Yes...the safari successfully completed the river crossing again yesterday and at last we managed to film it. But the river wasn't as deep as the other day and the water only washed up over the bonnet. I think the hard frost has locked up much of the water in the hills and so there is less water coming down the river. I'll post the film when it has been downloaded off my co-pilot's camera which was cleverly strapped to the bullbar on the Land Rover.
Crossing the river to the other side takes you into another world of windy lanes with high hedges, small fields and scattered copses. We soon came across a Buzzard looking realy nice in the crisp light of a cold winter's day.
At a favoured site the only wildlife of note was a superb view of a Nuthatch probing the bark for food. As we watched it found a couple of white grubs in the crevices.
We left this site by the 4x4 track, patiently waiting for a group of ramblers coming down the steep track on the opposite hillside of the ford. To get up the steep, wet slope with a film of ice over the loose rocks we would need full throttle, so best to wait until everyone was safely out of the way. The Disco rattled up with no problems, there was even power to spare.
Travelling a few miles to another site we decided to search for Roe Deer. Leaving the track and quietly entering the dense wood we came across a fair sized flock of Long Tailed Tits with two tiny Goldcrests with them. Roe Deer have excellent hearing and moving through wood over crisply frozen frozen ground with plenty of fallen leaves and dead twigs demanded all our tracking skills. Eventually we came across a couple of deer. Despite our best efforts they had heard us coming but all all on the safari got good if fleeting views, sadly to short for photographs - might have to set a hide up in the warmer months! A few yards further on we came across a third which could well have been one of the original two.
It is still December but one small Hawthorn sapling sported a recently sprouted bright green leaf. There is a reasonable selectionof fungi in the wood and the tree composition appears to be changing. The colonising Silver Birch and Poplar (see pic above with the diagnostic diagonal lenticels in the bark- also the abundance of small trees and dense understorey despite the deer) are coming to the end of their lives and being blown over or rotting off and there are a lot of small Ash and Hawthorn waiting to take over the canopy space when it becomes available. In this area we found a very obliging Treecreeper which we watched going about its business for several minutes.
I'll ask Jack of Lancashire Nature (see blog links on right) to identify these fungi - he's pretty knowledgable where as I'm not).
Along the river we eventually saw a fly past Dipper.
At the car park the Rangers have set up a feeding station and whilst enjoying a welcome hot coffee we had stunning views of two Jays, two Nuthatches and assorted tits and finches a Robin and a Reed Bunting.
With some daylight left we headed west to the plains and a site for Short Eared Owl. Only a few minutes after parking the Land Rover one appeared quuartering a rough field about 100 yards away - brilliant in the low afternoon sun. We learnt from other people there that we had somewhat disappointingly only just missed a Barn Owl. Some of the other grazed fields around held good numbers of Curlew, Lapwing, and/or Pink Footed Geese. With time getting short it was time to head back to the warmth of the fireside...a super safari with a good mix of wildlife, off road driving and adventure...
Where to next? Not sure yet but there will be great wildlife to be seen where-ever it is.
In the meantime let us know what you have found in your outback.