Saturday, 8 September 2012
The whole of Harty resembles a golden dust bowl at the moment with its mixture of yellow stubble, bare soil and little semblance of moisture anywhere. The above photo shows the reserve "Scrape" in the field that we call The Flood. Despite deepening and extending it last year and an alleged wettest summer for a 100 years, this is how it currently looks. It'll clearly take some degree of rain to re-fill it again this autumn.
But what a splendid month September is, as a stand alone month in the year it can have a real beauty and serenity with it's calm and sunny early mornings and evenings. If it were a drug it would be valium because you tend to go home much calmer than when you arrived, such is the peacefulness that it bathes you with.
I stood for a while by the Delph Fleet alongside the seawall early yesterday morning and watched as the sun began to increase in strength and cause wisps of vapour to swirl across the surface of the water. It was soon followed by the awakening insect life, the Water Boatmen, the flies, and a dragonfly that must of been in the path of the sun's rays, it all gradually came to life. In that overpowering warm silence I could hear two Water Rails calling, perhaps to each other, with those peculiar squealing sounds that they make deep inside the reed beds, because one rarely sees these birds. And then came the constant asdic-like "pinging" of a family party of Bearded Tits and I definitely saw these splendid and tropical looking birds as they worked their ways along the flower heads of the phragmites. A Reed Warbler began scolding me as it appeared from the depths of the reed bed to suddenly spot me, it quickly disappeared again - has it been here all summer or was it just passing through, one thing's for sure, even a warm and balmy September won't keep it here much longer. I doubt it realises how lucky it is to have a natural migratory instinct that means it never experiences the cold and the dankness of winter in England.
And lastly as I stood there, a small party of Coots made there way across the Fleet, these birds, always one of the commonest of the reserve's water birds, have crashed in numbers this last year, although we don't really know why. They first disappeared, completely, in last winter's drought, and although water levels were very low, it's never seen the complete disappearance of the birds before. A few pairs began to drift back in the Spring but we only ended up with around ten pairs breeding this year, against an average of thirty pairs most years, and even then 50% of them lost their eggs to crows, so its been a real loss of an iconic water bird.
So there you have it, twenty minutes stood along the Fleet in the increasing warmth of a September morning, big skies and long distances spread out in front of me which ever way I looked, and the overwhelming sense of calmness and quiet - magical.
I walked back into the grazing marsh, stepping over and around the countless ant-hills as I went and disturbed two hares that I hadn't spotted in my wistfullness. They sped off at some speed into the distance and I stood and watched them do what hares often do, discreetly circling back in the cover of the longer grass, almost to where they started from, but my continuing presence caused them to carry on past. Its good to see these on the reserve at the moment, it gives them protection and at the moment, food. With the arable fields bare of vegetation after the harvest cultivations, I guess the grasses of the reserve supply some food source, but you can bet your life that once the first tasty green shoots of emerging winter corn start to appear, they'll soon be gone again.