Thunderous start to a beautiful day

As I pulled up outside the road entrance to Tern Hide this morning there was a flash of lightning followed almost immediately by a clap of thunder. Although it wasn’t raining at that point I very quickly unlocked the gate and the next one and in the short interval of time it took to do that and park up ready to open Tern Hide the heavens had opened. After dashing for the sanctuary of the hide I decided that there were unlikely to be any early visitors wishing access to the hides and car park over the road and therefore opted to sit it out and hope that it passed.

The rain really was very heavy and the poor birds did not look very happy at all! It was interesting to see how the different birds responded to the down-pour – the geese all sat/stood bolt upright, necks outstretched and facing into the rain (seemed a bit daft to me, but then I’m not sure that geese are thought to be one of the smarter birds…!), the great crested grebe adopted a neck outstretched, head down and just above the water low profile position  and the tufted duck spent as much time under the water as they possibly could, just emerging to take a quick snatch of air before diving for cover underwater again. Meanwhile the coot all seemed to be too busy bickering with each other to take much notice!

Tufted duck - the only one of several pictures where I was actually able to grab a shot between dives!

Tufted duck – the only one of several pictures where I was actually able to grab a shot between dives!

Unsurprisingly there were no grass snakes outside Ivy South Hide this morning, although they soon did show themselves later in the morning and lived up to current expectations for the rest of the day. What did catch my eye was what I could only assume was a black headed gull chick on one of the buoyancy aid rafts that have been put out as artificial nesting islands for birds like great crested grebe and coot. Not content with muscling in on the tern rafts several pairs have been apparently sitting on these smaller rafts but today was the first time that I had seen a chick – Blashford regular, birder and ringer Kevin Sayer, confirmed later that he had seen 3 chicks on one of the floats and 1 on another. Not sure how they’ll fare as they grow and wish to stretch their wings, but they seem to be doing surprisingly well so far!

Black headed gull and chick on one of the floats intended for grebes.

Black headed gull and chick on one of the floats intended for grebes.

Fortunately, for all it was very heavy, the storm passed over very quickly and the sun was out by mid-morning in time for the “Pond and River Dipping for Adults”. Unfortunately the weather does seem to have put people off as only half the people who had booked on actually attended, but it has to be said that those who did come were rewarded well for their effort – including a marvellous flyby by a kingfisher on our route down to the river. Juvenile bullhead, a minnow, freshwater shrimp, flatworms, caddisfly larvae, stonefly and mayfly nymph were all caught and identified:

Inspecting the river catch

Inspecting the river catch

Afterwards the pond revealed its secrets, with highlights including some very large dragonfly nymphs, lots of smooth and palmate newts and a couple of great diving beetles. For my part, I was astounded again by the number of swimming caddisfly larvae in the catch – for whatever reason they are having a remarkably good year in the centre pond this year and are “starring” frequently on the pond-cam at the moment. Also of particular note today was the sudden emergence of Daphnea (water fleas) which were absent when I last dipped the pond a week ago and which are now one of the most common, if not the most common, invertebrate in there.

Pond dipping

Pond dipping





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