The first event this morning was the very sad news of the death of David Bowie. I never bought his music but he was so much an icon of an era, hearing his music always takes me back to the happiest years of my life. R.I.P.
Today began in it's now pretty much guaranteed way, dark skies, heavy rain and coldness. Yesterday I gave the reserve a miss, not something I do often but I needed a break from wading through water and mud all the time. Instead I walked the short distance from my home to the Minster beach Shingle Bank and joined a few birdwatchers enjoying close views of a very obliging Shorelark.
Sheppey is doing quite well at the moment for birds because on the reserve as well are a Richards Pipit, a Hooded Crow, White-fronted Geese and Hen Harriers.
But it was back to the reserve today as three of us carried out the monthly WEBS count on the 13.00 high tide there. Below is the entry gate onto the marsh, a wade through foot deep water starts the walk round off. (Apologies for the poor quality, the light was pretty dire)
There were several birdwatchers on the sea wall as I trudged along it, counting various birds as I went. Mostly they were looking for the Richards Pipit, which was proving to be quite elusive, although it was reported as seen this morning.
I eventually found a pretty good variety of birds but numbers were lower than I was expecting, especially the waders and plovers, possibly many were on the water-logged arable fields further inland. The stand out birds for me were the White-fronted Geese, they're numbers continue to gradually inch up and today they were at a this winter high of 270 birds. The newer additions to the flock had probably brought another visitor with them because feeding within the flock was also a solitary Barnacle Goose. What else, ah yes, the Hooded Crow put in it's usual appearance, once again staying remote from the resident Carrion Crows. Duck numbers were abysmal for the time of year and the degree of flooded grass available to them. I recorded just 190 Shelduck, 40 Teal, 20 Mallard, 2 Shoveler. 1 Pintail - a few years ago we would of been counting several hundreds, if not thousands, of ducks.
The heavy skies, poor light and low bird numbers did little to ease my winter blues and it was time to head back across the marsh and home, though that trek was just as dire. Below is the route across the grazing marsh........
......and here is one of the boggy crossing points, with Ellie about to sink up to her shoulders in it.