With the sky beginning to brighten to the east I left home at 05.15 this morning and headed off for the reserve. Although the sun was almost an hour from rising above the horizon it was already clear that it was pretty much cloudless. As I drove through Eastchurch it had become quite a bit lighter, although still needing headlights on, and looking across to the distant marshes it was also clear that I was going to have visibility problems. Across the marshes there was one of those ground-hugging mists that normally tend to get briefly thicker as the sun first rises.
Mist-wise, it was clear as a bell as I drove over Capel Hill on the Harty Road but I then had to descend into, and be swallowed up by the mist. It was one of those frustrating mists that are only about 20 feet high, so that you can see anything above you but nothing ahead. Wildfowlers love it like that because they can see the birds above as plain as hell but the birds can't see them.
There were three cars parked near Capel Corner so obviously the duck hunters were already in position along Capel Fleet, waiting for the expected geese and ducks just before sunrise. I carried on along the road in the mist and turned down to the reserve and through the entrance spinney, it was eerie through there in the misty conditions and odd pheasants ran ahead of the car, dark blobs on the track.
By the time that I parked at the barn and began to make my way across the marsh to the seawall, the mist was drifting in quite quickly but still maintaining its rigid low height, I could just see the top of the seawall in the distance but nothing below it. I got soaked making my way across the seawall fleet crossing which is overgrown with phragmites which were heavily wet with mist and dew, and climbed the steps to the seawall top. Here it got even more weird because it was like I was walking along on top of the mist and everything across the Swale was visible but I couldn't see who was on the saltings below. A shot rang out and I saw a duck veer off towards the Swale apparently unscathed and so I knew the expected first-morning wildfowlers were there but simply couldn't see them.
A Mallard and Teal then followed the seawall past me before unfortunately going out over the saltings, a shot rang out and down came the Mallard - two shots and one bird already.
Meanwhile the sky behind Shellness was starting to redden the mist in that direction and so I decided to walk along to Shellness car park while I waited for the mist to clear, I couldn't see much till then. It was an enjoyable walk and the closer to Shellness Hamlet that I got the quicker the mist dispersed until eventually the top of a magnificent red sun crept up into the sky. I looked round and the mist had left the saltings and was hurridly dispersing across the marsh, it was that lovely feeling that curtains had suddenly been pulled and I could see distance and birds again - and unfortunately distant wildfowlers heads peering out from the undergrowth of the saltings.
I made my back towards the seawall hide as one more shot rang out but failed to connect with a duck, and just to my horror, as a party of nine Greylag Geese began to fly along the seawall, towards both me and the wildfowlers. If it wasn't for the fact that it was intended to possibly kill some of the geese it would of been laughable. The two wildfowlers, yes there were amazingly only two, immediately began manically blowing these imitation goose calls things to try and lure the geese towards them. Well, I think I could fart a better imitation but anyway, honk they did and the geese, they headed off into the middle of the reserve, fortunately having none of it. Just three shots for the first morning but unfortunately one dead duck.
The sun was up then, it was broad daylight and mistless, the early morning wildfowl flight, what little there was of it, was over and I decided to leave those two sad guys to it and headed home myself, first getting a second soaking going back across the fleet again.
That was the lowest number of KWCA men that I've known attend on the first morning, its normally around twelve to twenty, so that was immensley cheering but I doubt that it'll remain that way once the winter ducks begin to build up. One can live in hope I suppose.