Saturday, 24 February 2018

Kent - Garden of England - Day 2

Today I went out on my own starting with a visit to Elmley Nature Reserve on Sheppey in the morning followed by a trip to Conyer on the North Kent coast to see the ten Shorelarks being reported there in the afternoon.  As with many trips, things didn't go exactly as planned.

Elmley Nature Reserve is divided into two parts, a two mile long winding track where you are not allowed to get out of your car, but can pull over and stop almost anywhere to view the birds and the former RSPB nature reserve where you can only walk to the hides surrounding a couple of lakes and overlooking the sea wall which borders the Swale.  The track is free to use, but it's expected that you'll donate £5 in an honesty box (which I duly did) as a contribution to the upkeep of the reserve with the hides.

I was very keen to visit Elmley as it is the place from where all the great photographs of Marsh Harriers were being posted on Facebook, but I only had a few distant views of them today.  There were plenty of Lapwing and Coot along the winding track which ends at a farmhouse and a few other buildings, but very little else.  After chatting to a very helpful local worker on the reserve, I was told that as there was no-one about today I could actually drive to old RSPB hides and save myself a 40 minute walk carrying my camera gear.  I was so glad I did this as when I got to the hides there was nothing much to see.

After a slow drive back along the track with only a couple of glimpses of Marsh Harriers, I decided to cut my losses and head for Conyer.  This meant driving back over the Swale and onto the mainland, but this time I used old lifting bridge rather than the new fixed bridge.

On arriving at Conyer I talked to a couple of people about where the Shorelarks had been seen and found out that they were quite a long walk around the other side of the marina and creek, with no short way of getting there.  Foolishly, I decided to have a look at the Swale shore from this side first and ended walking quite a long way for very little reward and still having the prospect of a long walk around the creek.

Uncertain about exactly where I was going, I got talking to  lady dog walker who guided me round the sailing club and creek an put me on the right track to the fields where she seen lots of birdwatchers in the previous week. It took quite a while to find the Shorelarks, but I eventually did with the help of three lads who knew where they'd been seen, but who had not actually found the birds themselves.  It was very cold with a biting wind and they'd eventually decided to call it a day - I however, was determined not to draw a blank.

Snow Bunting
It was actually the number of birds that got me on to them, with ten little brown jobs flitting around in a field.  They were quite mobile as they fed and soon moved on before eventually coming up to the sea wall.  None of my photographs are any good, but I did manage to capture a single Snow Bunting whilst attempting to shoot the Shorelarks.

Redshank calling in flight
These birds were to give me the runaround for three hours or more whilst I tried to get close enough for a decent photograph.  During this time the tide was coming in along the Swale and soon there were movements of birds which were being displaced by the incoming water.  My high position on the seawall overlooking the Swale gave me a good vantage point for some flight shots as the birds flew upstream, especially with having the sun on my back.




A Flock of 

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