Monday, 9 September 2013

Cobweb Times

The two photos below pretty much sum up the Swale NNR at the moment, the cupboard is bare, there are very few birds or anything else for that matter. We are experiencing our usual late summer/early autumn dry spell, the grass is just dry and colourless and can hardly be feeding the bellies of the cattle and the ditches are very shallow and stink.

Spot the green stuff, part of the grazing marsh as it currently is, although today's rain may soon make me out to be a liar.

Over the weekend I visited the reserve both mornings at dawn and was lucky enough to be able to witness a couple of beautiful sunrises over Shellness Hamlet. Laying in bed is never better than being on the marsh at that time of day, watching a new day coming to life and listening to the various birds out on the mudflats waking with it.

Walking round the reserve at the moment is an experience with little expectation, there are a few ducks in both the seawall fleet and what water there is left in the "S Bend Ditch." Uusually one or two Green Sandpipers and Greenshanks will get up from the mud along the "S Bend Ditch" and odd Wheatears pop up as they pass through on migration but there's certainly no large numbers of anything, except perhaps the Greylag Geese. It'd be wrong of me to mention dawn in September on the reserve without mentioning both the Greylags and the wildfowlers, because they both feature in a typical dawn at the moment.
Just as the first brightening in the eastern sky begins to appear, then the Greylags that have been out on the mudflats of The Swale during the darkness, will begin to stir. They become increasingly vocal until eventually in a huge whirring of wings and a crescendo of calls, the whole flock takes to the air as a mass of dark shapes and heads across the saltings towards the stubble fields of Harty. Shots ring out from unseen people hidden in the rills of the saltings and down will come several of the birds as the rest of the flock scatter in haste to clear the seawall into the safety of the reserve. Its a very brief respite though because as they just as quickly exit the rear of the reserve and fly over the stubbles, they often find themselves the target of guns there too. Unfortunately for the geese where shooting is concerned, they do fly very slow and low and are difficult to miss at times and as a result they do prove an irresistible target to those people that enjoy their shooting. Having said that, I'm always surprised at the end of each shooting season to see just how many Greylag Geese survive each time, it's not quite the carnage that it seems that it might be, the geese quickly wise up to flight lines that they can take that will see them fly across areas safely.
Which I suppose, given what I have just written, will cause some people to question my support of wildfowlers in recent times. All I can say is that I admire a lot of the conservation work that the wildfowlers do on the land that they own or lease these days and I'm glad that huge areas of important habitat are under their management rather than being developed. I'm happy that if wildfowl are to be shot then that its by genuine wildfowlers, who kill far, far, less than most farmland duckpond syndicates do - but I still can't quite enjoy the actual shooting out of the air bit.

Lastly, I'll leave you with another view across the reserve in its current very dry state.      

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