The Safari wasn't able to get out until nearly lunchtime yesterday, when we did we went straight to the nature reserve where we hoped there'd be some new summer migrants in. There were, it wasn't long after leaving the car we heard our first Chiffchaff singing, then another and another and so it went on.
For some reason we decided to give the Long Eared Owls a look, dunno why as they'd not been reported, or reported as absent, for several days. However as we walked up towards their favourite place three birders were stood there looking as though they were watching them. By now we'd had at perhaps as many as eight singing Chiffchaffs too!
They were looking at a Long Eared Owl until one of them said she could see a second, it was only inches away from the first but tricky to see if you weren't in exactly the right place, We told them there has been a third and after a long while eventually found it well hidden at the back of a particularly dense patch of scrub and only small parts of it were visible depending where you stood.
AM rolled up on his bike and we had a chat, he telling us he'd had a Willow Warbler in the big park. We were quite surprised hearing this that we'd not heard one on the walk down to the owls as it's a good spot fro them, he'd also had a Blackcap singing there so spring is deffo springing.
We left to enjoy the owls and wandered off to have a look to see if there were any waders on the scrape, there weren't, just a few Teal and a Moorhen. We left the scrape and retraced our steps before heading along the embankment listening to Cetti's Warblers and Reed Buntings and scanning the fields for White Wagtails and Wheatears of which there were neither. Sat on the last bench waiting for a passing Osprey and a pinging Bearded Tit were MJ andd EP so we joined them for a wait and a chat. Before too long a small flock of Sand Martins drifted high over the far end of the reserve but soon moved through. Behind us on the flood in the field were eight Gadwall feeding away in the shallows, we've never seen them over there before. The gulls went up in a panic, not an Osprey, 'just' a Buzzard this time way down beyond the far end of the reserve. More were seen nearer over the fields and TS picked up two sat at the very top of a pylon miles away. Flying across the mere from the north we spotted a Jay (MMLNR 83) a good spring record here but unfortunately the other two didn't pick it up before it was out of sight behind the trees along the south bank.
More Sand Martins came and went, our count was up to at least 50 by now but still they stayed high and down at the far end not coming anywhere near the lovely nesting bank that's been made for them. The regular pair of Oystercatchers came in noisily from the fields followed shortly after by a pair of Lapwings, it was a joy to watch and listen to the male displaying over the island and mere - if only they would settle to best on there that would be awesome! Really the vegetation on the top plateau of the island could have done with ripping off during the winter but with the very high water levels it probably wasn't possible to get a machine over there to do the work.
With still no Ospreys in sight we left the warmth of the bench, well it was warm when the sun shone but that wind was still at bit braw when the sun went behind a cloud. Off to the hide we went again to check the scrape for waders, none again apart from the Lapwings and Oystercatchers. The Teal were looking very dapper and we counted now nine Gadwall and seven Shovelers along with 15 Cormorants on the remains of the bund. We'd been hearing a Little Grebe calling from the reedbed in this area all afternoon and finally it showed well but all too briefly for the camera. The feeders here were busy too with Reed Bunting, a pair of Chaffinches, a Great Tit, a Blue Tit and a pair of Long Tailed Tits. One of the latter took a sunny seed from the feeder into the nearby Willow bush and promptly hung upside-down by one foot while pecking at the seed which was held firmly aloft in the other - bizarre behaviour which PE tried to get some pics of, we've not seen them posted up yet so they may not have come out too well in the dull conditions, we'll post the link if they do appear - it's worth seeing - Most unusual, especially when the second bird looked as though it might muscle in for a sneaky peck at the exposed seed too!
Meandering on we had a look at the gulls from where the old 'Gull Hide' has been removed from, it;s now easier to see them standing on the remains of the footings, if your tall, as you're higher than the tops of the reeds which you weren't when sat down in the hide. There were plenty to be seen but sadly no sign of the Iceland Gull, can't be long before it departs back to Greenland - yet another great birding misnomer! When we put the hide in all those years ago there weren't any reeds to see over.
The little wet meadow had several clumps of Snakeshead Fritillartes starting to flower, there were too many people about to sneak in for a pic, it would just encourage the 'Great Unwashed' to venture in all heavy footed to see what we'd been interested in - not worth the risk, the Cowslips were starting to come out too.
More Sand Martins came from nowhere to circle over head then 20 minutes later even more, we reckon we finished the day with a count of at least 120 but no Swallows for us today. Away over on the far side of the mere was a Great Crested Grebe and we could hear another growling unseen in the reeds nearby, was this one on a nest perhaps?
There were plenty of Small Tortoiseshells and a few Peacocks enjoying the warm sunshine but the rare and elusive Brimstone, they are rare and elusive here at least didn't put in an appearance.
We went to the viewing platform for a last look over the mere coming across a family having a whale of a time with a dog a ball and a ghetto blaster in the 'Paddock' - ah pillocks in the paddock! We politely told them they were in a nature reserve and asked them to leave indicating towards the huge area adjacent where all manner of play is permitted. The father(?) told us to F Off and mind our own F-ing business and anyway he hadn't seen any nature so there wasn't any of the 'F'ing useless stuff' there anyway - he might have had a pojnt cos we'd lugged the camera around all day and found nothing to point it at except the 'easy' Long Eared Owl - which was just as well as we'd brought it out with a dud battery and not put the freshly charged one in our pocket - too eager to get out and see all that useless nature!
So ended another quality afternoon on the nature reserve. When we got back to Base Camp we learned we'd missed an Osprey away to the east probably while walking back to the car...dohhh!
This morning we were on opening up duty at work and only had time for a ten minute look over the wall at Patch 2, nothing much there in that briefest of looks, a Great Crested Grebe on the sea, a Red Throated Diver going high to the north and four Eiders, two pairs flying south fairly close in, but nothing new like a Sandwich Tern which have started to be recorded along the coast.
Once back behind the desk we learned that had we been able to stay out a little longer we might have seen a local Mega, a Black Guillemot was spotted from the southern end of the Patch about quarter of an hour after we'd had to go.
During the first half of the morning we heard the gulls go up with a panic twice but on dashing outside saw nothing. LR phoned to say he and IB had just watched an Osprey fly over the nature reserve which was then reported a little further north too...dohhh - will we connect with one this year?
The sea was very quiet for our lunchtime look, a few very distant Common Scoters a distant Gannet and a nearer but still distant enough Grey Seal were all that was on offer; still no Sandwich Terns!
A bit of bright sunshine mid afternoon saw us taking a break with the camera to see if there wer eany butterflies in the wildflower meadow, there weren't. The Cowslips, there's not so many as last year, haven't quite opened yet but there are some fully open at Base Camp which catches less sun.
Plenty of Coltsfoot flowers are available for the bees and butterflies but no takers today, there's no Dandelions showing yet though.
Where to next? We've a trip out of work up the coast aways for a quick look at the remedial works in the park along the new sea defences tomorrow morning which could prove interesting.
In the meantime let us know who needs a wash in your outback.