Friday, 31 August 2012

A New Year begins

All the fields of gold are gone now, the wheat has been stored away, the haystacks built and the fields cultivated and re-sown with rape and wheat for next year - one farming year has ended and a new one begins.
Its always a bit sad to see the once colourful fields of green and then yellow, whether it be rape or wheat, suddenly reduced to the colourless sight represented in the picture above as they sit dry and dusty awaiting the first of the autumn rains. The frantic pace of arable farming in recent weeks to get the harvest in, now comes to an end and the machinery is cleaned and serviced and stored away until next year.

Another cycle that begins tomorrow is the start of the main shooting season. The 1st September sees the start of both wildfowl and partridge shooting for the winter, with pheasant shooting following along from the 1st October. With the harvest now finished, farms that are active in game shooting will now be concentrating on making sure that habitat and conditions are as ideal as possible for the coming shoot days. Many will have released both pheasant and partridge poults some weeks ago, but some only received and released their's in the last week or so. As a result the start of the partridge shooting is a staggered business, the first being on Chetney this coming Monday but most of those on Sheppey not till the end of September.
Tomorrow, as is my annual custom, I shall be on the seawall of the reserve at dawn to check out the expected "first day" turn out of the Kent Wildfowlers, several who will no doubt of been out on the saltings well before it got light. Hoping to shoot their first duck or goose of the season, I feel the majority will be disappointed this year for some time to come, the wildfowl just aren't there at the moment and with the reserve becoming increasingly dryer, it looks set to stay that way well into the winter. As I have reported in recent postings, the reserve is now as dry as it was after the winter drought and reports in the papers today officially confirming that we have had the wettest summer for a hundred years seem almost farcical where Sheppey is concerned. Getting back to the wildfowlers, its going to be disappointing to lose the early morning solitude along the seawall for the next six months but I guess its all part of sharing the countryside with those with other interests, despite what some might think, none of us have an exclusive right to it.

On the bird front, well as I report each year around this time, The Swale NNR is very quiet bird-wise, the only brief flurry of interest over the last couple of days has been down at Shellness. There a strong, almost gale-force NNW wind at times has seen a moderate movement of seabirds such as skuas, gannets and terns.  A few Whinchats and Wheatears have passed through the main reserve but they and a few Green Sandpipers and a Greenshank, have pretty much been the sum of any recent migrant movement. It gets a tad boring and predictable but is no where near as sad as the thought of the shortening days and cold, wet weather to come, oh to be a swallow!


  1. Have they nothing better to do than destroy life, waste of space, the lot of them.

  2. Given that you are a dedicated birdwatcher Marc, I can understand your opinion re. shooting but sit down and make an honest appraisal of all the contributions that the shooting fraternity make for the benefit of wildlife, albeit that they shoot some, alongside your contributions. Purchase, maintenance, preservation, improvement, of vital habitat forms a large part of the shooting fraternity's portfolio. Couple that with the control of pest species such as corvids and foxes that prey on ground nesting birds under threat such as Lapwings, then simply going out birdwatching at dawn every morning does seem a tad minor in the conservation scale of things. And you might also consider that the RSPB also carry out all of the actions above, except the shooting of most birds, and presumably you support them.
    I realise that most birdwatchers automatically have the same thoughtstream, it comes with opening a bird book, but in these days of ever constricting countryside they should be looking at the bigger picture and realise/accept that the shooting fraternity do have a vital part to play in keeping important habitat protected, the RSPB cannot do it all.

  3. Derek

    Thank you for a reasoned approach. As you know, I shoot, albeit I do not have a desire to kill many duck. Indeed my 'bag' last year was two mallard, both of which were eaten and enjoyed. I always say I love duck shooting but not necessarily shooting ducks. It is the joy of being out in the countryside which drives me and many of my likeminded friends. I have always been taught to put more back than is taken out and by that I mean enhancing the countryside. That may be planting a few willow fronds, cutting a ride back for the butterflies or scattering a few borage or red valerian seeds. It may also mean killing some rats or carrion crows so that other species may gain.

    Saddened by the first comment as the majority of the shooting people of my circle are good naturalists, work hard on habitat improvement and generally have a deep affiliation with the countryside.


  4. Brother Derek,

    Your continued charitable approach deserves much credit. Bringing together the many and varied congregations that seek to enjoy this green and pleasant land will never be easy, but always remember your words reach many more than just those who comment.

    And although there may now be gunners upon your more deserted walls, in return take comfort from the reduction in number of the wandering caravaners as the summer closes. Why, you might even be able to wander the wall behind Tescos in nigh-solitude save for a Wheatear or six(!)

    I shall pray for good birds in your sights this autumn, cast adrift as you are upon your lonely island hermitage.