No doubt by the time many, if any, of you read this later today, it will be lovely and sunny and you'll wonder whether I'm prattling on about the same day! But when I got up as usual at 5.30 this morning I briefly thought that I'd got up an hour to early, such was the lack of light. It really was gloomy and looking across to the Minster Shingle Bank all I could see was heavy grey cloud being pushed in off a choppy sea by a NW wind gusting up to 40mph. Nothing much seems to had changed in fact since my last blog posting last Tuesday!
I'm always facinated at how the weather people's terminology changes throughout the year. In the winter, this morning's weather would of come with a warning of "strong and gusty winds to 40mph" - this time of the year the same conditions are described as "a bit breezy."
Anyway, with little else to do after feeding my canaries I made my usual early visit to the reserve, arriving just after 6.00, and the conditions seemed even windier down there out in the open. But with my coat zipped up to my chin and my hands in my pockets to keep them warm, I soldiered on, the bleakness seeming even more pronounced as the eerie calls of Peacocks drifted down across the farmland. They wander about freely from the farmyard alongside Harty Church where they reside.
The more exposed reed beds were taking a bit of a battering and I always marvel at how Reed Warblers at times like this, manage to secure their nests to reed stems that are moving apart so violently. It must also be a bumpy old ride for those sitting on nests in such conditions as well.
But even on a gloomy day there is normally something that brightens it up and today it was the Yellow Water Iris that was flowering along a couple of the ditches. The bright yellow of the iris flowers stood out in the gloomy light as though somebody had lit candles along the ditch banks, it was really cheering.
Bird life in general was pretty quiet, a Cettis Warbler burst into song as I passed its usual residence in an overgrown ditch and a Barn Owl quartered up and down the same favourite piece of overgrown ditch bank looking for food for its youngsters. Its amazing sometimes how close they will come to you if you have a dog with you, as I always do. Quite often the owl will follow the dog, hovering just a foot or two above it, for some way. Why I don't know, perhaps it thinks the dog will disturb a small mammal from the long grass that it can then catch. The amusing thing is that the dog is normally totally unaware of this silent, white shadow following just above it.
The breeding season for many of the wading birds is now gradually coming to an end on the marsh. There are still a couple of late pairs of Lapwings sitting on eggs but in general most of the waders are now finished with eggs and are busy rearing any chicks. Its early days yet but initial census figures look like 2010 has been a really good breeding year for Lapwings, Redshanks and even Oystercatchers on Sheppey, certainly where breeding pairs and chicks hatched is concerned. The number of chicks actually fledged is always the major determining factor but at the moment things look really postitive.