Wednesday 30 September 2015

Mipits in the mist

The Safari had a minor change of direction on the way to work and headed the wrong way to meet up with ringer AD who was trialling a new site and targeting, somewhat coincidentally, Meadow Pipits.
It might have been a new ringing site for him but it’s somewhere we know well but haven’t visited for a good few months. The tree planting has come on well this summer looking at the height of many of them particularly down in the bottom of the dell where a fair proportion of them are no taller than we are and their tops are beginning to spread into some form of canopy. The site looked lovely in the early morning mist.

We weren’t sure where AD would be set up and we set off in the ‘wrong’ direction but soon caught the sound of Meadow Pipit song coming through the mist away to our left, that could only be an MP3 player as the real birds don’t sing at this time of year. Sure enough on the far side of the ‘valley’ we could see net poles and a couple of dark figures stood in the corner chatting.

After a short down then up we saw the net poles and AD processing a bird that had just found the net. 
A small number of single Blackbirds worked their way south in fits and starts along the adjacent gardens’ fence-line. Overhead more Meadow Pipits dropped from unseen height when they heard the artificial calls below them.  Most were seen to land in the long grass near the nets but a couple alighted on the top wire of the nets, this was going to be a recurring theme. The pipits came through in small flocks several minutes apart for the first hour then tailed off to dribs and drabs but lower down, so low they were visible to us, later on.
Away in the distance beyond the 'burbs we could see geese dropping in to feed, some could have been Grey Lag Geese or Canada Geese but many will have been recently arrived Pink Footed Geese, further east still there were high skeins of undoubtedly Pink Footed Geese and these may have been fresh in migrants coming down from Scotland.
The Meadow Pipits continued to infuriate by landing on the top wire of the nets and refusing to dive into the pockets when the numerous early morning dog walkers walked past. It was good to see them taking a positive interest in what was happening in their local park. As you would expect but it shouldn't really be so none of them had ever heard of such a common bird as a Meadow Pipit. This really needs to change; if we are to protect the wildlife on this planet and especially in our own little island people need to be aware of what wildlife is around them. We have made a list, for schools' projects, of the 100 most common birds we reckon that 99% of people round here if you did a survey would only be able to identify 4 or 5 correctly - and most of those would be ones they disliked eg Magpie which was mentioned more than once this morning - - that isn't good enough! 
A couple of Grey Wagtails passed overhead as did a couple of Pied Wagtails with a lone Goldfinch, don't know where they picked that up from, and the Coal Tit theme continued with three popping out of someones largish garden Sycamore and bumble about looking for their next port of call. 
Here's another pic of one of yesterday's Coal Tits - now is it leady/silvery grey enough to be of the continental nominate subspecies rather than a more olivey brown that the britannicus British subspecies are supposed to be??? Wish we hadn't deleted all the other not quite so good ones showing the bird in different positions now, one may have shown some sign of a little raised crest with a bit of luck.

Just about our last bird of the session was a Heron flying east, had it come down the coast and turned inland, or been feeding on the beach while the tide was low?
All too soon a couple of hours was up and we had to head off to our proper work.
Before too long it was lunchtime and we could nip out for a look at Patch 2. 
The sea was pretty flat and the light good so we were able to revise our Common Scoter count upwards a bit to at least 1500. Also out there was a summer plumaged Red Throated Diver, three Razorbills and a Great Crested Grebe. Half a dozen Swallows went through well out to sea and not much closer in were a couple of bouncy things heading south only a foot or so above the wavelets, most likely Meadow Pipits. A Small Tortoiseshell went quickly south along the top of the seawall - a migrant too?
With the sea being not too exciting we decided to give up early and have a slow mooch around the works garden - we did two laps finding no more Coal Tits and no Yellow Browed Warblers either, they are getting closer with one being found just up the coast a few miles mid-morning. We did see a Red Admiral, a Small White nectaring on Dandelions - have we told you how important this plant is for wildlife especially our pollinating invertebrates? Please don't dig them up or spray them off! - A Silver Y moth took advantage of the flowers on our Tree Mallows - now that is a weed! but the pollinators do seem to like it. The only birds of note was a little increase(?) in Robins with four counted. 
So a bit of a different day out on safari today. 
Where to next? The boiler sedrvice engineer is coming tomorrow morning so we might have another go at Mipiting with AD or stay at home and wait doing a bit of vis migging in the garden.
In the meantime let us know who's bypassing your outback very effectively 

