Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Summer Slips By

Well, dare I say it, after a good spell of very warm and sunny weather, it felt a tad autumnal this morning when I got to the reserve, a gusty NE wind was blowing under a grey sky and swallows weren't stopping as they sped by heading south west. Presumably we'll have some hot and sunny days yet before the autumn arrives, but this morning when I got up at 5.15 as usual and had to put the kitchen light on, the days are getting shorter, it feels like summer might be slipping away.
One thing that hasn't changed is the fact that here on Sheppey we have had our normal bone dry summer, no matter how wet the winter and spring were, no matter how much it has rained elsewhere, the Swale NNR is now bloody dry again. Above you can see the track that runs past the start of the "S Bend Ditch". Well into May that track and the reed beds alongside were still under water and impassable and the high water mark is still showing on the mound to the left.
We are still getting small numbers of passage waders springing out of the muddy ditches, this morning there were a dozen Green Sandpipers, plus some Little Egrets, a few fledgling Avocets with parents but best of all, my first Clouded Yellow butterfly for many, many years. A beautiful looking butterfly.
One last thing of note on the reserve, the moderate increase in the population of rabbits this year is now suffering its annual myxomatosis outbreak and so unfortunately we'll soon be back to square one, just as numbers were looking promising again.

Something a bit different, when ever I go down to girlfriend Diane's place near Camberly in Surrey, I always walk the dogs through an area called Hawley Woods. This site is huge and must cover a similar area to Harty, it is owned and used by the M.O.D for various exercises but at the same time is open and accessible to the public to walk round in most of the time. As you can see from the photos below it is a mixture of pine woods, with occasional oaks, birch and chestnuts and large open areas of gorse, broom, grass and heather. Its a beautiful place to walk round, especially in the recent sunny weather and a real novelty to me, given that I spend most of my time on the North Kent marshes. I first started walking round there about six months ago and over the ensuing months had high expectations of seeing all manner of wildlife that I don't normally see on Sheppey - Woodlarks, Tree Pipits, Dartford Warblers, Stonechats, Whinchats, etc, etc. To date I been immensely disappointed, yes I have seen a Goshawk and an Adder but little else, its quite amazing. I can see and hear more birds in the short walk from the reserve barn to the seawall than I ever can whilst walking round those woods and heath. Butterflies too have been in short supply and its all a bit weird, the habitat looks superb and I thought it would be a real wildlife fiesta to walk round but no, very quiet, just mainly Chiffchaffs and Greenfinches and the odd Willow Warbler. The marshes still do it for me!


  1. Superb habitat there Derek, just wish we had some a bit more locally to us to experience these Goshawks, Woodlarks etc.

  2. Marc,
    You're right, it is superb habitat but many walks round it just aren't turning up the amount and variety of wildlife that you would expect to see, its just so quiet. Perhaps its me, perhaps I'm too used to the immediate visual impact that you get from birds on the marshes and perhaps you have to stand around in this habitat for long periods and wait for it to appear.

  3. You saw a Goshawk and an Adder and you're disappointed...Wow!?
    I wish I could even identify a Goshawk in real life conditions, thought I saw one at Thursley Common in Surrey but not 100% sure? Light and perspective make it really difficult. I envy you're skills.
    Did a walk in a Dartmoor woodland last week saw nothing until right at the end and got two rooding Woodcock, maybe that's the right strike rate for that habitat or maybe its the nature of walking- as opposed to keeping still. As an occasional ex-volunteer in the Rutland Osprey Project I recall that I always saw a great deal more sitting still on my duties and letting wildlife come to me, so to speak. You are right in your assumption that you are spoilt in the NK marshes where the birds are so concentrated and plentiful.
    I see the weather is forecast to get back into into the 30c region by the latter part of next week, that will cheer you up.

  4. Ian,

    I'm certainly not disappointed at seeing a Goshawk and an Adder, would just like more of it, so few other wildlife over six months is a pretty poor return from such a lovely place.
    Like you suggest, its the difference between the two sites, bird life on the marshes tends to be in your face in large flocks - it has to be dug out by stealth in the woods and heath.
    30c sounds fine to me before the winter returns.