Duelling Marsh Harriers at Elmley

CIRCUS AERUGINOSUSHeaded across to Elmley Marshes this week for the first of my walks for the Wandering Words Project. I took my favourite walk, down the track towards Elmley Village. Spring is really struggling to get underway this year but the track is a little sun trap and here the blackthorn was thick with heavy scented blossom and a chiff chaff, my first of the year, threaded its way through the branches.

I passed the remains of Elmley Village, once a thriving community of 150 people, with a school and a pub called the Globe. The end of the Turkey Cement Works saw the village community dwindle away. Now all that’s left are the remains of the school and a few gravestones.Elmley village

Above the reedbeds, an aerial battle was taking place. Two pairs of marsh harriers caught in a duel, tilting in mid air to somersault onto their backs and stretch a claw at their opponent in a hot spurt of anger, a flash of temper and then a slow batting away on lazy wings across the fringed tops of the reed. Down in the thrash at the base, bearded tits pinged a warning as the predators shadow floated above.

Rabbits skidded in front of me, dashing for burrows as I walked the shoreline of the Swale and climbed Elmley Hill, to enjoy the sweep of the straight as it wound its way around the Isle of Sheppey. I got out my thermos and my little stash of peanut butter oakcakes and lay on my back, head propped on my bag, warming my winter pale skin beneath a rare glimpse of spring sunshine.

Cattle raised their heads as I returned across the grassland, above them a starling murmuration weaved a giant sentence across the sky.

see sky dancing marsh harriers here.