Monday, 25 July 2016

An afternoon in the big park

The Safari went over to the big park on Friday afternoon hoping to see some predation in action and get a few snaps of it. The main action was likely to happen up at the top end of the lake and to get there we had to walk past the 'rail of gulls'. Almost all were Black Headed Gulls and we couldn't see any wearing a ring, neither BTO type nor Darvik. Among them and standing out like a giant was this Lesser Black Backed Gull.
The Mute Swans and Mallards were as popular as ever with the bread throwing families, especially the cygnets.
We tried a few shots at the many Coots that were mostly ignoring the copious amonts of bread and concentrating on getting a proper meal of water weed. As ever they were pugnacious not letting any others of their species invade their personal space. When not eating they do seem to be in a permanent state of bickering.
Moving down towards the Conservation Area of the lake we stopped to watch a Brown Hawker dragonfly patrolling the bankside. It wouldn't stay still long enough for a pic, unlike the several Common Blue Damselflies that flitted around the overhanging vegetation when the sun came out from behind the clouds.
Even up at this end of the lake, where there is far less bread thrown, there are plenty of Mallards seemingly just loafing around chilling out doing nothing much in particular.
There was a pair of Moorhens too although these were busily on the move looking for whatever their beaks could find.
We'd come to see the Great Crested Grebe family and hopefully see the chick being fed. We found them tucked up by the island about as far from either bank as they could get. Well out of range for the 600mm lens.
We hoped that the male might come closer but for much of our time he too was fishing well out in the middle of the lake. We were patient and just sat and watched him and waited, sure enough after what seemed like an age he came within range.
After a dive he would often appear to be looking into the water directly beneath him. At first we thought he was preening but we never actually saw him touch his feathers so we assume he's looking to see where the fish are before making a dive.
He came very close a little later on.
But only caught a fish for the youngster when annoyingly he was really too far away again and making haste to give it to his hungry chick.
Near enough to be able to identify the fish he's caught as a Perch though.
For better results we'll have to spend much more time here but it was great to see the action even if our pics were pretty rubbish. 
Once junior was fed the family went for a nap under the overhanging branches on the island for a while so we wandered a bit further on. There are some regrowing young Elm trees and we secretly hoped we'd find a White Letter Hairstreak if we could find some nectar rich plants in flower. It's several years ago now but we have seen one in the big park before. We found a likely looking patch of Brambles with a few flowers still open and importantly was in good sunshine just out from the shadow of the tree canopy. We soon saw a butterfly come along, but it was a 'wrong one', a Green Veined White. We didn't mind as we've hardly seen any of this very common species this year.
It went on its merry way once topped up with nectar and so did we although we didn't go far. The next clearing has a fallen tree trunk rough hewn into a bench where a youngish lad was sat very quietly and patiently with a tub of peanuts waiting to see who might want a free handout. Well everyone and his uncle did!
BD had joined us a while back and pointed out a Black Headed Gull sat on the No Fishing sign.
It was only later once we'd gone our separate ways that we noticed the ring was from the famous Helgoland Bird Observatory in Germany.
Because the sign is a few yards out into the lake we weren't able to get the full code but between us managed to photograph enough to read 53510, there's probably another digit 'round the back'. We've reported it to the Obs so we'll let you know if we hear anything back from them.
Another Black Headed Gull was sat nearby on a broken dead branch.
Beyond him was a Heron staring intently in to the water at something obviously interesting.
A little further away under the rail two Red Eared Terrapins were basking on a chunk of driftwood. They were probably dumped as much smaller ones many years ago after the Mutant Ninja Turtles craze came to an end.
Both of them were almost the size of a dinner plate!
With the weather beginning to cool down and a hint of rain was in the air we started to make our way back to the car. We hadn't gone far when we spotted something struggling on the water, a Soldier Beetle. It was trapped by the surface tension and at any moment was likely to become fish food. After a struggle lasting well over five minutes it eventually did manage to completely unfurl its wings and break free flying off to safety before any fish sussed there was an easy meal on offer.
Under the trees we saw a commotion of small birds flitting around a tree trunk which turned out to be two Treecreepers. Was it a territorial dispute, male/female display activity or chasing off a fledged juvenile? It ended with a burst of song from one and the other hopping up the tree.
Not the best pic - heavily cropped and severely processed from camera settings looking out over the open water
Our last bit of news took us a by surprise...We have Walnut fruits this year, found on two trees we didn't know were in the park. We know of another but not near these. BD tried one - they aren't ripe yet - - 'nuff said!
The big question is will they ripen or not and can we get to them before the Grey Squirrels or BD if they do?
All this fantastic wildlife (and much more that we haven't documented) was seen in a just few hundred square yards in one part of the park and still people walked past us heads down staring at a screen trying to find imaginary creatures. Imagine if they spent that much time and energy how many real creatures with amazing super-powers they might find!
And this report from those great lads n lasses at A Focus on Nature is well worth a read to find out what direction the youngsters of today want our wildlife to go in...and it's not more of the downward spiral our generation has forced upon them!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow, where National Whale and Dolphin Watch has already been successful without us and a quick round up of our Scottish news.
In the meantime let us know who's keeping their distance in your outback.

1 comment:

cliff said...

A fine haul from the park there Dave. Good to get a grebe catching fish.