"April Gorse, Campfield Marsh 27th April 2011" - a digital pastel-style painting by John Rogers
It's late April and the weather up here on the Solway is like the middle of Summer. Migrants are coming in early, flowers are blooming that shouldn't be and there are dragonflies and moths that we have never seen at this time of the year before. It's not May yet and I've already got a suntan not so much Ambre Solaire more 'old Roman sandal'!
Anyway, it was half past seven and I was only semi-conscious when I became aware of Judith darting around assembling photographic and optical equipment. "Are you coming?" she said, "I'm off down the lonning - it's the early birder that catches the Warbler and I need some good shots of them for the next blog. The light's perfect this morning." "Goodbye," I said, "and good shooting" - turning over for another half hours kip ... that bottle of red last night was pretty effective!
Scene changes. A decent lunch had just been consumed and I was settling down to a spot of midday News 24, when 'springheeled jack' came into the lounge arrayed with an assortment of cameras and lenses. "I'm going down to Saltmarsh pool - there are 3 good Ruff and a Common Sandpiper reported, according to Birding Cumbria (local Yahoo birding group). This was getting all too high tech for me and I knew she only wanted me down there as a packhorse, anyway. I didn't fancy carrying a heavy tripod and camera bag half a mile down the road in hot sunshine - even the thought of it was beginning to give me indigestion. "No thanks," I said, "I was going for a stroll down the lonning later - see you."
Scene changes once again. I walked fairly rapidly down the lonning ... I have found this a good way of getting Warblers to sing at you - and was duly rewarded: Willows Warblers; a Chiffchaff; Garden Warbler; a number of Sedges and a fine Male Reed Bunting, fluffing and preening, having just dunked itself in the ditch, sending fine spray left and right in the sunshine (a wonderful sight) - paying no attention to me only 2 to 3 yards away. I'm afraid that I don't think of distances in metres ... I don't even put litres into my car, they are gallons - whoever heard of miles per litre?
I was nearing the hide now, pausing only to listen to a fine Whitethroat, bubbling from the undergrowth. I wasn't a hundred percent certain but I thought I heard a Lesser, too. I'm not so good on birdsong nowadays, as my tinnitus tends to blank out much of the higher registers in the birdsong world - so I tend to rely on visual identification mostly.
Reached the hide and was delighted to find Dave (Reserve Manager) and Peter, a local renowned birder, firmly ensconced - scopes, cameras and notebooks arrayed. I was in good company - I would not have to struggle with identification anymore. Today, I was in the presence of the cognoscente. And, as if to complete a wonderful day, a fantastic ringtail Hen Harrier gave us a fly past. Unfortunately though, it was harassed by a dive-bombing Greenplover. "That'll upset Judith," I said, "all for a couple of Ruff. I know where my money is - wait 'til I tell her!"
Some recent activity
Male and female Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies, 20th April
Willow Warbler, 20th April 2011
Willow Warbler - wing fluttering display, 24th April 2011
Willow Warbler using feather to display to attendant female - 24th April, 2011
Four Ruff on Saltmarsh Pool - 22th April, 2011 (one male displaying)
Meadow Pipit singing from Hawthorn on Saltmarsh - 26th April, 2011
Large Red Damselfly - 27th April 2011 (have been flying here since the 18 04 11)
Red Admiral on Dandelion - 27th April, 2011. (Orange tips and Green-veined Whites have been regularly seen over the last week of very warm weather)
Sedge Warbler singing - 27th April, 2011 ( first one heard 20 04 11 )
Whitethroat on Bramble thicket - 27th April, 2011
Whitethroat in good voice - 27th April, 2011
Early brood of nine Mallard ducklings seen from the hide - 27th April, 2011
Peacock Butterfly, 27th April, 2011
Fearless Lapwing mobbing Chinook helicopter as it thundered over its nest on the wetlands near the hide - 27th April, 2011