Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Weekend Walking, Watching, Waiting and Wading

25th Aug.  Sunday saw Sam and me making a trip to Gosforth Park Nature reserve with the intention of moving onto another area afterwards.  As the weather improved and the temperature rose we did our usual lap of the reserve passing only one other person until we reached the hides where we briefly met another two.  Peace and quiet is one of the things very much in the reserves favour.  It also gives us opportunity to exercise our wider naturalist interests with little to no disturbance and there aren’t many local spots where this is possible these days.  Having said that there is one drawback in the reserve during summer, especially after rain, and that is the damn Mosquitoes.  I managed to get my insect repellent on quickly, as my allergy makes sure I lose no time.  Sam isn’t usually bothered by insect bites, but he paid the price of being a bit slower with the repellent.

We saw little in the way of birds until we reached the hide, but we noted numerous Speckled Wood and Wall Brown Butterflies and a single Small Copper Butterfly as well as the White species.  All very flighty, so no photographs were possible, but we did manage some macro photography of other inhabitants.  The only real birding interest of more for a while was listening to a Common Tern apparently being chased by a Sparrowhawk.  A Grey Squirrel was seen at the same time (record left at the reserve), as we heard what was thought to be a Roe Deer disappearing into the woods.

One of many small young frogs (I only have eyes for you)

Common Green Grasshopper I believe

A mug for the 'Ugly Bugs Ball'.  This one is courtesy of Samuel Hood, Under the Hood Photography

The first hide we entered didn’t keep us long as the Mosquitoes had taken over this area.  We headed for the second hide not realising just how long we would stay there.  The sun was up now, we had the hide to ourselves and we had hopes of the Kingfisher visiting.  Any thoughts of moving on were dismissed.  Now I would have argued until recently that watching from a hide is not my favourite form of watching nature.  I think the truth is it is hides where there is constant chat from numbers of users that I don’t like, so as we were by ourselves most of the time I really enjoyed the afternoon vigil.  Having spent quite a number of hours in the hides recently at the reserve, Holywell, Cresswell and the Tower Hide I think I have to confess I’m getting a liking for it.  I also think I’m more laid back these days and not one for chasing all over the place in the pursuit of species.  The Kingfisher never did call by so we enjoyed what was on offer which included numerous fly bys from the Sparrowhawks.  Judging from size when two were in the air together there must be a family of them in the reserve.  The female was seen but when two were in the air together they were of the same size.  We also watched as one of the Sparrowhawks seemed to be almost enjoying annoying the over head Common Buzzard.  All afternoon we had the calls from what I think was at least two adult Water Rails and possibly juveniles, at times very close to the hide.  Two Southern Hawker Dragonflies teased us as they hawked right in front of our eyes, but at no time settled.   A Common Darter Dragonfly did settle.  Other birds seen included Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Common Tern, Wigeon and Teal.  The Mute Swan family entertained with a balancing act on the small floating island as did the Moorhen perched where we had hoped for a Kingfisher.  We left the reserve early evening, relaxed and content.

26th Aug.  We headed to Holywell Pond at lunchtime hoping to reach St Mary’s Island at least a couple of hours before high tide.


 The single Greenshank at the pond gave us an excellent sighting in good light as did the very attractively marked Lapwings.  Eighty-five Greylag Geese and circa fifty Canada Geese were close by.  The Lapwings lifted from time to time and the geese eventually took to the water.  As yesterday, we watched a Common Buzzard flying with a Sparrowhawk.  Eventually two Common Buzzards were seen flying together and occasionally mewing calls could be heard.  Swallows and House Martins were hunting over the pond and other birds seen included Little Grebes in number, Grey Heron, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and gulls including Lesser Black Backed.

Greenshank with Lapwing

A Grey heron makes its usual appearance

  Wall Brown and Speckled Wood Butterflies were with us from the outset today, especially the latter species.  Phil Gates comments on Speckled Wood Butterflies on his excellent blog here http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/reason-to-be-cheerful.html#comment-form
I’ve read a little more about the Speckled Wood Butterfly and it seems to me that it was far more common as north as Scotland in the past but then became restricted to small areas from which it is now spreading from once again.  I also seem to remember that it was found in North Northumberland long before it appeared in North Tyneside.  Anyway, this does underline the need to protect small areas and populations and not just assume that remaining populations, no matter how small, will become extinct.   We need to protect what we have for when times change.  A lesson which perhaps many do not take on board.

Holywell Dene provided little excitement on the bird front and I have to say that this year we have found little in the way of odonata in this area.  We did find Common Hawker, Common Darter and Common Blue Damselfly today.  As yesterday, we added Small Copper to the butterfly list and once down at the coast Peacock Butterfly was added.

Small Copper Butterfly
Once down at the coast we found little in the way of movement over the sea, but we did find plenty of waders.  Our lone Greenshank and flock of Lapwings were joined on the list by Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, a lone Grey Plover (very well spotted by Sam behind a flock of many hundred Golden Plovers), Ringed Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew.  We ended the day watching the tide bring in a few Sandwich Terns and also watched as the Golden Plovers were forced of the islands in North Bay and flew into South Bay in small flocks.  Little beats watching large flocks of waders, especially Golden Plovers in good light.  A few of these birds still retained much of their summer plumage and one in particular stood out from the flock of hundreds.  Just before we left we bumped into a group of birders including AS, BD and MF obviously out on a Bank Holiday jaunt!  The atmosphere was better now that many of the Bank Holiday crowds had gone.  I have to say it had been a wonderfully sunny and warm day without cloud.  We were both tired by now so decided to make for home once again more than content with our lot.

Juvenile and adult Common Tern on patch
27th Aug.  I hadn’t intended going anywhere today having been hard at work in the garden where incidentally I found two Speckled Wood Butterflies.  I was about to put my feet up after a job well done when Sam informed me he had found a patch tick in Yellow Wagtail.  I was up and out quickly as this would be a patch tick for me too.  Unfortunately a search by us failed to re-find the bird, but it was a very nice find for Sam.  I can’t feel envious……..or well, maybe just a bit!  At least I did find the Little Grebe and was able to watch the four now well grown Great Crested Grebe juveniles.  One of them was being fed a rather large fish by the male adult.  The juveniles seem far more independent, but still sticking close to the nest site.  Large mixed flocks of gulls flew high over the lake.  An adult and juvenile Common Tern allowed a close approach on the edge of the lake.

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