Today was the last day of this winter's wildfowling season and it will not resume now until the 1st September. That now means that my favourite winter birds, the White-fronted Geese, can safely fly around the area close to the reserve until they fly back to their northern European breeding areas as Spring approaches.
As a result I was along the sea wall of the reserve not long after first light, to see how many wildfowlers were present on this last morning, enduring the gusty strong winds and grey, poor light. The answer was five and as they begun to regretfully pack up and set off for home, I walked along with a couple of them for a while, chatting about their shooting season and what will happen on the reserve during the Spring and Summer months. I realise it's only natural for many birdwatchers to abhor the fact that the wildfowlers get enjoyment from shooting the wildfowl but their actual bags throughout the season are surprisingly low and achieved from many hours of sitting in intense cold weather in muddy conditions. To talk to these guys, as I do on a regular basis, is to realise that they get a perverse pleasure from enduring the harsh weather conditions in order to kill their next dinner and that many have long experience of wildlife and the countryside in general. So, apart from odd birdwatchers and walkers, my dog and I now have the reserve to ourselves for six months, Spring beckons and with it, the excitement of the first returning Wheatear.
In a few weeks time the sheep will leave the reserve and be replaced soon after by cattle with their recently born calves, Lapwings will begin their courtship displays, the grass in the grazing meadows will begin to green up, the catkins on the willows will burst forth and a whole new season will begin - I can't wait.