Saturday, 7 March 2015

Not as good a strike rate as yesterday

The Safari had another day off work and this time couldn't decide whether to go to the South-side or northwards. Eventually we decided on the latter aiming for our local RSPB reserve. On the way we called in at the old quarry to find hundreds of Jackdaws wheeling round, their calls echoing of the cliff face. Through the cacophony we then heard the deep 'pruuk' of a Raven (119) and looking up one came over the ridge followed moments later by its mate. A masterclass of aerobatics ensued for a couple of minutes with tumbling and barrel-rolling along with synchronised flying - and then as suddenly as they appeared they were gone.
Further along the lane is a little ledge on the crag from where there is a superb view of the marsh below but giving it a good scoping couldn't find anything other than a few Little Egrets and Shelducks  and good numbers of Lapwings, Redshanks and Black Tailed Godwits, no sign of the one we wanted to see and although there were plenty of Grey Lag Geese in the fields the geese that had been around a while weren't there either.
We parked at the Causeway rather than the car-park and made our way to the hide down there listening without joy for Cetti's Warblers or Bearded Tits but we did hear a Bullfinch - too late now we wanted  to hear that the other day at THE nature reserve! - and got cracking views of a Marsh Tit. A Song Thrush sang stridently from the woods across the road.
There was a group of birders already in the hide and they told us they hadn't seen much. Outside the window there's a small mud patch playing host to a party of Mallards who were ousted by three immature Mute Swans.
A shout of "Otter" came from the far end but we couldn't get on it as a second shout of "it's gone under" went up. A few minutes later the same voice called "Two Otters" but again we dipped out, fortunately we then got the briefest of views as one of them slunk along the dry edge of the reeds across the bay in front of us and then disappeared into said reeds. Once again we get Otter on our annual mammal list before the far more numerous Stoat or Weasel! We were hopeful we see more of them as MJ had told us the other day he'd been here recently and seen SEVEN in view over most of the period of three hours he was watching. This time however that brief view was all we had.
At the bridge and sluice there is often a Kingfisher to be found and the deeper water on this side of the pool regularly holds a small number of Goosanders - not today. Going through the gate to the furthest hide we kept an eye and ear open for passerines in the tree tops, the Alders here often have a flock of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, but not today all we found where a pair of Long Tailed Tits and a Goldcrest, it was very quiet along there.
As we approached the hide two gents came out and told us the White Fronted Geese and two Pink Footed Geese were 'near the swans' - thanks for the tip off guys.
A pair of Coot grazed the wet grass in front of the hide but wouldn't really show themselves for a proper pic, all we managed of a Coot was this paltry distant flight shot.
There were a number of Grey Lag Geese by the swans and a couple of Canada Geese but we couldn't see the White Fronted Geese - we did wonder, rather rudely, if  they meant Canada Geese when they said White Fronted Geese. The Pink Footed Geese were there, so perhaps the White fronts were just obscured behind the small reedy island. Lazily we didn't use the scope to check out the Pink Feet as apparently talking to another regular visitor here there;s been up to three Bean Geese wit the White Fronts - doh that'll teach us to the lug the scope round and not use it! Most of the geese flushed when Marsh Harrier zoomed over the top of them and landed in the reeds behind them and we didn't see the White Fronts leave.
Time to move on, back down the path it was even quieter than before apart from three very friendly Pheasants and a couple of patches of Scarlet Ink Cup fungi.

We got our butties from the Land Rover and chose to eat them at the new snazzy observation platform over looking the feeding station which is always busy - we hoped for a Bullfinch pic as we'd heard them nearby on the walk down but only saw a brief fly-through by a female.

Around the other side of the feeding area the old screen has been replaced with a living woven Willow affair which obviously hasn't greened up yet. Wandering through it picking up scraps around the picnic benches were some Mallards and Pheasants. Being well habituated to humans with food we thought they might give a nice close-up opportunities if we scattered some crumbs. Not as easy as you might think as they're incredibly quick at hoovering up anything dropped for them but we crouched down, put the camera on the ground and fired away.
Rear one photo-bombed by the front one!
A look in the nearby hide revealed about half a dozen sleeping Snipe, the fact we'd just missed a Mediterranean Gull by minutes - darn those friendly Mallards - and not a lot else so we didn't stay long and moved on to the far western hides.
At the weekend there'd been a Green Winged Teal but it wasn't among the 100 or so Teal showing today. No Red Deer were out either, maybe the all been shot by the wardens to protect the reedbed. There's been a bit of controversy about this with some of the locals and regular but in the absence of Wolves it's a necessary evil as the herd grows beyond unsustainable limits and is damaging the woodland and reedbed to the detriment of many other creatures...will they dare serve veni-burgers in the cafe?
Again there wasn't much about, just a few Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallards. A Little Egret sheltered from the stiff cool breeze, not much sign of the promised heat wave yet that was for sure.
So it was back to the big hide where the Snipe had woken up and started feeding, we were told 15 was the top count of the afternoon but we could only manage 12. A male Goldeneye now graced the pool but the Med Gull hadn't returned.
Here's few of the over 100 shots of Snipe we took, aren't they bonny!
The threatened heat wave arrived with the sunshine and we had to take our hat off for the first time since last October as we walked back to the first hide!
There had been no further sign of the Otters but the pair of Great Crested Grebes that had been hiding behind a small reedy island were now out in the open
Over head a Marsh Harrier soared around and came swooping down low over the reeds a few times, others had been watching it do this for much of the afternoon and said she was looking for a male, she might have to wait another week or two for them to arrive from the south yet.
As ever we ran out of time, we had wanted to drive the mile or so round the corner and have a wander into the Fallow Deer zone but that'll have to wait until (Small) Pearl Bordered Fritillary time now. Back over the crag we went stopping again for a scan of the marsh. It was about the same as earlier in the day but this time we did find four Avocets (120) in the flock of Black Tailed Godwits, probably not viewable by the birders we could see in the hide way below us. We searched the fields and saltmarsh for the White Fronts but only found more Grey Lags, they were there somewhere probably in the tiny bit of the fields we couldn't see from our vantage point and didn't walk to down the track to the hide - we can't get to the car park as the Land Rover doesn't  fit under the low railway bridge. That'll teach us to be lazy!
So there you have it some hits and a lot of misses but you can't see everything every day and despite the misses what a great day out it was...that Song Thrush was still giving it plenty when we left!
Where to next? Not sure this weekend we did have a plan for something a bit different but its been postponed and we'll probaly not be able to do it now.
In the meantime let us know what's been mysteriously missed in your outback.

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