Saturday 29 December 2018

Year's End

After the beautiful day's weather that we had on Christmas Day - weather wasted for those who had to endure being stuck indoors being Christmasy, although not me, we have had three days of greyness, gloomyness and dampness, though not rain.
I have been on the reserve around dawn on every morning, dawn that rarely shows much light before 07.15. I've been going at, or just before dawn, for several reasons, the first being that I rarely get up later than around 05.30 in the morning and the first chinks of light not showing until around 07.00 finds me getting very impatient indoors.
A couple of weeks ago a new Marsh Harrier night-time roost was found in the the dense reed beds alongside the sea wall, with up to sixteen birds being seen to leave there at very first light in the morning. Unfortunately my pre-dawn visits over the last three days have come up blank, the birds appear to have moved somewhere else at the moment. There are still several of them to be seem flying around the reserve every day but not to/from the roost it seems.
The Christmas holiday period, with many companies shutting down for a couple of weeks, means that the wildfowlers that shoot the saltings in front of the reserve tend to be more frequent with their visits than during the rest of the winter season.  Slowly, as the reserve begins to wetten up much quicker this winter after two previous drought winters, so the wildfowl are beginning to use the reserve again. This has therefore seen more shooting going on around, and just after, dawn, as the birds fly out to the nearby tide and over the wildfowlers. However, chatting with them as they pack up and from what I've witnessed, there may be a lot of shots being fired but very few birds are being killed. I rather suspect that this is due to poor skills and in one or two cases that I've seen, shooting at birds too far out of range. But the wildfowlers are a hardy and mostly friendly bunch and I always make a point of chatting with them as they pack up, the shooting that goes on there now is minuscule compared to how it used to be twenty-odd years ago.
I've had a few chats with birdwatchers as well while wandering round over the last few days and have enjoyed the fact that both they and the wildfowlers have failed to speak ill of each other, they seem to accept what each other does and leave it at that.
And so this year draws to and end. It basically began with the "Beast from the East" spell of Siberian weather, went through the glorious mid-summer heatwave (please can we have another next year), is ending in increasingly perfect wetland reserve conditions and I'm into my 32nd year as a Volunteer Warden on the reserve - I guess that allows me to say that I know a bit about the place.

I've ended with two wildfowlers and their dog making their way back along the top of the sea wall in the gloom of the early morning.


  1. We enjoyed our weather in 2018 as well. Plenty of rain at the right time, infrequent windstorms, seasonable temps. We have only a 6 year history here, tho, not the 32 year history you have! Wishing you a delightful 33rd year.

    BTW - we recently had a "new and improved" internet access installed, so I hope to be back to blogging again. I just couldn't bear the time-consuming uploading of photos to which our old system had deteriorated.

  2. Look forward to seeing you blogging again Wilma

  3. I have really enjoyed your year of posts about the Reserve Derek - so pleased you didn't stop blogging as you once thought of doing. Here's looking forward to your reports for 2019 - may it be a happy year for you.

  4. Thirty two years is a long time and I expect you have seen many changes on the reserve and many variations of the wildlife living there. Its interesting what you say about wildfowlers and bird spotters peacefully co existing as there is common ground, as its in the interests of the wildfowlers to preserve the species they shoot. It will be interesting to see what the new year brings weather wise, probably extremes of one kind or another. May you 33rd year be an interesting one.

  5. Thanks Dave, the points that you make are sensible and valid.

  6. I very much respect the fact that you have been a volunteer warden for over thirty years but I have zero respect for wildfowlers. It's no way to get your kicks. I would happily shoot the wildfowlers themselves or lace their potted meat sandwiches with arsenic. On this point I concede that we must continue to differ.

  7. Thanks for your comments Y P, we will of course look at life differently but nothing wrong with that.

  8. Happy New Year. Hope it goes the way you would like. Thank you for writing such an interesting blog.

  9. Thanks EH, it's always pleasing to get praise and I'll keep trying to do the same next year.

  10. Praise from me too Derek. A really great blog. And, re the wildfowlers, I chat to some of them at the end of Swale NNR I inhabit from time to time. I rarely see them come back with kills, but they, like us, must enjoy being out on that lovely marsh. Things may change now as the White-Front numbers build.A couple of years back one wildfowler came back with two. A day or so later as he headed out to the wildfowlers spot on the marsh, he told me he had some of his White-Front kills in his sandwiches! A part of country life that's being going on for centuries.

    1. Great to know that you enjoy the same area as me Unknown. Speaking to the wildfowlers this morning (3rd), it appears that most of them have shot very few, if any, birds over the Christmas/New Year period.

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