Friday, 3 July 2015

Drama Down At The Farm

Abbey Farm, Flictcham, Norfolk – Friday 26th June 2015 

View From The Hide At Abbey Farm, Flitcham, Norfolk

We left home at 4.20pm it was overcast and still and the temperature was 22˚C. On our way we saw a Kestrel and we arrived at Abbey Farm at 5.05pm when we had several light rain showers. 

I think we always look forward to a visit to Abbey Farm as almost anything can turn up there. When we checked the visitors book it was good to see that the Kingfishers were making regular appearances again. After their nesting bank collapsed last year they have only been seen occasionally. 

It looks as if the Little Owls have had 2 Owlets this year and we got to see one of them today. They are a bit difficult to spot because their favourite roosting place is in the tree roots but this is covered by a high bank of Nettles in front of it but today we got some clear views of 2 Little Owls in unusual places. 

We'd Never Seen A Little Owl In This Position Before

We saw Oystercatchers with a chick but sadly the chick appears to have a problem with it’s left leg or foot as it was limping badly and toppled over several times and although it was feeding well you have to wonder what the future holds for this chick. Oystercatchers are good parents but until the chick is able to fly it is very vulnerable and especially here at Abbey Farm as there are many predators both avian and mammalian. 

The main drama occurred with a Lapwing and a chick. Again Lapwings are very good and brave parents willing to defend their chicks against any predators but less than 40% of their chicks make it to adulthood. We saw the parent bird fend off a few attacks by Jackdaws but the high drama was caused by something much bigger that the adult bird could do nothing about. 

There was a small herd of grazing Cows with their calves probably about 15-20 of them. They are very necessary at Abbey Farm not only as a living crop for the Farmer but also to keep this particular pasture suitable for all the birds that use it. We always enjoy watching the cattle especially the calves as they are quite inquisitive and today we saw one of them very interested in a Little Egret. He obviously wanted to know what it was and however much the Little Egret moved away from the calf it was determined that he was going to get at least a sniff of, if not a lick of it. 

Hey! Who Are You Calling Duck?

The herd were slowly moving around the pasture until they got to where the Lapwing and the chick were looking for insects in the grass but as they approached some of the calves broke into a trot and very quickly the adult bird and the chick were separated. Normally this isn’t a problem as the chicks usually stop and sit tight at any danger but this time probably wasn’t the right time to do it. I could see the chick amongst the hooves of the cattle and they then started to lie down. The immediate thought was that one of the cattle might lie on the chick and for the next hour or so we saw the adult bird searching for the chick. 

The adult Lapwing eventually moved away from the cattle and we thought all was lost but then miraculously the chick appeared down by the edge of a pool the only problem now was that it was in the open and the adult bird was quite a way from it but eventually they were re-united so at least this time there was a reprieve for the chick. Of course the cattle were completely oblivious to the drama they caused and quite happily carried on chewing the cud. We would never know what the calf thought about the Little Egret though. 

We made our way home down the lane that runs alongside Abbey Farm and when we stopped to have a look at a Hare on one of the Farm Tracks a Buzzard sort of half flew, half fell out of a hedge and ran into another hedge. I could see that it didn’t have all it’s primary flight feathers so I presumed that this was young Buzzard that had recently fledged. On our way home we saw another two Kestrels and Little Owl perched on telegraph poles.

Song Thrush

What we saw:

3 Little Owls
Moorhen & 2 chicks**
Mallard & 3 ducklings**
Coot & chicks**
Lapwing & chick
Teal (2 pairs)
Oystercatcher & chick**
Egyptian Goose
Little Egret
Black-headed Gull
Stock Dove**
Blackcap (heard only)
Song Thrush
Tufted Duck (2 pairs)
4 Kestrel
Juvenile Buzzard

3 Hare

*   = Too mant to count
** = Several

Keep your eyes peeled and good spotting.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Murder At The WWT – Who Dunnit?

 WWT Welney – Thursday 25th June 2015

One Deceased Heron

We left home at 9.35am. It was hazy sunshine with a light breeze and the temperature was 20˚C. On the way to Welney we saw two road casualties, a dead Fox and a Badger. I always feel very sad when I see these poor creatures, life is very tough in the wild even without adding the dangers of crossing busy roads.

After arriving at WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) Welney at 10.40am we picked up the mobility scooter and had a coffee on the veranda overlooking Lady Fen. There was a lot of activity there and while we were sitting there a Marsh Harrier came over and then very shortly afterwards a Red Kite was mobbed by Lapwings as it tried to snaffle a chick.

View From The Visitor Centre Across Lady Fen

Pied Wagtail Fledglings

As we entered the reserve on the bridge over the New Bedford River something caught my eye in the river it was a large wake going upstream but I couldn’t see a head, whatever was causing it was submerged. After a little while it disappeared and I assumed that whatever it was had got out of the river out of our sight. After about 5 minutes or so the wake re-appeared but nearer the further bridge. Jan also saw it and we assumed it was either an Otter swimming just beneath the surface or a large Pike swimming near the surface but more about that later.

