Buoyed by a superb morning's weather and having just read Murray's list of birds seen over at Oare yesterday, I drove round to the end of the Swale NNR that is opposite Oare. I first of all had a walk along the banks below Harty church, which are pretty much opposite Oare's East Flood.
On the saltings along there I had 33 Avocet, 16 Brent Geese and 4 Med. Gulls. It was really pleasant along there and the farmer next door has planted along the dividing fence a new hedgerow interspersed with small saplings, all very encouraging. Unfortunately however, there were no migrants at all.
Getting back to the car I stopped to watch the Common Seals as they hauled themselves up onto Horse Sands in the Swale and counted 18 in all. They are such fun to watch on a day like today.
I then decided that I'd walk the seawall eastwards and have a good look at the extensive reed beds on the inward side of the seawall, after all with several Sedge Warblers seen at Oare, just a mile or so away, there had to be some this side as well. Well, you've probably guessed it, nothing, sod all in fact, well OK, 2 Reed Buntings! I can only assume that in the event that migrants do actually cross the Swale, that on seeing Wigeon, Teal and close on 200 Whitefronts still grazing the flooded parts of the reserve, that they assume that its still winter there and press on.
But there was a glimmer of good news, back at the car I had a single Swallow and a Wheatear - could spring really be starting, after all that's almost a rush for us!
Immediately alongside part of the reserve is a six-acre corner of farmland that is not part of the reserve, but is probably the last tiny remmnant of how that farmland looked many, many years ago. It consists of very thick, tangled and untouched grass, interspersed with increasing numbers of seedling hawthorns and bordered by wide reed beds and willow bushes. It is a favourite haunt of Barn Owls and harriers and the odd S.E. Owl when they're about and presumably because of a large mouse and vole population. Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Skylarks and some wildfowl also nest in there.
Imagine my dismay yesterday therefore, on talking to a woman there, to find that she had possibly been offered the opportunity to graze her horses on it. Now anybody that has overgrazed horse paddocks near them will know why I am dismayed, too many of these paddocks look like they've been napalmed, with every last scrap of grass, bush and tree totally eaten away - horses and good habitat do not mix. If grazing there does occur then I fear that some valuable habitat is soon to be lost - wait and see time I think.
And on one last note, I was gobsmacked this morning to see one farmer near to the Harty Road, using huge water sprinklers to irrigate his rape field - why???