View across Saltmarsh Pool towards Criffel from Maryland Lay-by
Common Newt in puddle after rain, on Lonning track
Flies and bees are attracted to the abundant nectar of the Ivy flowers, growing in the lonning hedge.
Fly Agaric, poisonous mushroom, growing under trees on the acidic edge of the Reserve.
Seasonally high tides had flooded saltmarsh
Waders (mostly Oystercatchers) perching on flooded roosts.
As the tide started to fall two Mute Swans came sailing by.
Comma butterfly in the company with 29 Red Admirals feeding on fallen fruit and bread put out for the birds in perimeter garden.
Two Mute Swans amongst reeds and Wigeon on 1st Meadow Pool.
Viewed from the hide, a male Hen Harrier appeared and started to chase the ducks in the pools
Ducks and Lapwing pannicked by Hen Harrier
Shoveller and Wigeon in front of hide
Whoopers, grazing and resting, along with wigeon on wet meadows in front of the hide.
Returning from a swim
Probably a small family group deciding what to do next
Wigeon in channel by causeway
Wigeon preening in the Autumn sunshine in front of the hide
Wigeon took fright as two gulls took off but they soon settled again.
Later on the Whoopers started to take off in small groups
Flying off over the causeway
A further group
Last to fly off leaving a couple of groups behind
Noticeboard with recent sightings
Campfield Marsh on a flood tide.
Since new software installed no images are visible in existing Blog Posts. Have posted this blog to see if the same thing happens with new posts that include images.
News today! Effects of devastating fire on the Moss last night. Boardwalk thankfully acted as a firebreak otherwise more of the Raised Bog on the Reserve may have gone up.
For the past week or so we have been able to hear the wonderful sound of Whoopers, back over on the reserve wetlands, from the hamlet here at West Common. Although the weather has been very inclement recently and yesterday was no exception, we decided to take a walk down North Plain Lonning in hopeful anticipation. Having called in at the meadow pool screens on the way, the only evidence of Swans were lots of white feathers floating on the water. However, on reaching the hide, a solitary figure was apparent out at the far end of the causeway. This lone Whooper has been seen here since early late November, presumed injured. Then within minutes ( 2.00pm) - there it was - that magical whooping of swans arriving above us. They glided in confidently and landed on the now flooded meadows in front of the wood. This flock of 28 was made up of a number of family groups. To distinguish between them was difficult due to some of them being behind clumps of rushes but there were at least 12 adults amongst them!
On the way back another family group of five (2 adults and three juveniles) were spotted on the 2nd Meadow Pool. Our neighbour, Joe, later reported having been in the hide at dusk (4.50pm) when another 60 or so flew in nosily, with much hooting and bugling as they greeted those already there. Eventually they all seemed then to settle down for the night although we in the hamlet could hear their calls echoing in the stillness of the night. This morning at about 10am a group came flying off towards the viaduct, right over our house but not all had lifted off as they were heard on the reserve well into the morning.
It is good to see the Whoopers using the reserve's wetlands again this year and we hope that it will continue to be repeated over the coming winter months.
Whoopers gliding down in front of the hide, 6 1 13 at 2 pm.
They soon settle in amongst the Teal - note feathers in the background, presumably from previous visits.
. . . and not phased by their activity either!
A further family group on the Meadow Pools.
Great! The New Year had arrived . . . but I had hit the ground stumbling. Not, I have to say, from the after effects of 'bacchus' or some extreme Hogmany roistering! My only claim to fame in that respect had been watching Jools Holland's 'Hootenanny' and listening to that splendid group: The Dubliners, giving us their rendering of “The Irish Rover”. No! I was suffering from some terrible variant bug of heaven knows what! 'Siberian Hurling Chicken Flu', I wouldn't wonder . . . and was feeling pretty sorry for myself.
Judith had been a 'ministering angel' to me, making only the most delicate of salads and pots full of decaf. tea. This was a considerable sacrifice on our part as we are, by heck, 'Yorkshire Tea' people. However, I think Judith was getting a bit fed up of this and needed a change. She said, “I've got to go to the village and do some shopping – and we'll take a trip round the Peninsula to survey the Barnacles (they had been tantalisingly flying by in herds in front of our window now for days). The fresh air and activity will do you good.”
Now fresh air and activity were the two words in the whole of the English language that I most didn't want to hear. – but protest was of no avail, although I had scarcely the strength to haul myself into the pilot seat of the motorhome. But my spirits started to lift the moment we drew level with the Saltmarsh Pool. The sight of thousands of Barnacles arrayed, as far as the eye could see, along the marsh was better than a whole fist full of paracetamol. I have no hestitation in recommending this as a cure for the after-effects of the dreaded 'noro'. I know this sounds a bit like 'Dr Rogers's Barnacle Snake Oil'? Judith, as usual, was shooting with her camera as fast as she could go.
As we pressed on round the Peninsula, we suddenly came upon another field full of these little black and white geese – under the transmitter masts at Cardurnock, this time:another thousand or so. Rough estimates were the order of the day as accurate counting was completely out – using binoculars with my shattered eyes, I was just not up to it! But I was reviving by the minute: the adrenalin rush of seeing these massed geese was beginning to make me feel that life was possible again!
Pressing on to Kirkbride and the village shop, we were able to see flocks in the distance flying over the far marshes of the Wampool Estuary and there were very likely Pink-footed Geese amongst them - but too far away to be positively identified. This was all great stuff!
