Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Swale NNR

Sunrise today promised good weather with blue skies and sunshine, but by the time I'd arrived at the reserve we were back to the routine grey skies, a strengthening SW wind and a little light rain.
It was also obvious that recent rain had increased the amount of surface water and flooding across the reserve's grazing marsh to the worse that it has been this winter - so much the opposite of the drought conditions of last autumn! All that water meant that I had no option but to wear wellington boots, something I avoid as much as possible because lengthy walks in them through water and mud, greatly increases the pain in my arthritic feet. As a result I chose to take the shortest route and just go round to the reserve's Tower Hide. It was still to much water though for Midge my Jack Russell, who I think recently, has set new swimming endurance records for Jacko's because she has had to swim more of the reserve than actually walk it.

Anyway, the one thing that is instantly obvious to anyone arriving on the reserve is the fact that all that water and soft ground has attracted huge numbers of birds. If you are willing to make the longish walk from either Shellness or Harty church to put yourself on the seawall of the reserve, you are guaranteed a close and spectacular view of many thousands of wetland birds. Just in a less than a half mile radius around the Tower Hide I had the following birds:
48 Mute Swan - 20 Greylag Geese - 90 Shelduck - 2,800 Wigeon - 40 Gadwall - 1,400 Teal - 320 Mallard - 50 Pintail - 80 Shoveler - 3 Marsh Harrier - 230 Coot - 30 Avocet - 1,800 Golden Plover - 3,000 Lapwing - 200 Curlew - 30 Redshank - 2 Green Woodpeckers - 1 Barn Owl - 150 Woodpigeon - 50 Fieldfare.
Add to that the fact that many of the fields across Harty have considerable numbers of similar birds and there is potential for some seriously high numbers of some species and worth seeing if you can get down that way.

One other apparent increase on Harty at the moment is the regular noise from bird-scaring gas guns as the farmers try to deter huge numbers of wood pigeons and some wildfowl from eating the rape crops. The noise can become irritating but remember, it does at least mean that birds such as Brent Geese are left alive, rather than suffering the last resort of shooting them under license. Unfortunately the rape crops on Harty have faired pretty badly so far this year, because in recent years it would normally be around a foot high by now. However last autumn a lot of it failed to survive after being sown, due to the excessively dry conditions, and that which did survive has been stunted by waterlogging and freezing conditions.


  1. Hi Derek
    If the weather here at West Malling right now is anything to go by you're going to have lots more water to wade through soon, it's absolutely throwing it down! Very nice blog by the way.

  2. Derek ,
    That is certainly some list .
    Last time I was there , it was real guns that were shooting . The Ferry Inn car park was jam packed .