Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Damp and Dismal

In stark contrast to my posting of last week featuring sunshine and warmth, this week has been pretty dire weather-wise. Several days of low cloud, poor light, cool N. winds and constant drizzle or rain have seen the reserve return to an almost late winter picture of large puddles along most of the access tracks and muddy gateways created by the grazing cattle. As a result, for someone who prefers constant warm sunshine at this time of the year, the last couple of visits to the reserve have been brief and pretty joyless events.

 Even the return to the wearing of the hated wellie boots hasn't helped, the vegetation is so long and soaked now that it means that you still return home with an area of trousers above the wellies, soaked through. In other places the weight of the water has seen areas of the vegetation collapse and flatten to the ground which also doesn't help some wildlife.

This was emphasised yesterday morning as two broods of just a few days old pheasant chicks emerged from the soaking grass alongside a track looking like pretty cold and wet balls of fluff themselves. Unless they can get some respite from being continually wet and cold those conditions can quickly see the demise of many ground nesting birds eggs and chicks. Lets hope that we quickly see a return to the warm and sunny weather of recent weeks.

One day last week I had the privilege of standing beneath the nest of a Buzzard, high in the branches of a tall tree, near Eastchurch. From what I've been told there are several  pairs of Buzzards now breeding on Sheppey, something that would of been inconceivable ten years ago. As I stood there beneath the nest, with a parent bird circling and "mewing" close by, I pondered on how much bird life on Sheppey had changed over the last thirty odd years. Thirty years ago Marsh Harriers were an uncommon summer visitor, normally only seen on passage in Spring and Autumn, nowadays they are not only a common and resident bird but breed in good numbers. Likewise Avocets. In the 1984 Kent Bird Report the highest numbers of Avocets recorded that year were 34 and 37 in November and December in North Kent. We now have breeding colonies of 30+ pairs on Sheppey alone, let alone wintering flocks of 2,000+ in the Medway. Little Egrets can be seen in even the smallest of ditches throughout Sheppey, are as common as Herons on the marshes and are now being joined irregularly by Great White Egrets and even Common Cranes.
It's changed an awful lot since I cycled out into Sheppey's countryside in the early 1960's as a teenager, hoping to see a rare bird called the Collared Dove.


  1. Nice to hear the predators are nesting on Sheppey. Must mean they're no longer shot. All we want now is for eagles to start nesting.

    Collared doves have been spreading northwards from our SW corner of Sweden. In the 1960s we chased around looking for them, now they're nesting in the garden. I have distribution maps from 1980 and 1990 showing them all the way up the Norwegian coast to the arctic circle, and all over the British Isles. That doesn't mean they weren't rare locally, like Sheppey. They seem to like people, so maybe they're in the towns and villages rather than the marshes. Another one that's spread since 1950 is the chiffchaff, mainly in woodland and parks, but now we have several nesting in the village.

  2. Collared Doves nest just about anywhere here now, even on traffic lights in the middle of town roads.
    Many Chiffchaffs overwinter here as well, as well as some Blackcaps.