Judith, having completed her shopping, suggested we take the back road home over the moss and come along the estuary the other way. Good plan this, for as we neared the hamlet we ran into hundreds, if not thousands of Barnacles coming towards us, settling on the marsh in front of the house and beyond towards the viaduct – completely ignoring our presence as we swung into the drive. We scuttled into the house – Judith, firing her camera from the hip, as we had just observed a white goose amongst the flock. This turned out to be a leucistic Barnacle, which really completed a wonderful outing . . . and I now was almost completely revived!
Barnacles grazing near Saltmarsh Pool.
. . . and right up to the Reserve's boundary fence.
Further flock near Cardurnock transmitter masts
- more of the same flock grazing.
By the time we had reached home the Barnacle flock (including the white bird) had circled round and were coming into land in front of us.
Some had landed on the mudflats off Scargavel Point.
A small group with the leucistic Barnacle amongst them
. . . all intent on grazing up on the marsh.
Campfield Marsh at high tide. 11 4 12
Spring is a restless time: weather pulling all kinds of tricks; counting the cost of last winter; assessing the possibilities of the coming Summer; old visitors still lingering on; new arrivals coming unexpectedly - and that’s just the birds … you get the drift!
Yesterday (11th April) was just such a typical day: massive skies, hail showers passing down the estuary; rainbows; next minute, brilliant sunshine reflecting in the newly formed puddles; snow still showing on the hills.
So, taking our chance, we skipped out onto the marsh road. The gorse was resplendent: cadmium yellow. It had never looked so good - strange plant, gorse! We heard two Chiffchaffs singing from the marsh side trees. Judith managed two good shots of both of them. Often difficult to photograph as they tend to sing from cover. Hedges have not yet acquired their full Spring plumage, by any means - and the damson blossom too, is coming out very slowly. Good plan this, as hail, snow and driving winds can arrive very suddenly, hereabouts - totally destroying the blossom.
But onwards, onto the farm and down the lonning …Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Magpie - all of them going about their daily business: pairing, singing and nesting. Plenty of Wrens about - it’s been a relatively mild winter!
Meadow Pools are still holding a few Wigeon; plenty of Teal; a pair of Tufties have just arrived; a couple of Little Grebe about and Moorhens in plenty. On the flooded meadows, now drying back a little, Green Plover, Pied Wagtails, and Pipits - the Black-tailed Godwits seem to have passed through by now. But Redhank and Curlew seem to be staying with us - good sign this, as a lot of work had been carried out on these meadows, this last winter ( and I mean a lot!) to create good wader breeding habitat.
As the sun was coming out on the Lonning, the buzz of insects: hoverflies and bumble bees, was much in evidence. On down to the the hide at the end, overlooking the wetland - plenty of water still here. Oh boy! There was the Great White Egret in close company with four Grey Herons, fishing the lagoons and reed beds - though, after a while, the Egret took itself off to sit on its favourite place on a stump on the edge of the flooded birch woodland, where it can overlook in peace, what has now become its domain! Here it can get away from the bothersome Herons and Black-headed Gulls and sit in the sun digesting its food and having a preen.
There are still plenty of duck: Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon and Teal - disporting themselves and generally sorting out their differences - as duck do! Then to cap all this, in the new pool slap in front of the hide, a female Mallard appeared with her tribe of very small ducklings. She was avidly feeding in the rushy weedy margins - stirring up the food and making this immediately available to the ducklings. But a note of caution here! She will have to be very careful of ever present dangers: Buzzards, Harriers, Herons, Egrets and Carrion Crows … ducklings would make a very tasty snack! But Mallards are good mothers - they need to be! Even male Mallard attack ducklings in certain circumstances.
In contemplating all this, a large bird of prey swooped low over the wetland near the wood. My tired old eyes could not distinguish which raptor it was and the camera was busy elsewhere. But I’ll opt for a Peregrine, as it set everything up flying around. Even the Egret did a bit of a circuit too! But whatever it was, it can’t have been too hungry. These birds of prey do this just for fun … and practice, of course. On a nice fine day like this who wants to be bothered to kill something, pluck it, prepare it, fend off all the other parasitic scavengers and then have to eat it - when you can save yourself the energy and sit on a nice warm stump somewhere, have a preen and a sleep!. There’ll be time enough for killing when it’s got 3 or 4 ravenous young of its own to feed over the next few months!
Speaking of ‘ravenous’ - I feel an afternoon tea coming on. “Shall we go, dear?” I said to Judith, who was merrily clicking away with the camera still.
Hail showers passing along the estuary.
Hundreds of Oystercatchers sitting out the high tide.
Several thousand Barnacles flew west in small skeins, as the high tide flooded their inner estuary roosts.
A secretive Chiffchaff - singing from cover amongst the gorse at the entrance to North Plain Lonning.
Chiffchaff on marshside sycamore.
Black-headed Gulls mobbing a Grey Heron on wetland in front of hide.
Gulls chased these two heron over to the right-hand corner of the wetland.
Obviously this was a good congregating spot for the Egret and Herons.
The Egret soon returned to its favourite stump.
After some contemplation, a return to a more peaceful feeding mode.
Female Mallard guiding ducklings into the pool margins,
Female Mallard with her clutch of ducklings at the head of the channel in front of the hide.
Mallard ducklings seem keen to explore the channel.
Spotlight on the viaduct across the marsh - at the end of the day
Who says there isn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? ... we certainly have one!