Saturday, 18 May 2013

We'll be Back!

 Friday saw the final visit of the year to Tuesdays location. Tuesday's photos can be seen here

The weather wasn't as good as Tuesday, but the wildlife may have been even better. Everyone arrived well ahead of time, so we started early, and it was fortuitous we did, as we'd stopped to look at some Common Terns when Andy noticed some unusual behaviour among some Black-headed Gulls. They seemed to be trying to indulge in a little kleptoparasitism towards what he thought may have been a grebe. We switched our attention & when the creature eventually resurfaced we could see it wasn't a bird at all, but was the head of a mammal. When it dived again it was followed by its tail, we were watching an Otter! This was the first Otter any of the groups has really seen in full daylight, apart from a pathetic distant view at Blacktoft Sands some years ago. If we hadn't started 10 minutes early by the time we got to our vantage point the Otter would have gone into the reeds, and we'd have missed the highlight of the day, if not of this term, or even of 2013 so far!
Otter - but pic taken at Tophill 2 years ago
A few minutes later some alarm calls emanating from a woodland drew our attention, and suddenly a silent Cuckoo burst out of cover. The group already seemed in seventh heaven with that earlier mammalian sighting, and the venue, but great things were still to come. We were sat in Duck hide when suddenly a small raptor swept in from the left. It attempted to catch a Sand Martin without success, and as it did so it performed several wonder aerobatic manoeuvres. Within a couple of minutes it disappeared, never to be seen again. The Swifts and hirundunes had all moved higher up into the air after the attack, and it was to be some time before they returned to taking insects from near the water's surface. 
Hobby - at nearby Thorne Moors
We checked up on the Treecreeper, and sure enough it was still feeding its nestlings in the decrepit birch stump. However, the Long-tailed Tit nest built in a foolish open location had been raided. The entrance was strewn with a multitude of Mallard feathers, which the predator had removed in its frenzy to steal the contents of the nest.
 Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Andy Leonard 
 Greylag Geese - a larger family than we saw
(c) 2013 Andy Leonard 
 Sedge Warbler - outnumbered 10 to 1 by Reed Warblers
(c) 2013 Andy Leonard 

Val was able to deploy her botanical ID skills. She was able to confirm the ID of the Bog Bean, put a name to the Water Crows-foot & after consulting her books confirm that the delicate heathland plant protected by chicken wire mesh was almost certainly the scarce Petty Whin.
Water Crows-feet (c) 2013 Andy Leonard 
 Bog Bean (c) 2013 Andy Leonard 
 Mute Swans (c) 2013 Jeny Clarkson

Most of the rest of the visit was extremely similar to previous trips, although the mole sauntering along one of the main paths in the afternoon was unexpected, but memorable. In summary it was a day bookended by 2 rarely seen Mammals: an Otter and a Mole.

Mole (c) 2013 Jeny Clarkson
 Mole (c) 2013 Jeny Clarkson
Caroline & Andy went on to North Cave Wetlands, where the highlights included Lesser Black Backed Gulls scoffing Black-headed Gull chicks!

Today's main location, which more 90 people on the course had never visited before, has proved so universally popular that we'll definitely be visiting again. We may be returning to see winter ducks, but we'd also like to revisit in decent spring weather too! Let's hope the weather next May will be a lot kinder to us!  

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