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