Friday, 18 December 2015

They were there and then they weren't

The Safari was able to get back down to the nature reserve for a couple of hours today and after all the coughing, snot and sore throat it was good to get a lengthy lung full of fresh air it feels, like the manflu is on the wane at last.
We scurried down to where we'd seen the Long Eared Owls yesterday but they weren't sat on the same branches.Where were they??? We looked here and there, high and low without success so decided to have a look in some of their haunts from former years. Wandering round through the new woodland we heard lots of Fieldfares chacking from the scrub. Once we reached the embankment there were hundreds of gulls to look at on the remains of the flood in the corner of the fields while looking at those we heard a Cetti's Warbler sing from the reeds to our right. Half turning to look at where the sound came from we saw something large and pale orangy flop into the reeds at the far side of the scrape - oooh that looked rather Bitterny! From where we were stood we couldn't see the base of the reeds so a quickish sprint to a better viewpoint was required; by the time we got there there was no sign of life either on the scrape or in the reeds at all....was it or wasn't it? Sadly not quite a good enough or long enough look to be able to add it to our year list.
From there we went to the new hide to see if we could see it on the other side of the reeds - no chance but there were lots of other waterfowl to see including a single Whooper Swan (MMLNR #107) that dropped in before being chased off by the territorial Mute Swans.
The plan now was to check out all the former Long Eared Owl roosting spots inside the reserve. Again we had no success and we decided to continue on a full circuit  of the reserve. It was then that BD txtd to say he was looking for the owls at their original place so we doubled back to meet him. It was then we saw a load of the Fieldfares in the top of one of the taller trees, then another tree and another, over 40 in all.
Approaching BD we were overtaken by a small flock of Long Tailed Tits which showed quite nicely as they hunted tiny insects hidden on the twigs...and there was BD doing the same thing - we rounded the corner and saw he had his macro lens out, flash gun attached and was stooped over the top rail of the fence, could only mean one thing - he was looking for/at Springtails. When we reached him he was looking at a Springtail, a big un too, we think it's the same species as this one he photographed a while back. It was just about visible to our aging eyes but a shine with the phone's torch and a look down the wrong end of our bins had us enjoying it's main features without squinting too hard.
With no owl joy BD expressed an interest in the nearby Stonechat so off we went looking at the lichens and mosses on the fence rail and wondering if there were any Tardigrades lurking in there. He's been looking but not found any for his microscopy project yet.
At the wetland it took a few minutes to find the Stonechat but once in our sights we snuck up on it as it flitted from Typha head to Typha head. Every time it dropped down to the ground we'd get a few yards nearer. It was lively though and gave us the run around sometimes only flitting to an adjacent stem other times flying half way across the wetland. Eventually we got as close as we were going to get when it settled on the boundary hedge.
Best we could get in the dark, wet, dire conditions
Picking our way round the larger pond to get back to the track we managed to flush no less than eight Snipe and then two Jack Snipe. One of the latter gave excellent views as it flew a wide circle around us before dropping down again, the other did a more typical short low flight before diving in to thick cover. The local male Kestrel also put on a good performance, the flat light showing his apricot browns and bluey greys to fine effect.
With rain coming down heavier and our belly telling us we'd had no lunch and it was nearly tea-time we called it a day. No Long Eared Owls and only a vaguely possible Bittern but still a great day out, after all it's not every day you get introduced to a Dicyrtomina sanders and we learned they are no longer classed as insects.
Where to next? Little chance of getting out until Monday due to family stuff but we'll be looking out of the window on our Goldfinch survey in the morning.
In the meantime let us know who wasn't where they were supposed to be in your  outback.


Warren Baker said...

Good to see you're on the mend Davyman, best get these things out the way before Xmas :-)

Scyrene said...

Dicyrtomina ornata I was later informed by the guru of springtails!