The safari took a walk round Marton Mere LNR yesterday. A gloriously sunny afternoon but typically quiet for the time of day. There were a few Lapwings flying around over the island a more settled(ish) on the scrape. Why weren't they in their nesting field?...a pair of human numpties were strolling arm in arm across the field totally oblivious to the disturbance and panic they were causing. if any eggs had been laid then this would have been the perfect opportunity for avian predators like Crows and Magpies to get in and do their dirty work.
A little further on we heard the unmistakeable 'chirruk chirruk chirruk chik chik chik' of couple of freshly arrived Reed Warblers. The safari's first of the year. We met young Zac and his uncle who told us there had been Sedge Warbler and, better still, a Grasshopper Warbler heard earlier in the day.
Moving through the scrub the air was thick with the sound of summer. Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps all recently arrived and testing their voices, competing with the songs of the resident Blackbirds, Wrens, Dunnocks and Greenfinches.
The sun had brought out a good show of butterflies and within a few yards we had seen Peacock, Small Totoiseshell and Large White.
Arriving at the patch of rough grass from where the Grasshopper Warbler had been heard we sat on the bench and waited. A Peregrine Falcon cruised about overhead for a few minutes before drifting off to terrorise the local Woodpigeons and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called repeatedly from the scrub behind us, but not a peep from the 'Gropper'.
Time passed, butterflies came and went until at last young Zac called out "there...it's singing now". straining our ears..nothing...missed it, just a short burst of quiet song. After a few minutes Zac called out again "it's singing now". Still nothing...must have missed it again. We decided to move closer and took up a position standing quietly behind some cover almost on top of where the Gropper was 'allegedly' singing from. We didn't have long to wait before Zac heard it again, but again nothing.
Now I have no trouble with the 'chiff chiff chaff' of the Chiffchaff, nor the liquid descending cadence of the Willow Warbler, nor the beautiful fluty tones of the Blackcap that put Mozart to shame but could I hear that Gropper? So it's official to go along with the greying hair I now can't hear Grasshopper Warblers...I'm getting old...QED. All those heavy metal and punk gigs of my youth are finally beginning to take their toll on my hearing (just like my mum warned!). For the record I can still hear Goldcrests...but for how much longer.
Returning back to the Land Rover a pair of Shelducks flew in - always nice to see these striking birds at this site where they are infrequent and irregular visitors. A quick check through the ducks for a furtively lurking Garganey only revealed small numbers of Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall. We paid no attention to the diving ducks - sorry guys.
Just as we were about to leave a mixed bag of hirundines dropped in from high up, mostly Sand Martins, with a few House Martins thrown in for good measure and at least one Swallow.
A very pleasant afternoon's safari in the sun even if I discovered I've started to go partially deaf.
Later that evening the safari was on the road again, newting. We visited a pond we've not been to before and recorded Great Crested Newt eggs but couldn't find any adults. We did see some pretty big Leeches and a sackful of Smooth Newts, a Little Owl called in the distance. As we left the site where we had parked the Land Rover we were collared by the Police (no...not the band fronted by a Geordie called Sting) who were concerned we'd been rifling our way through the adjacent offices. Our excuse of newting was held up by the wet wellies and trousers and the bag of dripping nets in the rucksack. I told them I had a licence and could produce it but they didn't know I was legally bound to have one to search for Great Crested Newts. Good to know that they are out there trying to apprehend criminals though.
Another pond new to us revealed only Smooth Newts and no sign of any Great Crested eggs in this one. A Great Diving Beetle and a large fish of the 'to quick to identify' species were seen. A check on the pond earlier in the week confirmed that Great Crests were still in the water as we soon found four females and a single male.
All in all a superb days safariing.
Where to next? Don't know yet but I hope the technology is back in action to break up this voluminous script with a few pics.
In the meantime let us know what's happening in your outback, is it all change with the seasons like it is here?