Thursday, 15 May 2008

Dew-covered grass means wet feet!

Something possessed Grahame and I on Saturday night and made us think it would be a great idea to go to the reserve at 7.30am on Sunday morning – and you know something – it was worth it! :-) I’m serious – it really was! Don’t believe me? Then read on…

It was a truly beautiful morning and we pulled into the reserve (doing the usual 1 mile an hour!) wondering what we might see. Well, how about a couple of roe deer grazing at the end of the dam to kick us off? :-) I have to admit – much as I love my birds, I truly enjoy catching out the larger mammals we have around the reserve – and deer are my absolute favourites! I love the way they can be standing stock still one moment, and the next they leap sideways and take off into the undergrowth – sometimes so fast that you can’t really be sure you saw them at all! :-)

Once I’d calmed myself down – and Grahame had taken his hands down from his ears – we sat in the car quietly for a minute or two and were amazed to see a fox slinking along the back of the filter beds! It came from the direction of the dam and headed towards the right hand side of the car park. What really tickled us, though, was the fact that it appeared to be carrying a hedgehog in its mouth! I have no idea whether the amount of eating in a hedgehog warrants the danger of dealing with the prickles – but I suppose the fox knows what he is doing! It did remind me of hedgehog flavour crisps that were on sale for a limited time when I was a kid at high school circa 1990 though! ;-)

After we finally exited the car, disturbing the nesting moorhen on the filter beds as we did, we heading on up the steps to the top of the dam where we were hit by the cacophony of songs from the various warblers (garden warbler, another LBJ, now added to the species list! ;-)) along with our resident song thrush singing his heart out at the very top of the highest tree and the swallows zipping around playing tag in the sky. It is nice to stand at the top of the steps and take a deep breath of the sweet smelling fresh air – not least because the steps are quite steep and can take it out of you a bit - but also because you get a great view looking easterly over the reserve with a fair spread of the mature willow trees, younger trees of various types and the boggy grasslands being so successfully reclaimed by the work of the Conservation Team and local Air Cadets.

The daffodils have now almost entirely disappeared, but are gradually being replaced with violets, pink campion and other meadow varieties. This is going to help Grahame in increasing species numbers when completing the butterfly transects as we are seeing more butterflies every day. Sunday marked the appearance of the Orange Tip Butterfly (see photo below) – although I am quite sure when Grahame goes out to do his timed walk, the Orange Tip will be very well hidden along with the rest of our flying beauties! ;-) I am noticing all the different types of bees a bit more this year though! I have to say the most involvement I usually have with a buzzing insect is standing still and hoping it doesn’t want to sting me – but I am trying to take a greater interest. I am quite taken with a smallish variety that has an orange bottom and a single orangey-yellow stripe across its back! :-) I’m afraid I haven’t managed to identify it… answers on a postcard! ;-) I spent a good couple of minutes just watching as he moved in a zig-zag from one flower head to the next, gathering up pollen as went. Bees are quite pretty really and I’m glad I’m not as scared of them as I used to be… although my hands are still firmly rooted in my pockets while I’m watching! ;-)

We reached the loch side and were pleased to see 3 different little grebes, 2 of whom seemed to be a pair and the other appeared to be nesting in the rushes. A single swan was gliding about in the centre of the loch and the mallard and tufted ducks were keeping to their usual corner – towards the back left. We didn’t see the mallard chicks this time but I’m sure they will still be around! :-)

We left the waterfowl to their foraging and walked down the slope towards the spillway with the usual tits and finches flitting about in the trees. There are plenty of them but they don’t seem to be using the feeding station as much now. Fresh bugs probably taste much better than dried seed! ;-) When we reached the spillway, we glanced down at the water – then did a double take at the hundreds, if not thousands, of tadpoles we could see!! Little black dots swimming this way and that – big black groups of them in some places – so thick you couldn’t make out individuals! They are on both sides of the spillway bridge so I can only assume that some have even tumbled down the stream to the pool at the bottom of the spillway!! No wonder a female and juvenile heron were taking such an interest in our loch earlier in the week!! There are very easy pickings just now.

We carried on up to the sheep field and saw that our cheeky lambs were inside the field boundary this time… Trust me – this is become a rare occurrence – despite the efforts of our shepherd, Tim, to make the fence escape-proof! ;-) Even though they are growing quickly now, I still love to see them skipping about. However, there was one very large (and at the same time, very small) distraction for Grahame and I this time… A lizard! :-) Grahame spied it sitting on the path and very quietly crept up alongside it. As it was still very early in the morning, the lizard (Grahame identified it as a common lizard) hadn’t yet been out in the sun long enough to warm up properly, so Grahame was able to get close enough to touch it! :-) I doubt very much I would have seen it but our Convenor has eagle-eyed vision sometimes! :-)

We walked to the end of the sheep field and then turned to walk back – and surprise, surprise the lambs were on our side of the fence this time! Man – I wish I could stay annoyed at them for it – but I can’t resist their cute wee faces and wagging tails! :-) We walked very slowly towards them and they obliged us by scrambling back under the fence and running to their mama! If you should see the lambs outside the fence – and you need to walk past them – please walk slowly and make as little noise as possible. They should run back into the field without any trouble. I will just ask dog-owners to keep their dogs on leads in this part of the reserve again at this point though – I’m sure you can appreciate our concerns.

Have to laugh at Grahame at this point… We had obviously walked through a fair amount of grass in getting beyond the sheep field – and it was as we reached the slope beside the loch that he looked miserably down at his trainer-clad feet and said “yuck!” ;-) I myself had worn walking boots because dew-covered grass and trainers invariably mean wet feet! ;-) You’d think that with all his experience of the outdoors, Grahame would know that, wouldn’t you? ;-)

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