Not much fear of that. We’re back into winter gear: Wellington boots; padded jackets … the whole kahuna!
A fine warm March: temperatures up in the 20’s; water levels falling by the minute; talk of hosepipe bans and compulsory metering! I remember a severe drought a few years ago when the government created a Minister for Drought. This clearly angered the Gods as, from that day on, it never stopped raining for the whole summer. It looks as if the lesson has been learned here though, as they only declared a hosepipe ban this time … but the result was the same! The Gods sent us the deluge: reservoirs overflowed and flood release areas were filled to record levels.
We have all heard of the disaster on the Ouse Washes: with hundreds of nesting birds being flooded out. The old country saying, “a dry Spring and you will pay for it later” - certainly has resonance this year!
We, in our own small way here at Campfield, are experiencing the phenomena to some degree: quickly falling water levels when birds are nesting - and then just a few days ago, a solid 24 hours of rain … showing clear evidence of nests of various species of birds being flooded out. Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls were all clearly having to re-establish nesting sites - but doubtless smaller birds such as Skylarks may have suffered too! As to the state of Redshank, Snipe and Plover - this is as yet uncertain.
Nesting Black-headed Gulls, however, are a mixed blessing on a bird Reserve and fall generally under the category of ’bad neighbours’, as they will predate virtually anything, even each other - as far as I can see. Green Plover certainly have a hard time keeping the gulls at bay!
But as with all things in nature, there are ‘checks and balances.’ If you have a few Gulls nesting in an area, all the other predators: Buzzard, Harriers, Heron and not to mention foxes, dogs and cats - get a really hard time from them.
All this we poor conservationists view with some disquiet, unable to do anything about it - we are not gamekeepers! … and the word ’cull’ is something of an anathema to us really! So we must watch in helpless frustration as we see a fox gobble up the contents of a Skylark’s nest - or a Magpie or Carrion Crow take the contents of almost any species of birds’ nest. It is something that one never quite gets used to. The conservationists lot is not a happy one: drought; flood; storm; predation - you pays your money and takes your pick!
PHOTO RECORD OF RESERVE SIGHTINGS - MID MAY 2012
The Wetlands - in front of the hide
Black-headed Gulls nest building. 11 5 12
Gull attempting to rebuild flooded nest after 24hour of rain - 12 5 12
An aerial spat - 12 5 12
Moorhen nest building on clump of rushes, as water levels rise - 11 5 12
House Martins hawking over the wetlands - 11 5 12
Swallow hawking over flower meadow - 12 5 12
... and flying over the wetlands - 12 5 12
Skylark in song-flight over the grassland in front of the hide - 12 5 12
Lark descending amongst meadow flowers - 12 5 12
... then surveying its surroundings - 12 5 12
One of a number of Grey Heron who favour these rushy margins. - 12 5 12
Grey Heron numbers seem to be holding up still, after this last winter.
A pair of Mute Swan visitors to recent raised water levels here - 12 5 12
Cotton Grass in flower on the raised Bog. Splendid views are also to be had from the boardwalk - 12 5 12.
North Plain Farm Lonning.
Orange Tip butterflies seen flying here on sunny days - 6 5 12
Moorhen on raised nest, well out of the water. 11 5 12
Goldfinch are much in evidence, singing from perches along the lonning hedgeside - 11 5 12
Cheviot lambs, recently brought in with their mothers from Hawswater, for lowland pasture grazing - 12 5 12
The hamlet of West Common.
Male Lesser Redpoll - 7 5 12
Moorhen climbing up into damson tree - 7 5 12
It seemed very agile when climbing and explored some of the higher branches - 7 5 12
Male Linnet's song perch on marshside hawthorn - 7 5 12
Black-backed Gull grappling with its catch - it looks like an eel! - 14 5 12
Attempting to fly into the air with it ...
... and then drop it from a height. It repeated this a number of times until it was dead. Funnily enough after that it lost interest and left it for the Crows to finish off!
Two Roe Deer came running along the mudflats as if to leave the reserve and cross over into Scotland. However, that was not to be on this occasion, as there was still a fast tide running. They sensibly turned round and ran back inland - 14 5 12
Saltmarsh bathed in evening light - a fine hunting ground for the Barn Owl which can be seen now at dusk on most dry evenings - 11 5 12
Returning from a successful hunting trip - 11 5 12
Sunset over the Solway - 11 5 12
Not in excess thereof, but merely a sufficiency thereunto! Therefore, let us all join together in gratitude for the celebrities we have received of late: Great White Egret; Little Egret; three Glossy Ibis and ultimately, a wonderful Spoonbill! But as with all celebrity comes the uncertain fickle element: one minute we are bathed in their golden light and charisima, and the next, we are shuddering in the coldness of their departure - asking ourselves ”Is there life after Spoonbill?”…and searching, the answer comes mysteriously and reassuringly: “Dabchick” or as they are more fashionably called these days “Little Grebe” - here all the time - quietly gracing us with their diminutive presence.
