Peace and disquiet: a little bit of this...and a little bit of that...
SUNDAY 25th March 2012 - Well, today's March 'Yule Log' to my, of late, all too neglected patch did not go quite as I had imagined. Yesterday, for some reason, and I still don't know what, I looked up my old blog. I'd not been to Moore birding for over a year, the odd site visit with project students notwithstanding, and I've been meaning to get back for quite a while now. Well, the blog gave me the kick up the arse I needed and, to boot (no pun intended) somewhat inspired me to start it up again...hence yesterday's brief memo of intent.
Plan was to hit the old place at sunrise and spend a few hours kick-starting this year's patch list. It never happened. At least the dawn start didn't. Slept fitfully. Dreamt lots. Missed my 5:30am alarm. Woke at 10:00am. Got confused coz my cooker clock said 9:00am. Mulled over why my phone alarm had woken me an hour early. Decided it couldn't have. Mulled over my clear insanity. Switched of the lightbulb that finally went on in my head (the clocks went forward - duh!!) and pottered out the door after a quick coffee and arrived on site 10:30ish.
First impressions. SHIT! Why? THIS (!) is why...
Yep about 40+ cars on site. I'd forgotten how crowded the place could get on a hot and sunny sunday morning (and it was...beautifully hot and sunny). Damn. It will be hooching and I'll see sod all. BUT the pragmatic moi perked up 'Yes, but they're here for a reason you special idiot. It'll be a Lesser Peck hunt." Aha, but of course thought I (mild epiphany, slight smug grin)...quickly followed by sod that, I'll find it myself later. What I need is solitude...peace...birds... So off I headed to the far end of the reserve. A few hours at the Eastern Reedbed would be perfect...very few venture so far...
Second impression. SHIT!! Why? THIS (!!) is why...
Peel Holdings (The Voldemart of the North-west) had utterly levelled the two ponds opposite Pumphouse Pool for more bloody warehouses. Great! Not happy... in fact quite grumpy! Nothing to do about it but scowl and mutter obsenities under my breath and drive on. To the reedbed!
Third impression. EH? Why? This is why...
Bryan (the warden) and minions, had it seemed become strimming zealots in my absence. Everything was cut back so that the path to the reedbed had lost some of its anticipation. It's used to be a bit like driving down an overgrown country lane...kinda built the excitement up for what was at the end. Now it was like a dual carriageway. Hmmmm. Still grumpy...
...until I parked up and got out of the car and heard and saw my first Moore bird of the year (I'd decided I'd start at the reedbed and focussed entirely on the road/track surface en route so as not to accidentally spot something!... yeah I know...touch of the OCDs... but, that's how I wanted it today). Anyway...said beast was a male Coal Tit singing away...quickly followed by Chiffchaff, Wren and Robin.
Now, I'm not going to give a chronological account of EVERY bird seen today, which, you will dear reader, no doubt be delighted to know...but I shall stick em at the end...and count them up! Muahahaha. SO, are you following this. I'm parked up at the reedbed. I have just got out of the car and ticked my first four species. What I had yet to do, was saunter up the path TO the reedbed and esconce myself for a few hours of Bittern hunting (rumour had it there'd been two yesterday...VERY late!).
Fourth impression. WTF? You ARE kidding me!!! Hide was jammed. I mean like over a dozen people. NOBODY treks this far on a Sunday...what's goin on?? Turns out the crowd comprised a regular Bittern addict chum of mine...and a 'visiting group' (see all you cynics out there...I CAN be diplomatic). So now there were TWO grumpy blokes...me and my chum...the 'visiting group' had apparently just arrived, much to his chagrin. Well, it was all too much for me and I quickly left with the intention of coming back in the evening, when hopefully things would have quitened down somewhat. Not much about anyway save a few Coots, Tufted Duck and Canada Geese.
OK...Pumphouse Pool...methought at least I could get some 'me time' there. So back in the car and off I go. Fuck me! Is this a joke?? Couldn't even get TO the east hide (my fave spot - see previous posts) coz there was a huge digger earth-shifting the road! Somebody did NOT want me to see much today.
What to do? OK, if the east end of the reserve was hooching... I had to head to the far west end...Halfway House! So, figured I'd drive down Lapwing Lane...just in case one of the 50,000 throng were actually ON the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker and park up by Bob's Bridge.
Fifth impression. What IS going on?? Strimming zealots? Did I say the Moore minions had become STRIMMING zealots??? Oh no... they'd become HEDGE LAYING zealots!!! O...M...G... everywhere was chopped down and layed...the place just looked.... weird...
