This morning, an hour or so after dawn, I wandered along the reserve sea wall. It was a still, warm and sunny morning and large numbers of swallows and martins zipped past me, stopping now and then to snap up an insect, but generally, speeding south to their winter quarters. I stopped at the Sea Wall Hide and scanned along the saltings, nine wildfowler's heads were pretty obvious, peeping out from the rills and gullies. Today is the first of September, the first day of a new shooting season, the first day of meteorological autumn and for me at least, that awful gnawing feeling that summer is pretty much over. For a moment I was lost in thought, no more long, hot summer days, warm and balmy evenings and eighteen hours of daylight. Every day now darkness inches forward in the mornings and backwards in the evenings with ever increasing haste.
Three quick shots rang out and woke me from my daydream. A Mallard duck, clearly out of killing range, wheeled round in the sky and hastily made it back on to the reserve and dropped into the safety of a ditch. I continued along the top of the sea wall, wildlife-wise it was pretty quiet, just a few Reed Warblers and Bearded Tits in the reed beds, who were suddenly out-sung by a Cettis Warbler. I felt confident that this first morning at least, was going to be a bit of a waste of time for the wildfowlers, although I know that for some of them, just being back out again is good enough. That was certainly not the case somewhere in the distance across Harty, probably the lower reaches of Capel Fleet and the stubble fields around it. From there could be heard periods of heavy shooting that went on at regular intervals over a couple of hours, clearly the comments that I made about the geese in my last posting was coming true!
Another two shots rang out across the saltings and two ducks fell from the sky, later confirmed by the guy that shot them, as a pair of Gadwall. The sun was getting warmer, the mosquitoes were beginning to bite and the wildfowlers began to pack up and walk in to the sea wall, two ducks among nine men was a pretty poor but acceptable return, unlike the numbers taken by the inland duck shooters this morning. For the last three weeks, at around 8.00 each morning, around 200+ Greylag Geese have risen from the stubble fields near to the reserve and flown the length of the reserve, on the inland, safe side of the sea wall to spend the day at one end of the reserve. Chatting with some of the wildfowlers this morning I explained this goose routine to them, stating that none of the geese fly out over the saltings where they might be shot. The wildfowlers had barely digested that disappointing news when six geese flew straight towards us and making me out to be completely untrustworthy, flew out over the saltings where the guys had just come from! That prompted an immediate return to the saltings by those guys, in the hope that more might follow and I, disgusted with the stupidity of the geese, left for home. I shall ask the wildfowlers tomorrow if the main flock of geese did as I said they would, later fly within the safety of the reserve.