Sitting in the conservatory this afternoon with unbroken blue skies and sunshine outside and a temperature inside, without heating, of 78 degrees, it was hard as I supped a glass of red wine, to equate with just how cold it was outside. But cold it was and the afternoon temperature here on Sheppey barely rose much above freezing all day.
I arrived at the reserve at around 9.00 this morning, after a slight hold up along the Harty Road for the re-surfacing work. This work is dramatically changing the appearance of the Harty Road and making it a real joy to drive now after far too many years of having the bottom of cars damaged due to it's subsided nature. With a bit of luck the majority of the road should be re-surfaced by the weekend.
The constant and strong E winds of the last few days, combined with the zero temperatures, have have introduced a wind chill that has both dried out and frozen the grazing marsh and its surroundings. Many of the smaller ditches are also beginning to freeze over and consequently most of the ground feeding birds such as Lapwings and Golden Plovers have left for softer and warmer surroundings. Walking round the reserve this morning was notable for two things, all the thousands of livestock footprints had frozen hard and it was not comfortable walking over ground that mimicked cobbles and then there was the wind!
Inland birdwatchers who are doing their birdwatching today among trees and hedgerows and thinking it is cold, should try walking across Harty marshes into a wind with a sub-zero wind chill, coming straight off the sea and with absolutely no shelter, as I did, it was certainly an endurance test for a couple of hours. At times it felt as if the wind was going through you rather than round you and the skin on the face was being peeled off, I won't give in to it but it's certainly not my choice of weather.
And what did I see for such personal heroics, well bugger all to be honest, unless you count the huge flock of sheep that have pretty much stripped the reserve bare of grass. One or two Lapwings trying to find a bit of soft ground round the ditch edges, 4 White-fronted geese and a dozen or so Greylags, 1 Jack Snipe and 2 Common Snipe and that was pretty much it. Oh and a large flock of assorted corvids, mostly crows, who had resorted to picking at maize cobs from the old game cover strips on the farmland because the ground on the reserve was so hard.
So it was back home then, to the warmth of the conservatory where sitting in there in the sun it felt like I was looking out to a sunny summer's day, or was that the wine, well going out to shut the canaries up soon dispelled the summer bit.