Saturday, 28 June 2014

Spuggies and things

During this last week there was a brief bit of chat on a local forum about how many House Sparrows (Spuggies) some of us were recording in our gardens. The result seemed to suggest that they were doing quite well, especially in gardens where the birds had a large bush or hedge where they could gather together and pass the day away safely. I've regularly commented on my own consistent garden flock of 30-40 birds and Sheppey, especially the rural parts, still seems to be recording reasonable numbers of this bird that was once so prolific that people were paid to shoot large numbers of them.
Personally I think that they have great charm and a pretty much unique plumage colour, which is often wrongly described as drab but there aren't that many birds with a similar combination of browns and greys. It;s also rare to see regular records of spuggie numbers being submitted to various bird organisations - perhaps people still take them for granted as they chase the more colourful rarities around the countryside - that common old spuggie - but is it?

This morning, before 6.00, I was on the reserve enjoying a couple of hours in the windless and warm sunshine of a lovely summer's morning. At any time of the year you only get that kind of stillness and serenity twice a day, at dawn and at dusk. I love looking at the windpump in the early morning, it captures so much the images that I retain from my childhood on the marshes of Sheppey when they were a far commoner sight.

Moving past the windpump I made my way to the western entry gate on to the reserve and it's seawall, where the track leads down from Harty Church.

The track is sandwiched between tall poplar trees and this year's corn crop and gives good views across the flat marsh of the reserve to distant Shellness Hamlet and at it's top end leads left to Harty Church.

Turning all the way round at the track gate, the view southwards is of a low tide Swale with Horse Sands exposed in the middle and the assorted boats moored in Faversham Creek. Many days of the year you can usually see 20-30 Common Seals as they rest on the Sands at low tide and during this month they will often have pups with them.

Tucked away in the distance from the track above is Harty Church and it's neighbouring farm buildings

Back on the reserve itself this is a Coot's eye view of a typical ditch on the reserve - now shallow water bordered each side by club rush but still retaining the charm that only a marshland ditch can - the odd ripple of a Rudd at the surface, the startling leap of a Marsh Frog into the water, dragonflies chasing flies, a Dabchick bringing a Minnow to it's eager brood - a ditch has a lot to offer if you tarry long enough!

A view across the flat grazing marsh that makes up most of the reserve, marshes are fortunately not everybody's cup of tea, especially when the bitter cold winds of winter make the shelter of woodlands a far more enjoyable experience, but I have lived and loved them all my life. Real hardy people are marsh people as they endure the endless winter damp, the freezing winds, the fogs, the frosts, the baking sun of the summer days - special people and I' proud to have spent 67 years being one.

And I'm not alone, Midge and Ellie wouldn't swap the place for the world - well, a few extra rabbits would be nice. And that leads me onto another favourite rant of mine, (see below).

I read a local blog yesterday where the writer had gone from his usual Kent patch to the Ashdown Forest in Sussex, presumably to someone else's patch. Whilst there his photography session had been spoiled by someone's dogs that has appeared and jumped into the waterway that he was photographing - cue a big rant on his blog about dogs and what a pain that they are - seconded by at least one other blogger.
What is it with these up their own arses, PC perfect photographer types - that's what dogs do, if I was a dog on a hot day, I'd jump in a ditch too. The point they always miss is that they have travelled to someone else's patch, the dogs and their owner probably walk that same patch every day of the year and then one day they have to endure some prat appearing out of the undergrowth, trying to stick his lens up a dragonfly's arse to get that perfect, better than anybody else's, macro shot. I doubt that dog owner takes his dogs into another county to annoy somebody on their own patch - some of these birdwatchers/photographers need to accept that other people enjoy the countryside in different ways, it's not for them alone.
Thank Christ for big, wide open and unpopular North Kent marshes, the dogs and I love the solitude.


  1. Nice to see you and the girls enjoying the sunshine.

  2. Thank Wilma, and nice to see your extension coming along nicely.

  3. Well said Derek, I too have had some disparaging comments on my local patch at Dunge from visiting birders who object to my terrier Barney who accompanies me across the Romney Marsh - thankfully, most of the locals love him though! Also, good to hear you giving old Jack Hargreaves of Out of Town fame an airing in one of your posts, I loved that programme when I was kid. All the best, and Keep on ranting!

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