is a Whinchat . The shots are poor because of the conditions and to get any closer was impossible , they just disappeared . It was very quiet from there to the first hide , with the exception of Coot and Little Grebe . I was the only one in the hide , and as I opened the flap , what little was in front took to the air . But , I then realised it wasn't me , but another Marsh Harrier steaming across the pool and away . All it had chased off , was a small flock of Teal and about 20/25 Shellduck including juveniles . 2 of the juveniles just stayed motionless , and carried on feeding within seconds . The second hide produced just 2 Ringed Plover close in , but lots more species including Curlew , Avocet , GBB Gull , LBB Gull , BH Gull and a few Redshank , but they were a long way off , and difficult to focus on . The third hide produced 5 Ruff , 3 Green Sandpiper and 3 Dunlin , but once again far off .As I was leaving this hide , I came across the biggest Devil's Coach Horse that I have ever seen , it must have been 3/4 cms. long . The tide was in on the Swale , and only a couple of Common Terns and a couple of Cormorants were found . The walk back to the car park was quite uneventful , apart from a flock of about 30/35 Whimbrel , all lifting off together , changing their feeding area . No sign of the Wheatears or Whinchat? on the silt piles . On the way back down the track , I found this Kestrel , posing on a gate post . I'm not sure if it was the one seen earlier or another one . Just before reaching the road , a small flock of birds were bathing in a puddle . They flew off as I approached , but this one posed just long enough for a shot on the fence wire , another Whinchat . I had a run down to the Raptor Viewpoint at Capel Fleet , but only found another Kestrel on the wires . A small flock of Red Legged Partridge , scuttled off in one field , but very little else , until another Marsh Harrier low over a ploughed field like an Exocet missile .
In total , I recorded 45 species , and must have had 12/15 raptor sightings , but they were all Kestrel or Marsh Harrier .
A couple of plants found today , at Elmley almost finished now , just a few heads of Common Sea Lavender , and , amongst the Hawes in the hedges near the Raptor Viewpoint , unexpectedly , a few bushes of Sea Buckthorn , which isn't in the Buckthorn family , but the Oleaster family .