Week ending 28th May 2010
I think we can say that this week heralds the start of Summer. The temperatures were soaring, even here - foliage and flowers virtually exploding by the minute. Everything had just been waiting for this moment.
The excitement of the Spring passage was slowing down and the real business of incubation was in hand. Local reports on the Solway seem to indicate the end of the Skua passage although the suite of waders in the area was a mixed bag. For example, a splendid Spotted Redshank in full dark summer plumage was keeping company with 5 Black-tailed Godwits that hadn’t yet resolved themselves into the full splendour of summer plumage. Redshank on the Saltmarsh Pool still seem to be in the business of courtship and a solitary Wood Sandpiper was doing nothing but potter around. Shelduck seem to be sorting themselves out into pairs after a few weeks of bickering and arguing and have largely disappeared from the sands of the Estuary which would seem to indicate that they now inhabit the hinterlands of the Cardurnock Peninsula amongst the raised mosses, sorting out which rabbit holes and burrows they intend to use.
Shellduck on Saltmarsh Pool 21st May 2010
We took the large tripod and long lens to the other side of the village earlier in the week, to where the road runs close to the river, where we understood from local birders that good flocks of mixed waders could still be seen. On arrival at what we call “the railings” below which is a shingle beach, we optimistically scanned the area. Not a thing was to be seen – we thought that this was going to be a wild goose chase. Suddenly a stone moved – out came the binoculars and ‘wonder of wonders’ the whole area was alive with waders. We have seldom seen such a perfect example of camouflage! There were Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Sanderling, and Turnstone - all mixed together and all in summer plumage. Perfect on the high tide roost for an hours photography, the start of which we got down to immediately. But nature can be sparing in her generosity towards photographers. Firstly along came the local bus - 20% of them took off. Then came the weekly refuse collection vehicle – another 20% took off, flying up and down the estuary in wonderous formation. Nevertheless, we persevered! Then, the seldom seen drain clearing bowser vehicle passed by with a roar and a hiss – a further 20% went. Thinking that this was the end of the morning rush hour, we settled down again. Now, you’re not going to believe this, but we happen to have the good fortune to be living on the route of the Hadrian’s Wall walking trail and who should come along but a merry band of these trailers, laughing and talking as they marched by – their merry voices ringing out in the morning air. You can guess the rest! We were left with one solitary Ringed Plover that was either deaf or daft and seemed impervious to all this cacophony of sound and activity. The flock, however, could be seen flying up and down the estuary searching out another resting area.
Ringed Plover and Dunlin camouflaged against the shingle 24th May 2010
The spectacle of waders in aerial fly-by 24th May 2010
Our reward, though, was quite a few reasonable photos, so we retreated back to the peace and tranquillity of the North Plains Farm part of the Reserve. Sunshine and showers coupled with new greenery, gorse in bloom, the May blossom, yellow flag and the flowering Kale, quite frankly, would have put Chelsea to shame this week! The Willows and Bullrushes are going through their seeding process, filling the air with their down. Sedge and Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat are all adding their quota. Orange Tips, Four Spot Chaser dragonflies and Large Red Damselflies flit along the track in the sunlight. Moorhen, Mallard and Lapwing chicks and duckling are now apparent, shepherded by doting parents. Snipe could be heard nervously chipping and drumming indicating that they too were nesting. The wetland too, all in brilliant sunshine, is now in full summer plumage with reeds, grasses, buttercups and dandelions looking magnificent. Just ready for you all over the Whitsun holidays!
May Blossom 25th May 2010
Yellow Flag just coming into flower 28th May 2010
Kale crop looking splendid 27th May 2010
Buttercup Meadow 27th May 2010
Orange Tip Butterfly 28th May 2010
Rushy Meadow in front of hide - ideal place for nesting Lapwing and Snipe 28th May 2010
Sure enough the two Spoonbills were there when we arrived this morning. Initially, they were resting with their heads tucked in but eventually started to become more active and preen themselves. www.flickr.com/photos/46441928@N07/4630600130/
A couple of Mallard seemed to be attracted to them and also started to preen nearby which did not faze the Spoonbills at all. We suppose that the mallard’s interest could possibly be due to the Spoonbills vigorous feeding action and rapid foot work which will stir food up. This would be advantageous to the Mallards.
Spoonbills and Mallard preening in close proximity to each other
Eventually the Spoonbills started a session of mutual preening with lots of bill touching.
Lots of bill tapping
This was followed up by a period of extended feeding up and down the pool, with their typical side to side sweeping and sifting motion.
Starting to feed
Feeding in the middle of the pool
In the middle of this activity a Lesser Whitethroat came to have a look at us and perched on a nearby branch. Other activity on the pool included 2 Redshank in full breeding display and mode, a Shelduck, Male and female Shoveller, 2 Moorhens, 2 drake Mallard, and a clutch of about ten Mallard ducklings. Unfortunately no spare camera crew was available for all this ancillary activity!
The two spoonbills that flew in last night were still present this morning elegantly sweeping their oversized beaks from side to side as they feed on the saltmarsh pool. I'm sure John and Judith will be adding photo's of these striking birds at some time so watch this space.
Also on the pool is a black-tailed godwit and spotted redshank (both in corking summer plumage) so we are officially declaring summer and packing away the thermal underwear.