Yesterday marked the first of our annual 'Great Scarecrow Days' held in the playmeadow under leaden skies. Over 200 visitors came and tried their hand at making scarecrows of all shapes, sizes and themes.
Everybody really enjoyed their time here despite the occasional watering from above, vowing to return next year armed with more clothes, more hats and more ideas of how to be crowned Middleton Lakes Scarecrow Maker Extrordinaire!
Whilst all this chaos was cracking off in the playmeadow, there was something akin to a 'light twitch' going on elsewhere on the reserve. A pair of curlew sandpipers and a couple of little stints had turned up to see what all the fuss was about. None of them were perturbed by our scarecrows - obviously we're going to have to do better next year!
How about suggestions for themes?
This afternoon whilst walking from our office to the main car park to close the height barriers on the car park gates I heard a great deal of chatter coming from our new den building area in Villa Wood. I went to have a look at who was making so much noise and found 3 generations of the same family enjoying themselves whilst constructing a substantial den. It was obvious the more mature members had done this before but for the youngsters it was their first time and they were thoroughly enjoying the experience. I was so impressed by their endeavours that I requested a photograph for our records - so here in full colour are the Pearson family having fun in the woods.
We must apologise to our visitors expecting to pick up one of our trail guides from the leaflet holders. We have underestimated the popularity of the reserve and have therefore had to order a reprint ahead of schedule. The new supply should be with us by the Bank Holiday but in the meantime, if you require a trail guide, there is a copy available to download from our website. Otherwise we do have a map on our Information Board in the main car park.
In preparation for our forthcoming Scarecrow Day - Bank Holiday Monday 29th August - our ever young volunteers took up the challenge to produce a few scarecrows to be used around the area to advertise our event.
There was no shortage of volunteers offering their help in going back to their youth building these scarecrows. Great fun was had by everyone involved.
Recent sightings for July 2011
We have a new homemade, Blue Peter style sightings board, by our car-park welcome sign, on which our keen-eyed, nature-loving visitors, volunteers and surveyors have been recording their sightings (thanks everyone).
The weatherman said it was still summer but the signs of autumn were there. It was that time of year when people say autumn coming in meets the summer going out. The waders were moving in (a sign of autumn) while wetland bird mothers were protecting their young (a sign of summer). Ominous predators (buzzard, hobby, kestrel, peregrine) were flying over the waters or perching in the nearby trees. It does not take much to spook a lapwing looking after their young.
Mothers with young were: coot, great crested grebe, lapwing, little ringed plover, mallard, mute swan, ringed plover, tufted duck.
Another great crested grebe was still on its nest in the northern lakes.
Fishers Mill Lake was busy. A heron flew through displacing a wading little egret into the air followed by a protective lapwing mum screaming at the two intruders.
Later another heron, being disturbed by a guarding lapwing, flew to the north end of the lake and immediately caught a juicy carp (perhaps 2 pounds). The heron struggled with it and eventually swallowed it whole. Everyone watching said that this would make a good film on the feeding habits of big waders. How big was the fish – this big!
Our living willow screen was popular with our visitors who looked at: coot and young, little ringed plover, ringed plover, lapwing with a chick, oystercatcher.
Our resident green and great spotted woodpeckers with young (and if you were lucky a lesser spotted woodpecker) continued to use the feeders at Heron Corner. On one special day our resident, but rarely seen, lesser spotted woodpecker was also seen on the feeder.
There were sounds and sightings of our resident woodland-hedgerow birds: blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, coal tit, dunnock, great tit, long-tailed tit, nuthatch, robin, wren. The visiting birds had become quiet after breeding, although blackcap and chiffchaff continued to sing occasionally along the Woodland Trail.
Around the site other birds with young (or juveniles seen) were: black-headed gull, common tern, gadwall, garden warbler, grey heron, greylag goose, kestrel, linnet, nuthatch, peregrine, pied wagtail, redshank, reed warbler, sand martin, sedge warbler, shelduck, swallow, swift, treecreeper, whitethroat.
Other birds seen or heard along the trails were: bullfinch, buzzard, cetti's warbler, greenshank, hobby, house martin, kestrel, kingfisher, lesser spotted woodpecker, lesser whitethroat, peregrine, reed bunting, sand martin, skylark, song thrush, sparrowhawk, stock dove, swallow, swift, tree pipit, yellowhammer.
And visiting waders: black-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, green sandpiper, little egret, oystercatcher, ruff.
Other water-birds seen were: moorhen, pochard, teal, water rail, snipe, wigeon.
Butterflies were flitting and fluttering about: brimstone, comma, common blue, gatekeeper, green-veined white, holly blue, large skipper, large white, small skipper, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral, ringlet, small copper, small heath, small tortoiseshell, small white, speckled wood.
Delicate damselflies were moving through the sheltered vegetation: azure, banded, blue-tailed and common blue damselfly.
Stronger dragonflies were boldly exploring the vegetation and the waters: black-tailed skimmer, broad-bodied chaser, brown hawker, common darter, emperor dragonfly, southern hawker.
Other creatures recorded were: fox, hare, muntjac, common shrew, stoat, weasel.
Froglets were observed crossing the bridleway and the Wetland Trail.
The them days grass snakes (adults and juveniles) were watched sleeping under our refugia mats (ex-conveyor belts) scattered around the site.
Wild flowers were in bloom. The car-park was surrounded by a white raft of scentless mayweed wafting in the breezes. Around the site, great and rosebay willowherb boldly stood up to the shafts of rain during the changeable weather.
Splashes of yellow were everywhere with bird's foot trefoil, evening primrose, everlasting pea, great mullein, ragwort, toadflax, yellow loosestrife putting on a show.
A great month over all ...
And so a great thank-you to everyone for your nature sightings – keep them coming in.
With thanks to Nigel Palmer for compiling the results.