It was very warm and sunny earlier this morning but I didn't get to the reserve until after 9.00, instead of my usual 7.00 and its surprising what a difference those couple of hours make to the mood of the place. Gone by then was the freshness and dampness of the early morning, to be replaced by a warmth that already had seemed to lull what few birds there were into a stupor.
As I began to walk through the yellowness of the grazing marsh it seemed as there were only a few swallows, skimming across the grass tops and the cattle for company, and even the cattle were huddled together in a gateway at just one end of the field. It had a strange early autumn feel about it - the quietness, the whispering of the breeze in the reed beds, the single rasping note of a Sedge Warbler as it no longer had the energy or need to throw its song into the air.
The ditch I passed along was little more than a dark line of sedge against the yellow of the meadow, with just a trickle of water at its base. No frogs were calling, something that has been noticeable this summer, with far fewer calling around the marsh, perhaps a result of the extreme cold this last winter.
Gradually however a few bits and pieces began to become noticeable, a Wheatear bobbed along in front of me, a Chiffchaff in a bush piped that mournful note that they have in the autumn, almost as if they're sorry to be leaving. Gatekeepers were still everywhere, easily the commonest butterfly here this year, and they were joined by a solitary Small Copper and some Common Blues.
A clamour of Greylags then woke me from my sleep walking in the sun and I watched 18 of these rise from the seawall fleet and noisily circle the reserve, not what I want to see. Gradually over the next two weeks this flock will gradually increase and build up to a flock of around 400 birds, that's pretty much guaranteed, it happens every year just as the wildfowling season is about to start. These birds all go inland onto central Harty in the spring but always return, for some suicidal reason and to the wildfowlers great joy, just in time to be shot. Every year with it being bone dry on the reserve and few ducks about, I smugly rejoice that at least there'll be nothing to shoot for the first month or so and then back return the geese to slowly and lowly fly out over the guns. By October the geese will have learnt the error of their ways and found safer flight lines but until then the close-range carnage for the first few weeks makes it difficult to witness twice a day.
One reminder of this all summer has been the prescence of a White-fronted Goose with the flock of white farmyard geese on the reserve. Its easily recognised by the fact that one broken wing sticks up in the air, making it look a bit like a miniature junk sailing down the fleets. It was left behind by those conservationists the wildfowlers back in February.