By our definition it definitely is autumn. For wildlife the start varies but for those that migrate, the start signals the time to follow food sources and warmer climes. We, believe it or not, offer warmer climes for those further north and east.
October so far has brought drop bys of golden plover, about 90 pink-footed geese landed, with more flying over and 11 whooper swans were on Astley lake on the 7th. Also being seen are redwing, fieldfare and siskin.
The birds are looking good in their best bib & tuckers; all their feathers have been renewed after the end of their summer moult.
Lovely plumage! meadow pipit with long hind claws mimicking the barb wire
The smaller birds are becoming braver and closer along the fenceline/scrub at the foot of the hillside and by the ridge & furrow ditch. They include growing numbers of meadow pipit, stonechat, reed bunting, and the busy goldfinch flock, who are raiding the thistles for the seeds.
Regular sightings continue for marsh & willow tit, great spotted and green woodpecker in the warren area (at the back of the Causeway and to the left of Shan House bridge). Early October brought in a yellow-browed warbler and a snow bunting; so who knows what other rarities may turn up! At the Causeway/Lemonroyd lake, a kingfisher and an otter have been seen.
At the end of September, waders began to drop in; dunlin, ringed plover, little stint, ruff, redshank, spotted redshank, snipe, lapwing and good numbers of curlew (up to 60 have been seen on one day). They have become more mobile using the reedbeds and the lakes so check the visitor centre for the latest news.
Around the reedbeds and lakes, are expanding flocks of wigeon (males whistle, not quack), shoveler, pochard, teal, tufted duck and gadwall. Also goldeneye, wood duck, little egret, cormorant and grey heron.
Interesting look; grey heron on a very still day so cannot blame the wind
In the UK during winter, duck populations seriously expand; for instance wigeon become 400,000 from approximately 300 breeding pairs; that’s a lot of whistling to look forward to.
In mid whistle; wigeon saying high-pitched but calm and reassuring “weee-oooooo”
The more secretive water rail has been heard and a bittern was on the ridge & furrow. As autumn progresses into winter, these elusive birds are known to become more visible partly to search for food but also because winter visitors increase their numbers.
Despite the march towards autumn, some butterflies and dragonflies continue to roam the site. The hardier insects are usually visible until at least late autumn. Seen recently are red admiral, large white, migrant hawker and common darter.
Roaming the site (most days) are plenty of marsh harriers, red kite, sparrowhawks, kestrel, buzzards and the 2 little owls are still showing in the dragline compound by the visitor centre. Towards the end of October, we will be expecting the return of short-eared owls who hunt at dusk along the hillside and pastures scrub.
Not a bird of prey; a mute swan ‘busking’, which is a mild threat display for hierarchy position/territorial control. Not that the other one seems bothered. Still, lovely plumage!
Recent site news includes:
Bowers lake path is closed as the predator fence work continues, and the path is raised to prevent flooding after water levels heighten on the Ridge and Furrow.
The field above Fleakingly reservoir, as part of meadow management, is now being grazed by Hebridean sheep and Hereford/Angus cows.
The recent community litter pick was a great success; so another is scheduled for Sunday 29th October 11am-3pm; all volunteers welcome and this is your once in a lifetime chance to wield one of those long-handled thingy-ma-jig claws (sensibly, of course).
Half term will be full of adventure, on top of our usual discovery backpacks for rental (£3), there will be a Trick or Treat Treasure Hunt - Hallowe'en style! Collect your sheet from the visitor centre between 9am-5pm. (£1) Runs 21st Oct to 29th October.
Speaking of hallowe’en; On the hillside path, scary devil’s coach horse insects are being seen. If disturbed they rear up like a scorpion and bare their open jaws but don’t get too close as they can squirt a foul smelling liquid and give a painful bite.
Devil's coach horse - Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)
So, roll on the winds and the rain (with a few good sunny days for us humans) to help bring in more winter visitors. Finally, windy Monday on the 2nd October was exhilarating to say the least and it was a challenge to those who braved the ocean-like swells on the Main lake…
Up to its neck in it; juvenile great crested grebe;
Surfing a wave; a cool coot
Yours, K Sp-8