Glad to see clear skies at dawn this morning and not a repeat of yesterday's awful weather, I arrived at the reserve just as the first glimpse of an orange sun appeared behind the wind turbines out to sea. The rain has made a slight difference to the dryer parts of the marsh and put a film of water across parts of the "S" bend ditch. This had attracted small numbers of Green and Common Sandpipers, a dozen Blackwits and around 40 Teal. Other than that there wasn't an awful lot about other than the usual Lapwings, harriers and groups of migrating swallows and wagtails, it was more a case of simply enjoying the solitude before Wednesday.
Stopping off at the Raptor Viewing Mound I was curious to check out why one of the farmers that shares Capel Fleet there, where it's huge reed beds run east across to Muswell Manor, has had a digger along there the last couple of days. Walking along part of it, it transpires that he has mown down a wide area of sedge and reed between a counter wall and the Fleet, basically tidying it up and exposing the narrow stretch of open water alongside the large reed beds. It appears that this has been done along a mile or so stretch but unfortunately the public footpath is on the other side of the small counter wall and so technically you can't take advantage of this betterment for birdwatching.
Now the charitable side of me should simply assume that this work has all been done for conservation reasons but given the recent up-surge of duck shooting on Harty and the fact that this farming family are also involved in a lot of shooting, it is also clear that by opening up this water on their side of the Fleet that they have made it very attractive to ducks! Time will tell, as regulars at the Raptor Viweing Mound this winter will be able to judge.
I could also ask the question, given that the Fleet is all designated as SSSI, if prior consultation about this work was had with Natural England beforehand?
The lastest utterance on the website of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation this week also brought out the disgust and cynic in me - apparently wildfowling prospects this year look very good. At the end of this announcement was a comment from the Chairmen of the Kent Wildfowling and Conservation Association, Alan Jarrett, a man who tries his hardest to turn every action of his members into one of conservation. Apparently according to him it has been a good breeding season in Kent for Canada and Greylag geese and even Mallard numbers are up. Well, Greylags are hardly wild and flighty geese that present a testing challenge to most wildfowlers, rather more like shooting farmyard geese. And Mallard on Harty, and probably Sheppey as a whole, most definitely haven't bred well at all in recent years and if anything are decreasing. Certainly on The Swale NNR this year - which will be encircled by duck shooting this winter - we only registered four broods of Mallard this summer, OK there probably were a few more that were missed but quite clearly a lot more will be removed than are being replaced now.
This is born out by recent BTO stats which shows the BTO beginning to have concerns about the decreasing numbers of Mallard throughout the country and why they are having breeding problems.
The recent death of all the canaries in my aviary from the same parasite that is currently killing thousands of Greenfinches and Chaffinches throughout the country, is now behind me I hope. I have completely cleaned out the aviary and fumigated it and have put two cheap "tester" canaries in there to see if they succumb over the next few weeks before I buy in some proper new birds. I'm convinced that they will be OK.