Sunday, 16 November 2008

It's cooling down - it's not geting any 'otter!

A fine day beckoned so the Land Rover was filled with recycled chip fat and pointed towards north Lancashire. First stop was our deer zone. It didn't appear to disappoint, before we got to the wood there was a couple of Fallow Deer grazing out in the open.
A little further along the footpath we discovered why. Their favourite woodland had been fenced off. someone has spent a lot of time effort and money to keep them out. Not sure why; but with deer having no natural predators now in the UK over grazing by them in woodlands can have a detrimental effect on the flora and ability of the woodland to regenerate.

There are some very nice old trees in this area. This one is a Scots Pine, not a native this far south.
On the other hand this striking Oak has some age to it and will be reported to the Ancient Tree Hunt (see links on right) . The left hand trunk is over 15 feet (5m) in circumference just above the fork - we didn't measure the smaller trunk but it's still pretty big.

Our second venue was to the nearby wetland. I always enjoy these Tussock Sedges. There was an old Tarzan film (Johnny Weizmuller I think) in which the baddies dressed up as plants similar to these and from their camouflaged position on the edge of the track they blow darted the passing safari parties - very scary for us!!!!

Tarzan's path looked just like this!! Hope there's no-one in there with poison darts today!

Sneaking safely past the Tussock Sedges we come into an area of Alder Carr. This is wet woodland. Alder trees are adapted to growing in waterlogged conditions - they have nitrogen fixing bacteria in their roots. Carr is the first stage of the woodland succession of wetland areas. Eventually they will dry the wetland out enough for Oak and other trees to be able to grow, by then no-one would know the area was once a lake. Without the intervention of man or a natural disaster setting back the succession all still or slow flowing waterbodies will eventually become woodland.

Out on the open water there were plenty of Coot, some 200 of them. A nice male Goosander was fishing in between them, swimming along with its head under water spying for unsuspecting fish. A few Teal, Tufted Ducks and a couple of Goldeneyes completed the count of the water. Overhead a pair of Buzzards took advantage of the fine conditions and participated in a beautiful skydance. A Bittern took a very brief flight low over the tops of the reeds before crashing in, never to be seen again.

Earlier in the day we had met a couple who had been fortunate enough to watch the warden ringing some Bearded Tits, along with a couple of Goldcrests and Blue Tits. We heard the distinctive 'pings' of the Bearded Tits deep in the reedbed but did not manage to see any. As the sun dropped lower in the skythe light spangled through the silvery tops of the reeds.

The Starling roost at this reserve is impressive, probably over 50,000 birds. Today it was just a bit too far to our left to be able to see properly. But the roost wasn't today's main target.

Darkness fell and at last the hide became quieter - this is usually a place of solitude, almost loneliness - but not today. Coach party after coach party ambled in crashed about got comfy then left. At last there was just us and it was getting nicely darker and the water became as still as a millpond - perfect conditions for our quarry.
In the gathering gloom there were a couple of Ravens flying over to roost and a fair few invisible Snipe were revealed by giving their 'skkrrr' call. The thin 'ssips' of Redwings were also heard.A Sparrowhawk perched up. probably waiting for the Starlings but was 500 yards away from the main action/dining area.
Any Otters? No not this time - they are becoming a bogey mammal on a par with the Long Eared Owls. But again on the walk back to the Land Rover in the dark we disturbed a small herd of Red Deer which we could hear splashing about in a panic deep in the redbed.

Where to next? An impromptu day off tomorrow so the Long Eared Owls are definitely on the agenda...fingers crossed.

In the meantime let us know what you have seen in your outback.

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