It's been some time since I last wrote about the reserve and to be honest, it's been some time since anything worth writing about, happened. Here we are almost at the end of December and the main talking point, surprisingly, remains that of the lack of water. After this summer's prolonged drought we finally got a few days of rain several weeks ago and things began to look as though they might catch up water-wise. Since then however it has been either dry and frosty, damp and drizzly, or just plain grey and damp, but certainly not very wet. Sure, when I go out to the reserve each morning the grass is always wringing wet from dew, drizzle or mist, and the bare areas are soft and a tad muddy, but the shallow rills are bone dry and the ditches are barely any deeper than they were in July. I was talking to a birdwatcher out there a couple of weeks ago who hadn't been there for some time and he was amazed at the lack of water and as a result, the lack of wildfowl. It is blindingly obvious therefore, that unless we get a high amount of rainfall during the next three months, we will have serious water problems out there by the end of the Spring once drying winds and warm sunshine come along.
Mind you, both the cattle and their owner are enjoying the current conditions. It's mostly mild, the grass is ticking over nicely, the gateways, etc., haven't become impassable due to cattle damage from excessively wet conditions and no doubt they will be taken off for calving much later than is normal.
Bird-wise, well things aren't too bad in respect of variety, it's mainly the wildfowl numbers however that are well below what would be expected there in a normal wet winter. The very low water levels in the fleets and ditches and a bone dry Flood Field, have meant that numbers of Teal, Mallard and Shoveler are well below what used to be recorded 10-15 years ago, only Gadwall are present in reasonable numbers. The 300+ feral Greylag Geese are surviving the shooting that is going on all round the reserve well though, they always seem to find the safest routes in and out of the reserve on a regular basis. Their numbers are regularly boosted as well by 48-50 truly wild White-fronted Geese, always a joy to see and hear.
What else, well the day-time roost of Short-eared Owls out on the saltings seems to be holding their own at around 10-12 birds and encouragingly, they are regularly joined for a night-time roost, by two female and one male, Hen Harriers, a far better number than in recent years. The only other birds of note are a long stay Crane and a Richards Pipit. This Skylark sized and rather plain Pipit, an autumn/winter vagrant from Asia, is back to the exact same spot along the reserve sea wall for it's third winter running. Other than that, on a day to day basis, the reserve can be pretty boring at times due to the low numbers of birds.