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Wasn't expecting a two tit day

The Safari's early morning patch 2 look had the beach looking very different – the engineering gang were dismantling the old waste water pipe, the beach will never be the same again the new pipe is buried. Will we ever find Hermit Crabs again? Where will the Butterfish live? There’ll be far fewer wading birds on Patch 2 as the best area of soft silty mud was against the old pipe – suppose they call it progress but it will be what the original beach was like before they put the pipe in in the 1930s.
And there shouldn't be any more sh*t (oops we mean sewage) on the beach in future. Birders reading this rubbish can’t fail to have noticed there’s been a bit of an influx of Yellow Browed Warblers the last week or so, for non-birders reading this they are a tiny little bird from the Siberian forests a long long long way away and most spend the winter in SE Asia. With little happening at sea we decided to have a long slow trawl round the work’s garden for a look and, more importantly, a listen. As it happened there was little happening here too.
A look on the FBC sightings page showed there was a bit of Coal Tit movement locally but no YBWs – yet! Other information sources told us that we were surrounded with YBWs almost equidistant to the north and south of us – gotta be one round here somewhere!
Then mid-morning we got an email telling us there were decent numbers of Coal Tits in unusual places in town and asking if we'd had any migrant passerines so we went out again and knock us down with a feather in the Tamarisk bushes in the far corner of the garden we heard a Coal Tit call (P2 #67?) And after a bit of pishing it was obvious there were at least two in there. One was very flighty flitting from shrub to shrub the other stayed hidden but calling until they both flew into the boundary hedge.

At lunchtime we had another look at the sea but the glare to the south was strong in the bright sunshine and straight out at any distance was hazy. We guesstimated 1000 – 1500 Common Scoters and saw a Razorbill, another auk sp, a Red Throated Diver and a Great Crested Grebe before giving up and having another garden bush bashing session.
There are loads of House Sparrows; they seem to have had a good season this year, at least three Dunnocks ‘autumn peeeping’, a chittering Robin, a Blackbird but no more Coal Tits and still not a sniff of any YBWs. 
There was though another extreme rarity, the second here Blue Tit in as many weeks! It’s almost inconceivable that we’ve ever had two species of tits on the same day before! #Patchgold as they say. This time we even managed to get a pic!

On the way back to Base Camp and only 100 or so yards from work a Sparrowhawk was cruising not too high above the rooftops,was this the raptor that had sent the gulls into a panic mid-afternoon that we left the office in a rush for but missed or was that something more exciting?
Where to next? Out on site early tomorrow and there may be some more Meadow Pipits involved,might well be another work's garden YBW trawl or two too.
In the meantime let us know who’s got all the tits in your outback

