My visits to the reserve this week have been few and brief due to a flare up of the athritis in my feet, due to the damper weather. Something to look forward to for the next six months now that those people that can't enjoy birdwatching in hot and sunny weather have got their way!
It was less painful this morning and so I ventured out early and also took my near 15year old Beagle Nana for one of her infrequent walks. She can't walk long distances now due to her age and also arthritis, and at times it was like a competition between the two of us to see who could walk the slowest and most painfully. Midge just left us behind and explored in the distance as she searched in vain for one of the few remaining rabbits.
The one thing that remains quickly obvious out there is how dry it still remains. I decided to put on the big pump for half an hour or so and pump a little water from the surrounding shallow ditch onto one of the scrapes in the field that we grandly in the winter call "The Flood". This is the field in front of the seawall hide, which floods up quite well in a wet winter but at the moment just looks like an ordinary grassy field, with its scrapes dry and covered in vegetation. By softening up the largest scrape the hope is that any substantial rain will spend less time soaking in to the ground and more time creating a body of water.
While that was happening I walked across to the "S bend ditch" and took advantage of no wildfowlers the other side of the seawall, to walk its length and see what was in there. This ditch, which in reality is normally a wide and shallow fleet, still remains 50% dry and despite some good areas of soft mud, was attracting few waders this morning. In all along its length I counted 30 Mallard, 60 Teal, 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 Snipe, 4 Heron, 30 Lapwing and 2 Ruff.
At the moment this is the only decent site on the inland part of the reserve so compare those counts with the substantial ones at Oare, where ironically they are complaining of too much water!
The two new RSPB fields that abutt the reserve have just been re-levelled, cultivated, rolled and grass seeded and whilst looking a tad bare at the moment, hold much promise for next year as the grass takes hold. The site will eventually add to the amount of conserved, wet grazing meadow in the area, especially when as hoped, further fields are added to the total.
Very close to these fields, on the farmland alongside the reserve boundary fence, are the two newly dug duck shooting ponds that I wrote about several weeks ago. These have been created, as the leaseholder freely admits, in order to take advantage of the wildfowl attracted to the reserve and potentially the RSPB site. I noticed that two small wooden butts have now been erected on the banks of one of the ponds and this will enable, with regular spreading of corn along the waters edge, shooters to hide from view and shoot at very close range the ducks as they come in to feed on the corn. Apparently, "countrymen" pay up to £80 each at dusk, to sit at such places and shoot large numbers of duck in such an unchallenging way. They presumably assume that's what nature reserves are there for.
I saw little else of note as I hobbled round, just the constant stream of small numbers of Swallows going south-westwards, 4 Kestrels, 3 Marsh Harriers, 4 Whinchats and a couple of Wheatears, 90 over-flying Blackwits and a few Mipits. I switched off the pump, which given the resultant poor ditch level, will be the last I can pump until we have substantial rain - and I mean four foot's worth, and headed back to the barn and home.
Tomorrow will see my usual weekend dawn start in order to keep an eye out for any wildfowler that feels the need to stray over the seawall and enhance his/her prospects. The Greylag geese flock is now starting to approach the 200 birds mark as they are being pushed towards the reserve by heavy shooting in the middle of the Harty marshes. Normally we end up with most of the 400-500 birds in the area on the reserve and they do tend to roost on the reserve, very close to the seawall. This in turn tempts the odd rogue wildfowler to creep over the seawall in the dark and shoot these birds from an illegal position.
It must be nice to birdwatch at a site where the only disturbance to moan about is the odd harmless dog walker.