Thursday, 11 July 2013

Fings Move On

Despite a nagging NE wind that just won't stop blowing, this last week has been consistently hot and sunny and a real joy to experience, summer on Sheppey as it used to be.
Having said that, travelling along the Harty Road this last few days has been a bit of a drag, thanks to the work of one of the two major farming families on Harty, who never seem to have much regard for those around them. They are currently transporting trailer loads of the huge white gypsum heap by the Raptor Viewing mound to various parts of Harty via the road. The result is that the road by the RVM is now becoming increasingly covered in a layer of the gypsum and every vehicle that drives through it draws up a white storm of dust. Imagine the white and possibly corrosive paste that will adhere to every car should it rain in the next few days.

While we're talking depression in respect of Harty, the two wind turbines above, recently installed at Eastchurch Prison, can be clearly seen from as far away as the Sheppey Bridge and remind us of how bad it could get if regular gossip is true. Gossip that suggests that many more wind turbines are being considered/touted for Eastchurch and even Harty marshes in the near future. The photo below shows the latest development at Eastchurch facing on to Harty, that is taking place. It shows the stands that have just been put in place to take a huge Solar Panel Farm that will no doubt shine brightly in any sunshine that we get.

But, having highlighted all the efforts of a few local farmers to increase their wealth at the expense of Sheppey's heritage, lets return to the Swale NNR. Here the continuing dry weather (we haven't had serious rain for around 6 weeks), has seen the water levels plummet, as the photo below shows. As recently as mid- May this gateway sat in the middle of a area of flooding that was impassible, now look at it and nothing will change this side of Christmas.

Below you see one of this summer's great success stories so far, the return of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in numbers not seen for several years, in fact it the reserves's commonest butterfly at the moment. It has been a real joy to see so many of these colourful butterflies about and hopefully they are recovering from the mite attacks that have decimated their numbers in recent years. And if you want to find them, where's best, well on good old Ragwort plants, a magnet to so many butterflies and moths, although no Cinnabar moth caterpillars are being found on them just yet, hopefully there is time left.

I know that Ragwort has a bad press when it comes to it's ability to poison livestock, especially horses, but we have no horses on the reserve and I've never known a cow or sheep die as a result of it being there, so hopefully some plants will remain to continue to attract all manner of insects.

And on the subject of butterflies, many stinging nettle patches on the reserve are now home to large clusters of Peacock butterfly caterpillars as can be seen below. Hopefully the Small Tortoiseshells are repeating this elsewhere on the reserve.

In the middle of the grazing marsh there is one small hut, home to the borehole and recently the pump that served it. Plans are afoot to upgrade it but in the meantime a pair of Swallows have taken it over as a nest site. This is the second nest there this year, as the first is laying on the ground below this one, presumably it came unstuck from the beam but hopefully this one will survive better.

A few flowers now.  Water Plantain below.

Sea Lavender on the saltings.

And along the seawall, the flower and seed heads of Goatsbeard.

The cattle and their calves continue to do well, although the length of the grass shows that they are fighting a losing battle with the grazing this year.

The bull that I featured in my last posting has been causing problems. Despite having a harem of several dozen fine cows, all desperate to be mated with him, he has a couple of times, done a runner towards another small herd in the field next door, a herd that is not to be mated this year, ahead of being sold. Despite a wide and deep fleet and metal gate between the two fields, the lure of the forbidden fruit next door has been to much for him and so an electric fence has needed to be erected as a barrier. Poor thing, I'm sure that many of us have had the same lustful thoughts in our energetic youth about the lady down the road, no - oh dear perhaps I'd better stay quiet.

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