The Safari heard a familiar bird calling at work the other day and thought nothing of it...but some thing in the back of our mind needled us into checking our records and there was indeed an enormous gap in the list. Jackdaw (P2 #66), but had we heard it earlier in the year and forgotten to add it to the spreadsheet or was this truly the first record?
At the close of play we had a quick errand to run up to the nature reserve and was able to have a few minutes in the FBC hide with MJ and AH. Not much was happening but we learned we'd missed a Mediterranean Gull. In the cut area of reeds in front of the hide the usual not-so-shy Mallards were joined by a couple of normally ever-so-shy Shovelers.
We planned on a very early start to do some vis migging with the overnight weather forecast looking very promising. Then in the middle of the night we were woken by torrential rain -squinting at the alarm clock it was only 2am, that was too early for rain and was going to put the dampeners on everything, it lasted about an hour. Now had it been 5am when an hour's rain started a nice selection of birds might have been dropped, we weren't hopeful.
Pulling in to the car park and turning off the headlights all was quiet barely a Robin ticked - not a good sign!
Walking up to the reserve nothing stirred and nothing went over, our fears seemed to have come true. As we approached the reserve gate we saw a huge swarm of Starlings lift over the scrub and in the gloom at the far end there were more heading out over the fields, we estimated a total of in excess of 500 but could have arrived too late to others already gone from their roost.
Still all was still, there wasn't so much as a breath of wind to waft the rain damaged cobwebs on the Gorse bushes. Did the spiders get the weather forecast wrong too?
The sun rose to reveal the first tints of autumn on the Poplar trees and overhead we head the first of what we hoped would be many Meadow Pipits, wrong! We only heard one more call in the three hours we were there.
The cool morning air hung heavy with the scents of, depending where you're stood, mild Starling droppings (this'll get stronger as the roost increases!), cidery windfall Apples and manure from the mountain ready for spreading in the field.
At least the Cetti's Warblers were vocal, we heard seven. Half a dozen Reed Buntings flitted out of the reeds and half a dozen Reed Warblers flitted through the reeds, their invisible progress being marked by the raindrops being shaken off the reed tops. Chiffchaffs sang and others moved through the scrub either alone or with Blackcaps or Long Tailed Tits, in the end we had at least 10!
A movement at the back of the Channel Scrape next to a juvenile Moorhen had us peering into the poor morning shadows, a small bird had just run into the reeds and popped it's head out briefly, probably a Water Rail but it does look very good for a Spotted Crake on there. Tantalising glimpses followed over tthe next 20 minutes including a very buttery undertail but we couldn't get anything conclusive until it came right out in front of the reeds on the mud and was after all that 'just' a Water Rail. Meanwhile two others were calling from deep in the reeds some way to our left and right.
Overhead migration was in full swing - NOT - with singles of Pied and Grey Wagtails going south. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to come from the north but could have been local birds moving around looking for breakfast. More interesting was the only Blue Tit of the morning which dropped into the reedbed in the south east corner from on high, it hadn't come from the nearby tall trees as it came over our head from the north an dropped in to the reeds rather than the trees.
A light shower brought down about 30 twittering House Martins which left as soon as the drizzle passed. The fields to the east have been harvested and the golden stubble held a veritable swarm of at least half a dozen more than plenty Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons.
The temperature rose with the sun and out came a few Speckled Woods to bask, getting ready for a hard day's nectaring.
After three hours of not a great lot we left but maybe we should have worked it harder and perhaps had a look in the trees along the south side as a Spotted Flycatcher was found later not too far away. Anyway we headed off down the motorway for a look at a reserve we don't visit often enough these days.
By now the morning was well underway and it turning into a very nice and warm late summer's day. Our first port of call was the little picnic area on the hill overlooking the visitor centre. From there there's a good view down one of the lakes and across the tree tops now hiding the other large lake. Scanning the first lake we saw something we'd not seen before, how long is it since we were last here? An Osprey nesting tower - now that's something our nature reserve could do with too. Would a good splash of Dulux's best white emulsion paint make it look pre-used? Would that be more or less attractive to prospecting Osprey?
|Those Ospreys look like Carrion Crows to us|
Stood on the hill we only heard a single Meadow Pipit call, but a Buzzard mewing in the distance was something we never heard when we lived not too far away and visited more frequently. The only swarm of migrants coming from the north was a very noisy flotilla of three military helicopters shattering the peace, even drowning out the motorway noise!
We had a mooch about watching more and more dragonflies take to the wing, a good sign for later we thought. From the impressively windowed new 'Look Out' - not a hide! - we saw the Buzzard circling over the trees at the back but the lake was very quiet, a Heron stood motionless in the shadows for ages, not even the fish were moving. You can't hear anything through the (probably) bullet-proof glass (we guess it's so toughened as the site suffers badly from far too much wanton vandalism) so we went to stand on the higher adjacent site of a former hide that was destroyed by said vandals.
Heading back to Land Rover and butties at lunchtime we came across a Garden Snail that had been trodden on on the path eagerly being slurped up by a large Black Slug.
We took our butties back to the hill top and spotted a blue damselfly on the way, careful stalking got us a pic that showed it to be a Common Blue Damselfly, can't many left on the wing at this time of year
From our lofty position we could see hundreds of dragonflies all over the place, don't think we've ever seen so many. they were close by, low over the grass and shrubs, high above us in the ether and many were in tandem laying eggs in the lake - a long way off!
|Female Common Darter|
|Male Common Darter|
|Mating Migrant Hawkers|
|Mating Common Darters|
With all this flying protein it was inevitable that our quarry of the day would put in appearance, but ours is a fickle hobby and the hoped for/expected Hobby almost inconceivably failed to turn up and put on an aerobatic master class.
With time now running out the heat of the afternoon required an ice cream from the impressive floating visitor centre. Crossing the raiseable drawbridge and gangway we looked into the crystal clear water and saw a few fish. Small ones at first, a shoal of small Perch.
After our ice cream we saw three even bigger huge ones about a foot long, not seen Perch that big since the 70s and before the disease which wiped out most of the biggest fish.
Best sighting of the day came when we were trying to get pics of the shoal of small ones, a tiny Red Water Mite came bumbling by. Good to see the small things as they are the base of the food chain for the bigger things.
A most enjoyable eight hours in the field but not a swarm of migrants to be seen - where are the Meadow Pipits?
Our overnight mothing session was pitiful with only three Light Brown Apple Moths and four Large Yellow Underwings in the trap after a mild windless night.
Where to next? Chores today but no doubt there'll be something to see.
In the meantime let us know who's moving where, or not as the case may be, in your outback.