Sunday, 16 May 2010

The "Sheppey Harrier"

Earlier today, an hour after sunrise actually, when we were still bathed in blue skies and sunshine, such a treat, I had a wander round the reserve. It was a beautiful start to the day as I headed along the reserve boundary past the Tower Hide. In a boundary ditch close to the hide, there is one of the reserve's three Mute Swan nests, positioned against a clump of phragmites. It was lovely to see the swan sitting regaly atop the nest in the sunshine and being serenaded by a quartet of barber-shop Reed Warblers.
I decided to carry on round to where the RSPB has recently aquired a couple of ex-arable fields, which with proposed expansion should add valuable grazing marsh habitat to the area. The site is still very much in its infancy and still in a "suck it and see" mode whereby the flora and fauna are still being assessed before knowing how best to proceed but it has already benefited the Swale NNR. The two sites are only divided by a simple fence and as well as adding to the total conservation area, the RSPB site has effectively removed an increasing disturbance in recent years from a duck shooting syndicate that shot weekly there, up to the edge of the Swale NNR.
This morning it showed promise with 3 singing Reed Buntings, a singing Sedge Warbler and surprisingly in the middle of some left over rape in flower, a Whitethroat.

Back onto the reserve and despite the beautiful weather, birdwise, it was fairly quiet, as it would seem after the huge numbers of wildfowl there this winter. Swallows skimmed across the fields in increasing numbers and most clumps of phragmites seemed to have singing Sedge or Reed Warblers in them but there are purple patches where you don't seem to see much and this will increase once the breeding season ends and the reserve dries out. Normally by the end of summer, unless its been very wet, its difficult to find very many birds on the grazing marsh, it becomes too hard.
Despite good recent sightings of Lapwing chicks, several pairs are still sitting on eggs, which is no doubt due to the fact that many nests suffered earlier in a couple of cold, wet spells. Redshanks and Oystercatchers are also sitting on many nests and I found one Oystercatcher's nest with three eggs which had been positioned on top of an earth mound three feet high - no flooding problems there then!
In a couple of the fleets there were also a couple of small batchelor parties of Pochard drakes so hopefully this means that the missing ducks were nesting close by.

Oh, and one last sighting was of a superb specimen male Marsh Harrier, this one having the grey areas of plumage much paler than normal, making it look a bit like a male Hen Harrier with brown bits but it was definitely a Marsh. In recent weeks there has been reports on the Forum whereby some East Kent birdwatchers have decided to record some slightly different coloured grey-headed wagtails as "channel wagtails", perhaps I should call this harrier a "Sheppey Harrier" - or perhaps not.

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