Friday, 21 July 2017

All change down in the fields by the brook

The Safari had a family day out with brother P and niece M who were over from Italy on a short break back home. A few years ago they took us on a very pleasant walk around the Karst limestone area just east of their home in Trieste so it was time to return the favour...but where to go?
We decided to take them to the new nature reserve that was fields of carrots, spuds, cabbages and cereals when P was a lad before he set off on his international wanderings. 
He is also one of the members of the Year Bird Challenge but hasn't added too many species yet despite visits to the Confluence of the Niles at Khartoum and Etosha National Park in Namibia. He gets to exotic locations but probably doesn't have much time to devote to sight-seeing or bird photography. With him not being in Britain so far this year we thought we give him a chance to add to his tally...and of course we might too and had a couple of targets in mind.
Before we met up we stopped off at a big wetland reserve on the way. Only a small part of it is dog friendly so we were restricted having Monty with us. The areas of the reserve we could access were pretty quiet with just large numbers of moulting Mallards, Coots flitting Sand Martins  and a few Lapwings on show, and none of them really close enough for a decent pic. There was no sign of the 'famous' car park Kestrel that shows down to a few inches at times.
One of the best conservation developments in recent times has been the use of grazing animals to help create the right conditions for other species by breaking up areas of continuous sward in to a more mixed habitat. At this reserve they use a small herd of Longhorn cattle.
They don't quite have full access all over the reserve but are able to get down to the lakeside to drink, bathe, chill out if the so desire. It's standing ankle deep in Crassula, the invasive New Zealand Pygmyweed which unfortunately blankets all the lakes' margins. It's a pity the cattle don't eat it as there's plenty for them to go at.
From the raised viewpoint we saw a new structure out in the water. A gravel raft for Common Terns to nest on. Within a few minutes a tern arrived a sat up on a corner post. We watched while it had a good preen but couldn't see if there was another bird or any chicks inside.
 A scan of the far bank revealed a small pale wader scurrying around at the water's edge. Could this be one of our target species? We couldn't really tell  as it was too far away through our new Super-Swazza bins so we fired off a few hopeful shots.
Can you see it?
Zooming in we saw it was 'just' a Ringed Plover, not the hoped for Little Ringed Plover.
Time to go and meet up with the family...
The day was warm, humid but with enough breeze to thankfully keep the vicious bloodsucking  Cleggs grounded. There were other insects on the wing in the form of butterflies which P monitors back home and was telling us that so far this year he's recorded 49 species on his 1km transect - compare that to the total British list of just 50 species! He was surprised to see the most common butterfly here today was the Gatekeeper, a species we never would have guessed would colonise the area when we were nippers out on our bikes round the former fields.
At the first screen he added several species to his Year Bird Challenge tally, 'simple' stuff like Lesser Black Backed Gull, Lapwing and Canada Goose. We picked up a wader behind the Lapwings which we embarrassingly called as a Ruff until we got a better view ad decided it was actually a Greenshank (165, YBC #142) - Ouch!!!
Following the trail rpund we saw more Gatekeepers, a Red Admiral some Meadow Browns and found P a rather well hidden Snipe.
A Little Grebe fished in the small pool as a few dragonflies zipped about.
Climbing the flood bank to view the river the dyke by the pumphouse had a lovely Banded Demoiselle which we couldn't get a pic of as our big lens wouldn't fit through the mesh of the fence. Once again this was an unheard of species from our youth in these parts, the ditches and rivers were so polluted they were just about lifeless, now there were more Banded Demoiselles, other small damselflies, Broad Bodied Chaser dragonflies patrolling, water weeds, even Mallards cruising up and down. All these would have probably been dissolved in the foul smelling chemistry set this river used to be!
Now Sedge Warblers song-flighted, Lapwings panicked, a Peregrine flew overhead, a Kestrel hovered, butterflies flitted - all in all a rural idyll and a wildlife haven where not too long ago there was very little wildlife to be found.
Back-lit Meadow Brown
As a thunder cloud darkened menacingly and grew larger and closer it was time to go.
Yet another great day on safari and some excellent Monty wrangling from young M who's not used to walking dogs.
Where to next? No sure yet but no doubt we'll come across some wildlife somewhere to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know who's sitting on the posts in your outback.

PS...apologies to Led Zeppelin for the slight lyric change

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