Thursday, 28 April 2011

A lovely day in the sun

The Safari was out amphibianing last night but only managed to record a single male Great Crested Newt and that was only the in the spotlight as it was well beyond the reach of the net.

Early this morning the long awaited the Lesser Whitethroat had arrived with one heard calling from exactly where we were listening for them yesterday when we were so rudely interupted by Patch 1's first ever Sedge Warbler.

Then we had a morning out in the field with three sites to visit. On our way to the first we noted a Buzzard circling with two other small raptors but from the driver's seat on twisting lanes it was impossible to tell if they were two Sparrowhawks, two Kestrels or one of each.

Site 1 was a 'potential' snake pit as the sign might suggest...apologies to CR for nicking his pic so don't anyone else go half-inching it or else!!! We would have taken the exact same pic but had a camera malfunction...didn't take spare charged batteries with us...duhhhhh...

Where there any Adders? We doubt it as there was no suitable habitat. There might have been at one time but all the unshaded bankside had been buried in a variety of garden waste from the neighbouring riverside posh houses. Not just here but all along the river and we even spotted a fine and dandy chap red handed tipping a wheel barrow load of clippings in to the river - you think if they can afford a house like those they could nip to B&Q and get a shredder and make a compost heap rather than fly tip it in the countryside, even if it is 'their' countryside. The same thing has started to happen in Woodpigeon Wood on Patch 1, because the landscapers dumped all their grass cuttings on the wood, burying a large patch of Garlic Mustard (food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly which we don't get on Patch 1 surprise surprise) everyone and his uncle off the estate is now doing the same thing, it's started but it'll be damn near impossible to stop!!!

It seems more likely that the sign is there to 'encourage' people not to loiter by the stream near the posh houses rather than there actually being any Adders there.
We saw a little brood of Mallards and heard numerous Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Chaffcinches. A pair of Mistle Thrushes rattled their way through the woods and there were numerous Orange Tip butterflies.
Turning downstream we noted several more Mistle Thrushes including one in the stream hopping from stone to stone pretending to be a Dipper when, knock us down with a feather, a real Dipper flew right past it! We sat for a while and watched a Grey Wagtail collecting flies for its hungry brood somewhere nearby.

Next up we drove a few miles north to Site 2 where the car park was full of mutt-walkers unloading their yapping charges...great!!! So we took our leave of them and headed off across the lane to the quiet side. After spotting a Great Tit we heard a Garden Warbler (164) a few yards down the track. There he was singing away in full view from a low branch to the side of the track, all big eyed and white eye-ringed. More Orange tips fluttered past as we walked on. A Willow Warbler scrap ended with both males singing at each other from either side of us, we felt like we were piggy-in-the-middle.
Towards the end of the track is a pleasant dry place to sit at peace with the world. We watched a Dipper going about its business and the Brown Trout jumping for Mayflies...there wasn't a soul about, just us, the birdsong, the sploosh of the jumping fish and Orange Tip butterflies fluttering about over the Bluebells and Ramsons (aka Wild Garlic) on the far bank...bliss...sorted!!!

This has been a regular spot for Kingfishers but with none being reported locally it seems that the freezing conditions in december might have caused a population crash - certainly none there in the hour we sat and stared at the river.
There was no shortage of Alder Flies flying around though the freezing winter hasn't affected them.

After a swim to cool down Frank was in no mood to go anywhere else...and boy does he let you know. This isn't roly-poly scratchy-backy this is down right mardy I'm not moving!!! and you're not going to make me!!!!!

It was a couple of hundred yards of dragging Frank back to the Land Rover , time well spent as we heard at least two more Garden Warblers. Before we left this site we decided we would have a quick look at the pond in the woods in the 'doogy-zone' just in case there were any signs of newts. There wasn't, it's become full of Marsh(?) Horsetails and there isn't much open water left and that which there is was totally mud up from the large numbers of dogs that had dived in as they passed.
We did see this extensive bracket fungus growing on an Italian Alder tree, perhaps one of last years that has dried out a bit.

Sometimes at this site we venture off-piste to see if we can find the small herd of Roe Deer that live here but with Frank likely to go crashing about through the undergrowth with all the stealth of a Chieftain Tank we decided to leave them be today.

Walking back to the Land Rover through the grassland - which seriously needs grazing as it's becoming a wood - used to be grazed by cattle in the winter and was good for Common Spotted Orchids in the summer, now it looks like it's getting a bit too rank and will soon be too shaded for them - we came across a nice clump of Cowslips in one of the still more open areas.

Our third stop was another peaceful site which we called in at for a few minutes on the way back to Base Camp. The hedgerows gave us Whitethroats and Chaffinches but the reason for stopping there was the pit. A scan with the scope saw a few gulls, Black Heads and Lesser Black Backs, along with a Coot, a handful of Mallards and a couple of pairs of Lapwings.

Best of all, at the back of the pit was a single Little Ringed Plover (165). A couple of male Reed Buntings were seen near the canal and as we approached the Land Rover a Sparrowhawk appeared from behind the hedge, saw us jinked and banked away behind the Land Rover and out of sight.
All in all a fine moring out on safari in glorious spring sunshine.

Where to next? Tomorrow we're avoiding any hint of royalty by going out on an action packed and no doubt fun filled safari up north with AB.
We have a few target species and maybe we'll get to 170 before the month is out, but that leaves fewer to get during the remainder of the year. More invisible snakes could well be on the cards too.
In the meantime let us know what's not basking in the sun in your outback.


Anonymous said...

"certainly none there in the hour we sat and stared at the river"

Only an hour, Dave. I`ve been looking for 4 month and still no sign of any on my patch.
Probably have to wait for juvenile dispersal, now.

Stu said...

I'ne never seen a snake in the UK, ever.............I haven't even seen a warning sign for them either........

Phil said...

It might be worth ordering a shed load of those signs and erecting them at mutt infested sites. On the other hand a bite or two might work better?

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Snakes are as rare as the proverbial rocking hosre sh*t in these parts Stu, but there are still a few about...if only we could find them.

Saw a big wolfhound type dog that had been tagged by an adder in Poland was worse for wear for three or four days, possibly curtains if had been a little dog...we need more adders and less signs!!! (and Aussie snakebite-poof Ugg boots/nose protector for Frank.