Monday, 21 March 2016

A safari round a rural parish

The Safari met up with BD at tthe nature reserve, had a quick look over the scrapes and a chat to a family out with a young lad on his first birding outing and then headed out onto the lanes and byways to the east.
We had a plan and a target bird but as ever you see what you see and nowt else so just sit back and enjoy the wild ride.
Our first stop was to have a look along the river at the pretty little village that was badly flooded earlier in the winter.
The date stone says 1611
To the side  of the church we took the path along the river seeing just a couple of Mallards sat quietly enjoying the sunshine. The high river bank on our side was festooned with Lesser Celandine and being on the sunny side was nice and warm, it didn't take long to find our first of several Small Tortoiseshells.
The first pic of a butterfly taken in 2016
Thankfully it decided to pose in a better position after having a good slurp of nectar.
A second joined it and for a good few minutes there was some flirty fun going on. The male would position himself at one side and flick his wings while moving round the back of the female to the other side.
We tried to get a bit of video for you but they went camera shy. Not long after they settled on a small Nettle too close under the edge of the path to see well but we'd hazard a guess egg-laying was happening.
The floods caused devastation here and many houses had to be evacuated. We could see how high the water level in the river had risen by the debris stuck in the branches of the bankside trees.
The line is about 15 feet (5m) above today's near normal river level.

Other than the Mallards, the Small Tortoiseshells and the excessive amount of Lesser Celandine we didn't see much at all on our amble along the river bank, all was very quiet so we moved on to another bridge from where we could access the river one side of the road but only scan it from the bridge on the other.
Again the river was quiet, just the ubiquitous Mallard was in residence. The bank had a film of sand from the floods and growing through it everywhere were the cotyledonous seedlings of the dreaded Himalayan Balsam. The sand itself was covered in the tracks of small beetles, they must have trundled over every square inch of it! Also spotted was the year's first Crane Fly, several Eristalis hoverflies basking and a pair of Flesh Flies mating. river was clear but we saw no sign of any fish what-so-ever which might have explained our missing target species. 
A dodge of death across the busy main road saw us leaning over the bridge parapet to see a Grey Wagtail clinging to the weir in the distance and yet another Mallard. We waited and waited but nothing else appeared so back across the road we went to have a look downstream and promptly saw a Dipper (116) fly under the bridge but did it come out the other side - we scarpered back across the road and watched for several minutes but no Dipper came out...maybe there was a nest under the bridge.
Another traffic dodge saw us back looking downstream and you guessed it we saw the Dipper again, this time it flew from under our feet. It landed on some rocks 100 yards or so down the river which should have been visible from where we where earlier so off we went.
There was just one vantage point, clinging to a large Alder tree which seemed to be only just rooted in the bank and was leaning precariously out over the water. We waited several minutes but it wasn't to be nothing, showed up. Time to move on.
Another bridge, this time a little less busy on a quiet rural lane and a lovely tree lined riverside walk. At the car parking lay-by flowering Dog's Mercury caught our eye. The tiny green flowers aren't the most photogenic in the plant kingdom.
We hadn't gone far downstream after talking to a group of ramblers coming upstream that BD spotted another Dipper stood on a rock in the middle of the river. It obliged by staying fairly still long enough for us both to blast off a few pics.
We followed the river down crossing at the narrow bridge on to a farm track. The hedge here has been flailed to within an inch of its life but the bank it was on was a mass of wildflowers. There were a few flowers of Greater Stitchwort out but give it a few days of sunshine and the bank will be blindingly white with them, it was everywhere!
On the stream-side of the track BD noticed some small flowers of Butterbur just poking an inch or two out of the short grass.
Back on the hedge side BD spotted some Wild Strawberries, he was on wildflower fire today, mostly because Sunday evening is #wildflowerhour so was on the hunt for specimens to show.
It was during #wildflowerhour that our plant was re-identified as Barren Strawberry.
The fields on the far side of the river had a couple of majestic old trees, an Ash - look at those upward sweeping branch ends.
And an equally fine Oak
The fenceline probably shows the line of a former hedge that the two trees would have stood along, no sadly long gone and likely never to be replanted.
There has been some new tree planting.
But the species planted in this rural setting aren't  particularly welcome...a flipping Eucalyptus! Where do the think they are, the eastern side of the Great Divide or Tasmania perhaps (if it's the popularly planted garden tree E gunneri)??? Not the best choice for a non-garden situation out here, not when there's lots of suitable natives to chose from.
And while we're ranting, look a this!
Has no-one ever told them Ivy doesn't kill trees and it a valuable habitat in its own rite.
Hopefully the same won't happen to these but don't hold your breath - ignorance seems to reign supreme these days.
Beautiful aren't they - just right for a roosting Tawny Owl to hide away in and packed full of insects
Nice to blog about and get some pics of inverts and plants and not just birds for a change - roll on spring!
Oh - And one more rant before we go, please sign this latest e-petition to our lovely government - yes we know you've done it before but do you really want them to get away with costing you higher water bills, higher home insurance, destruction of our upland habitats, wanton illegal persecution of birds of prey, excessive legal but maybe not morally acceptable 'culling' of Mountain Hares (it's more like massacring actually), the ecocide of smaller predators like Foxes, Stoats and Weasels (including the odd pet dogs and cats and even the world's rarest cat the Scottish Wild Cat) by any means possible and all for a canned hunt. Get you friends and family to sign too please - We will win!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow, wonder what the wind will have blown in, not that  it's that windy at the mo.
In the meantime let us know who's ding all the blooming in your outback.


Warren Baker said...

Lots to comment on with that post Davyman, but the thing that gets me is the chopped ivy, the same thing happens here i'm afraid. It's the old fashioned ignorance showing again :-(

The Hairy Birder said...

That was a great little safari Dave.



cliff said...

The difference in the water level at St Michaels is amazing.

Cracking Dipper photo, as is the Greater Stitchwort; I'm yet to see a butterfly this year.

I recognise some of that real estate, if I'm not mistaken the one with the small Eucalyptus tree I reckon you would've been standing almost in the shadow of a motorway bridge. If so it's one of my favourite places for Dippers - I may well go there tomorrow.