Thursday, 14 June 2018

A pinch of saltmarsh

My sons are both 'Kentish Men', born in the Garden of England west of the Medway, but since we left the county in 2007, visits back there have been a bit few and far between. The recent birthday of a former neighbour provided one such opportunity, and Sunday morning offered a chance to reacquaint myself with an old favourite, the Elmley Marshes Natural Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey.
A breeding plumage Yellow Wagtail always brightens the day 

Yellow Wagtails are very leggy enabling them to stalk through the long grass of the grazing marsh
This unusually bold bird was strutting up the entrance track calling constantly
A wider angle view perched on thistle
Although it was a brief encounter, after my last few visits when breeding birds seemed a bit thin on the ground, it felt a bit like the 'old days' at the turn of the century when I first started going there: breeding waders like Lapwing and Redshank appeared to be doing well, as were the ground-nesting passerines - Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Skylark.
Wonderful close-up views of Redshank from the car window
Juvenile Redshank
Marsh Harriers were very much in evidence...
...much to the chagrin of the breeding Lapwings
All the photographs in this post were taken using the car as a hide on the 2 mile entrance track to the reserve centre. Since the reserve management reverted from the RSPB to the private owner a few years ago, the area around the farm complex has undergone some reconfiguration, with more provision for paying guests and conversion of farm buildings. But if that's helping to pay for the conservation work, I'm certainly not complaining.
This adult male Lapwing was sporting a spectacular crest
Increased Lapwing chick productivity is one of the key management aims on the reserve: here's one they prepared earlier
Stunning iridescence on this roosting bird
My car's reflection can be seen in the eye of this Lapwing photographed at close range
I rediscovered an interest in the natural world relatively late in life, and it was a visit to Elmley back in the late 1990s which re-ignited a childhood fascination with birds which had been dormant while I was studying and working in London in my 20s. One of my earliest memories of the reserve was a Corn Bunting singing from a trackside bush - so I was touched to see another singing from the same bush on Sunday. The children haven't yet learned to share my pleasure at being on the grazing marshes and saltmarshes of Sheppey. Thankfully, for as long as good conservation management continues, there is still time.
Meadow Pipit
A flock of Stock Dove was nice to see
Corn Bunting

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