After several weeks of grey skies, arctic E winds and snow showers, I spent the weekend at the girlfriend's in Surrey and there at long last, I was able to experience those two things missing from life for weeks, sunshine and warmth.
Yesterday we took my dogs for a walk round a huge MOD site, that has public access, called Hawley Woods, I believe. The wooded areas consist of mostly pine and birch, with odd oaks dotted about but it is the huge acreage of gorse in full flower and heather, that is quite stunning for someone from a marshland habitat. The sun, the warmth, the whole different micro-climate, made it a very pleasant walk round, with several newly arrived Chiffchaffs singing as we walked. I was also able to add another bird to my species list that I haven't seen for around thirty years, Coal Tits, we don't have them on Sheppey and I watched two seperate birds singing from the top of some pine trees. The early sight of two Small Copper butterflies fluttering around in the sun was also enjoyable but the real stunner for me was my first ever Goshawk, fantastic! It came out of a block of pines, sped across a large area of gorse and disappeared just as quick back into some more trees., it'll probably be some time before I repeat that sightings.
It's not often I enjoy being away from my beloved Sheppey but those heathland are a real treat and hopefully this summer I can add the likes of Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Dartford Warbler to my list, Nightjar even.
And so, back To Sheppey this morning and The Swale NNR and what did I experience as I walked round - grey skies and a chilly E. wind, nothing had changed, if nothing else, Sheppey is consistent. However, weather aside, the walk got off to a brilliant start because as I parked up there, alongside me in a farm field was my first Wheatear of the year, a female - whoopee-do. After that though and much stumbling as I watched every small bird movement in the sky for a Swallow or Martin, it was back to the usual fare. Despite wildfowl numbers continuing to fall away, there were still 120 White-fronted Geese and 8 Canada Geese present, though no sign of the long stay Barnacles. With the continuing drying of the once wet areas, Snipe were getting up regularly from the muddy edges and I eventually counted 20 in all. The long-time Flood field in front of the Sea Wall hide is also seeing an increasing drop in water levels, exposing more of the island there. With the tide high, large numbers of waders continually poured across the sea wall and into The Flood to roost, including Grey Plover, Dunlin and as I left, a 100+ Barwits.
The only other thing of note was the fact that a Carrion Crow's nest has appeared in a boundary bush over the weekend. I shall have to climb up and remove that tomorrow. the last thing that the reserve's few Lapwing pairs need is the crows feeding on their eggs and chicks.