Yesterday afternoon (Weds) our four man team finally got round to carrying out the monthly Harrier Roost Count across Harty and Elmley, but first there was time to look at the huge geese flock assembling on the arable fields alongside the Harty Road. The Greylags were part of the local feral flock but on Tuesday large parties of White-fronted and Barnacle Geese had begun arriving and were feeding on snow covered fields of winter corn.
I took the following photo on Tuesday when the flock was half the size and although its not very good, if you double click on it and enlarge it you will be able to scan across the flock.
By yesterday afternoon the flock had built to a total of 1,100 White-fronted Geese, 149 Barnacle Geese, 300 Greylag Geese and 4 Pink-footed Geese and Whitefronts continued to cross the area up until dark. The count of both Whitefronts and Barnacles is exceptional in modern times for Sheppey and in respect of the Whitefronts, harks back around thirty years to when flocks of that size were seen fairly regularly on the Eastchurch marshes.
From there I moved onto the Swale NNR to carry out a count of any harriers going into roost on the reserve as dusk came in. Despite being in the relative shelter of the Tower Hide it became intensley cold as I waited an hour or so for birds to appear in an increasingly bitter N wind. In front of and below the height of the hide is one of the old salt workings mounds on which a few rabbits still live and if you double click the photo below you will see in the centre of it one of the reserve's special mammals - a black rabbit.
In the days when the reserve had a healthy population of rabbits we also had a healthy population of black rabbits and indeed they could be found across a lot of Harty, but not so anymore and this must be one of the last survivors on the reserve. Apparently they are a natural genetic colouration and surprisingly, despite obviously breeding with the normal colour ones, they always turn out as either jet black or brown, never a mixture.
Eventually I had three ring-tailed Hen Harriers move across the reserve but only one dropped into the saltings near Shellness Hamlet, to roost. The other two moved back off of the reserve. What the day's total roost count across Harty was, I don't yet.
The photo below shows one view from the Tower Hide and the bleakness of the landscape.