The Safari was lucky today, we managed to get an unintended day off work. We had the gas boiler engineer booked for shortly after 09.00 which gave us an hour and a half to get out and have a mooch around. We started off at the small park right near the cliffs at Chat Alley with the hope of coming across a waif from Siberia, but there wasn't a Yellow Browed Warbler to be found. There wasn't much happening and with the clear blue sky any vis mig was out of sight and out of earshot. All we saw was a flock of six Greenfinches which dropped and circled but decided not to stop and continued southwards, a Heron come over from the north west, another coasting like yesterday's or another feeding on the beach during the hours of darkness? A Grey Wagtail went south too but all that was 'grounded' were a few each of Dunnocks, Robins and Blackbirds and we don't know how many of these were residents in the park, a Goldcrest called a couple of times too, that was certainly a migrant.
Once we'd exhausted the possibilities in the park we drove the mile or so north to meet up with ringer AD again. This time we took a full walk around the field/woods and enjoyed the beautiful sight of thousands of cobwebs being lit up by the low morning sun.
Our wander round the site gave us a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff but it was quieter than yesterday with no sign of the Blackbird movement today. AD told us the Meadow Pipits weren't going over in anything like the same numbers as yesterday either but had caught and ringed a couple before we arrived. He'd also seen a Sparrowhawk and a Blackcap.
The appointed hour for our appointment drew near and we had to shoot off. On the way back to the car (we nearly typed Land Rover there!) a butterfly crossed the path several yards in front of us and at first we thought Speckled Wood but then our brain registered it was too big and pale to have been one of those so with not seeing flit between the trees we approached the spot very cautiously to find a Painted Lady.
Back at Base Camp we'd been warned the gas man was running a bit behind schedule so we were able to do a bit of vis migging from the garden but again the skies were still far too clear and we only had a couple of Meadow Pipits and a Chaffinch and a singing Dunnock. Best by a mile though were two Rooks (Garden #37) that came over from the direction of the waterr tower and were the first seen at Base Camp since at least 2010.
The gas man came but by the time he left it was almost lunchtime so we phoned the office and booked a day's leave, well by the time we'd eaten lunch and driven to work it would be almost time to turn round and come home again! So we ate a quick lunch and headed out back to the little park again. In the sunniest corner a patch of Michaelmas Daisies was alive with literally hundreds of hoverfies and butterflies - it was stunning! There were Red Admirals, Small Whites, Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma vying for the best flowers. We wandered round the shrub beds recording an absolute minimum of nine Red Admirals, two Speckled Woods, five Small Tortoiseshells, seven Small Whites, a Large White and at least 10 Silver Ys. The majority being found on a patch of Ice Plant Sedum in a sheltered sunny spot. All these were being enjoyed by other folk in the park, one couple telling us we should see Peacocks too, but they didn't show today.
The birds, however, had gone very quiet so as to be almost non-existant!
Walking back to the car a small dragonfly caught our attention as it settled on the edge of the path. A teneral maIe Common Darter just beginning to colour up. It was then we discovered that, yet again, we'd left the camera's SD card in the laptop on the desk at Base Camp...dohhh - good job phones have cameras these days!
With no bird action we decided to give the nature reserve a go. Almost as soon as we got out of the car (remembered it is only a car this time and not a Land Rover) we saw a huge mass of gulls wheeling around in the distance. We soon saw what we assumed to be the reason, the Police helicopter was hovering over the fields not far beyond them. That wasn't the reason for their panic though as we also spotted a couple of Buzzards circling below them - that would do it! The Buzzards gained height and slowly drifted towards us then came almost directly overhead still drifting west offering the best opportunity we've had for Buzzard-in-flight shots which we managed to spectacularly waste. The pic below was by far the best of a very disappointing bad lot!
At the Feeding Station we met up with MMcG who'd just filled the feeders and almsot as soon as his back was turned the birds returned including a couple of Coal Tits (MMLNR #103). A Sparrowhawk zipped in landed briefly spotted us and zipped out all in the blink of an eye and accompanied by two not very impressed Magpies.
