Saturday, 26 March 2016

Spring seems to have despringed itself

The Safari was out again this morning but not too early today. It was a very different day to yesterday, no sunshine and a strong blustery breeze with rain forecast. Instead of heading to the nature reserve we decided to hit Chat Alley for a change given the south easterly wind. Had we made the right choice?
As we made our way across the road we heard a Meadow Pipit, good! That meant there probably was some movement going on.
At the cliffs we descended the steep path down to the go-kart track having a look across the rocks to the south on the way down. Nothing obvious down there. But at the bottom we heard a couple of Meadow Pipits and looking up we saw them flitting around the top of the old lift building. A bit of song on the wind caught our ear and looking across the race track there was another Meadow Pipit down on the tiny bit of 'salt-marsh' in the middle of the track. They don't normally breed here so it must have been a 'tyred' migrant.
It was pretty dark down there under the cliffs so today's pics are sadly on the grotty side.
Our main target was Wheatears and it didn't take long to pick one up and then another on a bald area up in the grass. They were pretty flighty barely sitting still for more than a few seconds and flying up and over the ridge onto the flat grassland on the clifftop out of sight. The Wheatears (118) were two weeks later than last year but a week earlier than 2014 and exactly the same day as 2011. 
Little stonkers the pair of them but they wouldn't allow a pic of them in the frame together.
We walked on another mile without seeing much at all apart from a small flock of local Starlings probing for Leatherjackets on the cliff-face. Shame they weren't Choughs, they might have been many, many years ago when the cliffs were still 'wild-land' with a rough pasture hinterland.
Bottoms up
Having said that there's nowt wrong with Starlings - just look at them absolutely stunning birds.
Walking back along the top path we only saw one of the Wheatears, or maybe a third, and two male Pied Wagtails having a right go at each other.
After lunch we had a family wildlife event to lead, by now the rain was hammering down - things weren't looking good for a big turn out. As it happened the rain eased about quarter of an hour before kick off which made us feel a little more hopeful. The local group's stalwarts were out in force braving the elements but unfortunately no newcomers turned up.
Our theme was Wildlife on your doorstep with an emphasis on signs of spring. All the Lesser Celandine had closed up after the rain but a Great Tit and Wren sang incessantly. A family wandered past walking their dogs and were interested in what we were up to and returned a few minutes later with a pair of Toads in amplexus. Great stuff - family enthused = result!
We had a look at the new pond, it's fenced off but the dog walkers have broken in and it's full of suspended sediment. However a big blob of Frog spawn was in the far corner - good to see! There's some nice patches of Flote Grass but it's been too cold to bring the newts out of hibernation consequently we didn't find any 'concertina'd' leaves. 
A Pied Wagtail was poking around the muddy area of the horse field and a Dunnock was picking up tiny pieces of carrots the horses had dropped while chewing what the local folks had brought down for them. Never seen a Dunnock or any other small bird do that before.
A quick look at the 'Black Pond' showed it to have become infested with Crassula. There was a Heron in there which a dog walker flushed but gave us great views as it stood in the nearby field waiting for the disturbance to pass. Good job it was flushed if you were the Toad we could see in the shallows, woulda made an easy meal for the long legged one.
Then the rain came and by eck did it came - it bucketed down. The cars were only 200 yards away but by the time we'd decided to  abandon ship and leg it back to them we were all soaked.
Not a bad safari considering what could have happened if the rain had deluged a few minutes earlier.
Where to next? Might try to get out early tomorrow to see if the rain has dropped anything at the nature reserve - provided it's not deluging down that is.
In the meantime let us know who's getting the wettest in your outback.

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