The Safari wasn't expecting to find water in the mothy again...yes it drizzled overnight! There wasn't mush inside, a small number of Large Yellow Underwings and a couple each of Garden Carpets and Light Brown Apple Moths. Here's a Garden Carpet milliseconds before take off....we hadn't cooled it long enough in the fridge!
A lazy morning ensued but Wifey had to go to work and she could take Frank so we had the option of staying in following the youngsters #VisionforNature conference on Twitter or go out for a mooch. The conference would have fascinating but when faced with a choice of in or out, out almost always wins hands down and so it was today and out we went to the nature reserve.
But then distaster happened. Only yards through the gate we stopped to admire a patch of Tufted Vetch at the side of the path and went to take a pic 'Internal memory full - please insert card' Drat drat and double drat the SD card was still in the puter after downloading the above moth pic, ah well we'll use the phone...oh no we wont a fumble through the multitude of pockets told us we'd left that back at Base Camp too.
What to do now we were scuppered? Thank goodness we'd brought a notebook so we made good use of that and will have to describe our day in words which you will have to translate into images in your imagination - we believe it's called story telling...Always assuming we can read our handwriting!
It was warm but overcast with a light breeze from the north that gently rustled the drying end of summer leaves. Speckled Wood butterflies danced in the lee of the bushes one alighting briefly on a cluster of shiny black Elderberries.
Over the still distant mere a soaring Buzzard spooked a large number of Woodpigeons; in the intervening wet meadow patches of bright blue revealed late flowering Meadow Cranesbills and the locations of the now dry ponds were punctuated by the spikes of Purple Loosestrife.
The leaves of the White Poplar trees shimmered like silver when the wind caught them but the flat brown crowns of the long gone over patch of Hogweed stood tall and firm.
Several Common Carder Bees worked the large meadow at the nature resservewhich is a little past its best now, all that is still in flower and providing essential late nectar was plenty of Hoary Ragwort and scattered heads of Red Clover. It looked like there'd been a splendid show of Black Knapweed (which is purple!) and Tufted Vetch a couple of short weeks ago. Hawthorn bushes in the adjacent scrub were bedecked with red berries, these won't be flailed to within an inch of their lives like most of their farmland cousins And we wonder why there's no farmland birds - HINT leave the flail in the shed and don't destroy all the winter shelter and food supply, that'd help many species and not just birds!
From the scrub, where the Apple scrumpers have already started making inroads stealing the winter thrushes winter food a Goldcrest called and a Whitethroat churred. Two Woodpigeons clattered out from the Elder bush above us making us jump. Apart from clattering Woodpigeons it was exceptionally peaceful barely any human noise pollution for a change.
Sitting on our friend's memorial bench we scanned the water for anything other than Coots (92 from our limited viewpoint) or gulls wishing we were still able to grab some tools and clear some of the summer's growth in from of the platform - we're sure there's a Spotted Crake in there somewhere. Would be about time, don't think there's been one on the nature reserve since 1996 - long overdue then! And come on Otters, where ARE you???
A Peregrine (MMLNR #86) cruised north over the far fields to the east leaving a trail of panicked flocks of pigeons in its wake, down in front of us Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood butterflies flitted about the flowers and another Goldcrest was heard nearby - all beautifully idyllic.
A brief gap in the clouds brought out the sun and the temperature rose a couple of degrees bringing out the first dragonflies of the day...Migrant Hawkers. Sneaking slightly off-piste we gently lifted the refugium (is that a word?), it had to be lifted carefully as it's covered in thorny trailing branches of Brambles and wild Roses. Beneath it the only thing that moved was a small Great Crested Newt, one from last year probably - RESULT! Which reminds us we don't think ew've had a reminder about renewing our licence from Natural England yet this year - hope we've not been 'illegal'! Although unseen ther was plenty of evidence of Short Tailed Field Voles being under there all summer long with grass nests and lots of runs going this way and that.
Another clattering Woodpigeon spooked us but generally the birds were very quiet asyou would expect in the middle of the day, perhaps we should really have been here in the drizzly dawn instead of faffing round with soggy moths. While contemplating what should or couldn't have been a small Toad struggled through the vegetation on the rough track in front of our size 9s.
By now we must have got used to the Woodpigeons as they sped noisily from their leafy hiding places as we walked below and watched a couple of Common Darters flitting along the path to the hide. At the hide a bizarre sight met our eyes - not that we could see much since the reed needs to die back a bit before there's a view from the windows - but one of the Council's 'Hire Bikes' was taking a swim 'Heath' is its name - we'll have to report that to the relevant people tomorrow. It'll need a grappling iron to get it out and a lot of TLC to get it back on the road. What kind of dough-brained numpty does a thing like that???
