Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Better not to be on the wrong end of the food chain

The Safari has had another busy week entertaining groups of children at our work's pond. Before all the fun started we took Monty for a wander across the dunes with Wifey and came across these little gems, Narrow Bordered Five Spot Burnet moths.
It was a warm sunny afternoon but other than these beauts was very disappointing for insects, it was almost as if the whole dune system had been sprayed with insecticide; in a couple of hours out we only saw a handful of bumble bees and not a single butterfly and hardly any other unidentified/unidentifiable little flying things - all very worrying.
Monday saw the pond ransacked again, the poor inhabitants must be getting pretty fed up of being netted, hoiked out and dumped unceremoniously in a white tray! This year is a little odd as there's loads of 3-Spined Sticklebacks and a good number of Darter dragonfly nymphs, and not a lot else...wonder why??? Have they eaten everything else between them?
And when there's nothing else to eat they eat each other much to the excitement and/or horror depending on their point of view. Some children even suggested that the fish should be rescued - bit late for that - but we told them it was the food chain in action and how would they like it if they were half way through chomping their favourite grease-burger when someone whipped it away from them.
The following day yet more nets were being swirled around the unfortunate pond and yet more inhabitants hoiked out. This time there were a small number of damselfly nymphs brought out, where were they the day before??? And once again they witnessed the food chain in really don't want to be a small stickleback fry in this pond!
In all our years pond dipping we don't think we've ever seen a damselfly nymph tackle prey that large! The little fish wriggled and wriggled in a vain attempt to break free but the nymph wasn't about to surrender its meal. Eventually all was eaten up to the gill covers.
Gruesome stuff!
A meeting at the nature reserve saw us arrive a little early and with a bit of time to kill before the allotted hour. The warm humid air hung heavy with a Song Thrush's liquid ditty - for once there was little or no human noise pollution to be heard, lovely! We headed off along the embankment with the intention of going round as far as the viewing point for the back of the scrape.  Coming towards us was another birder so stopping to ask him if he'd 'seen owt' we got chatting. It transpired we'd last met at the local Waxwings in the winter and told him about the Iceland Gull which he'd toddled off to look for and was lucky enough to see it straight away and then moments later spotted the Otter. not a bad day in the field that! We didn't see the Iceland Gull all winter, not for want of trying either, and haven't seen the Otter for at least a couple of years now.
We never found out if there was anything on the scrape as he said he'd come to see if he could see the Bittern. Some chance as we thought 'ours' was possibly the one seen at the 'reserve we don't mention by name' on the Southside the previous day. But now his luck ran true and as we were chatting it lifted from the reeds in the corner to our left and flew briefly to drop somewhere near the new Sand Martin nesting bank. We had no chance of a pic as it was only in view fore a second or so but both of us were well chuffed to have seen it. A Bittern (164, MMLNR 76) in July is a good find at the nature reserve on a dull day. The 64b million dollar question now is will it stick through the autumn and winter? And if it does is it a male and will it start booming next spring? Ohh there's a fair few fingers crossed!
He went off very happy indeed and we had a few more minutes to kill so hung around enjoying the multitude of families of Reed and Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings, the latter seem to have a had a very good season here so far. In the distance an odd looking gull caught our eye - after the July Bittern a July Iceland Gull???
We rushed round to the hide form where we hoped we would be able to see it on the water but we couldn't, it wasn't with the small number of other gulls bathing in front of us. We'd seen it drop down so it was probably further to our left obscured behind the tall reeds growing up the bank. 
It was and we saw it briefly when it must have finished bathing and went to loaf in the scrape again out of sight behind tall reeds.
Then the rain that had been threatening all morning arrived and it lashed it down. Not wanting to get everything soaked through we stayed in the hide and missed our meeting time. The rain continued to hammer down and we sat it out in the hide watching motionless through the corner of our eye the comings and goings of the pair of Blackbirds feeding nestlings on the ledge above the door behind us.
We also kept an eye out for the Bittern in case it stalked a reed edge across the way. Herons flying about kept us on our toes, one might just turn into the Bittern, but one flying across the scrape flushed the gulls and up popped our quarry. What a beauty, but what a weirdo - not an Iceland Gull at all but a Herring Gull with an asymmetrical wing pattern. One wing normal, the other borrowed off an over-sized Black Headed Gull - How mad is that!
Duff pics but it is July so we're still on ISO Stupid on the camera
A great find and one we wouldn't have seen properly if at all had we set off to our meeting at the right time and we'd deffo missed the 'close-up' views had there not been a torrential rain storm.
It all goes to show there's always some thing to new to see when out on safari whether it be gruesome, unusual, beautiful, extraordinary or just plain weird and of course it's guaranteed if you don't get out you won't see nowt!
Where to next? We'll be back on to Patch 2 for a couple of days then what we don't know because we've had a forced office move to the town centre, all a bit ridiculous as we've loads of school and other kids groups to attend to between now and the end of the summer, but hey-ho the powers that be always know best...don't they!
In the meantime let us know who's being weird and wonderful in your outback.

1 comment:

Stuart Price said...

'ISO STUPID'! Funny. The default setting for Lancashire sadly.............