The sun cast an oily stain in the sky at the horizon. The sky was almost clear of cloud and the air was near windless. The start of a Summer’s day. Not unusual for late May or June...Usually. But the weather this Spring has been dreadful: April was the wettest on record, May must have been close and now June has started with days where the expected rainfall was more than the average amount for the entire month. The rain has been seemingly constant, almost without let up. In short it has been what might be called ‘Fine weather for ducks’.
Sunday morning’s ascent into Summer was both a surprise and a relief. The fields either side of the road were carpeted with the mists of Summer before full sunrise and there was a surprising amount of wildlife on the road itself, most of it still alive! Collared doves, woodpigeons, crows, magpies blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, chaffinches, pheasants and, of course, rabbits. They all scattered ahead of the car, not all at once of course, that would have been remarkable. There was also the all too obvious evidence of those creatures not nimble enough to continue contributing to the gene pool. Their remains made conspicuous smears of mushed flesh, bone, feather and fur, food for magpies and crows and bait for more victims.
The mist lingers longer on the marshes, fuelled by ditches, rills and dykes filled with weeks of rain. The entrance track to the reserve was only visible for a few metres ahead before it plunged into a solid wall of white. At the side of the track a pair of red legged partidges sat off of the wet grass. The female of the pair looked thoroughly dejected, soaked through and unwell, I could almost see concern on the face of the male as he stood guard over her.
As the sun rose higher it began to light the mists and colour them in saturated golds and oranges. Cattle moved slowly through the glow. Other, smaller denizens of the marsh began to appear as the mists lifted.
There were whitethroats in the orchard, probably the same pair as last week since they were busy foraging for food for their hungry chicks. On the way out to the hides the last remnants of the mist cleared and revealed the almost clear Elmley sky. There was very little wind and the water in the dykes and pools was millpond still, reflecting the blue sky above. I have photographed this group of rushes many times, I love its simplicity, and, with the sky reflected so clearly in the water surrounding it, I couldn’t resist just one more. This time the rushes appeared to sail across the calm waters of a surreal sky like some sort of fairy ship.
The islands on the scrape have been largely taken over by black headed gulls. They are raucous and bellicose and they will not tolerate any other birds in their airspace above the nests - everything is chased and harassed, benign or otherwise. Consequently I didn’t spend much time at the hide and I made my way slowly back to the car park. As I walked the sky began to cloud and the wind picked up. A short eared owl made a brief appearance and the local redshanks, protecting their young, vulnerable chicks, harangued it mercilessly. This is a sketch from last week when my encounter with the short eared was much longer and actually gave me the opportunity for some sketches.
As I write this I am listening to the incessant drumming of heavy rain on the conservatory roof. The awful weather has returned, once more Summer is on hold.