Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Catching up with Tophill

The forecast was appalling for Thursday, so we switched to Tophill Low. Before everyone arrived an immature Great Spotted Woodpecker landed in a tree near the old visitor centre & then various young and adults flew around for 30 mins or so. It started raining virtually as soon as we set off, so we visited North Lagoon hide first to escape the downpour. There were 4 drake Pochard here, as well as a female Shelduck, and a pair of Tufted Ducks. Whilst we were in the hide we were serenaded by a Sedge Warbler from the river bank opposite.
Bee Orchid
As we continued along the road we were intrigued by some strange growling noises from the reedbed near the road. The sound was a little like a Tufted Duck in flight, but louder. We popped into the strange ramped hide to try & connect with it. There were other Tufted Ducks to see whilst the noise continued from the reeds, a party of 3 Reed Warblers, and a whole family of Blue Tits too impatient for the male to pluck insects for them from the reed heads. The strange sound may have been a Tufted Duck growling from deep within the reeds. 
Little Grebe
South Lagoon hide provided a Little Grebe, 2 drake Tufted Ducks and a female. The screen over O Reservoir resulted in even more Tufted Ducks. We travelled all the way round to the back to back hides, but the only overlooking SMW was devoid of birds, as it had been drained, the other overlooking SMW was a different story.  We found one Bee Orchid next to a marker, but then in the afternoon a botanist on the group found another 4 unmarked specimens. 
Mute Swans
 Mute Swan
 The female Marsh Harrier was seen a couple of times, as she went out hunting or brought back food. The chicks hatched on 15th June, so she needs to keep them well fed. While we were waiting for the Harrier, 4 times an explosive song rocketed from a bush close to the hide. This was a Cetti's Warbler, which has been seen recently removing faecal sacs. We didn't see the bird, but its amazingly loud song ensured that 8 jaws at a time were hanging pretty loose. We could also hear a Lesser Whitethroat here, and we had a brief glimpse of it later, as it flew around the back of a bush. A female Grass Snake was sunning herself on a grass pile, but she licked the air, smelt us, uncoiled herself and disappeared into her tunnel. She remained a little longer for the pm group, and I think everyone managed to see her before she repeated her disappearing act from the morning.
 Is it a Bird?  Is it a Hare?  Is it a Fox?...
 No, it's a female Roe Deer
 Roe Deer
The L-shaped hide resulted in a couple of Reed Warblers, whilst there were some wildfowl on the island, plus Gadwall & Mute Swans on the water. However the highlight was found by Claire. She saw something brown moving in the long grass. At first it wasn't possible to tell if it was a female Mallard, but then some ears, came into view. Was it a Fox? or a Hare? Then a large head appeared, and finally the body and long legs - it was a Roe Deer. 
Female Grass Snake
 Little Ringed Plover
Little Gull, Wigeon, and moulting other duck species, 2 Herons and at least 3 Cormorants were seen at Watton Borrow Pits, whilst another Lesser Whitethroat could be heard singing in the distance. A Peregrine was sat on a pylon, but to the frustration of the am group it seemed immovable, so they queried its reality. The pm group could have told them, as it had completely vanished when they arrived.  
Alleged Peregrine Falcon
 Bee Orchid
 Dryad's Saddle
 Mayfly Species?
 Silver-Y Moth
 Nearly Redundant
In the afternoon we popped in at SME hide to see the Little Ringed Plover in her safety cage. The forecast was completely out of kilter, as it didn't rain once in the afternoon, and although at least one person was bitterly disappointed we didn't go to our original location, we saw many more bird species than we would have seen on the peat lands. Birding becomes ever more difficult in June, but there was plenty of birds, orchids, a snake, a mammal and several insects to see to make the 2 hours fly by. 

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