The Safari was eager to get out with CR this morning and had most of our gear ready last night butties were in the fridge, the camera's spare battery was charged, all we had to do first thing was make up a flask. And then about an hour before lift off Wifey calls out Monty's eye is bad and he needs the vet asap, who of course don't open until about 09.00 in other words 40 minutes after lift off. So we had to let CR know we'd be on a shortened day and our original plan to visit the big reserve to the north would have to change.
We got Monty to the vets and were seen quickly. He'd been playing rough with a ball on a string yesterday and taken a serious whack to his eye which had gone orrible over night. Fortunately he's suffered no lasting damage but if he were a boxer he'd have a huge black eye. Once out of the vets we gave him a bit of a run on his favourite field before taking him to Wifey for a day of convalescing in her office. We saw nothing of note on the field.
Once Monty was ensconced we were free for the rest of the day so called CR and we set off to the reserve to the east just down the motorway with thoughts of Hobbys in our head on this supposedly sunniest day of the week by a mile. Unfortunately the weather hadn't read the forecasts and there were some seriously large black clouds around - the camera was still set on ISO Nearly Stupid!
We set off along the river which was birdless, the families of Goosanders having moved on it would seem. The woodland walk was similarly quiet but once we reached the first hide we were told there'd not long been a juvenile Cuckoo showing on the island in front of us - that'd do nicely! Nothing for it but to sit it out and hope it didn't take too long to reappear.
Best of the rest were several Mallards.Cormorants
The purple spikes are Purple Loosestrife which was in flower all over the reserve, beautiful. Not so beautiful is the bright green stuff the Heron is standing in - it's the very invasive New Zealand Pygmy Weed, Crassula helmsii, and it's all over the reserve and has smothered the muddy margins of the islands and lakesides several inches deep which has had a very negative effect on the wading birds using the site; very few have bred and passage birds have no mud to feed in. It's almost impossible to eradicate too. Behind the Heron is a small Willow bush and this too has become a little invasive now covering a large proportion of the island (and hiding the Cuckoo) when just a few years ago it was bare ground with only sparse short vegetation - it seriously needs some Wild Goats or Wild Boar or even something bigger to browse it down and grub up the roots if there is to be any chance of waders nesting there next season - otherwise it'll be a Willow forest full of warblers and nesting Herons when the trees become tall enough.
After a good wait and no Cuckoo we moved on to the next hide passing volunteers tearing into another invasive plant, Himalayan Balsam, they've got their work cut out as there's loads of it and some huge patches scattered around the reserve. Best at the hide were a couple of Goldfinches, a churring Whitethroat and a Reed Bunting. With not a lot about we continued to the next pool passing a couple of Peacock butterflies on the way.
The sun that was forecast did its best to make an appearance and when it did it was quite pleasantly warm and that brought out a Kestrel which a mass of chittering Sand Martins alerted to and a more distant Buzzard soared over the woods on the river bluff. In the pool a family of Great Crested Grebes swam around with the large well grown youngsters still making baby noises begging for fish. Brown Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies and a few damselflies took to the wing in the warmth. Maybe the Hobbys would come out too.
Walking back towards the 'Cuckoo hide' we nearly trod on some cuckoo food in the form of a Woolly Bear caterpillar, the irritating hairs being no problem to a hairy caterpillar specialist bird that the Cuckoo is.
Sadly the Cuckoo didn't show up to scoff it but we did try to get some pics of the Sand Martins while we waited for it not to show. From about two dozen shots half of which were birdless - too slow with the shutter finger - only these two poor ones were anything like.
Then C began to feel a bit rough so we had to call it a day and head back up the motorway but not before having a calamity with the car park payment machine which somehow decided to take our cash for the wrong car so we had to pay twice!
Back at Base Camp we had a brew then went to collect Monty to give him another run. We took him back to his favourite field where this time we saw a few butterflies including several Meadow Browns and a few Gatekeepers. Our best sighting wasn't a butterfly but an Ectemnius wasp sat on a hunk of ancient Bog Oak but we couldn't get a pic with our phone.
Once he'd had a good play we drove back down the prom where we saw the giant to mile long overflow pipe was being installed so we stopped for a nosey. It was then we got a txt from DB saying a pod of (probably) Bottlenose Dolphins had been seen at lunchtime...dohhhh bl**dy typical - the week after National Whale & Dolphin Watch and on a day off too - you couldn't write it but perhaps Murphy did!!!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow but will those Bottlenose Dolphins turn up again.
In the meantime let us know who's law needs breaking in your outback