Forgive me the title, but I just couldn't resist it. I've been out and about exploring the heathland trail over the last couple of days and the dragons and tigers bit is apt - I will just have to replace the bears with the similar-sized Highland cows.
Reports of a spotted flycatcher out on the heathland trail near Black Pond reached my ears on Sunday afternoon, and forsaking a tea-break I went out to track it down. Now none of you can say I'm not determined and I am pleased to report that my persistence did pay off and finally (after several weeks of trying) I have seen a spotted flycatcher on the reserve this year. Having decided not to give up on birdwatching after all (!) I enjoyed listening to all the activity as families of blue, great and coal tits, nuthatches and treecreepers enjoyed themselves flitting amongst the branches or down and up the trunks of the oaks and beeches on this part of the trail.
Flushed with success, I turned my attention to the bugs, which do seem to co-operate rather more readily with me than the birds. During sunny spells, Black Pond is alive with four-spotted chaser dragonflies involved in territorial clashes; they perch ever-alert on the dead branches or rushes on the pond edges until a rival flies overhead, when they dash of in pursuit. Green tiger beetles can be found along the sandy paths on 'the triangle' and on the 'heathland zig zags' just as you head down towards the pond on the public footpath. I spent the best part of my lunch hour today trying to sneak up on one of these fabulous creatures. Just as you got close enough to take a photograph, it would scuttle a little further along the track or go whirring off into the bracken. My best attempt is attached...
Back at the visitor centre we're still playing 'who can see the first hobby of the day?' We've been lucky - the combination of 'the big bins' and their favouring of the river bank for hunting means that we've been able to compete with our volunteers and wardens who are out on the reserve itself. Our brood of shelduckling are looking delightful out on the North Brooks, and every nestbox seems to have noisy nestlings in residence.
I'm now looking forward to our upcoming evening events and the prospect of churring nightjars, bats, moths and glow worms - can't wait!