Weather: Clear, blue skies. Clouding over in the afternoon.
Birds Total: 36
Plus: Peacock, Red Admiral butterflies.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 14-spot Ladybird; Caddis Fly; Cattle; Muntjac.
The weather was a bit kinder today, hardly any wind at all, with sunny, blue skies early on. Around lunchtime it clouded over quite badly and I feared I might have to cut the visit short. But the clouds moved on after about an hour, allowing me to carry on. It was quite warm in the sunshine but a tad cooler in the shade.
I haven't been out much this month, due to various reasons, but it's so much better than being stuck at home watching all the visual diarrhoea for the emotionally challenged on the box. And anyway, wildlife soap operas are so much better.
I had arrived in the area just after the sun had come up to find a crisp, clear day, the bushes covered in the morning dew. On the train down I saw a dust-up between 2 male Pheasants, with a 3rd looking on and a Jay, Little Egret and a Grey Heron a little further on.
From the Teal Hide I could see around 15 Lapwing; a couple of Teal; Gadwall and Mallards around the scrape area. There were about 10 cattle feeding the area with one of them quite close to the Hide, Holsteins I think. Canada Geese were present, with a few Greylags mixed in with them, a pair of Moorhens and also lots of BHGs. A little later a lone Starling flew in amongst the Lapwing on the left. Then a Water Rail appeared from the reeds between the Lapwing, one of which spooked it and scared it up, where it flew over the scrape and landed in the reeds to the right. A flying Water Rail is a rare treat.
Then there was a commotion outside the Hide, with a dog barking and a couple of people shouting at it. They all entered the Hide and sheepishly apologised for the noise. A third person then came in. We all had a pleasant chat for a few minutes before they all headed off. I settled back down and noticed that more Teal had appeared and then a Muntjac turned up and proceeded to cross the scrape from right to left. The first one I've seen for some time.
A little later a pair of Snipe then showed up, again between the Lapwing. Immediately after a 2nd Water Rail also took a turn in the spotlight. All 3 species were feeding together, to be joined by 2 more Snipe. It was an entertaining 15 minutes or so. Out to the right all the cattle had sat down. This usually means its going to rain. A quick check of the sky - no clouds. They're weather forecasting is about as good as the BBC's.
Another dog showed up in the Hide, followed by a little girl. She took one look at me and ran off screaming. The dog followed. I have that effect on women. I figured the dog must have been female too.
I headed off myself not long after, checking outside the Hide. The only things about were a lone Common Darter; a Red Admiral and a 14-spot Ladybird. At the standing Hides I could see another Darter sunning itself and a pair of Migrant Hawkers having a set-to over the reeds. There were also 19 Canada Geese with 3 more Greylags.
Time was getting on so I moved off down the trail, immediately hearing, then seeing a screaming Jay fly overhead. A quick look out over Friday Lake elicited about 40-odd Wigeon; 10 or so Pochard; a few Shoveler and lots of Tufted Duck; Coot; Gulls and, just for good measure, a Cetti's Warbler sounded off. Out on Hooks Marsh Lake I could see an adult GCG with a juvenile. Another Red Admiral
fluttered by. A little further on more GCGs appeared. And more and more dog-walkers were also appearing. I hope I don't step on anything untoward.
On the trail upto the bridge I came across the first of a couple of work-details, obviously called in to clear up the debris caused by the troubles earlier in the week. Surprisingly, they were also tarmacking the trail. Looking out from the bridge itself only yielded up a couple more GCGs, with the usual fare.
I arrived at the Hooks Marsh car-park to find it packed, not only with lots of cars but also lots of Mute Swans and Canada and Greylag Geese. All of them waiting patiently at the feeding station for handouts. The birds, not the cars.
I headed up the trail to Fishers Green. More and more people passed by, joggers; dog-walkers; cyclists and families. It's Half-Term week. More Darters were sunning themselves on the trail. At the feeding area near the Bittern Hide more people were feeding more Swans and Geese. Mallards and Coots were trying to muscle in as well, in a splendid free-for-all. I also noticed a couple of guys ringing a Cygnet. The scene seemed very terribly British.
From the Bittern Hide itself, I could see around half-a-dozen Great Tits; a couple of Blue Tits; a pair of Chaffinches and a Wren, all taking advantage of the well stocked up feeders. 3 Common Darters were chasing each other over the pond in front. Yet another Red Admiral flew in to the Hide and fluttered around before flying back out again. 3 or 4 Cetti's could be heard in amongst the reeds. Eventually one of them showed itself, albeit very briefly. Then a Little Grebe appeared in one of the channels, diving for food. Coot and Moorhen were populating other channels. And more people came and went.
It was at this point that the weather deteriorated badly. But my patience was rewarded as the overcast sky returned to its normal blue colour and allowed me to head off towards the Grebe Hide. On the trails down I noticed that the debris from the 'Big Blow' hadn't yet been cleaned up here yet, with lots of leaves and plenty of branches around. It didn't stop me or the 4 or 5 fishermen I passed. Looking out towards the farm area I could see masses and masses of Corvids circling, very probably Jackdaws. About 30 or so Canadas and
Greylags were feeding on the lagoon over the relief channel. There was also another Little Grebe fishing between a couple of Coot.
At Holyfield Weir the only thing of note to report were about half-a-dozen Wigeon. I arrived at the Grebe Hide not long after to find a couple of dozen Mute Swans; a couple of dozen more Wigeon and 6 GCGs including a couple of juveniles. 3 or 4 LBBGs were floating on the water; 3 or 4 Shoveler were dozing in the sunshine while the usual shed-load of Coot; Tufted Duck and Gadwall were all swanning around. A Jay flew over and landed in the trees opposite.
Then I saw something that I had never seen before. I witnessed one of the juvenile GCGs continually calling out for its parent, which wasn't currently around, then it started begging for food from a Coot. If a Coot could have had a bemused look this was it. Then the parent eventually turned up with a fish and the juvenile was fed. I wonder if the juve would have continued begging for food from other birds if the parent hadn't turned up? I tried to get a photograph of the action but the ancient, venerable Law of Sod intervened with,
first, the birds swimming away and then the sun going in.
But time had again beaten me and I therefore headed for home, stopping off at the Bittern Hide, getting a really good view of another Water Rail. It was getting dark by the time I arrived at the station but I arrived home in good time. It was a good visit and good to get out again.
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