The cormorants are back on the marsh.

29th October 2011: A ribbon of dense white mist covered the Lower Stour Valley early this morning. This is always an impressive sight when viewed from high-up in Hoo Wood. I watched crows, magpies, pigeons and buzzards emerge from its murky vapours into a bright autumn sunrise, only to see them fade away again as they flew back into the mist.

Early morning heron in the lightning tree.

The marsh vegetation was dripping wet as the heavily water laden mist lifted. I realised later that I should have taken more photographs of what was really a spectacular event. For a short period, as the sunlight began to break through, the water droplets hanging from leaves and other vegetation twinkled as the sunlight refracted through them. I did take a couple of water droplet photographs, but I know I missed a golden opportunity to capture some really dramatic images. Next time I see a mist floating above the marsh, I won’t make the same mistake.

Winter Thistle.

I find it exciting walking along the twin iron pipes from the water works early in the morning – if I have said this before, then I apologise. Badgers, foxes, squirrels, the odd weasel, mink, various birds, and sometimes muntjacs leave their droppings along the top surface of the pipes: an animal’s calling card, if you like. This is one of the few places on the marsh where I can readily see what animals have passed before me. This morning it was fox and badger droppings that threatened to get between the pipes and my boots to put me on my backside in amongst the brambles and stinging nettles. Heavy vegetation grows vigorously in between and to each side of the iron pipes. At a guess, I would put each pipe as being half a meter in diameter and 100 mm apart. Depending on the composition of my boot’s soles, moving along the pipes in wet weather is a very risky business that requires a high level of concentration to avoid my sliding off into the dense bramble and stinging nettle bushes. Rubber soles work best on the wet iron pipes: polyurethane soles are deadly, offering only minimal grip. At the moment, I have 5 pairs of Gortex lined waterproof boots, and I have found four pairs severely lacking in their ability so separate my feet from the wetness of the marsh. I am so disappointed in the modern high-tech boots that I am replacing them with traditional rubber wellingtons and lace-up wellie type boots. At least, the latter can be relied upon to keep the feet dry.

River Stour.

Every so often, I have long dog-rose tendrils to deal with. These are often 25 mm thick, thorn covered, flesh ripping whips that are best avoided at all costs; in darkness, these can prove to be particularly dangerous. They wind their way in and out of the tree and bush branches. Sometimes the tendrils get so long and overbearing that their hosts are unable to support them. They fall unrestrained across the pipes, waiting to embrace and entangle anyone or anything foolish enough to brush past them. The older dog-rose tendrils are hard and tough and the thorns extremely sharp. I carry a folding pruning saw in my pocket to deal with these vicious obstacles; a sharp pocket knife is just not up to the rigours of this job. I mean to say: eventually, you might cut your way through a tendril with a sharp knife, but you could also get ripped to pieces by its thorns in the process. Cutting through dog-rose tendrils is dangerous, they are often highly strung with various latent tension or compression stresses. The free end of this organic spring is likely to lash around all over the place when it is severed and, before it is eventually restrained by the surrounding vegetation, you might find yourself entangled in one of these unpleasant man traps.

Dandilion Seed Head.

The marsh cattle had cleared a fair bit of the tall undergrowth from around North Pond and they have even started working on the swamp. Progress through the north end of the marsh is now much easier. The Shetland cows do seem ready to eat anything green. I watched a well horned cow stripping the leaves from the tree branches around the pond this morning.

Six cormorants arrived on the marsh last week after an absence of six months or so. I am glad to see them back.

There is more marsh-related stuff I could drone on about, but at the risk of boring everyone … another day, perhaps! What goes around comes around repeatedly.

In the slide show below are some of the images I made today on the marsh:

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12 Comments on “The cormorants are back on the marsh.

  1. Another interesting post Mike. You can’t beat a good pair of wellies to keep your feet dry. I have worn wellies for more years than I care to remember.

    • Thanks, John. The marsh takes its toll on boots with fabric and leather uppers. I think the brambles and dog-rose thorns destroy the stitching. I also think it is probably the dog-rose thorns that are responsible for puncturing the waterproof Gortex linings in my boots with the fabric uppers. So it is rubber for me from now on.

  2. Your posts are always interesting. Love the photos of the squirrels & the moist vegetation. The outline of the heron in the tree is very striking – great image. The frost on the dandelion is an impressive shot too. Hope you can take lots more photos of the Autumn colours..

    • Thanks, Victoria. There was just about enough light for me to get an auto-focus lock on that heron, but I think it worked out OK in the end. I will be taking more photos of the Autumn colours, because there is not a lot of wildlife activity on the marsh at the moment. To be honest, I was more interested in trying to finding otters and mink activity on Saturday. So I guess you could say that my mind was on other things that blinded me to the water droplet photo opportunities. Such is life!

  3. There’s something odd about the heron photo. I am not sure what it is and I am not sure if I like it. Is it the moodines, perhaps? I don’t know. May be I do like it. Yes…I think I do like it now.

    I ceratinly do NOT like wearing wellies – they make my feet smell and the chaffe my delicate skin. Lace-up wellie boots might do the job Mike.

    I think you post is adequate and worth my comment.

  4. Thanks, Dave. Your confidence in me is reassuring. There are various ways of avoiding smelly feet and chafing – do an internet search if you are desperate. I think, though, that you either need wellies, or you don’t. I have a pair of Hunter short wellies and they are amazingly comfortable. I didn’t think I would ever say this: they are as comfortable as slippers . How sad am I? I have initiated a discussion about wellies.

    • No no nooo! I can’t stand by while you belittle our humble wellie. Just remember that you can’t be a farmer without a pair of wellies. You can’t be a country gent without a pair of wellies. I would say that most people who want to keep their feet dry own at least one pair of wellies and it would be difficult to be a fisherman without a pair of wellies. If you ask a tramp what footwear he find most suitable, and he is going to say wellies

      I know that you like to keep on topic Mike, but wellies are a legitimate marsh accessory in my book, so they must be a legitimate topic for your blog.

      Just out of interest Mike, what type of lace-up wellie boots do you intend to buy?
      It has been raining all day here on the Beacons and it’s as muddy as it’s possible to get around my pond/lake. Without wellies, my feet would be in a terrible state.
      Dave’s comment about wellies making his feet smell – well wash them Dave. It’s a simple as that – end of story!

      I think I have mentioned before that I am not very good with writing. I have started to use exclamation marks in this post. Have I used them in the right places?

      Well, I’m off down the pub now.

  5. The lace-up wellie boots look OK. I think I might try a pair, but I will wait to see how you get on with them before spending my hard earned cash.

    • So I am field testing wellie boots now?

      I had an email today: the wellie boots have been despatched and we are in for some real rain, apparently.

      You haven’t mention the new avatar.

  6. What kind of cormorants do you have in your marsh? They look a little like Neotropic cormorants that come up from Central and South America and breed along the Texas coast.

  7. Thanks for your comment, Marilyn.

    We have around 9,000 pairs of cormorants breeding around our coast, and somewhere in the region of 24,000 cormorants overwintering inland in the UK; their numbers have been increasing since the 1970s,

    We have two species in the UK: the Great Cormorant and the Shag. There are two sub-species: Phalacrocorax carbo carbo – a coastal bird – and Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis, that favour inland sites.

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