House Martin Nest

On the bridge we saw several Pied Wagtail fledglings which didn’t fly off as we approached them. We made our way into the right hide of the main observatory and we noticed three things quite quickly. The first that there were Swallows flying up and down the hide. The second was a House Martin’s nest right in front of us where the parents were still busily building up the entrance to the nest even though we could see there were chicks inside. The third was a mystery, it was dead Heron on the far bank of the pool. At first sight there didn’t appear any injuries on the bird and it looked intact only lying flat on it’s back. That started us thinking what may have caused it but without having a close look at the bird we would never know for sure. Our best theory was that it may have died from old age, choking or after hitting something but it was just pure speculation.

Family Of Gadwall

We also saw a Greenshank from this hide. We quickly found out why the Swallows were coming in and out of the hide, there were two nests in the hide, one at each end. The one near the entrance to the main observatory was being filmed by a CCTV camera but Jan also got some footage of it but as usual I am way behind with my editing duties. The other nest was at the other end of the hide and I actually saw one of the chicks fledge. It didn’t go very far just from the nest to the other side of the hide and it quickly went back again.

Swallow Nest & Chicks (Above)

Dragonfly Ponds

Emerald Damselfly

Zebra Spider

By the time we got to the Dragonfly Ponds the temperature had risen a few degrees. There was very little activity so we decided to have our picnic lunch there. As we sat there having our lunch we did see a few interesting insects; an Emerald Damselfly, a Zebra Spider and, as yet, unidentified Hoverfly or Horsefly. The flies were particularly interesting because they seemed to be doing some sort of mating dance which was a mixture of a circular waggle and buzzing their wings.

It was here that we met one of the volunteer workers who may have thrown a bit of light on the wake we saw as he told us that over the last few weeks a Seal had been seen up at Welney. Immediately I remembered the wake we had seen caused by the Grey Seal on the Isle of Mull in November and then it made more sense. Another topic of conversation was the lack of Butterflies and Dragonflies we had seen and put this down to the recent chilly nights which have been most unseasonable.

Snout Moth

After leaving the Dragonfly ponds the heat was now getting a bit oppressive and I could see Jan was beginning to suffer. It was actually quite nice to get in the hides and once the windows were open a nice cooling breeze could be felt.

As we made our way to the other end of the reserve we did begin to see Butterflies and Dragonflies. We saw a Red Admiral taking sustenance from a leaf, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Wood White and a Painted Lady who after coming all the way from North Africa was pursued and eaten by a Chaffinch, it’s a tough world! We also saw 4 Spotted Chaser Dragonflies and 2 Emperor Dragonflies from the last hide we visited, the Lyle Hide.

Four Spotted Chasers

Unidentified Day Flying Moth

Again we saw plenty of Funnel webs and Jan did see one of the Spiders. These are not made by Funnel Web Spiders which, thankfully live on the other side of the world in Australia but by Labyrinth Spiders which are in no way dangerous to people.

4 Spotted Chaser

Sedge Warbler

In this particular Hide we also got some good views of a Sedge and Reed Warbler. There was a Pied Wagtail nest in this hide as well. Of course we had dawdled all the way to the hide but “what is life if you can’t stop and stare.” We had to dash back to the Visitor Centre to get the mobility scooter back before it closed at 5pm. 

4 Spotted Chaser

In the pool by the entrance to the Visitor Centre we saw 3 tiny ducklings that were apparently unattended although I’m sure their mother was around somewhere and although they looked cute one wondered what the future held for them.

Mute Swan

Unidentified Day Flying Moth

Common Blue Damselfly

Spiderlings Waiting To Leave The Nest

Although we were relatively early away from Welney we did make a few stops on our way home. We stopped on the way to Swaffham at a ride on the Brandon Road where we saw some Butterflies at the top of the trees but unfortunately they were moving far too fast for us to identify them and also a Crab Spider.

Crab Spider

We made another stop on the cut through road between The Brandon and Watton Road where we saw some Swallow fledglings being fed on the wing. Our last stop was by the Range Gates in Smuggler’s Road where we saw 2 Hares, a Jay, 3 Linnets, Wren, Curlew and several Skylarks.

Making our way home through Little Cressingham and Threxton in the hope of seeing an Owl we saw a Hare and several Red Legged Partridges but no Owls. It had been a lovely day and it is always nice with the aid of the mobility scooter to get to parts of the reserve that I normally can’t get to although I think Jan felt the heat a bit.

What we saw:

Black-headed Gulls*
Little Egret**
7 Heron
Moorhen & 2 chicks
Marsh Harrier
Mallard & ducklings
Reed Bunting
Red Kite
House Martin*
Mute Swan**
Whooper Swan**
Lesser Black-backed Gull**
Wood Pigeon*
Common Tern
Pied Wagtail** & fledglings
2 Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
3 Linnet
2 Curlew
Red Legged Partridge**

2 Hares

Red Admiral
Painted Lady
Small Tortoiseshell
Snout Moth
2 unidentified Moths
Common Crab Spider
Labyyrinth Spider Webs (Funnel webs)
Emerald Damselfly
4 Spotted Chaser**
2 Emperor Dragonfly
Zebra Spider
1 unidentified Hoverfly/Horsefly

*   = Too mant to count
** = Several

Keep your eyes peeled and good spotting.