Friday, 29 August 2014

The day of 'S'

The Safari had a soggy day out today. We were a little undecided where to go but eventually plumbed to go north rather than east or south. The weather was poor with sudden sharp showers making the motorway a bit tricky with lots of spray from the trucks. It looked like we were in for a soaking!
We had hoped to get on site for 07.00 but that didn't happen and it was a late 08.15 when we pulled into the car park - jeez how slow can traffic get these days!
Minutes before we arrived we saw a Little Egret fly over the road and then a 'probable' Great White Shark - sorry - Egret in flight over the reedbeds to our right but we couldn't confirm it from the driver's seat.
Only one thing for it nip down to the nearest hide to where it landed first.
It wasn't in view, there's lots of hidden pools and ditches on the reserve so it was undoubtedly fishing on one of those. There wasn't a lot about apart from a family of Mute Swans and a few Shovelers, the drakes must be the bonniest of the ducks in their eclipse plumage.
Back tracking a little way to the next hide sent us past a young lad and lass volunteers doing some heavy duty hammering and crow-barring improving the path. A soon as we were in the hide we had to move quietly and very gently as there was a Red Deer showing on the edge of the reeds only a few yards away, not a stag a young hind.
OK so the Red Deer are great but there was a rather pleasant surprise, the water-level has been dropped for management reasons to improve the reed-bed and the exposed mud had several Swan Mussels, not seen one of those for a long time and never seen them here before, but then we've never seen the water this low before.
Great stuff - wildlife always throws a curve-ball you're not expecting.
Time to nick off to the 'main' hide where we immediately saw a different Great White Egret (159). It stood still most of the morning but eventually moved a round a bit.
The supporting cast was a couple of hundred Black Tailed Godwits, some still in their stunning rusty summer breeding plumage. We soon found three Ruffs and then a Spotted Redshank. Almost 400 Teal had returned for the winter too.
We saw this too, can you guess what it is?
JC, who we've not seen for a good few years, came in to the hide and said 'there's an Otter just over there in the corner'. Wow and did it perform! It was around on and off most of the morning. Yes the mystery photo is the Otter's tail raised during a vigorous bout of fishing. At times it was coming up covered in mud so it must have been footling around in the mud. Occasionally it came up chewing but we were never able to see what exactly it was eating.
Sadly it never came near enough for quality pics and we were shooting through glass windows, we couldn't see it from the windows that do open.
Never have we watched an Otter for this long anywhere, excellent, well worth getting wet for!
We filled our boots with the Otter and then made our way towards the next hides but we'd been told there was a team of wardens cutting reeds there and that was why there numbers of Teal and godwits was so high here so we didn't bother going that far, later we learnt that there were four Greenshanks there which we didn't realise we've somehow not seen so far this year - dohhh.
We did stop at the kids pond dipping platform where several dragonflies putting on a flying display. We couldn't get any pics of the two Emperors but the Common Darters were much more obliging.
One of the Emperors caught a large fly but then spat it out and it came and landed somewhat stunned next to the Common Darter
Interesting chequerboard pattern it has - not seen one like that before.
Also not seen before is a hoverfly like this. It has a fringe of yellow hairs around its abdomen,you can just about make them out, not the best pic the darned thing closed its wings just at the wrong time!
 Any ideas CR?
We went back to the first hides but to no more success although on the way back the 'ususal' tree had a nice selection of birds looking for food, a Marsh Tit, Robins, a Dunnock a lovely Nuthatch and this gorgeous Blue Tit.
Back at the main hide a Water Rail showed 'well' with a juvenile Moorhen.
Again the Otter showed and this time swam/ploughed its way right across the mere in front of us only to disappear for good into the reed on our right hand side.
The birds just kept a wary eye on it, had it been properly swimming and diving we've no doubt they'd all have flushed.
We spent a lot of time acting as an impromptu 'guide in the hide' letting the kids coming in have a look at the Otter or egret through our scope...they loved it!
Great day but we decided to leave a little early to avoid the traffic - we didn't!
Where to next? Not sure about tomorrow yet but there will be wildlife involved somewhere.


cliff said...

Been looking forward to this post Dave, think I'm heading up next Friday - tag along if you want.

Love the otter & deer shots, very envious of both & I've not seen a GWE for yonks.

I think your hover could be Ferdinandea cuprea (haven't Chelsea just signed him?), there's a more rare one called F. ruficornis too, so one for the experts maybe?

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