Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Harty Matters

The first sight I encountered this morning on arriving at the reserve was this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly basking in the sun. There was also a pristine Small Copper butterfly close by but it declined to be photographed. While walking round the reserve on Monday afternoon doing the monthly WEBS count, I counted twelve Tortoiseshells, so things are hopefully looking up this year for this now scarce butterfly.

Coming through the small farm spinney that gives us access to the reserve this morning, a sure sign of early autumn was sight of these newly put out pheasant poults. The small syndicate that shoot that area have only put out a couple of dozen birds and so are obviously not intent on very large bags, they seem to concentrate more on Wood Pigeons. Unfortunately the privately owned farmhouse alongside the spinney has several free-ranging cats that have spent the summer wandering the area carrying out what the RSPB call non-effective wildlife slaying. I wonder if they reduce the two dozen poults by several birds, if the syndicate will take the same stance as the RSPB, or look to even the score one time, you will never know!

 In the meantime the pheasants have several weeks before their shooting season begins, but not so the wildfowl, walking round a very dry reserve this morning I was shocked to realise that the wildfowling season starts in just 10 days time. Mind you, apart from their prescence, the wildfowlers are hardly going to have any effect on the reserve for a few months yet, water levels are pretty much back to how they were in the winter drought and wildfowl remain a rare thing. This fact was confirmed on Monday afternoon as we carried out the WEBS survey on the reserve - between three of us we counted one duck, a Teal at Shellness Point. Not much there to be shared between the numerous wildfowlers that will turn out at dawn on the 1st September but it'll be good to have a chat with some of them and swap countryside opinions with people whos'e experience amounts to far more than simply watching Countryfile.
On the subject of country matter as well, I was thinking about the dearth of sheep these days on the Isle of Sheep as it once was, and got to thinking about "dagging." As the year progresses, sheep build up balls of hard dung around their rear end that we used to know as "tag" or "dag nuts". If not removed these "dag nuts" quite often attracted fly maggots and so farmers would round up the sheep, pen them, and then using the same small shears that they used to shear with, would trim off all these "dag nuts" - hence "dagging." Not the best of jobs on a hot day but I presume it still goes on.

The rush to get bales of hay and straw off the fields while everything's still dust dry carries on at some pace and this morning I was watching a stack of wheat straw being created. Its interesting that while barley and even rape straw and of course hay, have good re-sale values, wheat straw hasn't. There is no food goodness in it for livestock and so unless someone can be found that say uses it for house insulation or perhaps livestock bedding, its pretty much a nuicance by-product to farmers. These days as well, they bale it in the much larger, triple-size bales which do not stack anywhere as tightly and safely as the old fashioned small bales that could be stacked easily in the brick-work style.

And finally, the Local Drainage Board have been out over the last few weeks with their machinery cutting and tidying many of Harty's overgrown ditches, as they do every year at this time. Perhaps not everybody's happy with such tidying up but it is necessary and the reeds will be a foot high again in a couple of weeks. It also brings in many Green Sandpipers, attracted by the ability to get along the exposed muddy ditch edges for food.


  1. Hi Derek, good to hear about the Tortoiseshells, I've had a couple this year, they did disappear for a few years.

  2. Alan,

    In the last hour I've also had one in my garden - great stuff!

  3. I visited Sheppey on Monday for the first time in many years- having previously been put off by the amusement arcades and all the caravan parks etc around Leysdown - too busy for my taste.

    But ... Minster was pretty and I loved the Harty Ferry area. Saw Marsh Harriers and really enjoyed the beautiful countryside. Will certainly be visiting more often (as I'm now based in nearby Tankerton).

    Look forward to seeing more wildlife photos soon

  4. Sue,

    The Harty area comes to life well in the autumn/winter months as raptors start to be seen much more frequently along the Harty Road. Standing at the Raptor Viewing Mound along the Harty Road in winter and its often possible to see Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Kestrel, Merlin, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Rough-legged Buzzard - all in the same visit.