The Safari picked up ace photographer BD (37500 views on Flickr in a week is pretty ace in our opinion) after breakfast yesterday and we set off for the South-side after a minor detour to dip the local Green Sandpipers for the second time each!
Our first destination was a small reserve that we used to work at many years ago, so long ago even that it wasn't even a reserve at that time.
All a bit different now, it was good to wander round with BD on his first visit and explain the changes in the habitats that have developed over the last 30 years with the superb management works that have been, and continue to be, carried out over the years. Much of the early work we were involved with was hacking a way through the dense Rhododendron thickets to blaze the trail lots of people were walking along today.
The air is clean here and under the light canopy of mostly Silver Birch trees cut stumps soon become covered with extensive moss and lichens and of course the rotting process is the job of numerous fungi. No idea what species this is but it's colours were intense.
Looks a bit Clarice Cliffy if you ask us.
This one takes the biscuit though, how bright is that green, why is it different to the others and what makes the colour - algae?
Nearby there was a work team that had clear felled a small area probably as coppice but left a few standards, these had been ring barked to make the trunk die off to encourage standing dead-wood invertebrates, fungi and woodpeckers. This reserve is too small and too 'man-disrupted' to let the 're-wilding' theme of letting nature take it's ow course - indeed the Rhododendron problem had become almost out of control for that very reason...sometimes intervention is not only desirable to extremely necessary - - would be good to have a few Wild Boar roaming round there amongst the handful of Red Squirrels that are still hanging on in there mainly around the non-native Scots Pine plantation although it could be argued that Scots Pine is just about native on poor soils around these parts.
It wasn't the habitat management we came to see though, the place is good for its birds and being early spring we were hopeful of some Great Crested Grebe dancing action, they started a few times but it always came to naught.
We stopped in one particular hide with the hope of a Kingfisher turning up but it didn't. The vegetation in front of the hide had been cleared for better viewing but a Gorse hadn't been chopped and provided great feeding opportunities for a pair of Long Tailed Tits.
A good selection of sucks were about but not in large numbers. Gadwall were hard to find but a single male Goosander (114) was our first of the year.
Continuing our stroll round we came to the next hide where the light was directly in front of us. Normally a good place for Goosanders but there were none here today. Not to worry, the Mallards put on a bit of a spectacle!
After seeing as much as we could here we headed to the coast in bright sunshine but a bit of a stiff wind.
The marsh didn't have the early Avocets we'd hoped for but there was plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Pink Footed Geese and a stunning flock of several hundred Golden Plovers and even more Lapwings. A Great Black Back Gull was in serious marauding mode putting the others up and cruising through them looking for a tired or weak victim to tear apart.
Black Tailed Godwits were feeding intently all around us.
A walk along the road to view the saltmarsh failed to give us any raptors, especially the Hen Harrier we'd hoped for, the Great White Egret wasn't for showing itself either but its lesser cousins did us a couple of nice fly-bys.
We decided to walk to the edge of the National Nature Reserve and once there we spotted a flit on the path in front of us which bobbed round the back of small patch of Brambles. A bit of creeping and pishing got a female Stonechat (115) to almost show itself, a Lifer for BD and one he's been waiting for a while.
All too soon we ran out of time...nightmare. Twas a great day out!
This lunchtime we watched a weird little gull, what on earth was it? There must have been a good bit of Herring Gull in it. An adult with a golden yellow bill and strongly angled bright red gonys. Legs were short and sludgy grey Common Gully coloured with slightly fleshier pink feet. The eye was small, dark and beady but it was to far away for us to determine any eye ring. The head wasn't anything like a Caspo's though being short billed and high dome crowned. It did have the filled-nappy like hanging arse. Wing-wise it didn't have a full white P10 as far as we could see and it didn't open its wings all the time we watched it.
Not much out at sea other than a couple of hundred Common Scoters.
Where to next? Back to the gulls on Patch 2 and we hope we come across the mystery one again.
In the meantime let us know what the mystery is in your outback.