Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday 18th. December 2013

With bad weather reportedly coming in later in the week , I decided to get out early on Tuesday and as the Thames estuary seemed best for the day's weather , headed for Elmley Reserve , remembering half way that that reserve is shut on Tuesdays , so continued down to Oare Marshes , near Faversham . I arrived to grey skies and drizzle , and that was the way it stayed all visit . I took my camera , but I must admit , it spent most of the visit under my fleece . From the pull in , halfway down to the car park , good numbers of Wigeon , Shoveler , Teal and Tufted Duck , together with a
fair number of Pintail , three pictured . I say a fair number as I read that another birder had c300 not that far away , down by the Sheppey bridge . As usual , lots of Lapwing , which , with every other species , took to the skies as a Sparrowhawk flew across the East flood , closely followed by a few Corvids . Parking up and checking the tide , well on it's way in , I made my way along the sea wall to
the hide at the entrance to Faversham Creek , finding not much more than the odd Curlew , several
Redshank and a few Turnstone , avidly turning over the seaweed looking for a meal . I could make out a good sized flock of waders in front of the hide from a distance which turned out to be Oystercatchers , but before I got half way , they took off en masse , moved on by the incoming tide .
When I got to the hide and opened a flap , just two Avocet and a flock of Black-tailed Godwit were
left , but they too were moved on by the tide , to the other side of the creek , where a good area of mud was still exposed . Just before leaving the hide , two Mute Swans approached out of the mirk ,
heading directly overhead , but with the light so bad , it was impossible to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the wing movement . A small flock of Reed Buntings on the way back to the car park , by which time the tide was up to the foot of the sea wall , but in compensation , a nice hot cup of coffee was waiting in the car . Revived , I headed West along the sea wall , hoping for something good in the saltings , but it was just more Curlew and Redshank , with an odd Little Egret and Grey Heron . Along this stretch , the 'flotsam and jetsam' at the high water line , showed just how close the area came to being flooded during the recent storm surge . The highlight though was a Kingfisher , half way to the copse area , where I turned round with the drizzle turning into rain . Another cup of coffee went down well when I got back to the car again . Leaving the car park and half way to the viewing area , what I thought were two Moorhen on the side of the road from a distance , turned out to be just one Moorhen and a Water Rail .
Unfortunately , the closer I got and slowed down , the faster the Water Rail ran in front , somewhat like a Red-legged Partridge would do , and eventually disappeared into the reedbeds on the left . Pulling in at the viewpoint again , and seemingly one of the few birders on site as most cars arriving were dog walkers , the tide was now full and the East flood roost was much busier than before , with
one of the islands completely full of Golden Plover and Dunlin . Whilst having my lunch , several Common Snipe 'zig-zagged' in disappeared into the vegetation at the back of the picture above . After lunch , I visited both the East and West hides , and got very little for my efforts , not even a Winter Thrush in the scrubby area , just as you enter the West side of the reserve . With no change in the weather , I decided to call it a day and headed back to the car . As I got to the small bridge , just before the viewing area , I heard a constant 'kik-kik' , seemingly coming from inside , or just infront of a large Bramble bush . Each time I went to one end to look into the ditch behind , the noise moved to the other end . At one point , I did see ripples on the water but no more . Probably as well that there wasn't anyone else about , as anyone watching would have phoned up to have me taken away . After some time , the 'kik-kik' showed itself as it swam the small ditch and disappeared into a small area of reedbed , and the 'kiking' stopped . It was another Water Rail . Satisfied with finding out what had been making the noise , I moved the 10 metres or so to the car and started stowing the camera and other gear . Just about to shut the boot , when I caught a movement to the right of the small bridge . Out came the camera again , and through the gloom , I was focusing on the Water Rail , swimming
across in front of the small bridge . Halfway across the open water , it saw me and the paddle rate
increased , as it headed for the reedbed on the other side and into which it dived and disappeared again . I kept watch , and after a few minutes , it broke cover again , and did a good impersonation of
Usain Bolt , as it made a dash for the main reedbed on the East flood , not to be seen again . I've glimpsed views of a Water Rail swimming before , but never managed to photograph it . I was glad to get into the car , albeit cold and wet , but it was worth it .


Kingsdowner said...

Nice pics of the water rails there Fred - I reckon that they walk and run like a secret agent..... you ain't seen me, right?

Warren Baker said...

Despite the light, the pics are ok Greenie. Some nice action photo's :-)

Phil said...

I used to have a plastic Mallard that floated very nicely and looked really lifelike. Didn't know they made Water Rails as well :-))
Merry Christmas to you and Carol.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
No wonder your Carol could never get into the bathroom .
Best to you and Carol too .