Friday 21 May 2021

Looking Forward To Summer

 Looking at my previous post this morning I was gob-smacked to see that it was posted two months ago!

Since then we have had a Spring, if you could call it that, like none that I can recall in recent memory. 

Pretty much the whole of April was dominated by sunshine, cold and strong N.E. winds and a long spell of morning frosts. The combined effect of the cold, drying winds and the sunshine saw the reserve dry out at a remarkable rate and by the end of the month it was hard to imagine that it had been so flooded over the winter. Ditch water levels dropped to near summer levels, the water-logged meadows dried out and the ground was cracking up. One of the down sides of all this dryness was the effect it had on the thousands of cattle hoof prints that they had left behind before being taken off the reserve by Christmas. Every hoof  pushing down into the soft, muddy ground, squashed the mud upwards round the print and when these all dried out during April we were left to walk over hard ground that resembled cobbles. It was tiring and painful on arthritic feet and ankles!

So, April ended up as being one of the coldest April's on record and we began May hoping to see a change in the weather and hoping for some rain, amazingly after the wetness of February and March, and some warm Springlike weather. Well, they say, watch what you wish for and boy have we had it. In the three weeks of this month so far it is looking like May could be one of the wettest on record and we still haven't had at least one proper hot and sunny day that has exceeded 20 degrees. It seems like it has rained every day, or part of day, since we began the month. Ditches have recovered to normal water levels for the time of year and with the meadows becoming damp again the grass has been growing like mad, which will please the cattle as they begin returning today.

Another feature of May has been a couple of spells of unseasonable gales. Two days of severe gales a couple of weeks ago had a probable disastrous effect on the local rookeries. With all the rooks nests being placed at the tops of the trees you can imagine how many eggs or chicks that must have been thrown out as the upper-most branches swayed violently in the gusts of wind. This morning as I write this we have endured a night of gale force winds and today, severe gales are forecast. Trees, shrubs and flowers in the garden are being smashed about violently and it's cold. Perhaps if I wish for a calmer and hotter June we'll get a mini heatwave, it's needed.

The breeding season on Sheppey's three main nature reserves has also seen a mixed bag as well. Lapwings, the most important ground nesting bird on the marshes here, got off to a very successful start with large numbers of breeding pairs and very good numbers of chicks hatched. However, throughout April, the increasingly dry ground made sourcing food difficult for the chicks, plus and more importantly, the predation was intense. Gulls, harriers, crows, hawks, all queued up to take a heavy toll of the Lapwing chicks. It has to be hoped that second broods from these  birds during May will go some way to restoring the balance.

So, that's it - will it be a hot June, I hope so.