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.
A wet hazy morning but birds were in full song down the Loaning. A cuckoo could be heard out on the Moss. A Mallard and her seven ducklings were visible on the 1st Pool.
Mallard and ducklings
A Roe deer could be seen from the hide, grazing away across the rushy meadow.
Met Stephen Paisley along the track with the tractor, making a splendid job cutting the grass up to park standard.
Track grass cutting
Good Skua passage reported from Bowness
Report from Saltmarsh Pool of 2 Mute Swans, 2 Canada Geese and a Common Sandpiper.
Further reports by local birders of sporadic Skua passage with Arctics, Long-taileds, Pomarines and Greats (Bonxies) seen from Bowness.
At 4 pm Loaning alive with the sound of birdsong: Willow and Sedge Warblers, and Goldfinch too.
A pair of Moorhen and five chicks could be seen scuttling about under the overhanging branches of the first pond. Both were feeding the young.
Moorhen feeding young
Moorhen pair and four chicks
The island on the first pool seems to be most attractive to the Mallard, Lapwing, Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls.
It was noted that the Kale crop in the Seeded field was showing well in the late afternoon sunlight. Should produce a good crop of seed later on in the year.
Kale crop in flower
Canada Geese again reported on Marsh Pool. They are quite a rarity in this area of the Solway although most visitors do not view them that way as they are used to having them on their local ponds.
Local birding fraternity report a halt, for the moment, in the Skua passage, due to wrong weather patterns. However they do report small numbers of Eider Duck, Scoter, Comic Terns, Great Crested Grebe, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew and Whimbrel, seen from the Bowness Viaduct.
This morning was grey and misty with a cold wind blowing. The hardy Work Party still turned out, however! We caught up with them, Dave Blackledge and Stephen, as they were coming back from weeding the new hedge near the hide, as hedges need help initially, otherwise they become overwhelmed by other rank growth. Next year it should have developed enough to be able to deal with this. We left them heading out to the moss to do a Snipe count.
Work Party tending and weeding new hedge
Sedge and Willow Warblers, as well as a Blackcap, were in good form along the Loaning Hedges. The Blackcap was singing vigorously but remained obscure; the Warblers, by contrast were showing well.
Sedge Warbler on Loaning 20 05 10
Sedge Warbler singing heartily 20 05 10
Willow Warbler on Loaning 20 05 10
Willow Warbler 20 05 10
Evening report from Norman Holton of sighting at 9.30 pm of 2 Spoonbills feeding on the Saltmarsh pool.