Monday, 13 September 2010

A Bushful of Delights

By going to the reserve early today I once again got the better of the weather, warm sunny skies and just a westerly breeze. By the time I left both the wind and the cloud cover had increased.

Walking round it was one of those benign but delightful autumn mornings where you are surrounded for most of the time by a constant stream of swallows and martins, all purposely making their way south, just briefly swirling round to snap up a few insects over the backs of the cattle that I was walking through.

I was also interested to watch three large parties of Greylag geese flying the length of the reserve to alight quite close to me, (they are unfortunately fairly tame). Although they have been shot at and killed daily in the area over the last few days, its interesting to see how quickly they are already learning the safest routes to take through the minefield that is Harty marshes this autumn. For the last couple of days, on leaving the fields at the eastern end of Capel Fleet, they have deliberately flown down the middle of the new RSPB fields there to get access to the reserve and then flown the length of the middle of the reserve to end up at its western end. This route mostly keeps them out of range of the shooting that takes place either side of them but they still have one lesson yet to learn. They do like to go out to the Swale mudflats regularly to collect grit for their gizzards from the mud. By hiding in the saltings that they have to cross, this is where the wildfowlers are picking them off, but even here the geese will eventually pick out a safer route.

At the western end of the reserve the boundary ditch between the reserve and the farmland is marked by a number of largish hawthorn bushes and I had an unusual count of birds in one of them today. In just the one bush I was able to count 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Great Tit, 1 Blue Tit and 2 Long-tailed Tits. Here, that's an unusual variety of birds not only to have in the one bush all together but also on the marsh.

Butterflies have virtually all disappeared now but there is one that seems to be having a mini-hatch at the moment - Small Heaths. I have started seeing very small numbers of them again in the longer grass of the grazing marsh.

Not much else to report out of the ordinary as the dryness of the autumn continues to severely restrict bird numbers here.

Travelling back along the Harty Road I was surprised to see a brood of week old Pheasant chicks at the side of the road, which will do well to survive, especially as whilst talking to Peter Oliver a bit further on, we watched a parent Weasel moving its young across the road one at a time by the scruff of the neck - a magical sight.
Whilst discussing this winter's monthly Harrier Roost counts programme, which starts next month, Peter also gave me a bit of interesting news. One of this year's wing-tagged Marsh Harrier youngsters was recently photographed coming ashore on the Isle of Wight, the furthest sighting so far, although I believe that one of last year's birds was found in Essex. Also, Marsh Harrier numbers on Harty seem to have dipped quite a bit over the last couple of weeks and it will be interesting to see if this reflected at the first roost count next month.

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