The kind that wouldn't notice or appreciate the amazing Brown Hawker flying around the little clearing in the reeds they'd unknowingly created probably.
We remember in the early days of the reserve that was a bit of a hoo-hah about Ground Elder, well one of the main patches has now been almost totally succeeded by the land form of Amphibeous Bistort and it won't be long before that in turn is lost to willowherbs, Nettles, Bindweed and Brambles. The other much larger patch is still going strong but it hasn't spread as was feared and other species have begun to appear amongst it although to a lesser extent than the first patch.
A hidden Blackcap scolded us from a dense Hawthorn, next door was an Elderberry bush showing gorgeous pinky autumnal hues. Talking of pink why oh why don't we have breeding Bullfinches in the extensive fruit scrub here and will we get any on passage this autumn?
The purple tops of the reeds waved in the breeze but no sound came from within bar their rustling leaves until a loud burst of song from a Cetti's Warbler set off a Chiffchaff and Wren calling. Further on back in the scrub a mixed party of tits included many Long Tailed Tits working their way along the hedge at the back of the drier reedy area where we once put out an experiment to see if Harvest Mice were present or not. we were unsuccessful but that doesn't mean to say there weren't/aren't any - more research needed we think. A Chiffchaff sang briefly from within the flock and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. what wasn't so good to see was an Elderberry bush showing its bright green leaves in the middle of the reedbed.
The reedbed has been partitioned into blocks and in a few years time all will have been dragged out on a rotation, this bit needs to be rotated first!
Two Cetti's Warblers sang briefly at each other and an Emperor dragonfly flew past while we were coming to terms with the errant Elderberry.
Retracing our steps the Emperor had found a partner and whipped over the path and down the embankment in tandem. It's not that long since Emperors were first recorded here, about 20 years ago or thereabouts. Underfoot a huge Black Slug was making bee-line for a discarded beer can.
Back in the scrub an anxious looking Robin peered at us through the twigs of a large Willow tree stretching up on tippy-toe to get a better look at us, now why couldn't it have been a Redstart? Ah well you can't have em all!
Autumn fungi weren't much in evidence apart from a small patch of well past their best Common Inkcaps and a couple of Shaggy Inkcaps just beyond their eating best. A Blackbird clucked as we cast an eye over the wildflower area in front of us with only Yarrow and a few Bird's Foot Trefoil flowers still going strong. It does look as though it's been well colourful this summer and there's little grass so the Yellow Rattle must be doing its job. In fact there's might not be enough grass for the later flowering and once common Red Bartsia. There used to be some Biting Stonecrop in this area but we couldn't find any sign of it. We used to give the school kids a tiny bit to taste and wait for their reaction when the pepperiness hit them. The area has 'overgrown' (how we hate that expression) but we were pleased to find some decent sized patches of Hare's Foot Clover, so all is not lost to atmospheric nitrogen deposition - a really hard thing to counteract/mitigate against.
Standing chatting to PL for a while there was a little flock of warblers flitting about the scrub beyond us, at least a few Whitethroats and a male Blackcap but there could have been others. He is in the very enviable position of getting what we believe to be the first ever pics of a Brimstone butterfly at the nature reserve. Excellent stuff.
We took a slightly different path back taking us past the lovely soft pinks of the Soapwort patch. Looking over the wetland there was a distinct lack of Whinchats, a choice spot for them in spring so there's no harm looking in the autumn especially as several have been seen locally in rrecent days.
Almost back at the Land Rover we passed a group of young ladies out for a walk with their dog when one called out "You're that man, aren't you, I recognise you from Yr 6...you've only got nine fingers" Yes that's us, but now we only have six fingers (and two thumbs). We stayed for a quick chat and were encouraged to hear they claimed to have remembered all we'd shown them a few years ago when they were still in Primary school.
It was now time to get some lunch...when we got back to the Land Rover the clock showed we'd been out nearly five hours, and only only walked less than two miles...even slower than Fluffy Ma n Da's Tortoise.
What a place, so much to enjoy and we've only noted a fraction of what we saw today.
There's big excitement ahead and you'll all have the opportunity to join in with a volunteer group to help make this reserve even more special. All talents will be welcome not just muscley practical conservation work although we've no doubt there'll be plenty of that required too.
Us conservation folks really need to engage with more people and use feelings, the emotions of place, its intrinsic value, its specialness and not just the science and it's dry facts and figures if wild areas like this are to be valued. One chap out for a wander with his wife and dog we spoke to summed it up nicely...over there is Blackpool, waving his arm in the general direction of the tower, and here just a mile away is the Serengeti - we knew exactly what he meant!
Where to next? A Sunday at work tomorrow doing a bit of wildlife gardening with a gang of teenagers - hope they've got plenty of muscles!
In the meantime let us know what couldn't be photographed in your outback