Two parent birds have nested successfully early this year and have produced two chicks. The first one being observed on 24th April - a tiny object bobbing about like a dark animated cork on the 2nd Meadow Pool, and the second within a couple of days. In previous years they have had some degree of success but later on in the Summer after earlier failures. The success of this brood we might attribute to the warm days of March which we had this year.
Now, as we report some 12 days later, these chicks are about three times their original size already and are actively swimming, diving and feeding themselves to some degree, with both adults in close attendance … their solicitous whinnying calls evidence of their good parenting. These secretive little birds are, indeed, a pleasure to watch.
The scene at present being enhanced by a small brood of Moorhen and they all seem to get on quite amicably. So would it be too much to hope for a second brood of Grebe this year, to delight and sustain us as we while away the weary days of Summer, lulled by the song of the Willow, Sedge, Garden, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Grasshopper and Chiffchaff on the Reserve in daylight and in the evening, Barn Owl and Tawny hooting, with a chorus of Natterjacks; perhaps a late Curlew or Green Plover calling, momentarily disturbed by the presence of a Roe Deer or scuffling Badger - taking us through the dark hours.
There are hardly any hours of the 24 when one does not hear some call or other … and here in the North, when Summer reaches its height, it never really becomes totally dark!
Little Grebe gathering weed for nest building and repairing - 4th April 2012
Little Grebe and first Chick, 24th May 2012
Video of Adult Little Grebe feeding two chicks, 6th May 2012
Moorhen with one of this year's brood - 6th May 2012.
Willow Warbler singing from Lonning hedge - 6th May 2012
Roe Deer crossing the Lonning - 6th May 2012
Barn Owl flying out along saltmarsh at dusk.
Returning after a successful trip.
'Supermoon' over the Reserve.
Impression of the Spoonbill with three of the Mute Swan familyYes, we have been doing rather well lately: a Great White and a Little Egret here for Easter. Birders came from far and wide to see them and get their ticks - and some simply came to see them!. These, of course, were specials, over and above the usual suspects: geese, ducks and waders. Sadly coming up to the Bank Holiday, both have now deserted us and we are beginning to wonder how we were to entertain people over the Bank Holiday.
We thought our problems were over when ‘heaven help us’, three Glossy Ibis blew in. These stunners were witnessed firstly by Norman Holton (Cumbria Coastal Reserves Manager) and two visitors. Norman promptly contacted us and several other local birders, by his mobile, to savour this exquisite moment. We were halfway through our evening meal at the time. The sweet course had been duly brought to table: a delicious blueberry cheesecake - I had even consumed my first mouthful when we received the call. I can stand before you with my hand on my heart and tell you - we rose from the table leaving this delicious confection; grabbing scope, camera and bins and set off, at what I would have liked to describe as a run - but was more like a shambling stagger - towards the hide, some ¾ mile distant … to be told by Norman, the dreaded news that these exotic visitors had departed, we knew not where! By now further enthusiastic birders were entering the hide - their little faces alight with anticipation. I have to admit to a slight feeling of schadenfreude, when their features crumpled in disappointment - as had my own - having received the dreadful news. Every twitchers nightmare! I think I have painted a sufficient picture of our desolation at the approach of the coming Bank Holiday weekend.
But St. Francis must have been watching over us as the morning of the 3rd May arrived, and again, halfway through lunch this time, the jungle drums started to beat in the form of Joe, our immediate neighbour and RSPB member - who had heard, secondhand, of the presence of a superb Spoonbill at the Saltmarsh Pool. Having thanked Joe profusely, we did our now well practised scramble procedure. This time about a 1/3 mile road run to the Saltmarsh Pool - meeting, coming the other way- a jubilant Norman and Dave( Campfield Reserve Manager) in the company ‘truck’, which screeched to a halt. Norman seemed quite surprised at out rapid response and wondered if we had seen his email? To which we replied in the negative, informing him that the bush telegraph is much quicker!
We then completed the rest of the ‘run’ where, this time, we beheld this wondrous visitor: a splendid bird in full breeding plumage - happily running to and fro with a scything action typical of Spoonbills, partaking of the various delicacies on offer in the Pool … Yes, Folks, we have our celebrity visitor for the Bank holiday weekend! … and with hands trembling with excitement we set up our tripods and cameras to record the same and get it out for all to view on the internet.
Hopefully, the bird will appreciate the delights of Campfield enough to stay with us at least for the Bank Holiday weekend!
As a Post Script. This afternoon, a wonderful family of 5 Mute Swans flew in to join it - making an impressive study in white. We can report that they are all getting on amicably together.
Great White Egret on Saltmarsh Pool at Easter.
Spoonbill mobbed by Black-headed Gulls on hide wetlands.
Spoonbill having a successful time feeding on Saltmarsh Pool. 3 5 12
Saltmarsh Pool. 3 5 12
Spoonbill and Mute Swan family getting on amicably. 4 5 12