What a gloomy early morning it was on the reserve today, I think it was darker out there when I arrived at 6.15 than it was at 5.15 when I got up. The amount of light seemed to keep on decreasing for a while. Even as I write this now at nearly 10.00 it's still gloomy enough to almost need lights on indoors.
Consequently butterflies were reduced to just a few Gatekeepers, there was none of the really good numbers of the last few mornings, including a fine Small Copper yesterday. After early season promise Small Tortoiseshells seemed to have become very scarce again, hopefully we will shortly see a new hatch that will boost numbers.
The cattle have at last been moved to the un-grazed half of the reserve and seemed quite content to be munching away on greener and better grazing. The half that they had been in for some time was looking really tired and dust dry with decent grass very much at a premium. Which pretty much describes the reserve at the moment. I had a look along the "S" bend fleet, which is basically a long and winding, wide but shallow fleet, which normally dries out in dry summers. It is a favourite site of the reserve's wildfowl and at this time of the year, as more and more mud becomes exposed, migrating waders. This morning however it was host to just a couple of Green Sandpipers, a few Redshanks and some Mallard still in eclipse. I would imagine that by the end of August it will be two-thirds dry again.
On arriving on the seawall in front of the reserve I was surprised to come across one of the Kent Wildfowlers and his dogs, having an early morning look at potential targets and their flight-lines. He quickly increased the gloomy atmosphere out there by excitedly going on about how we were now only four weeks away from the first opportunities to kill wildfowl - lovely isn't it, some people's attitude to wildlife!
Anyway, he was one of six KWCA members who actually live on Sheppey and who shoot out there most days and I have always been able to chat quite amicably to him and the others. I've never hidden my dislike for what they do and their prescence there and they accept that and we get on OK and being local they do at least have more respect for the area. A particular bonus with this guy is the fact that because I can get him to accept both my views and the fact that some of the KWCA members are less than perfect, I managed to get him last year to become a KWCA warden for the site. This means that I can take my complaints about their behaviour to him and he has increased the vigilance over the members.
This is not me going soft on the wildfowlers in any way shape or form, just me accepting that they will be there and therefore using friendly liasons to the reserve's best advantage.
Still very depressing though to think that in just four week's time, that suddenly overnight, the dawn will see around 20 people out on the saltings doing their level best to kill ducks.