Friday, 7 January 2011

A Swampie's Tale

After it raining all day yesterday dawn this morning wasn't much better, well I say dawn, in reality it was simply an extension of the night, it was that dark.
It was one of those mornings where common sense said "stay indoors" but the thought of another day's boredom replied "sod it I'm still going." January tends to be like that, pretty damp and cold and its only redeeming feature is that by its month end you become aware on a good day, of the light hanging out till almost 5.30.
However as I drove along a wet and murky Harty Road at 7.30 this morning it just didn't seem to be getting any lighter. Likewise as I drove through the farm thicket (pronounced farm fikkit if you live on Sheppey), a few damp and fed up looking pheasants were queuing at their corn feeder for breakfast. Only another three weeks and those unshot can enjoy the delights of Spring and the other things that they do, without being shot.
Unlocking the reserve gate I drove the couple of hundred yards down the track that seperates farmland from marshland, parked at the barn and walked to the 5-bar gate. Midge and I then stood there,peered through the misty and drizzly gloom and pondered which way to go. Whichever way I chose this morning was going to be unpalatable underfoot and require waering awful wellie boots. With the added bonus of yesterday's rain the cattle had completed their annual job of turning the gateways and access tracks into that lovely quagmire mixture of mud and cow shit, knowing dam well with a delighted swish of their splattered tails that there was no way that I could get round without walking, slipping and sliding through it.

The mist and the drizzle increased and visibility was pretty poor and it was obvious that I was going to see very little and just get soaked for my sins. That's the one thing with marshes when the weather's bad, there's no escaping it, you're out there exposed. None of this creeping along in the lea of hedges and woods like our inland cousins and staying warm and pretty dry, no, us Swampies do it the hard way, or at least that what I tried to convince myself when I got back to the car later, wet through and cold and a tad fed up.

On to the seawall and a quick perusal of the saltings showed that even the wildfowlers had more common sense than a mere reserve warden and had given the place a miss today. So I followed the seawall along to its end, putting up a few Wigeon and Mallard from the Delph fleet as I did, gave up on trying to see as far as The Swale in the mist and turned back through the middle of the marsh. Pretty much all that broke the silence out there at regular intervals was the retort from the gas guns on the farmland alongside, which always make you jump out of your skin everytime. They've certainly had an effect on the geese this last week because I've only seen a couple of Greylags.
But at last, a few birds began to appear as I began to follow the few bushes along the reserve boundary. A few dozen Fieldfares and Redwings pecked at the few berries that were left and then out of the mist and by now rain, came a ring-tailed Hen Harrier, hunting along a ditch but quickly soaring upwards as she suddenly saw me. No sooner had she passed by than she was followed on pretty much the same course by a beautiful pale grey male Hen Harrier, it looked almost ghost like as it glided past.

I was approaching the barn by now, rain was soaking down my neck and I pondered wether to carry on past and go round and put the big diesel pump on and pump some water onto The Flood. Nope, that could wait until tomorrow, I was going home.

And do you know what, as I sit here writing this, its early afternoon, the sun is out and we have blue skies, talk about a day of two halves.

1 comment:

  1. Nice harrier sightings Derek. I get days of two halves - the half i'm at work is dry and sunny, the half I go out is wet !!!