My last two blogs have made mention of hints of Spring and yet this long cold, very wet and windy winter has continued to win the day.
But, it may only be the one day but Spring has been around again today. Cloudless blue skies and unbroken sunshine have dominated the day and an almost warm, gentleness has taken over the garden. Bumblebees have been visiting the helleborus, daffodil and heather flowers to feed up. A Robin sang for much of the day from a naked Elderflower bush and the pond sparkled in the sunshine.
The newts have returned from winter hibernation and looked thinner as a result and so I spent an hour digging up earthworms to feed them with. I'd drop the worm segments in front of each of the newts and watched events. Surprisingly, despite having eyes, the newts seemed very short-sighted and it would take several attempts to pounce on the worm but then mass shaking would take place, just like a dog does with a rat. Amazing how many newts that there are in the pond and I so love to see and watch them.
As I said at the beginning, this winter has been loathe to relinquish it's hold on the countryside this year but today has been a pleasant taste of what's soon to come. Out on the reserve the marsh still has large areas of surface water across the grazing meadows and what isn't covered, is water-logged. Lapwings have begun their happy courtship displays and nesting on any dry parts of the marsh can't be far away. Likewise, the Marsh Harriers high above the reed beds, are courting, high in the sky and their plaintive calls cascade down as they tumble up and down in their "dancing" displays. Skylarks are the avian chorus line, endlessly singing in the background and a constant reminder of how the countryside used to sound for so many people - we are lucky to still have them here.
But it's not all move over winter, Spring is here, the last few weeks have been very cold and grey with icy winds. It's been difficult at times just lately, to find the enthusiasm to plod round the reserve each day. The saving grace has been the winter wildfowl numbers, many still reluctant to spread their wings and fly north, heading home to breed. The reserve this winter has seen wildfowl numbers not seen for many years, the result of the flooding and the cold. Chief among these have been the White-fronted Geese, spreading out across much of Kent but concentrated mostly here on the reserve to peak at 850 last month but still this week, totaling 590, and a joyous sight to seen and hear. Lately they seem to be spending all day on the reserve's grassland bur roosting somewhere well west of the reserve. This means that each morning around 08.30 they suddenly appear, high in the sky in their V formations and calling with their beautiful "winkling" notes to suddenly break formation and tumble down onto the reserve. There they feed, they wash and pairs split away to court and renew their bond-ships - life can suddenly seem a wonderful place!