Just another ordinary day on the marsh.
18th November 2011: It was sunny first thing this morning and I looked forward to a decent photography day. By the time I got myself on to the marsh it was 10am and the sky had turned from bright blue to dark grey. I set up a remote camera at a badger sett I suspected of being used by a fox. A large heron took to the air from Hoo Brook with a very loud whooshing sound as I was inserting a memory card. There has been further digging between the water pipes: some holes dug by squirrels burying their nuts, and others dug by a badger looking for worms, beetles and roots. The squirrels work so hard harvesting and burying their acorns and hazel nuts in every conceivable hiding place around and in-between the pipes, only to have an old badger – probably One-Eye – come along in the middle of the night and rob them of their small hard-earned stashes.
I stumbled on another heron and four mallards taking it easy in North Pond. The heron was the first to lift off when it saw me, rapidly followed by the mallards. The heron’s squawking and flapping disturbed the birds in a large willow tree at the north end of the pond, especially the pigeons. They promptly flew south at full speed over the swamp. The only birds left in that willow tree were six Great Spotted Woodpeckers chirruping in a small group, and darting from one branch to another. Initially, they didn’t seem eager to follow the pigeons, but they did all fly off together before I was close enough to photograph them. I normally only see Great Spotted Woodpeckers singly; I don’t think I have ever seen them in a group.
The pond level has risen by at least a couple of inches over the last two weeks. We haven’t had much rain recently, but much less water is being drawn from the marsh by the trees, bushes, plants and grasses at this time of the year. General evaporation is also much less than it would be during the summer months.
The oak trees, in particular, along the east side of North Pond looked very striking in their autumn colours. The moment I entered the north pasture, I heard urgent mewing from a couple of buzzards as they flew, out of sight, over the north wood. Buzzard’s mewing is normally slow and lazy. The mewing I was listening to said “foxes” to me. I haven’t seen the marsh foxes in a while. I began scanning the southern end of the north pasture with my binos. As the buzzards’ mewing grew closer, I saw the two marsh foxes running across the pasture towards the lagoon field. I have watched this dog fox with the black tinged red coat, and the smaller red-coated vixen for two years. I continued listening to the buzzards until they had pursued the foxes over Wilden Lane and up through Hoo Wood. Wilden Lane is a very busy road, and the marsh foxes do well to repeatedly cross it without being run over and killed.
At 1.00pm I was walking south, following the river to the right-hand side of the tenant farmer’s field, when a huge hatch of gnats occurred. The fish in the river were going wild for these flying insects. They were jumping clear of the water and showing their silver underbelly. In places, there were perhaps as many as six fish rising from the water at the same time.
My walk through the southern section of the marsh was mostly uneventful. Buzzards soared over the south wood. Two Jays flew back and forth over the river and complained noisily at my invasion of their territories, and a few cormorants sat biding their time on the electricity transmission wires.
The scrap yard is in the process of being surrounded by a high steel mesh fence, with three strands of barbed wire on top, and I hope the owners are going to dig a bund around the yard perimeter to help prevent oil and fuel from getting into the water-filled ditches on the marsh.
With the tree and bush leaves falling rapidly, it will soon be time to reclaim my tried and tested watching posts, where I can sit and wait in comfort, off the ground, and view large areas of the marsh, without being seen by the animals. I have these good intentions every year, but I don’t find it easy waiting in one place for the animals to walk, run or fly past me. I often resort to draping “Realtree” camouflage netting over myself and creeping slowly about, trying to avoid boredom.