Sunday, 20 February 2011

An Even Greyer Day

Bette Midler used to sing a song called "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year", it would be an appropriate song to play today. Despite a Wheatear and a Swallow being seen in Cornwall this week it was quite dire earlier on today, in fact the perfect word to describe the conditions on the reserve at dawn today is - Dank.

I arrived at the barn just as it was getting light to be met with misty conditions that reduced visibility down to several hundred yards, moderate drizzle and a cold NE wind. Twelve hours of rain yesterday had also considerably increased the wet areas and mud on the grazing marsh and as I made my way across to the seawall I slipped and sloshed and sloshed and slipped through the murk and mire.

If I hadn't sat indoors all day yesterday bored rigid looking at just House Sparrows and the odd Blue Tit on the bird table, I probably would of stayed home this morning. However, today was the last day of the duck shooting season and I always like to be there and silently in my mind kiss the shooters good bye. On top of the seawall and struggling to identify anything through the drizzle and mist with my binoculars, one thing did become clear, the wildfowlers had already kissed me goodbye and had the sense to stay in bed - there was no one there. Who's the pratt now I thought to myself.

However, appearing through the mist further along the seawall there was a solitary figure, who to my surprise, turned out to be a birdwatcher. I say surprise because as he agreed as we chatted, it was definitely not a good morning for bird watching, or indeed seeing the owls that he had hoped to find. I gave him a few suggestions of routes round the reserve and wandered off with just the ever present Midge as company. The cold wind increased and for a while the mist and the drizzle moved back and the hope of seeing what I could hear increased but it didn't last long and it gradually closed back in again.

What did I see, well there certainly weren't any Skylarks singing today but appropriately for the conditions there were quite a few ducks about. In the Flood I could hear the whistles of Wigeon and Teal and the purring quacks of Gadwall. Nearly a hundred Mallard and a pair of Tufted Duck rose up from the "S" Bend Ditch and I could also hear a male Reed Bunting singing along there somewhere. Also, half a mile or so away through the mist on the farmland I could hear the calls of Greylag and White-fronted Geese, so the White-fronts, that totalled 300+ on Wednesday were still there.

I made my way up into the Tower Hide and had a look into The Flood and there were indeed Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall in there, plus a pair of Pintail and some Shovelers. Despite yesterday's rain I think I'll pump some more water across there this week while the ditches are still full enough to supply the water. The Tower Hide will be renamed the Perforated Hide soon if a Green Woodpecker has its way. It has already hammered two large holes through one side and a viewing flap and is now working on a third. You can't deny it its sense of vision, that's a very large nest box.

I guess that I had only been out there an hour and a half but the cold, the damp and the mud were enough for me and I decided to call it a day and headed back to the car, putting a nice ring-tail Hen Harrier up from a ditch as I went.

Perhaps we should re-word the song to - "Spring Will Be a Little Dank This Year"


  1. It certainly is a little depressing at the moment,it seems every day offers rain. Hopefully only a few weeks before at least a few early migrants will make it all worthwhile.

  2. Marc,
    It must be even worse for you guys that rely on a good weekend. I know that before I retired I used to get really wound up at a wet weekend and clearing up jobs indoors is no consolation.

  3. A beautifully painted picture again Derek, I enjoyed it very much.

    I always think 'dank' is an excellent description of those conditions, it is like that here today too.

    Poor old woodpecker, all that misguided hard work, it did make me laugh though.

  4. Thanks Jan,
    I haven't put the champers on ice just yet.