I had a few options to choose from on Wednesday. Should I go for the Long-billed Dowitcher at Lymington? I dipped the one at Slimbridge last year so it would have been a welcome tick. As it transpired I would have dipped this one too if I'd gone as it had moved on – if only about a mile or so. The Night Heron in Leicestershire was tempting but just a bit too far away. In the end I settled for a regular haunt in Kent – Elmley Marshes.
The temptation was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Cattle Egret, a few Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper. Any combination would be good.
I overslept, which didn't start the day off too well, but I got to Elmley by 7am. I hadn't done my homework, however, as high tide wasn't until 1pm so most of the waders were on the Swale.
Having parked at Kingshill Farm, where there were a few Yellow Wagtail present, I began the long walk down towards the reserve itself. I counted at least six Marsh Harriers on the way, plus more than 100 Curlew feeding in the fields.
|One of three Wood Sandpiper at Elmley Marshes|
|There were plenty of striking Yellow Wagtails at Elmley|
A Cuckoo flew across while viewing in Wellmarsh hide, plus a Peregrine got the Avocet up in the air to see it away from their young.
The South Fleet hide was where the Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been seen in recent days, but no matter how long I stayed, it didn't appear. Neither were there any Curlew Sandpiper.
One birder from Guildford went further afield and ventured down to the most distant viewpoint – Spitend hide – to watch across the Swale and he struck lucky with a couple of Arctic Skua and a Sandwich Tern.
I'd been at Elmley for at least eight hours and had yet to see anything more interesting than the three Wood Sandpiper. I bumped into local Surrey birder John Benham, and he had seen the Cattle Egret earlier in a field behind the Counterwall hide feeding with a herd of cattle.
As it was getting late and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was nowhere to be seen, I took a punt and walked down the path towards the hide where I could see a birder looking across the fields. As I approached he was walking away. I assumed he had drawn a blank, but actually he'd enjoyed good views of the Egret feeding amongst the cattle.
|Cattle Egret at Elmley Marshes|
The Cattle Egret was a first for me so made the trip a worthwhile one, even though it had been a bit of a grind – as is always the case with Elmley, there was plenty of walking involved.
|East Flood at Oare Marshes|
All-in-all, not a bad day.