Sunday, 23 August 2015

Moths, bats and an old lady

The Safari was up and out at the nature reserve a few minutes after first light. We had hoped for a fall of some migrants but the overnight weather was back-to-front for that; it rained in the early part of the night and cleared up to leave a fine morning which meant a clear-out of birds was more likely than a drop-in. Not to worry it was still good to be on site before the dog-walkers (aka bird flushers). There wasn''t all that much for them to flush. A Whitethroat or two crept about low down,  Blackcaps 'teck'ed in the not yet ripe Elderberry bushes and unseen Willow Warblers/Chiffchaffs 'hweet'ed from the cover of the dense Hawthorns
A flit in a bush caught our eye and we stood and watched a party of Long Tailed Tits go about their business gleaning tiny invertebrates from the leaves and twigs as they moved single file through the scrub. There were a couple of Blue Tits with them but when they crossed the path we were able to get a count of nine, four Blue Tits and no less than FIVE Chiffchaffs in the flock!
Coming out of the scrub we rounded the bend overlooking the new scrape with caution, it was here we hoped we might find a decent 'drop-in' in the form of a wader, perhaps a Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank or something rarer like a Wood Sandpiper or even a Spotted Crake (if only!!!). From our view point we could only see about half of the scrape but there were two ducks in the middle visible just above the tops of the Reeds. Good job it had been raining heavily most of the night and these were weighed down with raindrops otherwise we'd not have see the ducks. They had seen us too so we ever so carefully raised our bins to see they were two Garganeys. Slowly we lifted the camera to our eye and fired of a couple of shots at the one showing most in the open. The second bird started to swim towards it and we were just about to get some pics of them together when the first dog walker came striding up from the opposite direction where a gap in the reeds meant the ducks could see him and off they went like a flash. Why don't these fools (polite version - it's Sunday morning) stop and wait when they see someone with a camera to their face, it's not like it's not obvious what's happening!
Still a bit dark and distant
Rain weighted Common Reed
We walked round to the FBC hide and had  a few minutes in there seeing the Garganeys again on the mere before they flew back to the channel scrape. Not long after that we saw two ducks fly off east into the glare of the rising sun which could have been them. A Reed Warbler flitted through the reed tops and a Water Rail called from the depths but other than those and the incessant mithering squeals of the juvemile Great Crested Grebe it was quiet. We gave it a few more minutes and were rewarded with a Common Sandpiper dropping in and flying up and down the mere calling before landing on the scrape. Almost what we'd been hoping for but the 'wrong type' of sandpiper.
Now it was decisions decisions time - do we continue on the full circuit or go back the way we came? Back the way we came won so off along the embankment we went seeing a Sedge Warbler on the landward side then hearing a Cetti's Warbler halfheartedly singing from the reeds on the lakeward side. The scrape was empty apart from a couple of Coots and a young Moorhen. Stopping in the scrub to see if any of the hidden 'tecks' were going to be a Lesser Whitethroat or a Garden Warbler the only two birds we could get the bins on to were Blackcaps. Behind us a Blackbird rattled its alarm call and we saw the tail end of a Sparrowhawk disappear at speed between the bushes.
In the more open scrub we watched a couple of Whitethroats but it was still pretty quiet and we were running out of time. Along the path bordering the reserve extention (actually both sides of the path here are in the reserve but one side is fenced) there is a large thicket of  Wild Raspberry, one of the luscious fruits was within reach - a real taste sensation! In the main (original) part of the reserve there is a small patch of Soapwort which we didn't notice but at the end of the 'extension' fence and just outside the reserve by an inch or two you couldn't fail to spot a much larger patch of those delicate pink flowers.
While doing some weeding in the garden back at Base Camp a Common Darter was over flying pond for several minutes trying to find a way to the water being thwarted by the anti-heron net. It gave up in the end a and flew off. Increasing cloud later in the afternoon brought about a dozen Swallows swooping low overhead, but as ever there wasn't a House Martin with them, still not had one at Base camp this year; no doubt there's be more if the tidy brigade didn't (illegally) knock the nests off their eaves.
Around tea-time we saw that our Extreme Photographer had sent us an email with some pics of a vole fin his garden, he wanted confirmation that it was a Bank Vole.
With such a lovely reddish fur it is indeed a Bank Vole and although we hate the word we have to say it is exceedingly cute.
In the evening we'd been booked to do our annual moth and bat watching session at a nearby park. The weather forecast didn't look hopeful but it was still quite sunny when we left Base Camp on the three mile drive. However we got to about half way there and it was like driving into the gates of doom - the sky went as black as the Obs of Hell (whatever they are but they're well known round theses parts) and a few raindrops on the windscreen soon developed into a full blown Noah-esque deluge.
We arrived to a distant rumble of thunder but the ran soon eased as we waited for the public to show up. Sure enough a small crowd of waterproofs-clad families began to arrive but the sky darkened again and more lightning showed from the south, where the weather was coming from. With everything sopping wet putting out the moth trap and its electrics wasn't going to happen but a bit of bat detecting was on the cards if the rain held off as the darkness grew. 8.30 was the start time and we had the bat detector switched on and ready to go, we'd even had a distant contact while we waited. As our leader began his welcome introduction lightning flashed all around us 1-and 2-and that's just about overhead! And then Noah joined us with a bucket of tar, a couple of planks of wood and a big bag of nails and that was the end of mothing and batting.
Or was it???
Back at Base camp we got a call from our Extreme Photographer and took it in the kitchen so as not to disturb Wifey watching the telly. We moved a tea-towel and an Old Lady appeared and made bee (or moth)-line for the pot of tea-bags!
Outside the deluge continued so it was probably just as well the event was abandoned - hope we have better luck next year.

Where to next? There's a bit of a south easterly blowing today and heavy rain is forecast later, we might try to get out when (or just after) it lands to see if anything is dropped by the storm.
In the meantime let us know who's trying to nick off with the beverages in your outback.

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