Monday, 17 August 2015

Great Crested Grebe on the River Stort!

River Stort and Thorley Wash Nature Reserve - 4th Aug 15

Weather: Warm, cloudy with a stiff breeze.

Bird Total: 28
Plus: Essex Skipper, Large White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Ringlet, Small White Butterflies.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue damselflies. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Emperor, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter dragonfly.
Plus: 7 and 14-spot Ladybirds; Bluebottle; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Pond Skater; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Slug; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Konik Ponies; Longhorn Cattle; Muntjac; Shrew (dead).

Today I took my good friend and now fellow birder, Barry, for a walk up the River Stort, towards HMWT Thorley Wash. It was my second visit of the year.

Carol from the BBC forecast sun with light clouds in the morning, clouding over completely after lunchtime. So I suggested that we make an early-ish start around 9am.

But it was quite cool, with a stiff wind when we set off and I feared that not too many dragons and damsels would be about. And so it proved, for the early part of the walk at any rate. There were a few butterflies about, mainly Meadow Browns and Whites.

The first thing of note that we latched on to was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, calling, perched on a tree about 30 metres away. At first I thought that it might have been another Lesser, which would have been the third sighting this year. But another bird landed on the tree as well, a Goldfinch, which was considerably smaller than the Woodie.

It wasn't until about 20 minutes into the walk that we spotted our first male Banded Demoiselles. I guess the wind and the cool weather was keeping them under wraps. Then Barry spotted a Buzzard high in the sky. A little further on his, now, keen eye spotted a Kingfisher over the River. It had landed in a tree opposite and I just managed to see it before it flew off.

Just before we continued something caught my eye behind us and when we looked we saw a buck Muntjac bounding across the field. We must have walked right past it. A Grey Heron flew over, following by another. Then a Green Woodpecker sounded off somewhere.

There was already a plethora of dog-walkers.

We reached Tednambury Lock, where we spotted a pair of Greenfinches fly over us. Then we spotted our first Common Blue damsels of the day, now one of Barry's favourites.

We passed a group of 4 Konik Ponies on our right, while a herd of cattle were chewing the cud on our left, over the River. More damsels were seen along this stretch, as well as another Great Spotted Woodpecker, which flew over.

Barry then confirmed that he had indeed got his birding goggles on today, when he spotted a Common Tern fishing along the River. It then flew close to us, where we were given some great views, before dropping down into the water where it caught an unfortunate fish.

Then we came upon an equally unfortunate Shrew, lying dead on the path. I was a bit surprised that nothing had snapped it up.

We continued our walk, setting the world to rights, before eventually arriving at the bridge that would take us into the Reserve. We immediately spotted a few Longhorn cattle, grazing not too far from us. Fortunately, a barb-wire fence separated us.

A quick look from the first bridge, both sides, to look for Water Vole. Unfortunately, 'Ratty' wasn't about today. But we did see a lovely Ringlet butterfly fly in and land close by. We were soon looking down from the second bridge, again not seeing any Water Voles. But we did see a cracking pair of Banded Demoiselles, which were posing quite close in.

We then started on the circular route proper, whereupon we soon spotted a Common Darter; a Brown Hawker and then a Migrant Hawker. In fact, it was quite a fruitful little spot we had found, as more Common Darters were soon spotted and then a couple of Ruddy Darters appeared. Butterflies appeared too, with more Meadow Browns and a few Peacocks.

We reached a wooden bench, which was dedicated to Water Voles and stopped for lunch. A train had been stationary on the track for some time, obviously held up by some calamity. Just before we finished lunch it moved slowly off, followed every minute or so by those held in the queue. It looked a bit like 'Operation Stack'.

Then, just before we continued our walk, Barry yelped and jumped back. A Wasp had crawled into his shirt and had stung him twice! I waved it off and handed him some Aloe Vera. I told him that you hadn't been on a walk in the country unless you had been stung by a wasp! I wanted to take a photo before it flew off, but Barry was already jumping up and down, screaming at me to get rid of it.

We were just coming to the end of the trail in the Reserve, when we spotted an Essex Skipper. Unfortunately, my little camera was playing up and so I failed miserably to get any shots. But we did note that it was very small and had black antennae, two very good diagnostic ID traits.

We exited the Reserve and headed back the way we had come. It had clouded over somewhat by then, but then the clouds and the sun had a bit of a battle and, by the time we had finished our walk, the sun seemed to be winning.

On the return leg we spotted more Common Darters and then several Swallows and House Martins, hawking up and down the River. We were also passed by several more dog-walkers and a couple of Narrowboats.

Then we spotted a few more Banded Demoiselles, on the far side of the River. They were soon put up by an Emperor dragon, which was flying imperiously up and down. A brave but foolish Migrant Hawker appeared but was soon chased off by the Emperor.

Just before we exited the trail Barry spotted a Great Crested Grebe! It was a juvenile and was the first time I had seen a Grebe of any description on the River. Amazing!

I had been busy looking for Demoiselles on our left, along the adjacent stream. I managed to spot several males and a couple of females. The sun had come out again and blue skies were outnumbering the clouds, but unfortunately our walk had come to an end.

We had walked around 7km today and so rewarded ourselves with a pint in the local Railway Pub. A fitting end to a very good walk.

'The citizens of a democracy have a right to be ignorant.
Knowledge only means complicity in guilt.'