Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spooky Translucence and the Superficial Thaw...

I've pretty much given up adding any further goodies to the year list tbh but the inevitable pull of the patch struck again this morning and with everyone away in Chester shopping (wtf!) I figured why not head out and a spend a couple hours 'in the nature'. Things have been so iced up and bird-bare of late that I was curious to see what was back, now that the thaw had seemingly set in. SO, I skipped brekky and still uber-fueled by the turkey 'n' trimmings of last weekend, wiped down the windows on the wee silver midget (the jets are still frozen) and scootled off to the patch.

The first 'surprise' of the morning was the amount of ice still about on the road to the swing bridge. I actually skidded to a stop by the Angler's Pool. No Little Owl today on the barn, just a fluffed up Kestrel on the old barn owl box and one or two Redwing in the horse paddocks. The Angler's Pool itself was devoid of birds. The thaw had melted the snow but not the underlying ice and so the melt water just lay there on the surface in shallow blue-grey puddles.

This bode less well than I'd hoped. Chances were if this pool was still iced the others would be too. I flicked the car back on to the road, hit a right by the empty car park and headed for the east end of the reserve. The slippiness of the track past the warehouses and the polished grey of Birchwood Pool as I drove past confirmed the shallowness of the thaw. But there were birds. A small group of gulls on the ice by the small island. Something to check out later - just in case there's an Iceland Gull among them. Predictably the first birds that swooped across the track en route to the reedbed were Jays. They looked drabber today without the snowy backdrop. Between Millbrook Pool and the Eastern Reedbed there was still loose snow on the track which made the driving easier. Parked up, and after about 10 seconds of comedy legs as I got out of the car slipped immediately, grabbed the roof and flailed like mad to get upright again, I was off to the reedbed.

No birds. Same as the other ponds - only partly thawed. The surface was an eerie translucent grey.I almost expected to suddenly see a face pressed up against it - trapped beneath the ice. Spooky... but oddly beuatiful in its own frosty kinda way. Anyway, birds... as I said. None on the pool, BUT did get a couple of Skylark over calling. This was actually to become a bit of a theme-let of the morning's sesh... every so often a Skylark would go over - calling. They all seemed to be heading ENE ish. Must have noted 8 or 9 whilst I was out and about.

Millbrook Pool had 3 Teal, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Magpie and 1 Carrion Crow. Time to move west. Flushed a Woodcock again on the way back to the car. This time it was feeding on the Millbrook Pool side of the track. Last time I'd flushed it from the reedbed side opposite. Cracking bird.

Pumphouse Pool - 1 Grey Heron. That was it. Clearly the pools were going to be a dead loss today. They need a few more days of mild weather. Maybe I'll get a chance to hit them again Friday to cap the year. Fingers crossed. Had difficulty pulling away outside the east hide.. the ice was thick there.  Finally managed it AND a three point turn, which was a miracle. It was like driving a Zamboni! Decided to hit Birchwood Pool from the west, rather than through Birch Wood itself. That way there'd be less chance of getting stuck and I'd get to check Lapwing Lake and the Tawny roost on my way. Actually parked in the car park today (which I very rarely do) and was pleased to get a sprinlikng of small stuff as I togged up with another couple of layers; a couple of Nuthatch, small flock of Goldfinch, Blue Tits, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker - not GREATER spotted woodpecker as they keep saying on the telly... "I had a Greater Spotted Woodpecker in garden the other day". Fuck off! It's Great Spotted!! Aaarrg!!! Bah Humbug... Calm... Calm... Rant over. OR... we could digress to shopping queues? No! Focus! This is a BIRD blog!

SO, off I set on foot along Lapwing Lane. The going on was VERY slow. The only was to get from one end to the other was along the leafy margins. The road itself was waaaay too glassy for any kind of traction even with my clompy black Berghaus boots, so instead I shuffled along the verge to the hide overlooking Lapwing Lake. No birds there either, just another expanse of misty grey ice.

The section of Lapwing Lane between the hide and the path to the Tawny roost yielded nothing new except a few Siskin and the incessant cackles of Jackdaws - the most abundant bird on the patch today. A few Great Tits were piping up along the track to the small bridge with the ivy-covered tree, but alas, no Tawny Owl there today... just 13 Jackdaws. Actually, they were a bit on the sinister side this lot... all hunchy backed and staring. Looked ready to swoop down and have my eyes out if I'd given 'em half a chance - spooky!

Well, the Birchwood Pool gull flock did NOT contain the hoped for one hundred and thirty eighth species for the year; just 11 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Common Gulls and 1 Herring Gull. No wildfowl whatsoever there either. Only other birds were 3 Carrion Crows, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Pied Wagtail and the last of the morning's Skylark over. Wonder where everything has gone??? Ah well, the Woodcock was nice and the small movement of Skylark interesting. Otherwise, let's see what the real thaw brings...

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