A couple of blogs ago I posted a photo of a Mute Swan atop its nest on the reserve, sadly that is no more as you can see above. When I arrived at the reserve early yesterday morning I found the female (pen) swan freshly dead on the ditch bank, about 80 yds from it's nest and with it's head and neck missing. For it's head and neck to be missing indicates the work of a fox and by this morning it had obviously been back again during the night and stripped all the flesh off of the chest and elsewhere, leaving pretty much just the wings.
Sadly, that now leaves several eggs in a deserted nest and the male swan (cob) below, hanging around it pining for its mate. The incident also leaves two questions - could a fox attack and successfully kill a full grown and powerful swan, especially with it's equally aggressive mate close by - or given that the swan was some way from the nest and a difficult distance for a fox to drag such a heavy bird, did the swan suddenly die on the ditch bank and the fox take advantage. I guess we'll never know the answer to either of those questions but it's a tragic case.
As you can see from the sky in the photo below, it was yet another grey and cloudy morning on the reserve today, although much warmer, and I couldn't resist taking a photo of one of my favourite Spring-time scenes, rape in flower. As I've mentioned before, I love both the sight and smell of this stuff in flower and a great field of it often gives the impression that the sun is out, on even the gloomiest of days.
Around ten years ago I knocked up a narrow nest box out of a thin, wooden, wine presentation box. I was hoping to attract a pair of Little Owls onto the reserve to use it to breed in. Unfortunately, all that has used it for several years now has been Stock or Rock Doves and so I was surprised this morning to see that a Kestrel appears to be nesting in it. It's not really big enough for a Kestrel and it seems to be sitting on eggs just inside the entrance. It'll be interesting to see how this develops and next winter I shall make a larger box and put it close by, hopefully it won't take another ten years before it's used by the Kestrels.
We seem to be doing well for raptors on the reserve at the moment, although the nesting Lapwings might not agree. As soon as I pulled up at the barn this morning I spotted my first Hobby sitting on a fence post watching me and straight after, one of a pair of Short-eared Owls came gliding by on silent wings. There are still at least 4-5 pairs of these owls on Sheppey at the moment, dare we hope for a successful event this summer. One or two Buzzards are also visiting regularly now, despite their always being seen fairly commonly on the rest of Harty, they've always been a bit of a rarity on the reserve, perhaps the fact that our rabbits are making a bit of a come-back is attracting them. Lastly we also have the very common Marsh Harriers, it's impossible to walk around Harty without seeing them in every direction and yesterday I even had a late ring-tailed Hen Harrier.
So, we now have lots of water, lots of long, green grass, good numbers of birds, and all we need now is that one magic ingredient, plenty of warm sunshine!