Gawd, what a wet week this is shaping up to be, every afternoon so far, there have been a number of heavy or torrential downpours. Combine those with high humidity and very warm sun between the showers and all plant-life is growing like it would in the jungle, and if my garden is anything to go by, creating a jungle. Gardening has been difficult this week, especially lawn cutting, because in the morning the grass is still wet from dew or the overnight rain and by lunch-time just as they become dry, the showers start.
Earlier this morning though, there were some good long spells of very warm sunshine and I was on the reserve by 7.15. Warblers seem to be everywhere this year and just simply getting out of the car at the barn you are serenaded by both Whitethroats and Reed Warblers and the occasional explosive song of the Cettis Warblers, deep in the willow/phragmites scrub. I let the dogs out of the back of the car and the distant sound of a cuckoo quickly began to get closer and closer until suddenly, a pair of them suddenly burst over the willows alongside me. My unexpected presence startled the male and he gave a kind of doubled "cuckoo" call rather than the usual single one and then they were gone. These two have been quartering the phragmites reed beds on the reserve for over two weeks now and judging by the number of singing Reed Warblers, must of been successful in finding hosts for their eggs.
One of the oddities of Sheppey is that, despite being an island of around 12x8 miles, the weather can still be very variable and this was apparent this morning. Easily two thirds of the Island this morning was soaking wet as I drove down and yet the dirt tracks on the reserve were bone dry, it clearly hadn't rained in the last 24 hrs. Anyway, we set off and eventually made our way past "The Flood Field" where a peek over the earth bund round it found that several pairs of Avocets and some chicks were still present.
Just like the Avocets in this year's Springwatch, some of our Avocet chicks have suffered predation from sea gull neighbours but the overgrown state of the vegetation this year has saved many. Many pairs of adult Avocets have led their chicks away from the open-ness of the water and it's nesting islands and further up the field amid the long grass and club-rush.
The dogs and I then carried on past one of the herds of cows, their calves and the visiting bull. Fortunately the cattle are of a very placid nature and as the dogs and I walked partly through them they take very little notice of us, although I always pick up both of the dogs to be on the safe side and never take the cows for granted. The bull meanwhile, gradually rose to his feet, eyed us up and down, had a few grunts and then slowly wandered off towards the rear of what I imagine was to be his next conquest.
Up on the sea wall, the vegetation has become very tall, with a mixture of grass, Cow Parsley, Alexanders, Salsify and Goatsbeard. It is hard work to walk through and when wet from dew or rain, normally leaves you soaked from feet to hips. When it is wet as well, there is the uncomfortable sound and feel of countless snails crunching under foot, unfortunate, but you just can't see or avoid most of them. Looking in a wildlife book I think that they might be White-lipped Snails.
They also share the long vegetation with these large black slugs.
For those first-timers along the sea wall, we have sign posts indicating how far there is to go, east to Shellness and west to the church.
While I was taking the above photo I was being constantly scolded by the Sedge Warbler below, who I imagine probably had a nest nearby. We carried on and left it to it, heavy clouds were starting to gather.