On Friday evening my mother and I collected my nephew and we drove for 45 minutes to a prospective evening site. We parked in a tiny car park and put on our wellies, sprayed ourselves with insect repellent, put on our sun hats and basically covered up as much flesh as possible.
Ben was surprised at how much birdsong seasoned the evening air as he opened the car door. This included Blackcap, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. We made our way through the paths I'd used in March and April, but this time the bracken had obscured the smaller paths. we didn't see much first, but as we walked on the main central path Ben spotted a buck Roe Deer staring in our direction. Not long after this we saw several Linnets, which had been coming down to drink from the many flooded area. I've never seen so much standing water at this location on previous visits. Luckily, we were forewarned.
Roe Deer Buck
We headed in a southerly direction, and then came across a confiding male Yellowhammer giving us a cool look over his shoulder. We reached the heath, which again was flooded. Here we found a female Adder hiding under some corrugated iron. Her eye had a faint milky look, which probably means she will soon be sloughing her skin. Not too far away we located a Woodlark perched high above us in a Scots Pine. Finally, it was time to tramp towards our final destination.
Underside of a Woodlark
We hadn't been waiting long before we saw a medium slow-moving bird heading towards us just over the height of all the pines - the first of more than 20 fly-pasts of a Woodcock. We waited here for well over an hour. As it got darker the Robins and Song Thrushes continued, until only the repetitive song of the Thrush remained. Before it died out completely some distant Tawny Owls hooted. Initially, all the Woodcock had been silent, but as the crepuscular twilight deepened then they began to make both their clicking and croaking sounds. Because this open area was so large these were the best and most prolonged views of Woodcock I've ever seen. However, their visits began to diminish as the twilight changed to dark. It was almost pitch black when I noticed something pale and ghostly to our left, which as it got nearer it became clear was a Barn Owl - the first I'd seen at this particular location. When it became too dark it was time to head back to the car, when the torches were essential to avoid the rampant dog mess which pollutes this particular location. It seems we were successful in this regard, as the only unpleasant scent which met us at the car were the Stinkhorns concealed amongst the trees.
Sunset through the Conifers
On Friday morning I had woken up at 4.30, and after the Woodcock trip I didn't arrive back until nearly midnight. The following morning there was no chance to sleep in, so I felt hung over all that morning. Natural larks really shouldn't try & be owls, it's not good for you!