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Saltholme Hide is the place to be just now as there are over 30 noisy Black-tailed Godwits in front of the hide, along with Ruff, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and our very slowly developing Avocet chick.
Black-tailed Godwit by Mark Stokeld
And on the way to the hide, make sure you see the first of this years Common Hawkers at the Dragonfly Ponds.
Male Common Hawker by Mark Stokeld
He is currently patrolling the northern pond, and has already mated, grabbing his female by the head and taking her into the Hemlock at the back of the pond.
Now that's what I call romance.
Posted by Dean H
As you walk through Haverton Gate listen for the sound of a large grasshopper coming from a patch of scrub in the Wildflower Walk loop. The sound is in fact a Grasshopper Warbler, and it is singing now because the poor bird has decided to go for a second brood.
Grasshopper Warbler at Haverton gate by Mark Stokeld
Once Grasshopper Warblers have attracted a mate and commence raising a family they go quiet, and their skulking behaviour means they are very difficult to find, so catch this while you can.
One of the joys of being a warden is being on the reserve in the early mornings. I noticed this female Marsh Harrier on the gauge board in the Wildlife Watchpoint cut this morning as I entered the hide. Ed brought the reserve camera and managed to get this shot as I slowly opened a shutter.
Just before this, a very nervous looking female Gadwall with 11 chicks swam past underneath the post watched intently by the Harrier.
Why didn't the Harrier pounce on the ready meal beneath her ?
It could be that she was well fed. When Sparrowhawks have fed well they are unable to fly easily. The birds in the area can tell this and are more likely to mob the predator.
Or, it could be that she was very wet from all the overnight rain. She was sitting with her back to the morning sun and stretched her wings a few times which looked like she was trying to dry them ?
Or was it just an early morning stretch ?
I suppose we'll never know. But that must be one relieved Gadwall mother out there. For now.
We have week old Avocet chicks in the Saltholme Scrape in front of Saltholme Hide.
Come and see them before they grow up !
Good weather in June means juicy new insects about. Black-tailed Skimmers have emerged from the Main Lake and are sunning themselves on the paths. When Dragonflies first emerge, they are pale and weak and need about 3 weeks of nice weather and munchy food to mature. In this state they are called ‘teneral’. Interestingly teneral males are coloured as females, and the wings are very reflective.
This photograph by Mark Walpole of a Black-tailed Skimmer shows a teneral female, very different to the powdery blue of the adult male.
Mark also took this photo of a Four-spotted Chaser. They emerged a few weeks ago, and are now fully mature and bight. On the hunt for flies, they can turn up anywhere, but watch for territorial males defending their patch at the Dragonfly Ponds.
I found this newly pupated Poplar Hawkmoth low down in the willow tunnel at the Wildlife Watchpoint entrance on Wednesday:
It has spent the winter pupating in the soil at the base of the caterpillar foodplant, which in this case were the willows.
And look a the stunning colours of this Small Elephant Hawkmoth caught in Ed’s light trap on Wednesday night:
Once it warmed up a bit It flew onto this Vipers Bugloss in the compound.
And here is a picture Ed took of his little mothy face:
It won’t be long now before those juiciest of insects, Emperor Dragonflies, are patrolling the Dragonfly Ponds.
It's unusual for this Short-eared Owl to be still here in June. It is frequently seen around the car park and main drive hunting for voles. Dan McKie managed to get this photo on the Pedestrian Path.
But he also managed this in the same week, on the same post.......................
Long-eared Owls are strictly nocturnal, so this bird must have been disturbed from somewhere and came to our special Owl post.
You can tell what is feeding in the Wildlife Watchpoint Mouse House by looking at the mess left behind. Wood Mice shell the peanuts, leaving the shell intact on the floor, and then run off with the nice white nut. Bank Voles simply rip the shells off in the bowls and leave lots of bits in the bowl. Common Shrews don’t bother shelling the nuts – they just take the lot.
This photograph by Mark Walpole shows one of our Bank Voles leaving a bit of a mess after a Sunday lunch.
On Wednesday, we went out in the ranger to monitor the breeding birds on the central wet grassland. Although we do seem to have lost a few chicks here and there, generally things are looking quite good. We have 7 fledged Avocets from 3 nests, with another 7 well feathered. There are 14 part grown Avocets and 3 birds are still sitting on eggs. Ed managed to take this picture with his bridge camera of two well feathered Avocets.
The Lapwings were quite a surprise. Along with the 15 fledged lapwings, there are 17 part grown or well feathered birds, and another 8 nests had hatched with 18 new chicks wobbling about. One chick was so wobbly it must have just emerged from the egg before we arrived. There are also 3 Oystercatcher chicks and two broods of Redshank.
But it’s hard to concentrate on counting wader chicks when there are 4 male Ruff prancing around the place in all their ruffed up glory. This is something I never thought I’d see, and it is quite something. The males literally dance with little jumps into the air like little Michael Flatleys, but better looking. The colours are so impressive. One bird is mostly red, another white, and two are mostly black but with sheens that you find on birds such as Lapwing.
A distant shot of one of the Flatley Ruff.
The big question is.............where are the females ? If these males have been successful in their attempts to impress the females, and lets face it, we were impressed, will pregnant females choose to stay here or carry on their migration to their tundra breeding grounds ?
1 - Eat soup
2 - Row a boat
3 - Play tennis (sort of)
4 - Wedge a door open
5 - Prize a fence rail off (it might break)
6 - Throw a small pancake
7 - Remove a bicycle tyre
8 - Keep some loose screws
9 - Put loads of sugar in a cup of tea
10 - Easily win an egg and spoon race
Of course all these would require removing the bill from the bird, which we would never want to do.
So we should just marvel as it sweeps through the water, slightly open, and the moment a small fish, crustacean or insect is felt on the inside of the bill, it is snapped shut.
Five Spoonbills came to Saltholme on the 8th May. The four Juveniles departed after a few days, but this adult is still with us, frequenting either Back Saltholme or the wet grassland. If that is too far away for you, there are a pair of Water Rails feeding two new chicks in front of the Phil Stead Hide. Water Rails have a slightly curved orange bill ?????............
Grid reference: NZ5023 (+2km)
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