I arrived at the reserve this morning at 06.30 to find cloudless blues skies, warming sun and no wind - super, but it took exactly an hour for that to change. By 07.30 a chilly NW wind had sprung up and was bringing in increasingly heavy, grey clouds that began to blot out the sun. The second hour was spent walking round with an eye to the north where the clouds were turning increasingly blacker and did eventually drop some brief light rain.
Here you can see the onset of the weather change.
One of the disadvantages of the heavy showers that we had yesterday evening here is the change in conditions as you walk round. Most of the paths round the reserve are soil based and this morning, with the top couple of inches now being muddy, my walking boots gradually found mud building up underneath them until I gradually became a few inches taller. Coupled with that, with vegetation being tall at the moment, as soon as you had to walk through any of it, which was dripping wet, trousers quickly became dripping wet as well. Personally I would of been happy to have enjoyed the bone dry and sunny weather for another couple of months, its so much easier and enjoyable to walk round in!
My route round was planned to take me through the gate below but with this bull on sentry duty I decided that perhaps discrection was the better option. These bulls are very placid and I only took this photo from around fifty yards away but there are limits to my bravery and that gate was one of them.
When he brought in reinforcements I was even more certain that I wasn't going that way. (Double click this photo to enlarge it and look at the superb specimen of a bull that the RH one is)
And when it got to three of them "beefing" it up you can see that I had already started to retreat. In reality, I suspect that it was not this arthritic old Volunteer that had captured their attention, more likely the delicious and "in season" cow that they were encircling, nostrils flared and testing the breeze for the right scents and so I left them to fight it out for the honour of being her beau.
The breeding season on the reserve is winding down fast now and with it the bird numbers. Many Lapwings are already forming small post-breeding flocks and moving away and they in particular have had a very poor breeding season on the reserve. Many pairs just haven't bothered to breed at all and those that have have reared few chicks to a fully fledged stage. Breeding now will be mainly left to the Reed and Sedge warblers in the reed beds and the odd late brood of ducks.
As part of an exercise taking place across a lot of North Kent this year we have put a mink trap into one of our wider ditches, as you can see below. Mink have'nt been recorded on the reserve and still haven't so far but it was encouraging this morning to find fresh Water Vole droppings on the platform. Its always nice to get confirmation that they are still active on the reserve although we rarely see them.
Whilst looking at this trap I became aware of a drake Wigeon swimming away from me which eventually struggled to fly about fifty yards further along the ditch. Possibly it was a winged bird left behind after the winter's shooting activities.
Earlier in the week I drove down to Shellness Hamlet and walked out towards Shellness Point and was able there to add another couple of wild flowers to the list this year. One that does very well with numerous plants on the higher beach there is Viper's Bugloss. The flowers act as a bit of a cafe for the bees along that fairly barren stretch of sand and shingle.
Against one of the groynes was also this specimen of the Yellow-horned Poppy.