Sunday, 21 August 2016

A late start but a good finish

The Safari wanted to be out earlier today but had to wait until almost lunchtime. We weren't sure where to go, the nature reserve would be pretty rubbish after yesterday's gale force westerlies and heavy rain so we headed to the local estuary and the chance of a year bird. Things were looking good when we met SD in the car park, he was coming back from his walk and told us that he'd seen a Curlew Sandpiper and a couple of Mediterranean Gulls 'at the far end'. That meant a wander past the boat yard and decks.
One of the hulks has been there a few years now
Here's what the Good Hope looked like in 2009.
Across the river a lone tree stood sentinel on the top of the knoll.
We walked on towards the corner where we could see tiny dots scurrying across the the mud. Getting nearer we found a gap between the boats and scanned the flock. It took a while but eventually we found a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper (168) among the three or four hundred Dunlins and 100 or more Ringed Plovers. We couldn't find the Mediterranean Gulls but as the tide was rising quickly we'd spent most of the time looking at the waders while the gulls had shifted off to roost on higher ground much further up the river so we'd probably missed them passing by.
With the tide just about to cover the mud we turned back passing some tall Sow Thistles on the way. One one of the flowers was a very bedraggled bee. Is it just a Common Carder Bee looking worse for wear?
A Marmalade Hoverfly joined it for a while.
A Painted Lady scooted low across the saltmarsh, our first of the year. A good hour or so out. With the day still young(ish) where to next?
We decided to take a gamble on the nature reserve. Would it be a good move? The walk in was very quiet, there was nothing flying at all and nothing flitting through the bushes. Getting in to the nature reserve our fears were confirmed - it was mayhem with people ransacking the bushes for fruit, there'll be none left for the migrant thrushes in a few weeks time at this rate - dogs were running and barking all over the place and the hides were full of scrotes up to no good with drink and strange smelling ciggies. A quick look from the bench across the mere didn't give us much so we wandered on down towards the bridge passing the scrape which was empty except for a juvenile Moorhen.
Approaching the bridge we saw that tracks had been cut through the long grass around the new ponds, of we went for a look. Well worth the detour, there was less wind down below the embankment and it was considerably warmer. On the top of the embankment another Painted Lady had sped past us but we didn't see where it went. Down in the calmer conditions there were several butterflies, mostly bright Small Tortoiseshells but there were two Painted Ladies as well.
Two pics of the same individual
However, the dragonflies were what we were more interested in. There were Common Darters everywhere, the new pond must be perfect for them. There were a few Brown Hawkers down there too.
No it's not chewing a brick!
None of them would keep still long enough for a flight shot, it was still a bit gusty down there even though the wind was much less strong than up on the top. Above us a flock of about 250 Lapwings came in from the fields and settled briefly on the old scrape before lifting off and returning to the recently cropped field. A really good sized flock for here, just need it to stay all autumn and bring down some Golden Plovers now.
We retraced our steps past the mayhem of numpties feeling good from the ponds experience but depressed from the hammer the reserve was getting - what happened to the old adage "Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints"? As for dog walkers actually reading a sign - - can they actually read???
Passing the scrape again we saw a pair of Moorhens and a Teal, they weren't  there earlier. And then we saw another teal swim in to view. Something about it didn't look right but the light was shocking. We fired off a few shaky shots and back at Base Camp were able to lighten them up a bit. Doesn't half look like a Garganey (169; MMLNR #96) now and several of our Twitter chums thankfully confirmed it.
Oh that it was a bit nearer and less windy...and the light was with us - excuses excuses!
From there there wasn't much at all so it was back to the car where we swapped cameras and headed off in the opposite direction with a plan in mind.
The sunny glades along the path held lots of Speckled Wood butterflies.
Again it wasn't butterflies we wanted to find. There were more Common Darters too but it wasn't dragonflies we wanted either. We arrived at the appointed place and lo and behold there were two of our hoped for/wanted little beauties. Both females.
Lovely painted toenails!
Two Great Crested Newts - result
So not a bad day in the end, just a few too many infuriating humans to make it a perfect day.
Where to next? Back to a wet Patch 2, what will we find...we've got a list of impossibles!
In the meantime let us know who dropped in unexpectedly in your outback.

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