A morning’s birdwatching trip to the Country Park.

davcpapril.jpgIt seems to have been a while since I went out with my scope, so I thought that I would make a trip to the local Country Park. My main reason for this trip was to see if the terns had returned.

The trip started well with some good views of a male blackcap singing away close to the entrance. I set my scope up to have a look at the water, but it was pretty empty, mainly inhabited by coot and great crested grebes. Still, undeterred I continued wandering round, hoping to get a glance of some vocal chiffchaffs, if nothing else. The woods were full of noisy great tits and strangely quiet blue tits, not to mention the ubiquitous wrens and robins, but other than that there wasn’t very much to be seen.

There is still a pair of gadwall hanging out in the mangrove swamp end of the park, and whilst I was stood perusing this end of the park I go some fantastic views of a pair of treecreepers.

By the time I got to the far side of the water I had tracked down the taunting chiffchaffs, and listened to a pair of male blackcaps challenge each other to a singing duel at the edge of their territories. I think they both claimed victory as they flew away in opposite directions. As I wandered to the dam I was rewarded with the site of a couple of terns cruising the water. At the visitor centre end of the water the male scaup was still very much in evidence whilst he and the other ducks were busy staying out of the way of about six mute swans who all seemed to think that they were head swan.

I think that I will pack away my scope for the next six months at the country park as most of the water birds seem to have moved on and it is the smaller birds that are reigning at the moment. Time to concentrate on improving my photography skills I think.
In addition to the 32 species of bird that I saw (not bad considering that the emerging canopy is making things a bit difficult) I saw some brimstone, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood and orange tip butterflies. Oh yes, and I had a lovely walk through a verdant wood on a warm spring morning, I can think of worse ways to spend a day.

Spring is definitely here.

This may seem a bit obvious, but I think that Spring has definitely arrived now. The birds are singing as well as fighting (it is the only time that I have seen a pair of blue tits working together to drive the greenfinches off the seed feeder – and the greenfinches were definitely afraid, very afraid), the blackthorn is flowering and the hawthorn is coming into leaf. However, as if to confirm my suspicions I saw butterflies along the old railway track. First of all a bright yellow Brimstone fluttered past, then I saw a Comma sat by the path, and some other Brimstones, and shortly later a Peacock butterfly, and another Brimstone butterfly. Here are some photos that I prepared earlier, well in my garden last year:
Peacock ButterflyComma Butterfly

Leef Peeping

Field MapleThis autumn has seen the trees clothed in exceptional colours. The reason for this is apparently the dry warm autumn days and cool nights that have made Northamptonshire resemble New England. I have noticed the number of field maples and wild cherries that are planted around the town this year, I know that they were here in other years, but they have never shouted so loudly before. According to some reports the autumn colour is a result of climate change, and we may be in for colourful autumns every year.

The colour is not however limited to just the maples and cherries. After putting on a show of golden leaves the hawthorn are swathed in red berries just waiting for the winter visitors to come and gorge themselves. As for those winter visitors, I have yet to see the redwings and fieldfares that many have reported, but maybe they will make themselves more obvious once the weather gets a bit chillier.

The lack of rain this year can also be seen by the levels to which the reservoir in the Country Park have dropped, allowing me to get views along the far bank that I would usually have only seen from under the water as I slowly drowned and my camera stopped working. This has also allowed large flocks of waders to gather on the shores alongside the teal and wigeon.

Just in case you were wondering, leef peeping is the name given to the tree equivalent of twitchers. There are special hotlines and websites (mainly in America) for people to send in their sitings of trees showing good colour so others can go and view them.

Dogs and their owners

I decided today to go for a walk around the Country Park. This is something that I am wary of doing on a Sunday because of the vast number of dogs that seem to be literally unleashed upon the world. However, as today was a bit soggy I thought I would take a chance, and I was by and large proved right.

However, as is the case nine times out of ten the people walking the dogs decided that as they were not near a road they did not need to put their dogs on a lead. Why not, I really don’t understand? If they want their dogs to roam free, let them do it in their back garden.
I personally resent having someone’s pointy toothed, slobbering dog coming bounding up to me (and I, unlike many people, am not particularly afraid of dogs), but more than that, this is a country park, there is a lot of wildlife about, and uncontrolled dogs and wildlife do not mix.

On a similar theme, my other question is, why do so many dog owners drive somewhere to take their dogs for a walk. I tend to walk wherever I can, I like the exercise, I usually find it relaxing, and it is more environmentally friendly. However, nearly every day I see people getting out of their cars, letting the dog out of the back so it can have a run round and annoy me and the wildlife. What happened to taking the dog for a walk, when did people start taking their dog for a drive?

Reflections on a day at Brandon Marsh nature reserve

Brandon Marsh - Oct 2006Today I decided to have a day out at Brandon Marsh on the edge of Coventry. This is a reserve that I like to visit occassionally, just because it is a nice place to go (despite having to get in the car to get there). I was perhaps hopeful that I would see the osprey that seems to have been mentioned on the bird sitings page of the Brandon Marsh for the last few weeks. Needless to say that I did not see the elusive bird. However, what I sometimes like about birdwatching is looking at the more common birds up close and the behaviour that they exhibit. I could never be a twitcher, imagine rushing up and down the country to see something that could fly away at any moment – how much pollution would I cause doing that.

So, what did I see, mainly lots of ducks (including the grey and brown, but incredibly beautiful Gadwall), lots of lapwing and jays, and also (sorry Nick I know that you have always wanted to see one) at least six sitings of kingfishers.

But, thanks to a very nice man in one of the hides who owned a spotting scope, I also saw snipe for the first time ever. I will be eternally grateful to him, especially for his stories about how he seems to be the last person to see the birds in the sitings book, despite being there on the same day!! I am not the only one that this happens to then!! (Someone allegedly saw the Osprey about 5 minutes after I left the East Marsh hide.)

Is it usual to have butterflies in the middle of October?

I have been holiday from work for the past few days and so have spent some time looking around. One thing that I noticed, and I am not sure if is unusal for this time of year is the number of red admiral butterflies still around. I know that they are attracted to the ivy flowering in my neighbours garden (as mentioned on Autumnwatch – the attraction of butterflies to ivy flowers that is, not my neighbour’s garden), but it is the middle of October.

Is this something that is usual, or is it in part due to the very warm weather we are having at the moment?

Whatever the reason, these butterflies are definitely a welcome site on a sunny October morning. Perhaps we should all follow Bill Oddie’s lead and plant some more ivy!