Sunday, 28 August 2016

Green but not green enough

The Safari was out early on the nature reserve this morning. We were hoping the overnight thunderstorm might have dropped some good stuff in.
Thankfully the horrendous rain had stopped and the paths were actually quite dry. We've been getting reports over the last 10 days or so of numbers of shrews from our mate LR. He's seen lots of them lying dead on several of the paths but seemingly uninjured. Today we hadn't got far through the gate from the car when we spotted one, probably caught out in the rain last night and got chilled. With their super-fast metabolic rate it doesn't take long for them to snuff ti if they can't find sufficient food very quickly.
The short bald tail tells us it's a Common Shrew
The wetland and rough fields were devoid of birdlife, our chances of picking up a Whinchat for our year-list challenge with Monika are looking slim now.
While looking for any hint of movement in the long vegetation our eye caught sight of something much nearer. The Hedge Bindweed is in flower, we used to be frightened of it but have learned it's not all bad and provides useful late summer feeding opportunities for a whole host of insects especially bees and moths. This one flower was looking out over the fields, most off the others were facing the path. It's not often you see them photod from the 'wrong side'. The raindrops add a little extra dimension too.
Wandering dowm the path we found our favourite Elder bush just about empty of birds. A few minutes standing there waiting for the action to happen gave us only a Blackcap, a Whitethroat and a Blackbird, the latter in the Rowan rather than the Elder. We didn't know it yet but all the action would be found further down the track.
We had a look at the water but the light was awful, good enough to count roughly 100 Coots though. A wisp of six Snipe flew round but didn't appear to land in the scrape. From there we went to the next hide and it was on the track down to it that the action happened, there was a huge mixed flock of birds flitting here there and everywhere. Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, even a couple of Dunnocks had joined the party. We checked through the throng carefully for any Garden Warblers failing miserably but did find at least two Lesser Whitethroats
At the scrape there was no sign of the Garganey today nor any Green Sandpipers, one of which had been seen yesterday. No Wood Sandpipers either, in fact no waders of any description at all.
Heading back a dog walker told us he'd seen a big green parrot "at the far end"...interesting, we'd heard there was a Ring Necked Parakeet seen not long since. Passing the wildflower paddock area a superb flock of about 40 Goldfinches feeding on the Knapweed seedheads. Most of them were juveniles indicating a good end to their breeding season after an iffy start when bad weather seemed to knobble many of their first broods.
Back at the viewpoint overlooking the mere we flushed a moth from the pathside vegetation. We spotted where it landed and fired off a few shots through the vegetation - a lovely Green Carpet.
A heavy squall blew through and once it was over a big flock of Lapwings went over the fields at the far end, about 130 or more, with them were four smaller waders probably Ruff rather than Golden Plovers.
No sign of the parrot yet but as we nearer the path to the car we heard it squawk loudly, do they ever squawk quietly? And then we saw a shape disappear over the hedge so no chance of a pic. Hey-ho but still Ring Necked Parakeet (171, MMLNR #97) made it on to our year list without the need for a trip to their usual cemetery haunt.
To end our trip a nice big female Sparrowhawk flew past us chased by another little flock of Goldfinches.
Back at Base Camp we had chores to do but once done we sat out in the garden enjoying the sunshine when we heard a high Curlew going over.
Where to next? Bank holiday tomorrow so we could be out somewhere or other.
In the meantime let us know who's squawking loudly in your outback.

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