Out on the wider reserve there were butterflies and dragonflies everywhere, don't think we've ever seen so many dragonflies here on any one day in the last 25 years! When you put it like that we also can't believe we've been coming here for almost half our life - doesn't seem that long somehow!
There were Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers whizzing every which way many in tandem, the sun catching their twinkling gossamer wings like sparkling jewels of motion. Occasionally there'd be a Brown Hawker with it's bronze wings glistening in the sun and just once there was something else large that went past so fast we didn't really get a good enough look at it but was probably a Southern Hawker or an Emperor.
At the FBC hide a family of numb-nuts from the holiday camp had broken through the fence and were sitting in front of it so we gave it a miss but did hear a Cetti's Warbler sing briefly from not far away. Continuing our circuit we didn't see the Grey Wagtail in the stream but once over the bridge we heard it call then turning round we saw it drop in so we're not sure if we flushed it or it had just that second arrived.
A Kestrel pounced on something in the cut Barley field and stayed down a long time in stubble, on the other side of the path, in the reeds, a Water Rail screamed. At the far end of the embankment a large pale bird swooped low into one of the larger Willows and landed just out of sight, didn't look 'right' for a Woodpigeon so we stood and waited a minute until a Jay flew out...and then a second, two Jays could be a site record for us!
We bumped into MMCG again who'd walked the opposite way round to us and he had nothing to report but there was a volunteer group getting stuck in to some vegetation bashing by the Panoramic Hide (which will have a new name soon as local children have come up with new names for all the hides). As luck would have it with the work party nearby the hide was open so we took advantage and sat and watched the world (mostly dragonflies and gulls - nowt wrong with that!) go by.
A Chiffchaff moved through the Willows to our left then into the reedbed in front of us, another Cetti's Warbler sang nearby and two Water Rails screamed at each other, unseen but very close. We heard the 'wink wink' of approaching Pink Footed Geese and through the end window watched a skein of about 80 travel south over the fields to the east. Also over that way were a good number of Jackdaws and Feral Pigeons, the pigeons balled up and the Jackdaws whiffled down suggesting a/the Peregrine might be about but if it was we didn't see it. Later they did the same when a large female Sparrowhawk cruised eastwards. We spent a good hour in there while the volunteer party finished of and then took their tools back to the store in which time three sets of folk arrived, none came in to the hide but all stopped for a look.
There's the hide all doors and windows open and inviting, there's even a screen for when it's locked up - where do you think all those folk stood? Yes you've guessed it - round the front of the screen - what absolute dipsticks! We decided to take a pic of the next person to do it for a Numpty of the Week award but no-one else came until Ranger IB came back to lock up.While we were chatting about how best to secure the front of the hide against the numpties another Jay arrived and flew across the mere - three in a day; deffo our site record! Another Buzzard drifted north east too and we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker call.
We were having a fantastic afternoon in the warm sunshine but once again time ran out and back to Base Camp we had to go.
We pulled up outside the house and young OC was playing out in the street on his own. He's a cheery young lad, still in primary school, and always chatty so came over to see what we'd been up to when he saw the bins round our neck. We told him we'd been out bird watching at the nature reserve and asked him if he'd ever seen an eagle (we meant Buzzard but was fairly sure he wouldn't know what one of those was but would understand 'eagles'). "No" he said, "do we get eagles round here?" "Look at this" - we showed him the pics of the Buzzard on the back of the camera - "cool, where was that"...we pointed skywards in the direction of the nature reserve. Then he said "like that one there" pointing to a dark bird heading north over the rooftops. "That's just a 'seagull'" we said then looked at it with the bins - that was no seagull that was another Buzzard - the eagle-eyed youngster was right!!! We gave him a look through the bins and he watched it fly north over his house and turn round and come back right over Base Camp - awesome!!! - - What will he find next?
His other friends came out to play and he drifted off with a calling Goldcrest being heard from the end of the street above the din of their game.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow.
In the meantime let is know who's got the eagle-eyes in your outback.