Monday 28 September 2015

Last of the mipit migration

The Safari left Base Camp before 04.00 on Sunday morning and headed north west over the border to Yorkshire. 
About half way we nearly put an end to a Barn Owl which was hunting happily along the roadside verge until we were very close and it decided to try the verge on the other side of the road - silly bird! Also in the road, almost at journey's end were a Field Mouse and a Short Tailed Field Vole - although superficially similar they move very very differently out in the open.
The reason for our early morning exit was to meet up with young Alicia and see how she's been getting on with her ringing training. The meeting point was the middle of nowhere on the high moors in central Yorkshire. We got there just before sunrise.
We were eating a breakfast of egg and bacon butties when half of the Brisitsh Army turned up. They'd been roused early to go on manoeuvers and hadn't had their brekkie so looked on rather jealously - good job their guns were deactivated! 
The nets were set and we retired to the ringing station (the cars) and waited for the birds to arrive.
Checking the nets
There's one
 Alicia very gently and patiently extracted the birds from the net
It looks worse than it is and the birds aren't harmed
 Once back at the ringing station they get their bling and their vital statistics taken
The ring needs to be checked to make sure it is tight but not too tight
Wing length was measured along the longest primary feather
The weighing procedure is rather ignominious for the poor birds - most weighed about 17 - 18g, the heaviest a tad over 20g
The greater coverts are inspected to find out how many are old and how many have been replaced.
Once all the details have been taken the results are written in the notebook before the bird is given to the trainer for checking before it is released, hopefully to be found by another ringer or a member of the public and reported back to the BTO.
After checking the notes are transcribed onto the final data sheet.
Although Meadow Pipits were the main target of the session other birds were around with a couple each of Goldfinches and Reed Buntings finding the net.
The trainer also explain to us how to determine how much fat the birds were carrying for their long journeys and how to score it.
By now it was mid-morning and the catch rate died off and it was time to pack up.
In the distance Hen Harrier free grouse-moors were clad with colourful Heather. Thee are Black Grouse up there too but they've had a poor season with one gamekeeper up there catching no fewer than 81 Stoats in a short space of time, possibly the cause - or partial cause - of the failure to produce any young this season.
Also up there on 'our' grassy moor were some Skylarks, a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawks and a kettle of six Buzzards enjoying the breeze coming up over the brow of the hill, and about 200 Goldfinches feeding on the thistle seeds. 51 Pink Footed Geese came from the north then turned towards the east coast.
Invertebrates came out with the warm sunshine and we had a nice selection of butterflies, Small Tortoiseshells, a Peacocks and a couple of Red Admiral. A Larch Ladybird on the ringing table was a bit of a surprise but less so were some Black Darters whizzing around the pools.
 A number of Fox Moth caterpillars were pointed out to us.
We managed to upset one and it rolled into a defensive ball.
Also nearby was a smaller caterpillar we think might be a Ruby Tiger.
Once all the ringing gear was packed into the vehicles, for the very last time as it was explained to us that Meadow Pipit migration up here was just about over now with catches dropping from 300 a day  last weekend to just 55 today, we were taken to Alicia's local nature reserve, Foxglove Covert, where we met up with her mum and sister and lovely dog Poppy for a picnic lunch and a walk around the trails.
The reserve isn't that big but it has a multitude of habitats, almost all you can think of except a coastline, desert, tropical rain forest and an ice cap!
Being mid-afternoon there wasn't much bird life around but a family of Little Grebes on the lake kept us entertained for several minutes guessing where they'd pop up next. In one of the hides another Larch Ladybird was found.
What a place, it can apparently be tricky to get in as it's right in the middle of an army barracks but we had no trouble at all. It's well worth a visit! 
Autumn colours were just beginning to show too.
We met one of the volunteers who was throwing some cut apples in to the ponds for the Water Voles while Alicia's dad kept himself occupied trying to get pics of Emperor dragonflies in flight. The volunteer told us that on Monday there was a training course about Mud Snails of which there is a good population on the reserve and at least one quite rare species. Reading the blog bout it today we discovered the training course was delivered by the same person as surveyed all our ponds on the North Blackpool Pond Trail - it's a small world!
All to soon our time in Yorkshire ran out and it was time to point the car back down the hill to Lancashire...we'll be back; it really was a superb place and well worth another visit to explore it in more depth with our friends.
Where to next? More Patch 2 stuff coming up.
In the meantime let us know who's habitatilicious in your outback.

