Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Or even an exceptionally large dragonfly? Well none of these and before we call the X-files in I will explain. Last week we had yet another film crew on the reserve and they brought along a very space age looking bit of kit. It was a rather nifty 8 blade remote control helicopter with a camera attached to it! We have had a number of BBC crews coming along in the last few weeks filming amongst other things nightjars, raft spiders and wood ants for a wildlife programme called 'Seasons' due to air next year. This time they used this rather ingenious contraption to get some unique aerial landscape sequences of the heathland.
It is always interesting to see filming going on because you get to see some of the tricks of the trade and some of the effort that goes in to recording just short pieces of film.
So if you ever see something strange buzzing over the heath it probably isn't ET but a hidden BBC camera crew!
On the reserve we are getting more waders arriving although there seem to be less avocets than this time last year so we are still waiting for a lot more to arrive. A good place to see spoonbills at the moment is from the shipstal hide and up to 12 have been spotted together. Ospreys are still about but there haven't been as many reports as a couple of weeks ago. Marsh harriers are put in good displays along the Middlebere channel and we have even had a couple of early reports of merlin over Coombe heath.
There are still a few reptiles about and the next couple of weeks will be the last chance to see them before they go in to hibernation. I am still finding smooth snakes in our survey area and on this weeks Wednesday walk we spotted a couple of young common lizard sunning themselves in a grass clump.
Wasp spiders are particularly visible at the moment, so be sure to explore the long grass near the ponds for a chance to see this rather elegant arachnid. If you can't find the spider its self look out for its unusual looking nursery webs that look more like a plant seed head than something made by a spider! If you have trouble spotting and identifying the large numbers of spiders that inhabit the heath why not join Tony this Sunday for the last 'Spider Sunday' of the year. The walk starts at 2pm. http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308783
Wasp spider egg sac
It has been a pretty poor year for butterflies and I don't think the wet weather has helped at all but in the the last couple of weeks we have had an explosion of red admirals. These have all just emerged and are looking incredibly fresh. They will have originally come from eggs layed by individuals that either hibernated throughout last winter or migrated from the continent. I find the life cycle of this butterfly a bit complicated but it could be that some of the emergence will migrate back over to Europe.
Looks like fun - hope they've got a licence for that! Need quite calm conditions to fly it with any degree of stability from what I gather. Did they dare to send it out over the water and if so how did the waders respond?
Yes it was good fun. The weather was good and not that windy. I think the idea of the 8 rotas is to give it maximum stability. They did fly over a little bit of the saltmarsh but it was pretty quiet so not too much disturbance! But your right I think I'd be a bit nervous sending an expensive camera over open water!
They filmed flamingos in Africa using one of those for a recent series on the Beeb. Apparently it didn't bother them.