This morning's weather was pretty much a repeat of yesterday's, the first hour or so saw warm sunshine and just a breeze and then once again the wind began to increase and cloud cover came over.
I arrived at the reserve barn at 6.00 and a long walk was not planned as Nana my beagle is now approaching 15 and cannot manage long walks, I have the same problems, I just wish I was also approaching 15 again.
Pulling up at the barn I put up a Turtle Dove, possibly yesterday's one, and it seemed to have teamed up with a Stock Dove because both flew off together and circled round before heading off back to the entry gate thicket. One of the Barn Owls was also still out hunting and looking especially white in the sunlight as it drifted by me, eyeing up the dogs.
When I'm not doing a long walk, one of the places that I like to head for on a sunny morning, as has been mentioned before, are a couple of the old salt working mounds. Most of these mounds are around a 100-200yds in circumference and about 30-40foot in height and the two I headed towards were a pair alongside each other but split by a ditch running between them. Heading into the SW breeze it had a degree of chill to it and so it was nice to walk into the mini-valley created by the ditch between the mounds and sit on the sunny eastern sides. Here it was totally breeze free and surprisingly warm in the early morning sun and here also I experienced one of those magical spells that break the humdrum of an ordinary visit and which broke the butterfly gloom of yesterday.
The long grass, yarrow, dead nettle and thistles on the sheltered banks were alive in butterflies! Here as I sat and watched in the warmth of the sun, were dozens of Meadow Browns and Small Skippers, a Red Admiral, some Large Whites and at last - several Gatekeepers with flattened wings, sunbathing as well. Whilst the dogs wandered off I sat there for around three quarters of an hour and enjoyed this mini- butterfly fest and it got even better as a Small Copper put in an appearance - bliss!
Then, just to completely seal this magical spell, a large party of around a hundred juvenile Swallows began to drift slowly towards and over me, feeding as they came, but with them were about fifty Sand Martins! Now besides being pretty much a reserve rarity, this bird is also my favourite hirundine and I was ecstatic at sitting there with so many of these delightful little birds feeding all around me before they finally began to drift off south towards the Swale. We virtually never have Sand Martins cross the reserve in Spring and only in the autumn do we normally see just a few.
So, a lot of pretty ordinary species and common to most people but when it all comes together as it did this morning it creates one of those memories that one digs out of the memory bank time and time again in the depths of a winter.