The safari was out in the rain...yet again...early this morning getting on site at about 06.30.
The site in question is a large wet marshy field a few miles away. Even at that ungodly hour with barely another vehicle on the road we somehow managed to get stopped by almost every single set of traffic lights...what a waste of fuel! Why can't we have flashing ambers and/or 'free lefts' outside of the main daytime traffic, say 23.00 - 07.00 during the week and 23.00 - 08.00 at weekends with all the lights now computerised it can't be THAT difficult can it? Free lefts would have to be at all times to avoid confusion - works well in the good ole US of A and they have far more serious litigation if it all goes pear-shaped in the junction - they go right though seeing as how they drive on the wrong side of the road.
Anyway motoring rant over on the the day's 'events'. (By the way who invented Suzuki WagonRs - and why?????? (apparently the R stands for 'Radical'...yeah right!!!) - possibly the ugliest car on the road, the wheels are too small for cryin' out loud, and driven by eejits with no brains no eyes no ears and had a total road sense bypass!!! - we got stuck behind one yesterday going to site visit on the way home about which more next week AND THEN saw another at our site interestingly parked on the gatepost...they're only narrow how'd she miss the opening?????).
At that time of the morning the world was gloriously quiet, no traffic noise from the nearby dual carriageway and the tip hadn't opened so no huge trucks going past. All we could hear was the wind, the rain rattling off the Land Rover's roof and the sound of the birds...mostly Redshanks of which there were at least 30 including several fledged juveniles.
Lapwings were less numerous although this one did have a well grown but unfledged youngster nearby which refused to come out into the open for its pic to be taken.
Poor thing looks depressed in this second pic - not surprising have to stand out in a cold wet miserable field all last night as the wind howled and the rain lashed down.
Heard a truly shocking statistic on Springwatch last week that where they were filming, Ynys Hir RSPB reserve , holds 20% of Wales' breeding Lapwings, 80 pairs I think they said...hang on a mo 20% is a fifth! 5 x 80 = 400!!! IS THAT ALL!!! No more Welsh lamb for us even though it's flippin tasty - the price is just too high.
Think the probnlem lies with the population declining to such low densities they can't protect themselves anymore. When large numbers are nesting close together there is an effective 'aerial cover' against potential predators both avian and mammalian as each pair mobs the intruders in turn in an incessant barrage of swoops, dives and calls, but when the density drops below a certain point that cover becomes more and more ineffective until losses are extremely high and breeding success is minimal...reasonable hypothesis? In our youth we had several pairs nesting in our fields and going out on the tractor was a 'joy' as we 'upset' them and watched them tumble through the skies at us. In those days tractors had no cabs (barely had a seat!) and we could see the nests and avoid them, lifting the plough etc until we'd passed over them - - then we'd go back a few weeks later and spray the youngsters with DDT :-(
(NB - Tractor pic nicked off Google Images - sorry if it's your pic - nice tractor BTW)
The Redshanks eventually came near enough to get a reasonable pic or two.
In the interludes between heavy showers ie when it was only heavy drizzle the Skylarks' songs filled the air interspersed with the harsh sharp calls of juvenile Coots sheltering in the reeds. A Chaffinch also sang from the depths of the bush we were parked next to. This was the only passerine action apart from the many Swallows, two or more House Martin and one or more Sand Martins trying to catch flies low over the water or around the cattle, and a few Carrion Crows lurking about. We watched one of the Swallows apparently picking insects out of the Creeping Buttercup flowers - never seen anything like that before...would have been easier for it to land and walk round the flowers rather than try to stall immediately above them only inches off the floor pick the insect then get going again without crash landing - interesting if desperate behaviour to witness though.
The cattle too were fascinating to watch as they set off on stampedes several times for no particular reason. Many of them had well grown horns and weren't afraid to use them on their mates - now a bullock is big but a well shoved horn in the flank must still hurt.
Really it was ducks we were after, or more specifically one particular duck, a stonking male Garganey that had been seen a couple of days ago. we figured with the mingin weather it wouldn't have gone far since then.
We saw almost every other duck in the book. Manky Mallards of dubious origin, two male Shovelers, a pair of Tufted Ducks, a drake Teal, several Shelducks and a few well grown youngsters, even a couple of moulting Wigeon...but no Garganey.
Click here for a crackin pic of what we wanted to see by the finder, local birder PE.
Just as we started to leave we saw a Lesser Black Backed Gull swoop down on to the grass and snaffle something...not sure if was a small young Coot, Moorhen or even a mammal - whatever it was it didn't last long.
Where to next? Might get out again later, if not tomorrow is another day but will the sun shine? Gettin to need some dragons.
In the meantime let us know what's tumbling through the skies in your outback.