Although the weather today never continued in the same vein, early this morning was superb. I arrived at the barn at 06.30, just as a bright red sun seemed to be springing out of the sea and into the blue of the sky. With no wind at all it quickly became quite warm and it was the perfect September morning and I'm always amazed that so few people seem to be out and about experiencing it.
The first bird to greet me as I let Midge out of the car was a Cettis Warbler, one of these has been calling along the reserve's boundary fence for at least three years now. But as well as the fact that I still have to see one, we rarely hear more than one and still have no confirmation of breeding, just the one mocking bird.
I then went through the five-bar-gate and onto the marsh proper, Midge and I nudging our way through the inquisitive cattle that were around the gate. They are always fascinated by the white of the dog running around and yet if you pick her up they lose all interest and do what cattle do best, shit and belch, both stink! The grazing can't be all that palatable at the moment, after a dry summer there's not much greenery amongst dead and yellow looking grass. We left them to it and headed for the seawall, birdlife limited to a few Skylarks and a single overhead Mallard.
Climbing up onto the top of the seawall, I scanned the saltings for any form of life - wildfowler life, but nobody, really unusual for the first weekend of the season. So, which way to go, east and cut back onto the marsh a bit further on, perhaps check the "S bend" ditch for waders, or west towards Harty church. A second sweep of the saltings showed huge numbers of assorted waders out on the Swale mudflats and movement down by the old barges at the western end of the seawall. Two wildfowlers out on the saltings there, so I'll go that way and have a look. Judging by Midge's interest in the vegetation as we went, they also had a dog(s)with them.
We set off along the seawall, saltings to the left, Delph reed beds to the right and the sun warm on my back. The reed beds were still quite productive, the odd scolding tick of a Reed or Sedge Warbler, the pinging of two Bearded Tits and a squeal from a Water Rail. Out on Horse Sands in the Swale were also a dozen or so Common Seals, laying there on their backs like grandads on a Sunday afternoon in their favourite chair after a Sunday roast, the only thing missing was the handkerchiefs over the eyes! By the time I'd got to the end of the seawall the two wildfowlers, and their dog!, had came ashore and were watching some Greylags alighting on the marsh from the corn stubble close by. They were two KWCA members that live on Sheppey and who I know from previous years and if there are any nice wildfowlers, these guys are them. They'd not fired a shot and were bemoaning the lack of birds, something I told them that I feel will become increasingly apparent over the next couple of years - too much shooting and no replacement of birds. On the other side of the Delph (the seawall fleet), we watched the Whitefronted goose with the broken wing moving about, a left over from their shooting last winter. I have watched this bird since the spring and it was particually distressing when the wild Whitefront flock were still on the reserve, to see it unable to stay with them and eventually get left behind.
I made a decision and asked one of the wildfowlers if he would cull the bird and he agreed, feeling that it was right, and so it happened, and after, an inspection of the bird found that it was very thin and I'm happy that we did the right thing.
I left them then to make their way back along the seawall and made my back across the marsh to the barn. I was accompanied all the way by Swallows in knee high drifts, going roughly south-west, amazingly a Great Tit "teachering" from a ditch-side hedgerow and arrived at the barn to yet another serenade from the Cettis.