Saturday, 19 January 2013
Snow on the Swale
I was both surprised and really chuffed yesterday as with every hour through the day, Sheppey remained totally snow free. It didn't last however and mid evening we had a couple of hours of snow that left a token covering everywhere.
And so it remained as I arrived at the reserve this morning, there was a snow covering, heavy grey skies and a bitter cold E wind - it was pretty bleak, as you can see from the photos above and below, and not for the faint-hearted. But, do you know, it was far more enjoyable walking across snow covered, frozen ground than wading through flood water and mud, I enjoyed it.
Arriving on top of the sea wall, I could see from the various tracks in the snow that several wildfowlers and their dogs had been out early this morning and this was confirmed when I walked part of the way with the last one as he left. It must of been pretty cold sitting in a rill way out on the saltings for several hours in sub-zero temperatures, which he confirmed as he bodily shuddered with cold as he chatted with me, but like them or loathe them, wildfowling is the toughest form of shooting. Today also, was one of the many blank days that occur through a season, none of the guys that braved the bone-numbing cold this morning actually fired a shot, the wildfowl on the reserve stayed safe and sound where it was.
The thing that I like about a snow covering on the reserve, is the opportunity that it gives you to assess just how much mammal activity that there is actuallyu out there. Hare and rabbit tracks were everywhere (see 2nd to last photo), which was very encouraging in respect of rabbits, we haven't physically seen that many, although numerous fox trails were a depressing sight, action will need to be stepped up!
With most of the reserve's wet areas now frozen up, a large area of open water at the inner end of the "S Bend Ditch" was proving very popular with assorted wildfowl, very popular when one takes recent counts into consideration! Here this morning I had the reserve's best wildfowl count of the winter:-
200 Brent Geese
18 White-fronted Geese
60 Greylag Geese
The Coot count was particularly enjoyable because last winter for the first time ever, we lost all our Coots for the whole winter and they only returned in the Spring in small numbers and then had a disastrous breeding season. The nearby maize fields also continue to attract huge numbers of hungry Wood Pigeons, there must of been c.4,000 birds there this morning. From what I can gather from the farm shooting crowd, the pigeons only have until the end of the month, when game shooting finishes, it will then become their turn to be reduced before they begin attacking the rape fields.
I was surprised to see no other birdwatchers out and about this morning, on what was potentially a good morning for birds, perhaps birdwatching like wildfowling, calls for an extreme form of dedication in bad weather. Further heavy snow permitting, I shall be out at the crack of dawn tomorrow and see what that turns up.