After even more heavy rain during the night and with it being an awful, misty, murky day with poor visibility, it's hard to believe that the great outdoors can get any damper. Water runs off or out of every field and along every road, and every tree, bush or patch of vegetation seems to be dripping like a permanently running shower. As someone who is very much a warm and sunny weather person, it's my personal nightmare, especially now that the reserve has already attained water levels not reached until January last winter. The cattle are not helping things on the reserve either, when not wading through large lakes of standing water, I'm having to negotiate gateways that they have reduced to large areas of foot deep, muddy bogs. I've also lost count of the times that I've stood in a flooded cow's hoof print and had muddy water squelch up the front of my trousers and coat. Two hours walking round there at the moment leaves me with all the aches and pains of not only doing an assault course but looking as if I also rolled in it - but if nothing else, the birds love it and are starting to turn up in better numbers.
Water, water, everywhere is also starting to mean birds everywhere as well. Yesterday there were 30 White-fronted Geese on the reserve, plus 180 Mallard, 38 Gadwall and small numbers of Teal. At high tide, waders have re-established their high tide roosts on the reserve as well, especially in the Flood Field in front of the Sea Wall Hide, Bearded Tits and Water Rails are in the reed beds alongside the hide and Marsh Harriers, a ring-tail Hen Harrier and occasional Short-eared Owls are seen most days hunting throughout the marsh. The only thing I would say, is that unless you are wearing wellies and have strong legs, don't bother trying to go round to the Tower Hide, the gateways are awful.
Now, regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my occasional rants about the visits by one of the local Fox Hunts to the Harty farmland and how they still hunt in the normal, pre Hunting Ban way, causing all manner of disturbance. I've always thought that it was something that only happened, tucked out of too many people's view, on Sheppey but it appears not. Reading another excellent blog from Kent yesterday, see www.ploversblog.blogspot.co.uk - you will see that he witnessed just the same thing happening on the Walland Marsh, where once again it was proper hunting, not scent trailing that was taking place.
In all probability fox hunting in the traditional way still continues throughout England on a regular basis and the Hunting Ban only really exists on paper and in the minds of those silly enough to believe that it was ever a victory for the anti-cruelty campaign. It was a win-win situation really, the Hunts still carry on hunting and the antis are happy to believe that they got it stopped - sorted!
Lastly, while I'm having a moan, at one end of the reserve sea wall this morning, I could see three birdwatchers watching the geese on the marsh, so I spent half an hour walking towards them thinking that I could share a bit of reserve bird knowledge with them. Imagine my surprise, or should I say disgust, that when only about 100yds from them, they picked up their scopes and sped off away from me - miserable, unsociable gits!