Saturday 26 September 2015

End of an era but the start of another one

The Safari has reluctantly come over all eco-friendly and sold the Land Rover replacing it with a mostly very dull and totally boring very un-hot hatchback - we won't say cool as that has other colloquial connotations - capable of about a gazzillion miles to the gallon but would probably be out-accelerated to 60mph by the green slug that was the Discovery. No more Green Lanes, no more mud, no more fun, time to become a responsible motorist.
But a new era of the Safari's blog starts today as this is our 2000th post - that's an awful lot of rubbish wot we've rit over the years. We were hoping to save this milestone for Alicia's account of our recent excellent day together at Leighton Moss but with starting school again she's had far too much real work to be able to send anything over for you, so you'll have to put up with the following missive.
This morning we emptied the moth trap very quickly, there were only three moths and a Crane Fly in there. A predictable selection of a Light Brown Apple Moth, a Large Yellow Underwing and a Garden Carpet.
That took all of two minutes so we had a celebratory brew and started vis migging get an early result with three Siskins (Garden #35)going low over the roof tops. There wasn't much else though. Dribs n drabs of mostly single Meadow Pipits only totaled 17 by the time passage had dried up at about 08.45
Singles of Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch which landed in the large Poplars nearby so could have been a local bird, and a Starling heading due south they've been very scarce here recently so we assume this was a solitary migrant and not a local bird.
Our next door neighbours have a medium sized Rowan tree which has had all its berries stripped long since but their much smaller one still has almost its full compliment. That was until a Carrion Crow landed at the top seemingly eyeing them up. It shiftily peered this way
and that
before ignoring the berries and choosing some stale garlic bread we'd thrown on the garage roof instead.
While we waited for the prospective purchaser of the Land Rover to arrive we heard a Goldcrest calling from the bushes at the end of the street, watched two flocks - or one flock split into two - of 51 Pink footed Geese (Garden #36) go directly overhead - - never look up with your mouth open!!! and another single Siskin, going north???
Also fluttering around was a Red Admiral and later a Migrant Hawker tazzed through the back garden.
The rest of the day was spent doing new car stuff and chores.
Where to next? A ridiculously early dart in the morning and a 100+ mile drive to meet Alicia in the wilds of the Yorkshire moors at the crack of dawn (or earlier) to ring some Meadow Pipits. Good job we've now got an economical car then isn't it!
In the meantime let us know who's eyeing up the carrion in your outback.

Friday 25 September 2015

It’s all been a bit quiet this week

The Safari has only been able to do the usual stints at Patch 2 this week and very little else other than hearing a couple of Goldcrests around Base Camp, which could easily have been the same one twice if it’s hanging around the area.
Out at sea the wind has been picking up all week. Earlier it was like a glass carpet and we had a Grey Seal and at least 1000 Common Scoters. As the wind increased there were a few Gannets moving around, a few Eiders flying towards the estuary and Red Throated Divers have started to appear in small numbers generally moving south as you’d expect at this time of year. A very close Guillemot was nice but our best sighting was of an initially unseen Great Skua lifting off the sea to mug a passing Great Black Backed Gull of its last meal. We didn’t think the gull put up enough of a fight especially once the skua had grabbed its tail. Impressive to watch considering the reputation of Great Black Backed Gulls and the not inconsiderable size difference, obviously Great Black Backed Gulls are just bullies and don’t like being picked on themselves.
We played host to a woggle of cubs the other evening and gave them a task no other Cub pack has ever done, certainly not in this country. We got them to make some additions to our Bug Hotel to get it ready for hibernating insects in the winter – nothing unusual about that…but we’d been to the zoo earlier and collected a large bag of Elephant droppings. After the initial squeals of horror, disgust and even delight from some of the Cubs we gave them a thick pair of gloves and got each of them to carefully place a couple of dollops. There can’t be many Bug Hotels resting on a cushion of that!
During the proceedings it was quite breezy one of the cubs managed to fumble a lump of the waste product and lots of the outer edge broke off when we were speaking to them and we got a mouthful of the stuff - not something you'd find in flavourtown!
While at the zoo our friend LS had a couple of her friends visiting and had arranged for them to feed the Giraffes so we got to pass the carrots to them and sneakily give a few to the Giraffes ourselves, what awesome, intriguing and  beautiful creatures they are. Sickening to think that some psychopaths think it’s fun to travel to Africa (mostly from America it would seem - what's wrong with you guys???) to shoot them then pose smiling with the crumpled corpse on Facebook.
Warm sun at the back at work where it is sheltered from the cool onshore wind brought out a few insects, the several late flowering Dandelions providing a welcome source of nectar for the Drone Flies that are still on the wing and a huge queen Red Tailed Bumble Bee was bumbling around on the sunny side of the front hedge. 
You can't fail to have noticed there's one or two Crane Flies around at the moment., apparently there may be as many as 3000 of the fluttery long-legged things for every man woman and child in the country. If you've read articles from those masters of natural history knowledge and writing the Daily Fail and Torygraph it's fly-a-geddon and WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE...better get rid of all nature before it gets us starting with Badgers, Wild Boar, Foxes, Hen Harriers - sign the petition please, there's way way more than 20,000 people affected by the effects of driven grouse shooting not just birders who enjoy Hen Harriers wafting over the local marshes in the winter or the high moors in the summer, you like paying higher than necesary water bills and insurance premiums due to their 'habitat management'? - gulls and bees.
A new plant has appeared at work which has Tansy-like leaves and also yellow flowers (we think – we didn’t come across it until it was going over) but those long seed-heads are throwing us off the scent. It’s only a short little thing too. We're hoping those clever iSpotters will be able to shed some light on it's ID. They have and they tell me it's an invasive North American plant, Ragweed.
Back at Base Camp we spotted a Silver Y nestled half in bright sunshine and half in the shade between the laths on the back gates.
Mothy might well go on tonight.
Where to next? Tomorrow is the end of an era – we pick up a replacement for the Land Rover, a decidedly dull and boring hatchback.
In the meantime let us know who's prodigious numbers have taken over your outback

