Saturday, 27 November 2010

Numbingly cold

As is my habit at weekends, immediately there was the faintest glimmer of light to the east this morning, I left home for the reserve, well, after that is, di-icing my way into the car and waiting for the windscreen to clear of frost.
Once again I also had to de-ice the lock on the gate before I could get onto the reserve and by the time I parked at the barn and begun walking across to the seawall it was part light. The frost across both the marsh and the saltings was quite severe and its whiteness on the saltings served to make two wildfowlers sitting out there, easily stand out in their dark clothing. As much as I detest them being there I had to admire their hardiness this morning, I was numb despite walking about, to sit out there with feet in cold mud and not move for 2-3 hours, must of been excruiatingly cold to the point of hyperthermia. One stood up as I passed him on the seawall and the photo below, grainy because it was still part dark, should if you double click and enlarge it, show him as a dark shape and where he is he is only 100 yds from the seawall and the Seawall Hide.

A bit further along the seawall and the light began to increase and the sky pinken as the sun came closer to the horizon. This photo looks across the frozen saltings towards the mainland and Seasalter in the distance. Amazingly, although it was too small to show up in the photo, a Lapland Bunting crossed the sky in front of me as I took it.

Having checked out the wildfowlers and seen no birds at all except the Lap. Bunting, I came off the seawall and through the gate below and got back on to the reserve marshland.

Once through the gate, I began making my way along the raised bund that runs from the front of the reserve to its rear. Once upon a time, before the current seawall was built, this bund was the seawall on one side of Capel Fleet as it made its way inland from the sea (I'll describe that another day). At the end of this bund is the rear reserve boundary, followed by the fields being restored by the RSPB to grazing marsh. If you enlarge the photo you can also see Leysdown in the distance. Bird-life really was at a premium this morning and with what little water that there is on the reserve, now frozen, it looks likely to remain that way. That said, as I walked along the bund towards the RSPB fields, the slightly different cackle of some geese could be heard and crossing the RSPB fields towards me were 34 Barnacle Geese, they made for a very picturesque sight in the frost and the gloom.

Getting to the reserve boundary, it was which way to go time and I plumbed for ignoring the usual reserve route and carried on across the RSPB fields to the farm track. At first these fields appeared as deserted as the reserve but gradually I found a few birds moving about - some Wrens, a Fieldfare, another Lapland Bunting, 16 Skylark, a Water Rail calling from a ditch reed bed, and lastly, dare I say it, a fine fox.
After that there was little else to do but follow the farm track back past frozen winter corn and Brewers Farm in the distance and down to the barn and my car. Briefly as I walked along the track, the sun came out but as I looked behind me I could see that mist was literally following me as I went. By the time I had got back to the car visiblity had all but gone and this was the case all the way along the Harty Road, where at the top of Capel Hill I bumped into Chris Gibbard and a few bird watcher friends who unfortunately had arrived at the same time as the mist.


  1. Good job I changed my mind first thing this morning and didn't venture down to Sheppey!

    Very atmospheric photos Derek.

  2. A really good series of posts this week Derek, and it's pleasing that you are building up a well deserved following. If only more bloggers would follow your lead and write more descriptive pieces rather than just listing the birds seen. I hope the feet are holding up well but these frosts must be giving you some problems - and I trust that Nana has more sense than you and stays in the warm.

  3. Corinna,
    It was a good change of mind, visibility was poor at least all morning.


    I've always tried to keep away from the type of blog that you mention, where they just repeat themselves every day with the same routes and similar birds, just different numbers - so boring.

    Feet were painful when I started off but gradually eased off. Nana did stay at home in the warm, she was 15 last week so picks and chooses. If you enlarge the last photo, Midge is to the RH side of the track.

  4. My goodness, I feel even colder than I did before, after looking at your photos Derek. Well done for braving the weather! I think if I was you I might have contented myself with that cosy chair and watching the 'Cuckoo clock' hedge :)

    Is there nothing the RSPB could do about the wildfowlers? It seems so cynical to be shooting so close to a reserve!

    Another very nice read and I'm glad you were rewarded with some nice bird sightings.

  5. Derek,
    Is the track shown in your last photo the one which leads from Brewers across to Muswell Manor ? If so, I guess the bushes on the right hand side must have grown considerably since I last walked there.

  6. Jan,
    The reserve (inc the saltings) is owned by Natural England, the RSPB have no jurisdinction there. Natural England also have the final say when it comes round for the shooting permission to be re-evaluated but to date everything remains as it is. It is a complex situation that is not as straightforward as it seems and is too long to explain in this section but I have discussed it in previous blogs. In the meantime the Kent Wildfowlers continue to grow in strength, NE seem happy not to upset them and birs continue to be shot inside an area with protective status.


    Yes that is the track to Muswell Manor and the trees have grown well and do improve the habitat.