Friday, 18 February 2011

Grey Days


This morning was a second one where the weather was misty, grey, gloomy and cold in a S.E. wind. This awful winter seems to be never ending and its been four months now walking round in heavy winter clothes, we must be owed a hot and sunny summer this year, despite the fact that that will no doubt upset some people just as much.
The first day of sunbathing in the garden this Spring is going to be celebrated with a bottle of champers I think - can't wait.

There were a couple of promising signs as I walked round though, a few Skylarks lifted up into the gloom and serenaded me and just as last Saturday, Reed Bunting cocks were singing from various territories, I counted eight this morning. There are also other signs that things are changing, the grass along the seawall has grown several inches in places and catkins are coming out on the Goat Willows in the approach thicket to the reserve. So, things are primed to explode forth into Spring, we just need more than the odd sunny day to convince wildlife that its all go.

You will see below that the "S" Bend Ditch is now as full as it should be as it snakes away into the distance. Just before I took the photo the ditch had been full with around 400 mixed Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler ducks. (I took this from the top of one of the old salt workings mounds and Midge decided to pop up in front)

Below is our pump house, with The Flood in the background. In there we have a large diesel pump that allows us to pump the ditch water in three different directions in order to keep wet areas, wet.

Behind me as I took the above photo, a Mute Swan went gliding by with The Tower Hide in the background.

This photo was taken Wednesday, early evening, as I was standing at the Seawall Hide taking part in the monthly Harrier Roost Count. It captures dusk settling in as a full moon begins to come to life in the sky above. For my particular part of the Count it was very quiet with just the one male Hen Harrier seen going in to roost, although I did have the company for a while of two S.E.Owls.

The six month shooting season finally comes to an end on Sunday night and despite my increasing tolerance and understanding at why they do what they do, it will be nice not having to share the solitude of the early mornings for a few months. There was a good example of the increasing co-operation between myself and them last Sunday when one of the local wildfowlers came round my house. He had shot a Greylag Goose a few days before at Shellness and found that it had a numbered black neck collar on it, plus a numbered leg ring from Spain and gave me the details. On Monday I went on the Internet and via a European ringing website supplied the details given and within two hours received full details back.
Apparently the goose had been caught, rung and released whilst already three years old, in the Reserva Biologica de Donana at Huelva, Spain, in January 1999. This meant that the goose was 14 years old when shot, a good age.
Now I know many of you will immediately cry shame and how disgusting that it should be shot after all that time but let's look at the positives - it had enjoyed a good lifetime, by being shot and recovered it meant that valuable information wasn't lost in some unknown place, and I'm assured that it provided a good meal.

Personally, I think that was a pretty good outcome and I hope that during the summer months that the postive understanding and shared knowledge that is developing between myself and the true wildfowlers continues to broaden in the way that it is. More trust and less suspicion has to be a good thing between us.


  1. Well, you know my thoughts on the wildfowling Derek and I certainly don't think the good age of the goose is any justification for the poor creature meeting its end like that!

    However, that aside I enjoyed your post and photos. The 400 strong, mixed ducks must have been quite an impressive sight!

    I think we all need the Spring now, it is a cold, bleak day here today.

    Have a good weekend :)

  2. Thanks Jan,
    I began last September with long held, exactly the same views as you on the wildfowling subject. However, as a result of many exchanges of opinions over the winter with a very interesting, very experienced and un-biased wildfowler, I've ended up with a much broader realisation that both sides have much in common, similar goals and much that can be achieved for the common good. Something I never thought that I'd hear myself say. We just need to look past that instant reaction that we feel when we think of shooting and realise that an enormous amount of good for wildlife can be achieved by sharing the enormous amount of both experience and love of the countryside that both have.

  3. He may be experienced but he can't be unbiased as he is clearly biased toward shooting. I'm sure he does have much experience and love of the countryside but he could have all of that without feeling the need to kill!

    Of course I realise we will never agree on this Derek but no doubt we will keep exchanging views :)

  4. Unfortunately Jan, there is an enormous amount of valuable habitat out there, with its associated wildlife, that is only there because the landowner maintains it that way so he can kill things. If all hunting was banned tomorrow there would be millions of acres of such habitat ploughed up or grubbed out and lost forever, so hard as it is to accept, wildlife does benefit from some people's desire to kill things. I could show you some terrific habitat on Sheppey where the farmer could make a lot more money by ploughing it up and growing harmfully sprayed corn, something he admits he would do if he ever lost interest in shooting.

  5. Would it be right to rob a bank if I spent the money doing good deeds Derek ? Once again, I think you are far too kind a person, and compromise far to easily :-)

  6. Rather than just plodding on in my own blinkered, "all things bright and beautiful" way Warren, I absorb the views of a whole range of different people here on Sheppey, and if some things make overpowering sense I'm happy to moderate or even change my views.
    "Too kind a person" makes me seem charitable, I'm doing what I feel will, long term, benefit wildlife and a lot of the wildfowlers do actually do far more hard work for wildlife on their owned habitat than any twitcher does charging up and down the countryside.