Sunday 20 September 2015

The early bird didn't catch any worms

The Safari was at the nature reserve shortly before 06.30 this morning. with a largely clear night we weren't expecting a fall or much vis mig early on. It was darker than the pic suggests looking across the playing field at the sheet of low mist. Robins and Wrens sang all around and the zoo's free flying Barnacle Geese in the gloom passed over us to graze the field.
A couple of Blackbirds suggested either there'd been a little influx or moult is over and they've become less secretive. Our total count was only seven but that's several more than any of our recent visits.
Cobwebs festooned the skeletal Hogweed stems, we shudder to think just how many spiders must be out there...all on the menu for the Goldcrest we heard.
 We got to the reserve gate just as colour began to show in the eastern sky.
Minutes later we were at the viewing platform.
Here we heard the first two of no less than 10 Cetti's Warblers shouting at each other. A Sparrowhawk glided across the reed tops heading down the mere and a flight of Teal presumably came off their overnight feeding ponds on the adjacent golf course to spend the day in the safety and seclusion on the reserve and a small flock of seven Pink Footed Geese, our first of the season came over fairly low but didn't stop. The reason for the Sparrowhawk's trip down to the far end became apparent when about 2500 Starlings erupted from the reedbed and the Sparrowhawk was well placed to try to catch one for breakfast, we couldn't see if it caught one or not as it went behind the trees.
There weren't so many Chiffchaffs today and we struggled to find any other warblers other than a Blackcap and some 'tacking' from deep in the scrub.
It wasn't only the Hogweed that was festooned with cobwebs, the Gorse hedge was similarly bedecked with them.
Even though it was still before 07.00 on a Sunday morning the noise pollution form the nearby main road and someone's house alarm was horrendous especially when trying to listen out for high flying calling migrants. We are a shockingly noisy species and then some of us have the temerity to moan about 'seagulls'!
Wandering round to the reedbed channel scrapes there was no Water Rail on show today but three called for the reeds around the site and we continued to record the locations of the Cetti's Warblers we heard. Reed Buntings flitted here and there and we're not sure how much double counting was involved in the seven that made the notebook.
In the stubble field behind us two Herons stalked small mammals but we didn't see them strike at anything, a couple of Carrion Crows and a Buzzard watched them from their fence post perches.
The only Meadow Pipit of the day flew over, where are they???
A look over the mere gave us a couple of Wigeon fresh in, the first here this season we think.
Another Heron was standing sentinel on the edge of the right hand reedbed. In the overflow stream the now fairly regular Grey Wagtail was in residence.
Two Song Thrushes were, like the 'numerous' Blackbirds, an improvement on recent visits.
A aging Chocky Lab very much like Frank but a bit paler was refusing to go for his walk and rolled over on his back when we passed - we stopped to give him a rub and a tickle but it became too much for us and we started to well up and had to say our goodbyes quickly and leg it teary eyed into the nearby hide.
We didn't stay in there long and one the way out watched a flock of Long Tailed Tits flit across the path. The gentlest gust of wind sent a flurry of autumn leaves twizzling down like confetti.
Try as we might we couldn't find a Lesser Whitethroat or anything else other than Woodpigeons in the hundreds of Elderberry bushes all of which are weighed down with fruit this year. 
With all so very quiet it was time to leave,  a little earlier than yesterday, and nip back to Base Camp to make Wifey's Sunday morning breakfast.
At lunchtime we were back out again but this time went to the little woodland opposite the zoo where we sat on the bench by the fallen log that good folk put generous handfuls of bird seed. within a minute of us sitting down a pair of Great Tits dropped down to get a beakful of the good stuff only feet from us. It was then we realised we'd left the SD card in the laptop from this morning's pics...Dohhh - Not to worry we had the phone if necessary.
A Nuthatch (MMLNR #102) called from the denser part of the wood to our left, they seem to have become scarce, or very quiet, locally judging by the lack of records since last winter.
From the bench we walked further up the wood towards the Great Crested Newt zone, on the way we heard at least four Goldcrests working their way through the stream-side bushes and then a Jay gave us the run-around in the tops of the tall trees at the end of the wood by the golf course.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker called and Speckled Woods fluttered but at our amphibian area there was just one Toad.
Retracing our steps there was nothing new and it was time to revisit the nature reserve.
By now it was mid-afternoon and the quiet time of day for bird activity.  We decided to keep an eye on the mere and reed-beds. All the gulls went up of the water and local roofs but we didn't see what the cause was. A little later they lifted off the water but not the roofs and again we didn't see what they'd seen - hope it wasn't the very elusive Bittern!
About a dozen House Martins skimmed low over the water with a single Swallow. Just before we left a skein of about 60 Pink Footed Geese went south at height over the far east fields.
So just short of seven hours in the field today, all very enjoyable even if we didn't need the camera in our second visit.
Where to next? A potentially wet and windy Patch 2 visit beckons.
In the meantime let us know who's bedecking what in your outback.

