Early birds…

Over the weekend ten super keen Young Naturalists enjoyed a night on the reserve in order to appreciate the dawn chorus at it’s best.

To avoid any ridiculously early drop offs by parents, we met at the Education Centre at 7pm on Saturday night then headed straight over to Tern Hide in the hope of a glimpse of the lapwing chick before it got too dark. We had to wait a while but got lucky!

Lapwing chick by Talia Felstead resized

Lapwing chick by Talia Felstead

In the fading light, we also spotted Lapwing, Greylag geese with three goslings, Redshank and a Pied wagtail.

We then headed up to Goosander and Lapwing hides in search of deer, getting out the bat detectors for the walk back and picking up lots of Soprano and Common pipistrelles. The bats put on a great show!

It was then time to head back to the Centre for a drink and a snack and to make ourselves comfortable for the night, picking our spots on the Education Centre floor. Whilst getting ready for a night in the classroom, we looked at the footage picked up on the trail cam we had put out at last month’s Young Naturalists session in the hope of a glimpse of some of the reserve’s more secretive wildlife.

Rather excitingly the trail cam revealed images of badgers and deer along with videos of badgers, deer and a fox.

Badger 1

Badger!

deer 1

Deer

After setting the alarm for 4am, we attempted to get some sleep!

In the morning we were joined incredibly bright and early at 4.30am by Bob and volunteer Liz, who had declined the offer to join us overnight but were still happy to be here super early. After a cup of tea and a snack we headed outside at about 4.45am to enjoy the dawn chorus at its best.

Our early bird of the morning was the robin, who we heard just outside the Centre. We then headed towards Ivy North hide before following the path round to the Woodland hide then Ivy South hide, crossing the river and following the path along the Dockens to our river dipping bridge then back to the Centre. Unfortunately it was a bit windy but we still heard 19 species of bird, with Bob’s expert help, and the crescendo of bird song was fabulous.

Our 19 species of bird were heard in the following order: robin, wood pigeon, blackbird, Canada goose, song thrush, wren, blackcap, reed warbler, garden warbler, Cetti’s warbler, chiffchaff, black-headed gull, Egyptian goose, mallard, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, jackdaw and goldcrest.

Group on dawn chorus walk resized

A very early dawn chorus walk! We are excited, just a little sleepy…

We then had a look in the light trap which revealed two May highflyers, a Great prominent, a Sharp angled peacock, two Hebrew characters, three Flame shoulders, a Pale tussock and a Common quaker. We also saw a Brimstone moth fly past.

It was then time for second breakfast, so we got the fire going and tucked into our sausage and bacon rolls.

After tidying away from breakfast we headed back over to Tern hide to see if we could spot the Lapwing chick in a better light. Unfortunately luck was not on our side this time, but we did see a black tern, bar tailed godwit, ringed plover, little ringed plover, redshank, black-headed gull, Egyptian geese, greylag geese, tufted duck, coot, pied wagtail, common tern, lapwing, swallows, cormorant and both house and sand martins.

Whilst waiting for the parents to arrive we had time to pond dip at the Centre, catching a newt (the kingfisher hasn’t eaten all of them!) and a brilliant great diving beetle:

Thank you to volunteers Geoff, Emily and Harry for joining us for a night on the Education Centre floor in preparation for our brilliant dawn chorus experience, to Liz for joining us in the morning and to Bob for coming in to lead the walk with his wealth of bird song knowledge.

Thanks too to the Young Naturalists eager for such an early start – Lysander, Megan C, Megan Y, Talia, James, Cameron, Poppy, Ben, Will H and Jodie, we hope you all enjoyed it and have managed to catch up on some sleep…

Our Young Naturalists group is kindly supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

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April showers…

Typical weather for the time of the year today… at last! Quite a cold wind made it feel a bit fresh even in the sunshine and though there was plenty of that there were some fairly dramatic showers too!

The following two pictures were taken of the north shore of Ivy Lake, the first from the southern screen along the Ivy/Rockford path and the second 5 minutes later from the northern screen on the same path:

130427Blashford3 by J Day_resize130427Blashford4 by J Day_resize

This same cooler weather meant that our moth light was not particularly successful – with just one hebrew character to show for it:

130427Blashford7 by J Day_resize

This morning I was busy leading the second part of a “Tracks, traps and signs” session which was begun last night with a short talk, bat walk, and setting and deployment of some Longworth small mammal traps. Somewhat surprisingly considering the coolness of the evening and lack of insects, we did record a small number of bats with the bat detectors – I’m not confident of what particular species they were but think that there were at least some pipistrelle, but suspect that there was at least one other species as well. It may be a sign of just how hungry they are in the unusually cold and late spring that they were out feeding at all in les than ideal conditions for them. Sarah Bignell, one of the Trusts ecologists is booked in to do 3 surveys this summer (when hopefully conditions will have improved!) and we look forward to finding out more about our bat population then. 

Nor were the mammal traps particularly successful: out of 16 traps (including two back up “fail safes” in the loft and one in the compost bin!) we only caught one small mammal, but one was better than none!

Preparing the trap:

130427Blashford1 by J Day_resize

One young female woodmouse (and proud captor Theo)!

130427Blashford5 by J Day_resize

The release!

130427Blashford6 by J Day_resize

Other news from the reserve include a sighting of a spotted redshank from Tern Hide on Thursday, at least a couple of whimbrel Thursday and Friday. Around the Woodland Hide and other feeders there are still siskin, redpoll (including some very handsome males now) and even the odd brambling still.

The most notable bird for me today however was willow warbler whose distinctive cascading song stood out from the rest of the bird song wherever I was on the reserve throughout the day, lovely!