Muntjac, Butterfies and a Tit …
Friday 22nd April 2011 – 18:50: It’s Good Friday! I have no real commitments today and I can please myself what I do. So, it’s 7:00 am, the sun is shining, the sky is clear, and I am walking alongside Hoo Brook on my way down to the Stour. Nothing much is moving apart from a few pigeons flying between trees, and the brook – whilst still low – is clearer than of late. A canal boat is approaching the canal lock and a couple of hyper children are calling out excited reports to their father, who is steering. Both children jumped off the boat whilst it was still in motion, as though they had been living on the boat most of their lives, and headed off, with a cranked handle in hand, to do the necessary with the lock gates.
I creep along the cast iron pipes hoping to get a glimpse of the muntjac, but no such luck; all is quiet in the swamp this morning. I judge how unobtrusively I am covering ground by the absence of bird alarm calls; if I am alarming the birds I am less likely to get decent wildlife subjects for my camera and less likely to get close wildlife observations. There is nothing like a breaking pheasant or mallard to frighten away all the wildlife in the immediate area. So my progress through the marsh does tend to be exceedingly slow. Approaching the North Pond I hear splashing and a muntjac emerges soaking wet, just had her bath I expect; she is probably on her way home and she hadn’t seen me. The vegetation is now quite high and it won’t be long before she will be able to wander about through complete cover. I manage to get a few shots of her gliding through the long grass. 100 metres, or so, further on I glimpse another muntjac in the wood along the east side of the pond, but I am not quick enough to capture an image. A couple of mallards see me and break from the pond, I manage to get a photograph of these, though, but they alarm the muntjac and it takes flight. Mallards are difficult to get past without alerting them into flight mode – unless I see them first, that is.
There is a coot part hidden amongst the reeds; it sees me, but I don’t think it’s sure what it’s looking at, so it moves silently out of sight. The mating groan of a heron rises from the island on the other side of the Stour, and I hear a curlew call from over there, also. I cross onto the east bank of the pond and wait in amongst the trees for wildlife to walk into view or fly overhead. I hear something large running through the pond, too large to be a muntjac; it turns out to be large, brown, wet German Pointer, but it runs straight past me, oblivious to my presence. A short time after, the dog’s owner wanders along the track towards me; he does see me and then so does the dog. We talk for a while and then go our separate ways.
I see three men walking across the pasture bordering the lagoon field, one of them has a clipboard and the others have binoculars – WWT people carrying out a survey, I expect.
I walk back along the west side of the reserve and photograph butterflies and some newly flowering plants. I cross the north pasture via the cast iron pipes and still no sign of a muntjac in the swamp. I pack away my camera as I am walking along Hoo Brook. I just about snapped the strap buckles shut when a heron lifts off the brook right in front of me. So it’s true what they say: “Don’t put your camera away until you really need to.”