Monday 25 June 2018


Time and it's attendant weather have moved on considerably since the depression of my last posting and with increased regularity the weather has become sunnier and hotter. This week as I write this the weather is hot with unbroken sunshine and due to remain so for some time yet - we're into a heatwave!
After my last posting I looked back at those of the earlier years, when I believe that they said something meaningful, had content and venom,and was minded to give up all together, because I wasn't really saying anything new or interesting, but we'll see.
April ended with a 20 hr period of heavy and continuous rain and cold N. winds on the 29th/30th that brought about a lot of surface flooding on the reserve. Some nests in the ditches and fleets were submerged and many nests or chicks of Lapwing and Skylark in the flat marsh were either covered in water or the chicks died of cold and wet in the long vegetation. For the Lapwings at least, the breeding season on the Swale NNR has been pretty much a non-event - too few pairs and bad weather affecting those that did breed. The other significant aspect has been the late and reduced return of summer migrants, Reed and Sedge Warbler numbers are well down from previous years -it was a funny old Spring!
As has already been mentioned, since then the weather has improved to a state of hot and sunny but the water levels on the reserve are beginning to drop away quite fast and the ground is very dry and hard, but so far, the grass levels have held up and the cattle and their calves are doing very well. This year, given all the activity in the fields, after two years of hay shortages, it looks as though hay will be plentiful - it may not be much cheaper but it will be plentiful. One of the Harty farmers this year has sown several fields of spring barley, a crop just beginning to re-appear on Sheppey, and it's good news because it means that the fields it's currently growing in were either fallow over the winter or with a catch crop and all benefiting wildlife.
In my garden last winter I cleared, re-dug and manured a new border and this Spring planted it with perennial flowers that attract and feed bees and butterflies. They are all flowering well, as you can see below, but where are the bees and butterflies?, they just haven't appeared this year, a whole border of lavender in my front garden, but not a bee in sight, I am so disappointed and worried.


This last few days I have been on the reserve by 05.30 to avoid the heat, little Ellie doesn't like it, and anyway it's so fresh, cool and quiet, quite superb. The evening sunsets have also been quite magnificent, this first one, looking west across the grazing marshes opposite my house, shows the sun just disappearing below the horizon at near 22.00 at night.

and this one, an incredible 22.30 as I went to bed. Just think, in winter we'd of had six hours of darkness by then, oh happy summer days!

 Lastly, as I drove back along the Harty Road on Sunday morning at around 8.00, this young Kestrel was spotted on a fence post beside the road and so I leaned my camera out of the car and took a photograph from just five foot away.


  1. This is all still relevant Derek. Good to have you back posting.

  2. -I agree with Steve above - it is good to have you back Derek and to read about the Reserve. Sad about the conditions when the young birds were hatching - it is always the case with the ground-nesters if the weather turns bad isn't it?
    That photograph of the young kestrel is stunning. I also find your garden photographs interesting - surprised though by your lack of bees and butterflies. Our local Comprehensive has hivesso honey bees are plentiful in my garden as are bumble bees of various kinds. Last week I saw a Red Admiral, a Peacock and an Orange tip all at the same time in my garden - so we are doing quite well in that area.
    Do please keep blogging - I so enjoy your Reserve reports.

  3. Thanks Pat, a few more comments would make blogging worthwhile, it's nice to swap comments with people. Several local facebook groups here have also mentioned a lack of bees and butterflies, a real shame.

  4. Thanks for the update Derek. It's always nice to learn what's happening on the reserve. Your love for Nature is always apparent.

  5. Nice to hear from you YP, we seem to be entering a severe drought down here at the moment, fields are taking on a parched and yellow appearance.

  6. Nice to see you back Derek. Something is not right; the lack of butterflies, bees and other insects is very concerning. Leave a light on outside and it will attract very few moths, yet when I was a boy it was impossible to leave a light on in the bedroom without it being covered.

    Modern agriculture and it's attendant chemicals will have much to answer for in the future.

  7. Welcome back Derek, you were missed more than you can know! I am almost house-bound these days and your blog really is a breath of fresh Sheppey air - please, please keep writing.

  8. Would be a shame to stop posting as I'm sure plenty of people, including me, enjoy the unusual mixture of wildlife observations, countryside knowledge and social history!

  9. Aren't sunsets (and sunrises, which I rarely manage to see) the best? Lovely pictures there, and you mentioned on Pat's blog that you have photographed another sunset.

  10. Yesterday and the day before I saw the Glaslyn Osprey fledglings on the live feed. It's hot in Snowdonia too. And no shade for those young birds. But they looked healthy enough.

  11. Derek I hope you do continue to write your blog it is so interesting.Just before Christmas I discovered your blog and started reading from 2010 to the present what is amazing is the way you manage to weave the natural history,social history and local history in general which taken as a hole world make a very very good book.Please keep it up.