Monthly Archives: August 2008

Traces and Tracks

Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 08.09

The estuary sparkled in the light of a full moon tonight, providing an auspicious ending to this brief salute to the night. Many creatures have escaped the camera eye. The bats, were too quick to capture and the owl was heard but not seen. The weasel refused to stay in one place. However, this was never an attempt to record an entire fauna but rather an opportunity to see what might happen by. The journey became an equivalence for that mixture of order and chance, that brings a world to life. Traces were glimpsed of creatures missed, but the truck tracks made on leaving are a reminder that people have the heaviest ‘footprints’. We should all tread lightly as we can.

Moth Attraction

Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 07.52

The near full moon at Spitend cast strong silvery shadows as I removed the fly sheet from the tent. One hypothesis suggests the navigation of moths is determined by transverse orientation relative to the position of the moon, and so I decided to use my inner tent as a giant alternative, in an effort to atract them toward this nearer beacon. Maybe I should call it ‘every moth I have ever slept with’.


Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 07.32

Tonight a tiny rock pool proved itself home to a colony of the smallest crabs. As the tide began to flood, rocks were lifted by tiny arms and stout shells, and the 20mm crabs appeared to feed in their micro universe. Shortly before the moon compelled the waters to fall, there was an urgent hunt for the rocky cover from which they had first emerged. A lug worm also came out of its hole to enjoy a brackish supper. Earlier, I had watched a black headed gull pull up around fifty for breakfast.


Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 07.04

A high wind took out the night vision camera early this morning, smashing it from its stand to the ground. Worse, the rains carried along with the storm, have soaked and disabled AC power to the laptop. I will have to summon spares and repairs from the project base.

Despite the huge annoyance, there is some small pleasure to remember and record, how easily the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. Though no mice were seen on this wild night, a large brown rat did make an appearance shortly before the camera fell; scavenging amongst the flora and detritus close to the line of a recent high tide along the shore.


Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 06.27

Sitting for ages in a small patch of grass on the sea wall, to identify the maker of a persistant nocturnal sound. Patience was rewarded when this exotic looking character hove into view. Apparently, the rate by which the males rub their wings together, to generate their particular free wheeling sound, is determined by temperature. I consider the feasibility of a cricket thermometer.


Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666/ Moonrise 05.39

Grasshoppers have been burring away in today’s warm if windy night, but are surprisingly hard to spot given their large numbers and the noise they make. Could they possibly be ventriloquists? This one however, strayed from its grassy cover and food, onto an attractive fabric near the camera.

Night Mare

Observatory 7
Spitend Point, Elmley, TQ 986 666 / moonrise 04.39

A strong south westerly is driving white horses down the Swale to Windmill Creek, Dutchmans Island and the Flanders Mare that border remote Spit End Point.

They are not so much ’playing in the fishermans garden’ as trying to jump over the seawall where I am perched in the final observatory. Is a Flanders Mare also white? It’s the derogatory name Henry VIII allegedly gave to poor Ann of Cleves (An eminently sensible woman I always thought, who kept her head whilst all around were losing theirs). With heavy rain starting to fall, tonight could be a night mare.


Observatory 6
Wellmarsh Hide, Elmley/ TQ 939680/ Moonrise 15.22

One European myth alleges that the Hare was once a bird, transformed by Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring (from whom we derive the name for Easter) into the swift footed animal we know today. Lore has it however, that hares continued to lay eggs, giving rise to the idea of the egg bearing Easter ‘bunny’. I’m told a hares form and lapwings nest are similar, and if eggs were observed in what were thought to be hare forms, this belief could have been given wing.

The Peckham Five

Observatory 6
Wellmarsh Hide, Elmley / TQ 939680/ Moonrise 14.20

A fox strolled casually along the front of the hide beside the waters edge. Three lapwing were having none of it however, and he was forced into an undignified and faltering trot away from their ‘birds only’ sanctuary.

There are an over abundance of fox on the reserve with many ‘urban rescues’ being left to survive in the etablished territories of the wild population. I hear that five from Peckham were pitched out from the back of a van recently to make a new start on the Island. Unsuited to the wild life, they went to a nearby farmhouse and sat (as they were doubtless accustomed) waiting to be fed. Their bellies that night were filled with lead.


Observatory 6
Wellmarsh Hide, Elmley / TQ 939680/ Moonrise 13.06

A dedicated birder left the hide earlier, overjoyed with a good showing of an American Golden Plover. Apparently only around six recorded visits to England in the last twenty five years have been recorded. Surrounded by young shellduck, lapwing, avocet, snipe and other more frequent flyers, I cannot help but feel more at home with their familiar mix of predawn performance and calls that make this marsh so special.

A little later I put the earpiece on my phone and play ‘Ornithology’ another American import by Charlie (Bird) Parker. His bebop melody was written over the chord progression for another song called, appropriately enough, ‘How High the Moon’.