Monday, 13 August 2012

Idling Along

After being spoiled by several cloudless days recently, it was much cloudier and duller this morning on the reserve but remained very humid and warm, and so that still suited me, anything is better than rain and cold. However, rain is forecast tonight and so there is much activity on the neighbouring farmland to get in the last of the wheat crop and the bales of straw that go with it.
The first sight that I had this morning as I looked across The Swale from the seawall were 17 Common Seals  basking on the exposed top part of Horse Sands in the middle of the channel. Judging by their smaller size and gingery colouring, three of the seals were presumably this years pups. Over the next hour the tide gently rose and slipped gradually across the top of the sandbank and the seals, like small ships slipping anchor, lifted off the sand with it and began to drift into the open channel. There, after at first floating on their backs like humans sometimes do, a yacht came by and one by one their heads slipped beneath the surface and they  were gone, just the ripples marking where they'd been.

A comment that is being shared between some of the local bloggers at the moment is one of how quiet it is bird-wise at the moment and how hopefully the impending autumn will bring about a rush of passage birds and things will all be rosy again. It does seem with some of these bloggers that unless they can go out and find loads of birds of many varieties every visit, that they have little else to write about, they must surely see other events unfolding as they walk round, why not write about them. It might even make the odd repetitive and boring blog, more interesting.
This morning as I walked round, pretty much simply dawdling along and idling the time away, with no particular target species or counts in mind, its surprising what you see and hear and how such wildlife kaleidoscopes can mark your year and yet some fail to write it all down and share it. As I wandered round this morning at the speed of an arthritic tortoise and musing on how well the Spice Girls looked last night, butterflies rose regularly from the vegetation, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Small Skippers, a pristine, new-hatch Common Blue and heart-warmingly giving a ray of hope, the odd Small Tortoiseshell. Its the time of year when you find the odd Mole, trapped on the surface because it can't dig back into the rock-hard ground, either that or Ratty has gone off and left him.
The rock-hard ground then leads your train of thought to realise that yes, despite the wet summer, the ground is bone dry, the rills have dried up, ditches are low again, and are we heading into another dry winter, it could easily happen. Two Whimbrel circle the reserve at some distance, "whinnying" non-stop as they go and once again your thought train goes into over-drive. They remind you that its nearly autumn and autumn means nearly winter and winter means warm fires and sloe-gin, and only the heat of the sun breaking through the clouds drags you back from such depressing thoughts - winter, oh no, don't do winter! Glancing up and onto the farmland, the last cuts of wheat are taking place and where there stood rape a few weeks ago, it has now been cut, its straw stacked and the soil lightly harrowed ready to receive the seed for next year's wheat crop shortly. As the wheat straw is baled and collected that to will immediately be re-sown with rape seed and so the cycle quickly goes on.
A Buzzard watches me approaching from his perch atop a hawthorn bush, not sure if its me or the two dogs he should be watching, and eventually drifts lazily across the stubble fields, or grattens as we used to call them. Some bales have been left dotted round the field edges to serve as butts for the game and pigeon shooters although there's no sign so far of any game-bird poults being released in the area, perhaps the game shooting will be much restricted this year. I hope not as the shooting needs the habitat and vice-versa and if one goes, both go and we couldn't afford to lose the habitat.
In the ditches the Yellow Water Irises that lit the place up with their bright yellow flowers in the Spring, are now bent over with the weight of large, green seed pods, all ready to ripen and burst their seeds into the water below. And still barely a Marsh Frog has been heard croaking this summer, a really worrying sign and something that takes much away from the atmosphere of the place.

So all of this and much, much more, is seen, heard or thought about in an average day as one idles along and yet so few write about it in their quest to record the same birds most days.

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