This afternoon I recorded the first five Southern Marsh Orchids coming into flower by the path to the North Hide. These orchids are the commonest marsh orchid in England. Last year the total count for this orchid at Radipole Lake was 132. These photos were taken in the orchid meadow last year. Tomorrow sees the start of the second Dorset Flora Week run by members of the Dorset Flora Group. Radipole Lake will be taking part again this year with a wildflower walk this Thursday, 3rd June at 10:30 a.m. from the Visitor Centre. Please call the Visitor Centre on 01305 778313 to book.
Had an early morning walk around Radipole today along with Anne and our ensemble of survey volunteers - the purpose of which being our monthly bearded tit monitoring of the two reserves. As with earlier surveys and general records and observations, the indication is that the population on Radipole has markedly dropped after the long cold winter. More positively the numbers on Lodmoor appear to have held up well.
As always there was plenty to see in the early light in the virtual absence of our target species – most visible and numerous by far were the swifts which were happily feasting on a fresh hatch of midges. They were happily cavorting, screaming to one another and pairing up on the wing. On two (necessarily brief) occasions I saw pairs actually mate on the wing, which is a tricky undertaking as anyone who has attempted this would no doubt attest. Who said that men can’t multitask eh?
When birders see a distant tern out at sea they often refer to it as a Commic Tern. This name comes about as a result of joining the two similar tern species’ names, Common Tern and Arctic Tern. Clever aye?
Well at Lodmoor there’s the potential for a real comic tern as an Arctic Tern is holding a territory amongst the Common Terns. This is presumably the same bird that bred with a common last year but they failed to fledge their single chick which they managed to hatch. This afternoon I went over in the hope of a picture or two of our confused Arctic Tern but failed so here a picture of a Common Tern instead.
Also at Lodmoor were three rather odd looking hybrid Geese. They seemed to be Greylag x Canada Geese.
It was also really good to see some fledgling House Sparrows. I blogged a few weeks ago about house sparrows seen taking nest material into hedges, so I wonder if these little chaps were born and raised in on of the Lodmoor hedges?
I saw my first sea trout of the spring on Radipole this morning - nicely marked and I'd estimate about 2lbs in the old scale. This brought to mind a strange event I witnessed from one of our bridges 12 months or so ago, when my gaze was drawn to a shape wafting gently in the current. Upon affixing my polarized sunglasses I was surprised to note that the gently wafting shape was the last six or eight inches of a fairly large eel protruding from the maw of a colossal sea trout of between 8 and 10lbs. - definitely a case of its eyes being bigger than its stomach!
A week or two later a group of us saw a smaller - but not small - specimen with a roach wedged in its mouth seemingly unable to go down or back out. Although rather regal in appearance and status these events would seem to suggest that sea trout are the true gluttons of the piscatorial world.
How often, as you walk across it, have you cast a glance over the side of a bridge just on the off chance of there being something there, but have you ever really stood and watched. Well, yesterday, walking across the bridge at the base of the boardwalk, heading toward north hide, we stopped to admire the crystal clear water when we noticed some movement.
There below us, only four or five feet away, just visible, wriggling through the mud at the bottom of the ditch, was an eel. Only about a foot long, and not much thicker than a finger, it was searching, slowly, across the bottom, looking for a tasty morsel or two, sticking its snout under anything that looked interesting. We were watching it through binoculars when there was a flash of red and there, hovering over the eel's head, was a male stickleback, its bright red belly and greenish eye in stark contrast to the dull black of the eel.
Although only a fraction of the size of the eel, so it could easily have ended up as lunch, the stickleback was relentless, diving down again and again to dart at the eel’s head, trying, and eventually succeeding, in making the eel change direction and head off down stream, before disappearing itself, as fast as it had appeared, leaving us to wonder what the fuss was all about.
Well, male sticklebacks not only set up territories but they also build nests and do all the looking after of the eggs once the female has laid them, so the fact the tiny little fish, no bigger than your little finger, was giving the eel such a hard time probably meant that, somewhere nearby, there was a nest full of tiny eggs on their way to becoming the next generation of sticklebacks.
So, next time you are walking across one of our bridges, take a minute or two to stand, look down and watch. You might not be lucky enough to see the little battle we had witnessed, but you might still see caddis fly larvae, cloaked in their cases of stones and sticks, ambling across the mud, or diving beetles bobbing along in mid water looking for food or perhaps even water boatman rowing sedately along – whatever you see, there is as much going on under the water as there is in the world above it, it’s just on a smaller scale.