Driving along the Harty Road early this morning the scenery was as good as it gets, apart from being a tad autumnal. Blue skies, a few whisps of mist, warm sunshine and everywhere gold with with the corn or its stubble. The rape has already been harvested and the ground tickled over ready for the winter corn and as soon as the corn is harvested those fields will be immediately sown with rape and the whole process quickly re-starts again.
There wasn't a breath of wind as I arrived on the reserve and already the sun was getting quite warm so that I wouldn't need a jumper. My exuberance was marred however by stepping out of the car to find that one of the juvenile Barn Owls was on the ground dead. The reserve only bred the two chicks this year, which were rung as usual, and they left the nest a couple of weeks ago. So sad to see such a valuable bird dead after such a short time. Difficult to say what it had died of, although it felt very thin, but Barn Owls tend to be very thin under all that feathering anyway, so who knows.
Its amazing how a day can be so different as migration starts to get under way, the last couple of days, mainly due to the dryness, have been very quiet. Today as I approached the wet, muddy areas of the "S" bend ditch, it was somewhat different. A total of 14 Green Sandpipers got up in a procession of ones and twos, with 3 Common Sandpipers mixed in. A Snipe and a LR Plover quickly followed, plus a few scruffy looking Mallard. One or two Marsh Harriers drifted in off the farmland and made their way along the seawall reed beds, causing a bit of consternation from some Bearded Tits and everywhere were Gatekeepers, either weakly fluttering by or sunbathing on the sunny side of plants.
I decided to turn back along the boundary fence between the reserve and the neighbouring farmland, not far from the Tower Hide. In the early autumn this particular stretch of fence is a favourite place to find Whinchat and today it didn't let me down, there were my first two, lovely stuff! Close by in some elderberry bushes were also 4 Whitethroats and a Sedge Warbler and it was apparent that autumn seems to have started. Final proof of this was the white flashing rump of a Wheatear, making its way up on to the top of one of the old Salt Workings Mounds - the same mound that I last saw one on in the Spring.
By then the dogs were getting hot and thirsty and decided to combine swimming with slaking their thirst in one of the ditches. Not a good idea at this time of the year because they tend to be around two inches of water and twelve inches of black, smelly mud. The result being two dogs happily walking out of the ditch, wet, smelly and looking as if both had black welly boots on up to their shoulders. Does wonders for the aroma in one's car but does deter passengers.
Whilst trying to avoid the explosion of thousand of drops of flying mud as they shook themselves, I just managed a glimpse of a Grass Snake as it too slid quickly away across the ditch.
It was a fabulous few hours out there this morning and lets hope that we can hold on to the sun and the warmth for at least another month before the dreaded winter starts to get closer.