Tuesday 18 August 2015

The Swale Barge Race

The annual Swale Barge Race took place a couple of Saturdays ago in warm and pleasant weather and was it's usual spectacular sight. The hours running up to the start of the race at 08.45 had seen benign and windless conditions and I wondered if the race would actually get under way but as if by magic, just half an hour before the start, a fresh breeze sprang up and everything turned out perfect.
Diane and I watched it from the beach at Shellness Point, easily the best vantage point, especially as the barges had to tack to and fro across The Swale bringing them close in to the shore.

Walking back along the beach afterwards I captured some images of the other morning delights, below are Turnstones, with breakfast on hold until the tide goes out.

And Vipers Bugloss.

Yellow-horned Poppy.

Sea Holly.

Last week's storms brought some rain to Sheppey but no where near what much of the rest of Kent received and just 24 hrs later it was difficult to see that it had actually rained, just the odd muddy patch here and there. As a result any changes to the bird numbers on the reserve have been negligible, with more disappearing than appearing. Most of the Reed and Sedge Warblers have already left the reed beds and begun heading south and the regular high, over-flying of Whimbrels, indicates that they are doing the same thing. The only real influx of birds has been the Greylag Geese. For the last month they have been inland somewhere but now, right on cue for the imminent start of the wildfowling season, back they have come. At the moment they are spending each day travelling between the reserve (for bathing, drinking and roosting) and the wheat stubble field alongside (for feeding on the spilt grains). Unfortunately this regular and low flight line between the two areas is easily ambushed by duck shooters on the farmland side and it will be interesting on the 1st September to see if that becomes the case.
Oh, and the lone White-fronted Goose with the damaged wing has re-appeared. This bird first appeared on the reserve at the end of February last year, possibly the result of being winged by a wildfowler, disappeared through the summer months and then came back sporadically through last winter. It can't fly and so walks or swims everywhere but still seems to be surviving OK, though where it disappears to on the reserve for such long periods is a bit of a mystery.

Other than that, it's quiet, and I guess the next event will be dawn on the 1st September when the new wildfowling season gets under way on the seaward side of the sea wall in front of the reserve. I intend being there at first light, as I have for near 30 years, to watch events and chat with the wildfowlers afterwards.

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