Flaming June – WE 19th June
This has been a week notable for it’s fine, hot and sunny weather. New families of House Sparrows and Blue Tits were showing. A pair of Siskins briefly put in an appearance too.
Siskin vying with Goldfinch for niger seed - 14th June 2010
Link to video clip vwww.flickr.com/photos/46441928@N07/4726121818/
Along the marsh Large Skippers and Small Coppers were much in evidence on the roadside vegetation. A Chiffchaff and a number of Blackbirds can still be heard singing in the trees at West Common. Small groups of Oystercatchers were visible resting and preening on the tideline. The Haaf-netters have recently started fishing on the English side of the Solway and could be seen wading into the water to chest depth, mostly on the incoming tide. Not the safest of activities as the force of the tide is very strong.
Oystercatchers on tideline - 16th June 2010
Haaf-netters infront of Biglands lay-by, 16th June 2010
On 17th June, our walk down the Loaning happened upon a Mallard with nine well-developed ducklings, in close company with the Little Grebe, crossing the 2nd Pool. Further along, in the Hide Pool a newly hatched Moorhen chick was seen picking about amongst the reeds.
Mallard family on 2nd Pool, 17th June 2010
We had realised that the Workparty were present somewhere on the Farm (a good number of cars in the Car Park from early on). They were, in fact, painting and repairing some of the screens – and making a good job of it too!
Workparty giving 2nd screen a facelift
The next day continued hot and sunny and saw us out along the track on the Eastern Block, to Rogersceugh i.e. from the Bowness-on-Solway to Kirkbride road entrance. As we entered, Stephen was there with the tractor keeping the access track up to standard. It was an ideal day for “Dragon Watching” with dozens of Four-spotted Chasers, Azure and Large Red Damselflies flying. The large male Chasers could be seen going back and forth along the peaty ditches and pools which flank the path, looking for females. It made for spectacular watching along its whole length.
Male Four-spotted Chaser above peaty ditch on Eastern Block
The large expanse of reedy meadow to the south of the track, according to a recent Breeding Bird Survey this year, had been an excellent habitat for Snipe.
Reed Bunting and Meadow Pippit could also be seen on their singing perches with a Buzzard overhead continually quartering the whole area.
Reed Bunting on side of the track
Meadow Pippit on singing perch
On approaching Rogersceugh Farm a number of Jackdaws flew out of the Barns – young ones could be heard calling from within. Being built on a drumlin the views all round were pretty impressive.
View towards Skiddaw and the Lakeland Fells
Looking out towards Crifell and the Solway Estuary
View towards the Eden Valley and the Pennines
As we returned down the track to Rogersceugh Crossing, the site of the old railway line, a light north-westerly wind greeted us – very welcome on such a hot day. The hedgerows on either side were clothed with Wild Roses in bloom. Large Skippers and Large Heath butterflies were seen flitting amongst the vegetation along the path.
Wild Roses in the hedgerows
Large Heath butterfly
As we were leaving the pullin at the end of the track, a farmer had, that afternoon, just finished cutting silage in an adjacent field. We were interested to see two Buzzards on the ground, amongst the newly cut grass – obviously searching for whatever – frogs, voles, worms etc. But they flew off into the nearby trees when we paused to photograph them – doubtless to return later!
Buzzard flying away to nearby trees
In all, it had been a most entertaining and rewarding day.
A recent survey earlier in the week here had recorded hearing two Willow Tits which had been present there since April, loads of Willow Warblers, a Stonechat, Meadow Pippits, Reed Buntings and Garden Warblers.
Other notable viewing for the Reserve were: a Spotted Flycatcher from the track through the wood and a Roe Deer seen from the hide.
The RSPB has re-introduced the species to its Campfield Marsh nature reserve in an attempt to reverse their decline in Cumbria.
Over the last century this endearing amphibian has vanished from more than three quarters of the areas where it used to live and is now found in only about 50 small localised areas in the country. This decline is probably due to the modification and drainage of its natural coastal habitat.
Three years ago tadpoles were brought from a nearby colony at Anthorn, near Silloth, to Campfield Marsh, which has a wealth of the shallow pools and short grass that natterjacks need to breed and catch their favourite invertebrate prey.
