Saturday, 3 July 2010

Special Thoughts

Yesterday was a very hot day which carried on well into the evening and is typically described in the opening of Chapter VII of the Wind in the Willows - "though it was past ten o'clock at night, the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short mid-summer night".

We had a brief shower at 5.00 this morning which for a short time did freshen up the air but any moisture soon evaporated. It also illustrated how such a small island as Sheppey is, can still have a surprising range of weathers. I left Minster driving on wet roads for a mile, then a mile of bone dry roads and so on, so they must of been very small and well dotted rain clouds. Likewise the Harty Road, which at first was puddled with rainwater but then became bone dry as I approached and entered the reserve.

Mid-summer on the reserve finds it looking quite dry and dusty now and quite overgrown as the small herd of cattle struggle to make any effect on the grazing meadows. With few proper wide areas of water on the reserve, the effect of this tall vegetation and lowering water levels makes it difficult to actually see what wildlife there is in the ditches and fleets now from any distance. Its not really a fault of the reserve, its how it becomes in the summer and much as it might inconvenience those who want to see things, its good for a whole range of wildlife, you just have to look harder. It also highlights how difficult it can be for a grazier to get the stock levels just right, not so long ago the grass was growing very slowly and so some stock was committed to other sites that he grazes, now we could do with more cattle. The same grazier has also just cut all his hay meadows between the Shellness car park and the Harty Road Raptor Viewing Mound and how good it is to see such large acreages being utilized for such traditional crops. Once baled the fields will quickly re-green and provide fabulous habitat for wildlife right round until next summer again.

Bird-life, as I will repeat regularly now until the autumn, was very much at a premium and by far the largest number of any species to be seen across the reserve today was a flock of around 400 Starlings enjoying their summer holidays. A few ducks in moult were visible in some of the ditches and apart from a family party of Bearded Tits in the reed beds of the seawall fleet, it was left to the constant chatter of Reed Warblers to remind me that some life was still going on.

Butterflies were mostly confined to slowly increasing numbers of Meadow Browns, especially in the overgrown areas along the seawall of the reserve and here also, every step seemed to bring up large numbers of very small and pale, creamy coloured moth from the longer grass and I haven't a clue what they are. Another feature of the top of the seawall is a surprising number of both lizards and slow worms, which become quite eveident at times as they come out to sun themselves.
Wild flowers on the reserve at the moment are dominated by the yellow types - Wild Migonette, Weld and Lady's Bedstraw. Apparently in the middle ages Lady's Bedstraw was used to pack Lady's bedding although I cannot see why, its doesn't have much fragrance and it would take an awful lot to do the job, as opposed to say, hay or feathers.

So,no large numbers of anything and definitely no rarities but still a beautiful walk round and as a special friend said to me yesterday, you always remember those times.


  1. Good to meet you the other day Derek. You are lucky indeed to have such a lovely area on your doorstep. Thanks for your offer of a guided tour and I will take you up on it later in the year as you suggest.

  2. Phil,

    Look forward to taking you round when its wet and wildfowled up.