And Upper Moss Side was the same. Hedgerows sliced and diced. Ummm... Yellowhammers anybody? Hmm? Hmmmm?? Deary me. Oh deary, deary me (tones down furore as notes language becoming bad). Right. Deep breaths. Halfway House...nice walk...get some birds and calm the f**k down. OK. I grab my bins, scope and tripod and set off. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!! At this point I just closed my eyes and nealy gave up. Just setting off down MY path in front of me were a delightful 'family' complete with screaming (literally) brat in buggy and an older child who liked to throw stones. Yep. Needed to get in front of them as QUICKLY as possible. Quick jog and mission accomplished. At last I could concentrate on birds...not that there were many about apart from maybe 10 Chiffchaff singing along the path - the only migrants to have arrived so far on the patch. Oh and Common Buzzard... about six soaring and occasionally calling in the clear blue above.
Bumped into a couple of the HWH Sunday morning regulars who reassured me that there was nobody 'at that end' and so it was. Peace at last. Me. The river. Birds. About 50 assorted gulls (Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser-black backed Gull, Common Gull), 5 Oystercatcher, 4 Lapwing, 9 Shelduck, 2 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, pr Mallard, 20+ Canada Geese... and that was about it. Pretty typical HWH... and tbh, it felt goooooood! Stayed for maybe half an hour, soaking up the old place. Didn't pick up anything new and never saw or heard the Redshank the two lads I'd met earlier had had, but hey, I was back on my bend in the river and I didn't really care :)
Well, I walked back along the canal and took the left path by the Ethylene Pumping Station that wound its way to the cottages at Bob's Bridge picking up Pheasant, Bullfinch, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush along the way... nothing much, but it was a gorgeous day.
Drove back to Lapwing Lane and parked up by the cross. Thought I'd take a stroll and see if the Tawny Owl was in her ivy-covered tree. Nope...and there wasn't much going on from Birchwood Pool west-hide either...south hide was a little better though... a few loitering Shoveler on the big island were still hanging around... guess they'll be off soon. Strange picked up another couple of Coal Tits singing in Birch Wood... that made the total five for the day. Why strange? Coz they've been the least common of the tits at Moore in past years. You ony usually get them around the feeding station in the winter. Not this year it seems. Outnumbering Willow Tit today... just seen the one Willow.
Well, I got a call from a very good friend who fancied a stroll in the sunshine so we met up and headed back to the west end of the reserve... more disturbance... this time from trail bikes and model aircraft...but we had 5-6 Common Buzzard soaring together by the piers and watched a nice little territorial dispute between two pairs. Spot of lunch at Spoons, a little drive to try to find the Owl trust place and quick drink in the Red Lion later and I was back again. It was early evening now and I thought I'd have a crack at the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. Octagenarian birder in a buggy at the dead tree by the boardwalk had just had it minutes before... no luck now though, save a Great-spotted in a nearby tree.
Upper Moss Side was more productive. The Tree Sparrow Field yielded its usual mix of Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow and House Sparrow and it looks like a pair of Kestrels have taken up residence in the barn owl box this year. Well I say pair. To start with there was just a female perched on top and opposite in a tree top, two Stock Doves giving her dagger eyes. It was like "What d'ya reckon? Shall we have her? There's two of us...only one of her... Reckon we could... bloody cheeky bitch". Well, the female Kestrel started calling, cue the arrival of the male with food, who then proceeded to feed her on top of the nest box at which point the Stock Doves had had enough and flew off east. Kind of amusing. Norton Marsh hide was empty (yay!) and there wasnt much to be seen save for a cracking Short-eared Owl hunting in the sunlight. Magnificent!
Second crack at the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker on the way to the Eastern Reedbed paid short but sweet dividends... alittle pecking at a different dead tree before flitting off into the small wood only to be lost amid the branches of a cluster of tall trees... but it was a a nice woody few minutes as Treecreeper trilled, a Nuthatch choo-ited and a distant Stock Dove began its soft cooing song. The reedbed alas, was not so fruitful. No Bitterns... the main quarry of the day. But tbh, it was kinda late for them and although they'd been seen the day before briefly in the setting sun, the night had been clear and it was ideal 'moving off' weather. Guess I'll have to wait until October and their return. Ah well. Still, not all was lost... there were a couple of pairs each of Little Grebe and Great-crested Grebes whinnying and mooching about respectively. And then there was the regular pair of Pochard that seem to make a beeline for the reedbed at this time of year and hang around for ages before vanishing. Never seen evidence of them breeding though. Makes you wonder.
And that m'dears was that. My first visit in over a year. Quiet, metaphorically speaking as far as birds go, bloody noisy as far as everything else went. Want some advice? GO VISIT MOORE... it's a cracking little reserve...BUT... avoid Sundays like the plague!
Year List (I know, hardly a list...well, technically it IS, but you get my point...unimpressive...SO FAR *cheeky wink*)
Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Pheasant, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Short-eared Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer 61 species