The project is supported by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) and local farmer Richard Irving who owns the natterjack donor site at Anthorn.
RSPB Warden Dave Blackledge said: “These rare toads have settled in well to their new life near Bowness on Solway. After three years of growing, they are now old enough to breed. This year at least 14 strings of spawn have been laid. That’s around 28,000 tadpoles!”
Natterjack toads are quite easy to recognise as they have a yellow stripe running down their back. On warm spring evenings, male natterjacks gather at the breeding pools and start a noisy croaking chorus that can be heard over a mile away.
Dave continued: “After the breeding season natterjacks can wander a mile or more from the breeding pools to find a place to hibernate. People living near the Cumbria coast should keep a look out in garages and sheds in the autumn for toads looking for somewhere to spend the winter.”
This week has seen an explosion of young birds: Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits and Chaffinches, all tended to by their devoted parents. Mallard ducklings, Lapwing and Moorhen chicks are all growing rapidly out on the Reserve.
Tree Sparrow fledgling being fed
See also: www.flickr.com/photos/46441928@N07/4706018586/
Young Chaffinch begging for food
Also view: www.flickr.com/photos/46441928@N07/4707191531/in/pool-rspblovenature
On one visit to the hide earlier in the week, a young Chaffinch flew in the open door after us and perched above the window we were looking out of for a few minutes, looking down at us all the time, until the parent bird called to it from outside and it dutifully flew back through the open door.
"I'm keeping an eye on you"
Redshank, Curlew, Snipe and Lapwing have all been nesting in the wet meadow in front of the hide – a good viewpoint for the sharp-eyed! Look out too, for the Roe Deer grazing amongst the deep rushes.
On sunny days Butterflies, Day-flying Moths and Dragon and Damselflies are in evidence down the loaning. Flowering plants are at their best now, with Cow Parsley fringing the track - the meadows on either side emanating a yellow haze of buttercups and the first wild roses showing in the hedges.
Haze of Buttercups
The Saltmarsh has looked spectacular in the summer sunshine, fringed as it is, with Gorse and May along it’s roadside - and on it’s estuary edge, with Sea pinks and Common Scurvy Grass. Colonies of Northern Marsh Orchids are now in flower in the wetter areas, with Silverweed and Ragged Robin in bloom too. From Biglands lay-by, patches of Burnet Roses can be viewed. Small Copper and Wall butterflies are in evidence also, with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing from the hedgerows and Linnets flitting about amongst the Gorse - but haven’t heard Whitethroats in the same numbers as a few years ago!
Sea Pinks on the marsh
Northern Marsh Orchid
Burnet Roses in front of Biglands lay-by
Wall Butterfly on roadside
Work parties have recently been helping Dave and Stephen to carry out a Snipe breeding survey in the vicinity of Rogersceugh Farm - and on another occasion, the more arduous task of weeding the Kale field near North Plain Farm, of thistles which would have set seed for next year if left to flower. Surprisingly enough this latter task had set up insect activity and the area above the field was being hawked by Swallows and Swifts …. Amazingly, the first Swifts we had seen this season – as yet, no House Martins, though!
Thursday workparty helping to weed thistles out of the Kale crop - planted as winter seed for birds
Bird song is not as much in evidence now, as one walks down the loaning – with the exception of a gallant Sedge Warbler who can be relied upon to be seen singing from the top of its favourite bush, halfway down. It must be the most photographed Sedge in Cumbria!
The Sedge Warbler still singing heartily
Guest cattle are continuing to be brought in on to the Reserve this week.
Latest guests arrayed with their new ear-piercing jewellery
As we returned from our walk one evening we were greeted by these last rays of the setting sun.
