Sunday, 18 December 2011

No reward for cold fingers and toes - not true really

The Safari was dragged round Patch 1 this morning by an enthusiastic Frank, We hadn't anticipated going that far but it seemed as though he was on a sniffing mission and just had to get there. We're glad he did as one the way we watched the male Peregrine drift lazily southwards over the school grounds upsetting the numerous local Feral Pigeons as it went, good to hear what sounded like a good number of House Sparrows in the school's roadside bushes - no doubt the Works Dept will be along now we've mentioned those and floor them next week. At the park we counted a dozen Blackbirds and heard a Goldcrest, possibly two but we couldn't see it/them in the depths of a tall conifer tree. On our return trip a Peregrine was enjoying sitting in the sun as it peeked above the houses and a little later back at base camp whilst enjoying our traditional Sunday morning bacon butty a Sparrowhawk took over where the Peregrine had left off and upset all the local Feral Pigeons.
Before we could go out safari-ing we had the inconvenient matter of a very flat tyre to attend to. Mysteriously the little black cap was missing. 300 or so presses of the footpump later we were on our way to the nature reserve enjoying the sunshine but not the cold wind.
After several trial runs we eventually we counted 47 Wigeon, at least 400 very mobile Teal, 22 Gadwall - a very good count for the site - 18 Shovelers, at least 25 Pochard and a single female Goldeneye. All the Tufted Ducks must be on the nearby park lake, where there are 50 - 60, as we could only find three - surely there must have been more than that! Didn't count the Mallards, weren't many visible for much of the time but as dusk fell quite a few emerged from the depths of the reedbeds, or the Coots. A Pair of Moorhens showed nicely in the sunshine in front of one of the hides. Also here we heard a Cetti's Warbler blasting away.
Gull numbers were very low and only two Great Black Backs, on at different times, were of note.
A flight of nine Snipe was good for recent years but then we were told of a flock of about 130 earlier in the week! At dusk more Snipe were heard leaving the cover of the reedbeds but remained unseen.
As ever we went up to the top end of the reserve to wait for the Bittern/Otter combo. Just as we got towards the bench we disturbed a Kestrel tucking into a vole on one of the fence posts, it took off taking its dinner with it. A Great Tit acted like a flycatcher catching Winter Gnats in the last of the afternoon's warm sunrays. From somewhere to our left a Water Rail squealed and a Cetti's Warbler sang with a second bird heard 'chipping' nearby. A Fieldfare flew out of the scrub and got half way across the mere before turning back - apparently there were about two dozen feeding on windfall Apples on the other side but we didn't go Long Eared Owl  bothering today so get get round that side.
The Kestrel came back and sat in a Poplar tree behind us silhouetted against a darkening sky - we didn't see the small flock of Starlings heading to their roost on the pier as we pressed the shutter!

Our attempt at sneaking a little closer for a more frame filling shot failed miserably as it saw us coming and was off.
The we saw two swans winging in, one larger than the other, something made us look at was a Black Swan! We're not going to include it on our list but it is a species we've not seen this year or at the nature reserve ever. What a fine looking bird in flight with its white primaries and secondaries and when it landed its bright red bill was obvious at long range - a little stonker even if the resident pair of Mute Swans weren't too happy with it being on their lake.
Also unhappy were the 150 or so Canada Geese and what had upset them you ask...a Fox was prowling around on the island and in true 'duck decoy' fashion they were following its every move. After a while the Fox settled down and put its nose under its tail but within a few minutes was scampering around trying to catch a vole it must have heard scuttling around in the grass behind it.
A single Pink Footed Goose that came out of the reedbed as dusk fell, probably a shooting or recent weather casualty.
The last entry in the notebook was two Little Owls sat out on the barn roof picked out by the eagle eye of PE.
A Woodcock as we were loading Frank into the Land Rover was the last bird seen in the darkness but failed to get written in the book.
While we were on site we got a call about a Long Tailed Duck which was on a boating lake a few miles up the road but decided to stay put and wait for the Bittern/Otter - neither showed and the duck would have been an addition to our year list competition with Monika; maybe it'll stick around a couple of days and we'll have a chance to catch upon with it...apparently it was picked up by a wildfowler's dog obviously unwell, he then put it in box and released it on the boating lake.
Where to next? Patch 2 should have a good bit of beach to cast a beady scope over in the morning.
In the meantime let us know what's been put in a box in your outback

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