Driving along the Harty Road was far better than yesterday's journey, there weren't the dull grey and threatening clouds for a start and it was also beautifully quiet. Yesterday morning of course, was the 1st September - the first day of the wildfowl shooting season for this winter and the duck shooters were certainly out in force. The stretch of Capel Fleet between the Harty Road and Windmill Creek, for instance, sounded at times like a battle scene from WW2 - such were the rapidity of gunshots going off, gawd knows how many shooters were along there. Closer by, near Capel Corner, there were also three shooters from nearby Capel Hill farm having their own private little duck shoot and a couple of miles away, below Muswell Manor, another syndicate could also be heard.
And what was the attraction - several hundred low and slow flying Greylag and Canada Geese, that if the shooters were honest, required very little shooting skill in order to down them. For the last few weeks somebody has been heavily spreading corn along the water's edge each day to attract the birds and then hey presto, you can't miss.
But that was yesterday, this morning was serenely quiet, a hint of mist briefly rose as in the east the sky was turning pink, hinting at the rising sun just below the horizon.
I carried on and eventually parked at the reserve's barn and letting the dogs out of the car there, the chilliness in the pre-sun air soon became apparent. To my surprise a Pipistrelle bat was continually flying round the barn and seemed to be attempting to get up under the eaves, I've never seen a bat there before but a new colony would be very welcome and exciting.
I began the trudge across a very wet marsh, not wet as in puddles, although it was muddy in places, thanks to the cattle, but very wet grass from a heavy overnight dew, that hinted that a touch of frost might not be too far away in the future. How did summer become autumn so abruptly! And talking of autumn, fresh and tasty looking small mushrooms have appeared since the weekend, I made a note in my mind to bring a bag tomorrow in order to take some of them home. Fresh, dew-covered mushrooms, bacon and an egg - so nice!
But a gunshot woke me from my salivating and as I glanced towards the seawall I was just in time to see a bird falling from the sky, clearly my reason for being there so early were there, some wildfowlers. Climbing up onto the top of the seawall, it was easy to see that there were just the three Kent Wildfowlers today, unlike the ten there yesterday morning for the first day's shoot. I left them in peace and quiet and wandered off along the seawall for almost an hour, before returning as they began to pack up and walk in from the saltings towards the seawall.One of them had retrieved the shot bird, a Greylag Goose and we had a chat for some time about tasty goose dinner he had coming up, the forthcoming winter and shooting season, and the unnecessary and senseless slaughter of so many wildfowl yesterday along Capel Fleet by ignorant duck shooters, not true wildfowlers. To many people I suppose, a duck is just as unnecessary dead whether it's been shot by a duck shooter or a wildfowler, but there is a huge difference in how the subject is achieved. Wildfowlers tend to be solitary soles who sit out on the tidal saltings in very muddy conditions, enduring all kinds of weather, in the hope that a goose or a duck might happen to fly their way. Over these first two days thirteen wildfowlers shot just one duck and one goose - compare that with the mob-handed duck hunters sitting in comfort round corn fed duck ponds inland on the Harty marshes. They can sometimes shoot as many wildfowl in one session as the wildfowlers total together in a whole season.
I've grown to admire the wildfowlers and enjoy my chats with them along the seawall in the winter and do you know, I might even get to eat a goose this year for the first time since I was a child.