Here we are! Summer has really taken a grip now, on the Estuary and Reserve. The May blossom is fully out, swathes of buttercups in the meadows and verges – I don’t think I’ve seen them look better! The gorse flowers are so prolific this year that they invest the sky with a sort of yellow haze (oilseed rape fields have much the same effect) – it all looks so wonderful against a thundery sky.The local farms have now taken off their first silage crop – about a week late they say, this year. Although, I think the Spring was later than that, quite frankly… more like 3 weeks, certainly in this area –“it’s hard in the north!” I was remarking to Gordon, the milkman, this week that the ash trees had only just started to show their leaves this last ten days, to which he replied, “And it’s going to be the longest day in ten days time”. I made the ironic reply, “Yes, and we’ll be turning the central heating on next week, I expect!” But let’s enjoy the Summer while it’s here.
There are plenty of young Mallard families on the Reserve – some of them quite grown up now. We were observing one family with their mother yesterday, on the 2nd Pool, peacefully dibbling around the margins when suddenly a Little Grebe popped up amongst them. I think it does this for pure enjoyment, being able to panic the young ones by attacking from underneath and exploding to the surface amongst them. Bad plan this though as the mother Mallard took great exception to this and set about the naughty Grebe – plenty of wing flapping and showers of spray ensued, with Grebe retreating to a reasonably safe distance, whinnying and wing flapping triumphantly whilst mother ushered her precious brood onto the safety of the island where she knew the Grebe would not follow.
Mallard ducklings peacefully dabbling
Little Grebe wing-flapping to frighten Mallards
Mother and ducklings retreating to the safety of the Island
After having witnessed this little conflagration, we wandered on down to the hide to see if anything would show. Late evening tends to be a good time for mammals! Sure enough, a Roe buck was showing, grazing out on the wetlands. His head came up … he knew we were there, but carried on unconcernedly, well aware of his privileged position in the safety of the Reserve.
Roe Buck grazing in Rushy Meadow in front of the hide
The sun was now sinking - a great red orb after a perfect Summer’s day - with the curlew calling to each other on the Moss – a sound which absolutely typifies this time of year on the Cardurnock Peninsula. Returning down the Loaning, a Willow Warbler was singing and showing well and was rewarded with a photograph. The Blackcap could be heard but, as usual, not seen and the Cuckoo was still going about it’s late night activities. You hear this bird at this time, virtually all day. Do they have a 24 hour shift? - although, as yet, I have not actually seen one this year. There don’t seem to be as many of them around as there were 20 years ago!
Willow Warbler catching the last rays of the sun
Red orb of the setting sun over Reserve Pools
But happily we saw the Barn Owl – first sighting for a couple of months! We were beginning to wonder if they had survived the severe winter – so this was a good sign. We shall, doubtless, see them hunting throughout the day during the next few weeks as they start to get busy with their brood. I have often sat in my garden on a Summer’s evening watching them hunt. They have a regular route from the Reserve through on to the front marsh where they hunt for voles on the driftline (this is vole paradise) and have timed this super hunter returning with a vole to their nest as frequently as every 5 minutes.
We have been making enquiries regarding the two female Roe Deer we saw earlier this week, attempting to cross the Estuary into Scotland at low tide, as to whether this is a regularly observed phenomena. It transpires that this is indeed the case, going both ways too. Why they would do it, one can only speculate.
A final note:
Recent sightings on Noticeboard
A couple of noteable entries this week : a Green-winged Teal on the Saltmarsh Pool and Quail calling, heard from the hide – Quail being very unusual for this area although a few are recorded from time to time out on the West Coast of Cumbria. Could we hope for a regular return of these birds in Summer or is it just a feature of the hot dry weather we are experiencing lately?
Drawing of Quail (John Rogers)
The same weather seems to be producing good displays of Azure and Large Red Damselflies, with plenty of Four-Spotted Chasers in evidence.
Azure Damselfly (male) on vegetation round pond near hide, 3rd June 2010
Azure Damselfly (female), 5th June 2010
Large Red Damselfly, 5th June 2010
Four-spotted Chaser, 5th June 2010
Out on the Saltmarsh we inspected the Natterjack pools and with great pleasure were able to photograph tadpoles already with their back legs. We are assuming that these are Natterjacks as we have been reliably informed by Dave Blackledge, the Warden, that Natterjack spawn strings had been observed earlier.
Tadpoles in Natterjack Pools, 3rd June 2010