Walking round the reserve early this morning at 6.00, I was struck at how all of a sudden the amount of bird song is beginning to decrease, the reserve is getting quieter as mid-summer takes hold and the drought increases. Although we're pretty much entering a second year of these very dry conditions, we still haven't yet reached the intensity of the 1976 summer, or that of the first couple of years of the 1990's here on Sheppey, but we're getting closer. Having said that, the weather forecast for here is for some rain over the next couple of days, a forecast these days which rarely seems to come true. That leads me to the latest type of warning from the Met. Office, such as for today and tomorrow, a Yellow Warning (be prepared) of rain. Presumably that is because any showers might be heavy and intense but come on, all of my life I've never known it come down to being warned that it might rain, seems silly!
The countryside around here is mostly burnt yellow, bone hard and tinder dry, a colour exacerbated by the fact the rape crops are being harvested and the wheat and barley fields are also that bright gold colour. Given that the ground that all these crops are growing in is cracked and dust dry, it will be interesting to see how much the yields will be affected this year. It's certainly done away with the need to mow the garden lawns this summer very much, mine is burnt brown and yellow now and has only required a light mow just once this last month.
But getting back to the birds on and around the reserve, well with each visit more and more of the Reed and Sedge Warblers in the reed beds are falling silent. The Marsh Harriers have fledged their young now and therefore becoming more solitary again and the wildfowl are entering their eclipse, or moult, period. This moult sees them lose their flight feathers for a short time and become vulnerable to predators and so many tend to skulk about in waterside vegetation and become less noticeable. There are still a few pairs of birds breeding, some will go into late August, but in the main many are now in family groups as they fly around, Linnets this morning were noticeable in small flocks again. I read somewhere recently that Linnet numbers are starting to drop, well that's definitely not the case around the reserve, they are easily the commonest finch.
Following on from their disastrous breeding season this year and with very few feeding opportunities for them in the bone dry conditions, Lapwings have mostly left the reserve now, I doubt that we'll see many of them back now until wet conditions return. All in all we're now entering the annual period of wildlife inactivity where for the next couple of months the countryside seems to go to sleep. The only major activity to look forward to now is the harvesting of crops and then the readying of the fields for next year's crops.