Tuesday, 6 November 2012
How things change
It was a very pleasant drive out to the reserve this morning along the Harty Road. The widespread overnight frost had thawed to leave the fields coated in a heavy dew, a slight mist was dispersing, the skies were unbroken blue and sunny and a flock of c.70 Fieldfare flew past overhead. The one thing that you can't miss now is the degree of visible water, Capel Fleet looks well full and even out in the winter wheat fields there are numerous areas of standing water, which will drown out the countless slugs if nothing else.
Arriving at the reserve it is also easy to see the results of the latest rainfall on Sunday morning, the ditch by the barn has now overflowed across the track to join the two sides into one. In March, after last winter's drought, this ditch was only a few inches deep, that'll certainly not be the case next March. Instead, with above average rainfall forecast for this winter, we'll possibly end up as we did 3-4 years ago, with 70% of the grazing marsh either water-logged or under water. It makes it very difficult to walk around the place but normally encourages the import of many thousands of waders and wildfowl, something we badly need at the moment.
Moving round to the "S Bend Ditch", the subject of numerous photos in blogs by me as I've charted its bone dry progress through two dry winters, it's also pleasing to be able to record that is now full and over-flowing, as you can see below.
In fact it is so over-flowing that at one end it has completely flooded the access track and gate, putting them out of use.
The only thing missing now are the birds that should be enjoying these conditions. As I mentioned earlier, we would normally expect to see the waterlogged grazing meadows attracting large flocks of waders and wildfowl, but to date Golden Plovers aren't there at all and even the Lapwings have been slow to appear, only averaging a 100+ most days. It was not total doom and gloom this morning though, the weather conditions if nothing else, made it a real pleasure to be there and even the Mallard numbers had risen to the heady heights of c.100 birds this morning.
Some of the other birds that I saw were a Buzzard, several Marsh Harriers, a ring-tail Hen Harrier, Bearded Tits, a Water Rail, a mixed flock of c.80 Goldfinch, Linnet and Greenfinch - but best of all was a Whinchat atop an Elderberry bush, a late bird.
The huge acreage of maize both alongside the Shellness track and various other parts of Harty, now look pretty much like a lost cause. The farmer would normally expected to have combined it by now, shredding the whole plants and using the product for cattle feed, but the wet weather has made much of the ground to wet and soft for heavy plant now and in the meantime the crop has lost most of its goodness. I'm still surprised to find that people, on seeing the plants covered in large cobs of corn, mistake it for the sweet corn that they buy in the shops and think about taking some home, but its a hard and poorly flavoured thing.