The first obstacle is the barn gate onto the marsh, where the ditch either side has joined up across the track to create foot deep water.
Turning left onto the track I began the daily daunting task of wading my way through much mud and water to get to the sea wall hide, visible below as a tiny square on the horizon in the centre of the photo.
This is the gate-way, 50 yards past the photo above, and turning right, into the water.....
I carried on through the cattle, (responsible for a lot of the mud), as the light gradually improved.......
and through even more water to eventually climb up onto the seawall and visit the hide.
For any birdwatcher viewing the reserve from the comfort of the sea wall, the reserve, with it's large areas of flooded grazing marsh, must look pretty much perfect for attracting birds at this time of year, which of course it is. For me, getting old and arthritic and entering via the management entrance to the rear of the reserve, the challenge of walking round in deep, clinging mud and water each day leaves me feeling like I've done a mini assault course each time.
And was it all worth it this morning, well no in all honesty. My early start was to hopefully have a chat with any wildfowlers that might be there but there was only the one and he packed up early through boredom and the failure to fire a shot. For whatever reason, the wildfowl numbers that have been steadily building over the last 3-4 weeks have dropped off this weekend to leave 1-200 Mallard, 20-30 Gadwall and the usual 100+ Greylag Geese. The White-fronted Goose flock was totalling 84 birds in mid-week but they have been absent for a couple of days and Wigeon, well, unless we get a severe cold spell, the days of counting them on the reserve by the thousands, have been consigned to history now. Sure there were birds about but not in the numbers that the conditions should be attracting, I could probably make out a list that was fairly long, but most of the birds featured would only be counted in totals of less than ten or twenty.
The biggest count of the morning was a herd of 117 Mute Swans, feeding pretty much undisturbed in a field of rape alongside the reserve. This same field had been ravaged for the last month by a large flock of Brent Geese but numerous gas gun bird scarers had finally scared them away and the gas guns had fallen silent, until that is, the swans had moved in, Now the swans are happily chomping their way through what I presume is an appetising and free green meal, the gas guns will soon be back!
In summary, if we get a nice clear and sunny, frosty day then the mood to enjoy the conditions will be enhanced considerably but at the moment, struggling through all that mud and water is not fun, it's just a necessary evil - today was the Shortest Day, roll on the Spring.