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Over the last week or so it has been amazing to watch how quickly nature has re-addressed the water shortage pronlem on the reserve, several bouts of good rain has made a quite rapid impression on the ditches and fleets. It helps I suppose that the reserve is the lowest piece of ground on that part of Harty and the farm fields alongside, being higher, all slope and drain towards the reserve. The melting snow made little impression except wet the surface of the flat marsh, but the rain has worked wonders. Ditches that a fortnight ago were still only a foot deep are now three or four foot deep and while we are nowhere near the flooded acreages of the last two winters, we are approaching normal winter water levels again.
While this hasn't, surprisingly, seen a big rise in wildfowl numbers, it has seen the return of large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plovers, all attracted to the much softer grassland. This morning whilst walking round I had over a thousand of both species flying around above me after a superb male Hen Harrier decided to fly through their feeding flocks at ground level.
This seems to be a characteristic of Hen Harriers, they tend to hug the ground when hunting, far more than Marsh Harriers do. The other difference that you will see between the two types of harriers, is their ability to scare birds. A Marsh Harrier or two moving over a flock of ducks or waders will hardly cause a stir but a Hen Harrier doing the same will cause an immediate commotion amongst all the birds - I wonder how they know the difference.
One effect of the wetter conditions now is the gradual appearance of shallow "splashes" on the flat grazing fields. These "splashes" are only a few inches deep but as they gradually expand their width they become a favourite area for Wigeon as they graze the flooded, grassy areas. The photo below shows one of the these "splashes", which just before I took the photo was occupied by 34 White-fronted Geese, that flew some yards further away out of view, just leaving a few Greylags behind in front of the cattle.
This photo shows The Flood, just before Christmas and with a Spring drought looking very likely.
The same view this morning, helped a trifle in this field by a bit of pumped water over the last few days. The Flood is the field in front of the Seawall Hide but unfortunately this part is at the opposite end of the field to the hide.
Once again, The "S Bend Ditch" as it looked along its whole length just before Christmas and how it looked this morning. Such a relief and so important to the reserve's habitat.