The weather made it a beautiful visit to the reserve earlier this morning, even as I got there at 7.30 the sun was warm and getting warmer. With not a cloud in the sky and no wind, and as the sun burnt off the heavy dew the conditions became almost steamy and it had the feel of a good day. That was confirmed when my first Swift of the year shot across the sky going north and shortly after, my first Hobby also meandered by. It seemed as though every bird in the world was singing at once and I was happy to pick up on their mood.
I set off to follow the boundary ditch at the rear of the reserve, which eventually takes one round to the track leading down from Harty church. We call this section "Willow Walk," because of a number of willows along there that I originally pushed in as broken off branches around eighteen years and which have now become mature trees. The first few hundred yards of this walk has, on the farmland side, extensive reed beds which this morning were full of the scratchy song of both Sedge Warblers and surprisingly, Wrens. And then, as though there were a de-markation line, the Sedgie's song was left behind and Reed Warblers took over. They repeat their song for an endless amount of time and what a monotonous piece of song it is, its as if halfway through the song they forget where they are and keep going back to the beginning.
For the second half of "Willow Walk" the reed beds end and it becomes arable fields bordered on the farmland side again, by a fast maturing hedge of Hawthorn and Buckthorn. The farmer planted this several years ago and its something that has seen a big boost to the smaller bird types and numbers. Along that stretch, where some brambles had overgrown into the hedging, the stillness was shattered by an explosion of Cettis Warbler song, accompanied by that of a couple of pairs of Linnets. The one (possibly two) Cettis has sung along there now for about three years and to date I still haven't seen it and as a result, still haven't seen a Cettis at all.
Afyer much fertilizing and spraying in recent weeks both the arable crops are coming along in leaps and bounds, with the rape coming into flower and the winter corn recovered to a stage that I didn't think possible after all that cold weather. I adore the sight of rape fields in flower, so much rich colour against the monotone green wheat fields and such a burst of much needed nectar for so many insects, it even smells great, but then I don't suffer from hay fever!
As I carried on round the walk, another reserve rarity popped out onto the marsh before moving off back into the farmland trees, a Mistle Thrush, a great tick for the month. It caused me then to stop and look across the marsh, which by now was beginning to shimmer in the heat and where ever increasing numbers of swallows were passing through. Several pairs of Lapwings had risen up to try and divert two passing Crows who were obviously patrolling for eggs that might be exposed and they were quickly joined by both Redshanks and Oystercatchers, which seemed to do the trick, this time.
It got warmer and warmer and a breeze sprung up and I was reaching the end of the ditch and this particular stretch and the seawall was just ahead. Sitting on the seawall then I had another whole and different picture in front of me, The Swale, Horse Sands and directly opposite on the mainland, the South Swale Nature Reserve. Here there were six Wheatears and a couple of Yellow Wagtails scrurrying around on the turf picking up hoards of flies that were there.
I just stopped there then for a while and soaked up everything that made a beautiful, and indeed perfect day, completed by watching a seal haul itself up onto the side of Horse Sands.