Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Back up north again

The Safari had a superb day up at our local RSPB reserve with BD. Our arrival coincided with a tumultuous amount of Bearded Tit (165) activity - we were surrounded by them but could we get a decent view - no chance! We saw them fly quickly across the path, we saw them flit over the reed tops we even saw them flock up and take to the air rising to some height before dropping back into the reedbed but we just couldn't get a good prolonged view of a single one perched out in the open, they haven't started using the grit trays yet although they are furnished ready and waiting for the moustachioed wonders to visit.
Herons flew about calling 'Fraaank' and tree in the distance held eight Cormorants. A Reed Warbler sang non-stop but was it a real bird or an MP3 recording as there was an open ringing net close to where the sound was coming from. Close by a Chiffchaff and Blue Tit shared a Willow bush. A Snipe flew over and two Song Thrushes exploded out of a trackside shrub giving us both a start, migrants?
The Bearded Tits continued to tease us while a tiny bit of diurnal passage in the form of a trio of Skylarks with a couple of others heard and a smattering of unseen Meadow Pipits.
Water Rails squealed from the reeds close by as the sun rose over the hills and the air warmed appreciably. There wasn't a breath of wind and over the trees on the hillside several wisps of smoke appeared, who would be burning stuff at that time of the morning? A look through the bins showed it not to be smoke but huge masses of swirling insects.
They were more obvious in life than the pics suggest but a long way off.
BD copped a Stoat patrolling the edge of a cut area of reeds - lucky so-n-so, we've not seen one for far too long!
A short walk took us up the track to the nearest hide - as soon as we opened the door a vice called out  'there's an Otter here' - well that'll do nicely but it weren't no Stoat! There's not many years in our (lengthy) past when we've seen more Otters than Stoats, the Stoats better come back with a vengeance in the last three months of this year!
The Otter was great value but while we were watching a wonderful wiffle of of Wigeon and Pintail numbering a good hundred or so or more of each dropped in to the back of the pool.
Back near where we'd parked the Land Rover an unseeable Green Woodpecker teased us with its yaffling. The field over the road from the car parking spot used to be a good place to see them some 30 odd years ago but is now a golf course. To the side of us an old Ivy covered dry stone wall was buzzing loudly with the hum of insect wings.
We pondered over the ID of a couple hoping for an Ivy Bee but only managed to get pics of Honey Bee 
and a Common Carder Bee 
- many thanks to @RynaClarkNature for the confirmations.
One of the Honey Bees had got caught in a spider's web and was struggling to get out, in the absence of a spider we intervened and gave it its freedom.
Making tracks to the next hide a similar thing happened, we opened the door to calls of 'Peregrine!' - yep there was one attacking a flock of Black Tailed Godwits. Shame we had to shoot through the unopenable double glazed window.
An immature Marsh Harrier cruised around beneath them all eventually perching in a bush in full view for ages - nice. The rear of the pool held a Great White Egret and another Heron but it was the muddy areas that were more interesting. News was that the Peregrine had spooked a flock of small waders and they hadn't returned or had they? Another scan gave us no fewer than 10 Little Stints (166) and a handful of Ruffs. But hang on a mo there's a middle-sized wader hiding in there too, knock us down with an American (Siberian?) feather - a Pectoral Sandpiper (167).
Ruff - can't believe we didn't try to get even a digiphonescoped pic of the Little Stints or the Pectoral Sandpiper - what happened there???
A very enjoyable hour was then spent waiting for any sniff of a Water Rail while four Snipe, a Redshank and a Greenshank put in appearances. The wader we couldn't find was the commonest - no sign of any Dunlins at all!
All of a sudden the fastest Water Rail in the west burst out of the nearby reedbed sped across the mud and disappeared into the further 'island' of reeds and out of sight - but at least we now knew there was one about that might come out and show itself. We waited and waited seeing three Chiffchaffs squabbling in a tree, a Reed Warbler shot through and a showy Robin kept us occupied until at long last the Water Rail did show itself and by eck did it show well before giving us a show of the longest flight of any Water Rail we've ever seen!
Time to hit the coastal hides, where the walk in gave us a skein of about 50 Pink Footed Geese going south and a well hidden Goldcrest that didn't easily give itself up in the relatively sparse shrubby vegetation - roll on winter and the lack of leaves! Can't believe we said that on such a gloriously warm still late summer's day!!!
At the first hide most of the birds were over to the left in dreadful afternoon glare but there were a few to observe including a couple of Redshanks, a Little Egret and a Heron having a bit of argy-bargy and a smaller wader at the back which we both spotted at the same time - BD's first Curlew Sandpiper.
A few more feet closer would have made for sharper pics, these are very heavy crops
Scans of the various fence-lines didn't produced the hoped for Merlin. The further marshes were very quiet in the shimmering heat haze.
We didn't stay long moving on to the next hide where a life-size silhouette of Eric Morecambe is dancing to 'Bring me Sunshine' pose by the door. Inside that self same sunshine was bathing the birds we'd only minutes ago struggled to see in glorious light.
No fewer than 30 Little Egrets were lined up on the far bank just chillin when a flash of speeding iridescence alerted us to a Kingfisher sadly going away from us rather  than coming in to perch on a close post for a photo opportunity although BD's camera battery had died by then and he would have been  miffed.
We did however see some Dunlins...at last!!!
Once again the walk back to the Land Rover provided more ornithological opportunities in the form another speeding Kingfisher, this time much closer but did we flush it from its dyke-side perch or was it the Heron that flew past us moments before? Way above our heads a kettle of four Buzzards wheeling round in a tight spiral and beyond them against the trees of the far hillside we watch a Sparrowhawk cruising around.
All to soon it was time to head back to 'civilisation', we should have got there earlier and stayed out longer! Mustn't grumble though cos we had a superb day of wall to a wall safaring with only a ten minute stop of a coffee in the caff. And we didn't 'bother' to go to have a look at the Red Deer which by all accounts were showing quite well at the other hides.
Once back at Base Camp we were saddened to see all these berries in the green waste bin, OK so you can do what you like in your own garden but there'll be no  food for the thrushes in that one this winter...there was a Blackbird taking them just before we took the pic.
Where to next? Back to work and Patch 2 where hopefully a skein or two of Pink Footed Geese will fly by, not recorded them there this year yet and we'll be busy catching up so there'll be little chance of getting out for long so another trip to Anglesey could be on the cards for you tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's poking around in the mud in your outback


Warren Baker said...

I have seen those ''Wisps of smoke'' here Davyman, quite something to watch, millions of tiny flies, incredible!

cliff said...

What a top day out you had there Dave. The insect swarms are amazing, I've never seen anything like that.