Sunday, 23 August 2009

Saturday 22nd August

Early morning mist rolled across the marshes - this wasn't looking good for Montagu's. I was off patch again and my eyes were pretty much stuck together from rousing so early. My plan was to get to Elmley for first light, the forecast was for a still, bright sunny morning, perfect for picking out Harriers, or so I thought. There's a certain eeriness about Sheppey when it's like this, instinct tells me to stay in the car!

As I crossed the entrance track, I was surronded by murmarations and deceits, Starlings and Lapwings lifting from thr marsh.
Each mist-laiden pool was occupied by Little Grebes, Coots, Swans or Little Egrets. As Kings Hill Farm loomed nearer I started to see the first raptors of the day - a Kestrel sitting motionless on a post and a couple of Marsh Harriers drifting, dipping in and out of the mist.
Swallows sat out on the wires at Kinghill Farm as I made my way towards Sharfleet where I set-up the scope and waited. A female Marsh Harrier slumbered on a nearby fence post, a Barn Owl took flight from the oak trees and a pair of Little Owls scowled from the ground beneath the same trees.

Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails scurried around the short turf. Then a Harrier lifted from the seawall, silhouetted at first, but a it's white, ring-tailed band glowing in the rising sunshine. It flew, buoyantly, along the top of the seawall, banking over it as it approached the track, revealing a lovely chesnut-orange wash to it's underparts - a juvenile Montagu's Harrier. Others who had been further along the track followed it as it dropped out of view. We waited patiently for another hour before it showed again, catching the thermals and soaring higher and higher over the Swale in perfect sunshine. While we waited 2+ Hobbies, Common Buzzard and a distant male Montagu's Harrier all put in appearances. On leaving I tried to locate one of the Long-eared Owls in the orchard - I manged it, just, photo below!!