Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Break in the Clouds

What a difference a day makes. Unlike today, yesterday afternoon was fairly warm and sunny, although the northerly wind was a bit chill when you were in it. I decided to pop over to Tophill where I bumped into a chap who described things as “very quiet and disappointing”. Now my expectations may not be too high, but what I experienced after was really very satisfying, and should act as a good advert for Tophill Low as a reserve.

First of all, on the approach road I came across a pair of Grey Partridges. The hen was having a dust bath while her mate kept lookout. I don’t often see these birds up close, so it was really good to get some good views. Next I only just missed a Stoat as it crossed the road in front of my car. With a largish something in its mouth it had clearly had a successful hunt and was off to share the spoils with a litter of kitts.

Cock Grey Partridge

Cock and Hen

At the site entrance I then came across a Mistle Thrush teaching a fledgling how to fend for itself. Lovely, upright birds with so much character.

Mistle Thrush
Having parked, I concentrated on the north end of the reserve where I always manage to find something of interest. Usually it is the smaller birds that keep me entertained, and so it was yesterday. The woods were full of the song of Goldcrests, matched only by the noise of Long-Tailed Tits teaching the kids how to fend for themselves. North Marsh was full of the sound of Reed Warblers, with the odd bird making fleeting appearances. No sign of the Kingfisher, but then I didn’t stay for long.

Further on, and on one of the bales of straw strategically placed by Richard Hampshire, I came across a terrific Grass Snake, basking in the sunshine. It was very sluggish, I expect because the sun was only making passing appearances between the clouds, so I had plenty of time to take some photos. Interestingly after this one had warmed up and moved off, another poked its head out from another part of the straw bale. I guess that the cold cloudy weather has also been having a bad effect on these reptilian residents, so they are continuing to use the bales as refuges.

Grass Snake

Grass Snake

Grass Snake
Further on my walk I popped into the new hide. Not much to see given the stiff breeze, but on my exit I noticed that one of the bat boxes has been altered and taken over by a family of Blue Tits. Guessing from the noise and the size of the fellow at the improvised nest hole, it won’t be long before they fledge.

Blue Tit & family
The walk back to the car park was sunny and warm in the shelter from the wind. This had brought out a large number of insects and flies. To my delight, and having heard its high pitch “peep”, the Treecreeper made another appearance for me, scuttling up the pines and along one or two of the branches to find some of those flies brought out by the sun.

Just around the corner near the picnic tables, I noticed a small scurrying in the grass. Given its wee size it took a little while to spot the wanderer, but when I did I was surprised to find a Wood Mouse out in the open, and in mid afternoon. I had always thought of these little creatures as being nocturnal, so it was a real treat to come across one - other than those previously caught by pet cats!

Wood Mouse
Time for home, and as I drove away toward the farm what should cross the road some hundred yards ahead of me but one of the local foxes with at least one cub. The adult acted very much like a “lollipop man”, standing in the middle of the road while the youngster crossed. The adult followed on behind when the danger had been negotiated. No photos I’m afraid, but you can imagine the scene I’m sure.

So that was “very quiet and disappointing”? I was going to say that I would hate to see it when it is busy, but you know that wouldn’t be true.

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