Saturday, 2 January 2016

Here we go again

The Safari was able to get a good session out on the nature reserve this morning to get our year bird list going, we only had a handful in the garden yesterday before going out to a big party in the afternoon.
There was rain in the air when we left Base Camp and by the time we'd parked up it was proper raining either heavy drizzle or just common or garden heavy rain showers. Head down but ears open we headed straight to the Long Eared Owls. A few common species made their way onto the notebook page until we found a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the top of a tree which flew off as soon as we'd found an unobscured view for a pic. A little further on we saw another birder looking for the owls but he hadn't seen any yet. We had a quick unsuccessful look then made a call to LR who's been out early doors to see if he'd seen any on his early morning dog walk - he hadn't, it wasn't looking good. We came off the phone and started giving all the other bushes a good grilling as SMM and JC came round the corner,. "No" was the answer to their first question. But some serious perseverance had SM finding one buried deep in the bush, he must be one serious professional owl finder.
It took us ages to find it despite being given precise directions, eventually we found a few feathers, no more than a dozen, and got our bearings to see if we could get a better angle. We did find another angle but now we could only see about 4 feathers!
SM and JC wandered off to another site and we tried our best to get a visiting gang of birders onto those few feathers. It proved almost impossible but then something embarrassing happened; one of their number had got separated and 'lost' but on his reunion  with the group he told us there were two owls on the 'other' side one of which was out in the open - flamin Nora!
We went round with the group pointing out a couple of singing Cetti's Warblers and an elusive Water Rail on the way. And there it was, or more accurately there they were. One Long Eared Owl sat out in full view with a friend slightly more obscured by twiggery about 18 inches away.
The group had superb views, as we did, but we could only get this obscured pic standing at edge of the group.
We left them to enjoying the rest of the reserve while we went off to the bridge to measure the white and black stripes on the depth marker, our 3D chomping Giraffe ruler showed the gap to be 32.5mm or 1 9/32 inches - what a bizarre measurement; even more bizarre than the ruler itself - but it is handy to keep in your pocket in should any measuring emergencies present themselves! 
A Grey Wagtail was sat on the waymarker post but it was raining too heavily to warrant puling the camera out from under our coat. The shelter of the hide gave us a selection of waterfowl, most of which was sheltering from the rain.
Braving the weather we mooched further on getting overtaken by a leaving Shelduck, a good species to get here early in the year, there's no guarantee we'll catch up with any of the others that will drop in through the coming year.
The feeding station was lively but we had to wait a bit for the Coal Tit to arrive.
Almost three hours had now passed and we reckoned it was getting very close to breakfast time.
So at the end of day two the scores on the doors are: Total 47, Garden 9 and MMLNR 43.
With the weather and all the avian excitement we forgot to record any plants in flower for the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt, apart from one Hogweed.
Where to next? Maybe more of the same tomorrow or maybe somewhere else, think it'll depend on how wet we're prepared to get. Maybe those plants will get a look in tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's lurking in the thickest bit of the thicket in your outback.

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