27 January 2013
Capel Fleet, Harty Ferry and Elmley track
Late morning after the rain had stopped and the sun come out I drove over to Capel Fleet. Always a wonderful winter birding area, the temptation was too great when a flock of seven Common Crane's were found earlier in the week. I drove past the flooded fleet and stopped in a layby, raised my bins and there in the distance were the Cranes. They were feeding waist deep in a maize field at the base of Harty Hill. The sun was difficult, but after the last few weeks who's complaining. After about twenty minutes they took flight, into the wind then drifted east until beating into the strong breeze and landing out of view, but nearer the road towards Harty.
|The Common Cranes take flight|
|Huge but graceful|
I drove along and found a parking place. The Cranes were much closer and over the next hour I watched them resting, preening and again feeding. There were four adults and three first winters, so presumably two families. Wonderful birds. A Common Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk and a dozen Marsh Harrier added raptor interest, and a flock of 54 Corn Bunting perched on the wires. Out on the marsh vast numbers of Woodpigeon, Fieldfare, Starling, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Linnet, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, continually filled the skies as a harrier passed by.
I checked the Swale from the Harty Ferry Inn but it was pretty quiet (just 2 Little Egret), then parked by the church and walked down to the Swale. On the NNR I found a distant flock of geese, mainly Greylag, but including about a dozen White-fronted, five Barnacle and thirty Brent Geese. A closer flock of Brent rewarded closer scrutiny with a single Pale-bellied adult and the hybrid Brent x Red-breasted Goose that has been around for several winters. Marsh Harrier hunted over the marsh and several flocks of waders flushed, too distantly. A single Ruff flew over above a flock of Lapwing, and a large mixed flock of saltwater waders huddled along the muddy fringe as the tide dropped away and included twenty Avocet. Despite much scanning I could not find the Hooded Crow reported here for the last few days, but it was surely lurking somewhere.
As I headed home I drove up the Elmley track and was surprised to find a flock of 17 Ruff feeding with Dunlin and Starling before the first cattle grid. A Common Buzzard and 2 Marsh Harrier flew over. The marsh here is very wet and looks superb for the Spring - well worth keeping an eye on.
|I can't resist a Lapwing - one of my favourites|
|Worms are quite stretchy|
|Ruff feeding with Starling|
|One of the Ruff was colour ringed - blue over white flag on right leg, yellow over white on left|