Saturday 19 September 2015

It's a frustrating hobby with no swarm of migrants

The Safari heard a familiar bird calling at work the other day and thought nothing of it...but some thing in the back of our mind needled us into checking our records and there was indeed an enormous gap in the list. Jackdaw (P2 #66), but had we heard it earlier in the year and forgotten to add it to the spreadsheet or was this truly the first record?
At the close of play we had a quick errand to run up to the nature reserve and was able to have a few minutes in the FBC hide with MJ and AH. Not much was happening but we learned we'd missed a Mediterranean Gull. In the cut area of reeds in front of the hide the usual not-so-shy Mallards were joined by a couple of normally ever-so-shy Shovelers.
We planned on a very early start to do some vis migging with the overnight weather forecast looking very promising. Then in the middle of the night we were woken by torrential rain -squinting at the alarm clock it was only 2am, that was too early for rain and was going to put the dampeners on everything, it lasted about an hour. Now had it been 5am when an hour's rain started a nice selection of birds might have been dropped, we weren't hopeful.
Pulling in to the car park and turning off the headlights all was quiet barely a Robin ticked - not a good sign!
Walking up to the reserve nothing stirred and nothing went over, our fears seemed to have come true. As we approached the reserve gate we saw a huge swarm of Starlings lift over the scrub and in the gloom at the far end there were more heading out over the fields, we estimated a total of in excess of 500 but could have arrived too late to others already gone from their roost.
Still all was still, there wasn't so much as a breath of wind to waft the rain damaged cobwebs on the Gorse bushes. Did the spiders get the weather forecast wrong too?
The sun rose to reveal the first tints of  autumn on the Poplar trees and overhead we head the first of what we hoped would be many Meadow Pipits, wrong! We only heard one more call in the three hours we were there.
The cool morning air hung heavy with the scents of, depending where you're stood, mild Starling droppings (this'll get stronger as the roost increases!), cidery windfall Apples and manure from the mountain ready for spreading in the field.
At least the Cetti's Warblers were vocal, we heard seven. Half a dozen Reed Buntings flitted out of the reeds and half a dozen Reed Warblers flitted through the reeds, their invisible progress being marked by the raindrops being shaken off the reed tops. Chiffchaffs sang and others moved through the scrub either alone or with Blackcaps or Long Tailed Tits, in the end we had at least 10!
A movement at the back of the Channel Scrape next to a juvenile Moorhen had us peering into the poor morning shadows, a small bird had just run into the reeds and popped it's head out briefly, probably a Water Rail but it does look very good for a Spotted Crake on there. Tantalising glimpses followed over tthe next 20 minutes including a very buttery undertail but we couldn't get anything conclusive until it came right out in front of the reeds on the mud and was after all that 'just' a Water Rail. Meanwhile two others were calling from deep in the reeds some way to our left and right.
Overhead migration was in full swing - NOT - with singles of Pied and Grey Wagtails going south. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to come from the north but could have been local birds moving around looking for breakfast. More interesting was the only Blue Tit of the morning which dropped into the reedbed in the south east corner from on high, it hadn't come from the nearby tall trees as it came over our head from the north an dropped in to the reeds rather than the trees.
A light shower brought down about 30 twittering House Martins which left as soon as the drizzle passed. The fields to the east have been harvested and the golden stubble held a veritable swarm of at least half a dozen more than plenty Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons.
