Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Geese and Seawalls

 For the first since they moved inland in the Spring, we have a flock of Greylag geese building up on the reserve again. This morning the flock totaled around 190 birds and being feral they are quite approachable. Unfortunately that reasonable tameness also means that one can normally get really close to them, which is not ideal where shooting is concerned. These birds come from a large flock of over 5-600 Greylag and Canada geese that has been in the western end of Capel Fleet during the summer and which have been shot at fairly intensively this last couple of weeks. As a result the birds have dispersed around Harty looking for safety, with many arriving on the reserve. Given the way that these birds continue to increase both on Sheppey and in the South in general, I suppose it could reasonably be argued that a degree of thinning out won't do too much harm.

The two photos below show the results of what happens when the Environment Agency set about mowing the sea wall in front of the reserve. For the second year running, in recent times, they have carried out this environmental vandalism and in the process probably wiped out a large percentage of next year's butterflies and moth populations. The long, overgrown and green vegetation will have been home to any number of eggs, caterpillars and pupae that would of become next year's butterflies and moths, but now they have been cut down and destroyed to leave a length of sea wall that is no more than a mere 2in of straw. Clearly the words nature reserve (which it is), protection and wildlife do not appear in the E.A's glossary of terms, despite their title.

One bit of good news concerning the sea wall is the fact that Swale Borough Council have finally, after some wasted months, given the reserve management permission to replace two hides on the reserve. So sometime before the winter we should have a nice new one along the seawall, close to the existing derelict one, and a further one somewhere towards the middle of the reserve. Much needed protection from icy winter winds when carrying out Harrier Roost counts as it gets dark along the seawall, thank gawd.
Birds, certainly on the main grazing marsh part of the reserve, still remain very much at a premium, apart from the geese. Even the Green Sandpipers and Wheatears are seemingly giving us a miss now in the arid conditions. This morning whilst walking round it was pretty much just a few passing through Swallows, Sand and House Martins, although out of the wet mud that was supposed to be a ditch, a few Teal did get up. I imagine that when I survey that section as part of the reserve's WEBS count on Friday I shall hardly be taxed - if only we'd had a wet summer!
So that was pretty much it today, dry conditions, few birds, a ruined sea wall and some clumps of Spiney Rest-harrow still in flower.


  1. Hi Derek,

    Have you spoken to the Environment Agency about their over-zealous mowing? I wonder if they just don't know until someone points it out!

    In Greenwich we have the same kind of problem, e.g. a Thames-side "natural beach" that was designed to gradually become inhabited by wild plants etc. Well, that's what happened and now the bushes are to be ruthlessly hacked because they are supposedly "unsightly" (to whom I don't know). Never mind that it's only for 100 metres or so before you get back to sterile concrete. They also apparently block the stunning views of the river with its, er, moored rusting barges and industrial areas, recycling plant etc... sigh...

  2. Joe,

    Its been an on-going problem in North Kent for many years which various wildlife organisations seem unable to get the EA to change their ways on. One thing's for sure, they've been told many times of the effect on wildlife.
    Last year I complained to the reserve's owners, Natural England, through which the seawall runs and they took it up with the EA. The EA always use some vague explanation that it is done to assist with flood defences in the event that very high tides might come over the top of the wall. That, to my knowledge, has never happened in the last 60 years and the link to cutting the vegetation is beyond me anyway.
    I think its something that they purely do out of habit and to utilize one of the workforce.

  3. Nice post and greetings from my blog

  4. Hello Joanca,

    Nice to hear from you, welcome to Sheppey.