Monday, 20 February 2017

And so on to that frustrating fog

The Safari met up with the Community Arts team again on Saturday to do a bit of a history talk followed by a wander round the park to see what we could see. They had all sorts of activities planned too, one of which was 'seed bombing' and we were to look out for a suitable area for their wetland mix of seeds during our walk.
Filling a seed bomb - more like a seed scatterer actually
As with Thursday's event we were on the look out for interestingly shaped and/or patterned trees. We found a large Small Leaved Lime tree we didn't know was in there, it was a giant but the trunk forked too low down to be able to do the measuring the age with a tape measure trick. Hawthorns often have good bark and trunk shapes, these two are right by the children's play area.
Did you spot the litter between the trees? fortunately some of the group were armed with bags and pickers so it was collected along with quite a lot of other rubbish that had been strewn about. Why are we so messy??????
The park was probably laid out in the early 1920s but few of the original trees remain, perhaps the big Lime and a few Sycamores, there were likely to have been Elms but these have long since succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. From measurements of some of the other trees we'd guess they were about the same age as us being planted in the late 50's or early 60s. More recent planting has taken place too, like this Jubilee Wood from which Jubilee we're not sure and even more recently in the year or so there have been some groups of trees planted under the Woodlands From Waste scheme.
The wooded future of the park looks rosy!
At the wettest point we tore away at the thatch of grasses, bring a rake would have been a good idea, to reveal about a square metre of clear soil on to which the youngest member of our group sprinkled her seed bomb. We all helped press the seeds in by gently trampling the ground and then hoped for rain. Wit ha bit of luck more similar patches would be done in the afternoon to create a nice colourful area buzzing with bees and butterflies later in the year, or probably next year.
The end point of our walk was a half buried lump of 13500 year old Bog Oak which was dug up when the field was tried to be drained. The Arts group had heard about it and as a piece of local history wanted to lift it from its dumped area and display it on a plinth with some interpretation for all to see.
It wasn't buried as badly as we thought, just covered with a good growth of grass which was soon pulled off. It was however a lot longer than we realised.
Never the less with a bit of muscle and teamwork it was soon released from it's grassy grip. As it was lifted off the ground we saw our first Frog of the year.
Turning it over to find out how much it had started to rot on the underside revealed a horde of hibernating Yellow Slugs, Limacus flavus
They weren't too happy about being woken from their slumbers and slithered off to find somewhere else to lay their heads.
After a little pulling and shoving, puffing and panting the Bog Oak was wrested on to a couple of smaller pieces to keep it clear of the ground so it could dry out properly. The local rugby team who play on the field from which it originally came will lift it to its final resting place near their clubhouse. Where it will get a more detailed permanent sign too.
Mission accomplished and all good fun.
On Sunday we set off back over the river in an attempt to mop up some of the species we missed last weekend and went a little further to find some more. We had to stop of the marshland car park again and in the field at the entrance there was a flock of about 100 Pink Footed Geese.
At the very back of the flock we're sure we got a fleeting glimpse of a Barnacle Goose with them, but we waited and waited and waited much to Monty's impatience but it never showed again, if indeed it was ever there in the first place...why are the odd-balls always at the back of the flock when we look???
From there we headed to the northernmost point of our day out, the little estuary with the creeks. Here we had a walk along the old railway-line passing an unseen Goldcrest and a couple of Chaffinches in the hedge, the tide was well out so the river was out of range of our bins and camera.
Moving round to the pool we had cracking close up views of a Curlew and a couple of pairs of Teal.
With not much else on the pool we had a look in the creeks. Here there was a good assortment of birds, Shelducks, Teal, Wigeon, a couple of Black Tailed Godwits (102), a lot of Redshanks but no sign of the hoped for Spotted Redshank. A heavy drizzle was beginning to fall so we moved around the lanes to find some wild swans which we soon did. We'd heard there was a flock of about 400 Whooper Swans in the area with a few Bewick's Swans mixed in but before we found them we came across a much smaller herd of Whooper Swans (103) some distance across a large field. we stopped and pointed the camera out of the window.
It was just as well as a few bends further down the lane we saw the large flock miles away across the fields and without a scope we'd had no chance of looking through them. On we went to the marsh where by now a think mist was settling over the river and snaking its way towards us. We saw a Collared Dove that didn't sit long enough for our Year Bird Challenge and had to drag half a rotting Shelduck from Monty's gullet - yuk!!!
With the river still low there weren't many birds close up to shore and with the wet gloom rapidly approaching we didn't want to stay out too long and get the camera soaked so we fired off a few shots at a group of Black Tailed Godwits. Just another 'banker' really, we should get much better and closer pics of them in full summ plum later in the spring.
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving along lanes through dense fog not seeing much at all apart from the odd suicidal Blackbird darting across the road in front of the car at the very last minute. We expected the Lesser Snow Goose to be where it had been all week but could hardly see the field and only saw one Grey Lag Goose, we later learned it had moved half a mile or so away - cruel, so another trip over the river will be needed.
We decided to give the dipped last week Black Redstart a miss too as we'd arranged to meet GB (not the Aussie one!) for a bit of a walk with Monty who he's not met yet.
On the way we briefly stopped off at the nature reserve that is really just a dogs' toilet in the hope of seeing either or both of the Glaucous Gulls that have been frequenting the adjacent tip, we could barely see the river or the tip so gave up on that one and went to pick up GB.
A few minutes later were were walking to the point along the prom and stopped to look at the sign about the pebbles on the beach. now GB was a geologist and the next half hour was spent on the beach having a good close look at many of the fascinating pebbles there. We were careful to keep Monty away from the roosting 40 or so Ringed Plovers we could just about see about 50 yards away through the murk.
It must have been a low murk as we could hear a couple of Skylarks (104) singing over the golf course behind us. Actually its not year bird 104 as we'd neglected to put one flying over the garden (Garden #16)  on our spreadsheet on 5th of Feb.
With both of us getting hungry we took GB home and set off Base Camp. Once ensconced at the computer downloading our day's pics we spotted we'd got a bonus Bewick's Swan (105, YBC #80)
Where to next? Dunno yet but we do hope the heating engineer comes soon as it's freezing in here with the boiler on the blink - hope it's not terminal it is a bit of an old thing...
In the meantime let us know who's hiding in plain sight in your outback.

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