The temperature rose with the sun and out came a few Speckled Woods to bask, getting ready for a hard day's nectaring.
After three hours of not a great lot we left but maybe we should have worked it harder and perhaps had a look in the trees along the south side as a Spotted Flycatcher was found later not too far away. Anyway we headed off down the motorway for a look at a reserve we don't visit often enough these days.
By now the morning was well underway and it turning into a very nice and warm late summer's day. Our first port of call was the little picnic area on the hill overlooking the visitor centre. From there there's a good view down one of the lakes and across the tree tops now hiding the other large lake. Scanning the first lake we saw something we'd not seen before, how long is it since we were last here? An Osprey nesting tower - now that's something our nature reserve could do with too. Would a good splash of Dulux's best white emulsion paint make it look pre-used? Would that be more or less attractive to prospecting Osprey?
Those Ospreys look like Carrion Crows to us
Stood on the hill we only heard a single Meadow Pipit call, but a Buzzard mewing in the distance was something we never heard when we lived not too far away and visited more frequently. The only swarm of migrants coming from the north was a very noisy flotilla of three military helicopters shattering the peace, even drowning out the motorway noise!
We had a mooch about watching more and more dragonflies take to the wing, a good sign for later we thought. From the impressively windowed new 'Look Out' - not a hide! - we saw the Buzzard circling over the trees at the back but the lake was very quiet, a Heron stood motionless in the shadows for ages, not even the fish were moving. You can't hear anything through the (probably) bullet-proof glass (we guess it's so toughened as the site suffers badly from far too much wanton vandalism) so we went to stand on the higher adjacent site of a former hide that was destroyed by said vandals.
Heading back to Land Rover and butties at lunchtime we came across a Garden Snail that had been trodden on on the path eagerly being slurped up by a large Black Slug.
We took our butties back to the hill top and spotted a blue damselfly on the way, careful stalking got us a pic that showed it to be a Common Blue Damselfly, can't many left on the wing at this time of year
From our lofty position we could see hundreds of dragonflies all over the place, don't think we've ever seen so many. they were close by, low over the grass and shrubs, high above us in the ether and many were in tandem laying eggs in the lake - a long way off!
Female Common Darter
Male Common Darter
Mating Migrant Hawkers
Mating Common Darters
With all this flying protein it was inevitable that our quarry of the day would put in appearance, but ours is a fickle hobby and the hoped for/expected Hobby almost inconceivably failed to turn up and put on an aerobatic master class.
With time now running out the heat of the afternoon required an ice cream from the impressive floating visitor centre. Crossing the raiseable drawbridge and gangway we looked into the crystal clear water and saw a few fish. Small ones at first, a shoal of small Perch.
Then in the deeper water on the lake side of the gang way a larger one.
After our ice cream we saw three even bigger huge ones about a foot long, not seen Perch that big since the 70s and before the disease which wiped out most of the biggest fish.
Best sighting of the day came when we were trying to get pics of the shoal of small ones, a tiny Red Water Mite came bumbling by. Good to see the small things as they are the base of the food chain for the bigger things.
A most enjoyable eight hours in the field but not a swarm of migrants to be seen - where are the Meadow Pipits?
Our overnight mothing session was pitiful with only three Light Brown Apple Moths and four Large Yellow Underwings in the trap after a mild windless night.
Where to next? Chores today but no doubt there'll be something to see.
In the meantime let us know who's moving where, or not as the case may be, in your outback.