Sunday, 28 June 2015

School moths

As word of my blog spread around the school where I work, more and more people bring me insects to identify, call me to look at things they've found, bring in things for my nature table or occasionally ask my advice about various wildlife dilemmas.

The latest intrigue has been two incredibly furry moths on the staff room windows, which my colleague and I think are pale tussocks. Unfortunately, I only had my phone with me for photographs and, as it was on a window, some have my reflection in too!

A student has also brought me a moth caterpillar recently, which we have kept and fed and is now a cocoon... We're looking forward to finding out what it might turn into.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

RSPB Minsmere #Springwatch

I haven't been to Minsmere in a long time, but since Springwatch was on, some friends and I decided to make the trip last weekend. It was so busy; great to see so many people out enjoying wildlife! Before I get started with what we saw where, here's a species list from my nature journal:

Our first sightings of the day were the many sand martins gliding to and fro from the sand bank where their young were snuggled in their nest holes. I lost count as were sitting in the cafe, fueling up before our long afternoon. After we had made our way round to look properly at this bank, we also noticed a large dragonfly in the pond next to the platform, which I tentatively identified as a four spotted chaser. I love dragonflies, but struggle to identify them, so I was very pleased when I later verified my initial id.

In the first hide we got to, we had wonderful views of young, long legged and large footed avocets patrolling the shore line of the small islands and skimming the surface. We watched the adult avocets aggressively chasing away other birds, even a befuddled barnacle goose who didn't seem to quite work out what was happening. A little egret also performed its stalking and fishing techniques right in front of the viewing window. There were black-tailed godwits a plenty and we heard the occasional explosion of a cetti's warbler around the reserve.

On our walk to the next hide, I was very excited to get views of both male and female bearded tits, despite the strong gusts of wind. They were keeping low, but were still visible from time to time, they were too quick for my camera though. Fantastic to see them, this is the first time I have had proper views of them, and only the second time I have seen them at all (the first was one week earlier at Lakenheath Fen). My next aim will have to be to photograph them in the wild! Also on our walk we came across a shallow stretch of water, where we could see male, female and the fry of stickleback, as well as males fanning their nests. The photo I took through water in bright sunlight isn't great, but hopefully is a token to 'Spineless Si' from Springwatch! On the same stretch of water, I spotted my second Odonata species of the day; a blue-tailed damselfly.

On another walk between hides, we also heard the calls of a young great-spotted woodpecker and were lucky enough to spot it with its head poking out of its tree hole nest. We also saw the adult visit and feed a couple of times too. Another bird that decided to be photogenic was a male chaffinch who appeared in very good condition and voice on a low branch above us.

After these two encounters, we acquainted ourselves with a reptilian, a tagged adder, protected by fencing and well camouflaged until it decided to move to a (perhaps) warmer spot.

At our final hide of the day, we saw more waders and a graceful mute swan with her four young cygnets. A very peaceful end to a packed afternoon of great wildlife. Thank you RSPB Minsmere, we'll certainly be back again!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

RSPB Lakenheath Fen

I've finally made it to this reserve, I'd heard so much about it, but had just never got around to going. I am so very glad we made the effort, we saw at least 27 different bird species, including some rather impressive ones (in my mind anyway).

Our jaunt around the reserve began with the sighting of a white throat, singing loudly and making himself obvious (for a welcome change). A beautiful little bird, I often hear but do not see these, and usually have even less of a chance to snap a photo of them! This one posed nicely.

Reaching our first viewpoint (New Fen), we were lucky enough to almost immediately spot a large oddly shaped bird flying low over the reeds, then landing quite suddenly. My first confirmed sighting of a bittern! Whilst we sat and watched, we were treated to views of a marsh harrier gliding over the pool and surrounding reed beds. This beautiful bird seemed to be looking for prey, but apparently wasn't finding anything worth trying for. The calls of house martins and swifts above were glorious and the insects had been brought low enough that the Hirundines and swifts swooped low enough that we could see the white rumps of the martins with ease and could marvel at their aerial agility.

We also spotted a lovely freshly emerged damselfly, which I am unable to identify. On our way to the next viewpoint, we spotted more white throats calling, displaying and often fighting off rivals amongst the reeds.

A family of coots (somebody else had thrown bread in before we arrived) awaited us at the Mere hide. There was little else to see here, except, most excitingly, a tantalising glimpse of a male bearded tit zipping across the pool and landing deeply in reeds so as not to be glimpsed again. This was one of my wildlife aims for the year - to see a wild bearded tit! The next mission will be to photograph one.

Next, we paid a visit to 'Joist Fen Viewpoint'. Here, I spotted three cuckoos calling and fighting; a real turn up for the books having not heard a single one so far this year. Another piece of excitement here was hearing the little bittern calling from deep within a reedbed. We did not wait to see it - some photographers had been waiting for hours to see the bird making that interesting booming / barking sound.

Walking back along the River Little Ouse, we spotted another first for me - a hobby. It was gliding and swooping, on the hunt for dragonflies. We even saw it catch and eat a dragonfly on the wing. Fantastic bird!

We had a lovely day at this reserve - I hope to visit again soon!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Fledglings on the feeders

I am a few blogs behind at the moment, but just wanted to share our recent fledgling invasion with these pictures of our green finches and starlings. It's interesting to watch the starlings, it almost seems as if they establish a 'pecking order' as soon as they land and begin squabbling over food. They've also got significantly more confident in the couple of weeks since I took these shots and are now fighting off the adults to get their share!