Monday, 4 June 2018

Saturday and Sunday 2nd and 3rd June

Fledging Blue Tit (c) B&T Miller
Saturday was damp and cloudy in the morning but picked up in the afternoon, Sunday was beautiful from the word go. The warmth and the humidity accentuated the lush greenness of the moor, as grasses and herbage rush to flower and set seed.
The major excitement this weekend was provided not by a rare or unusual sighting, but by what we ended up referring to as our own particular “Springwatch” moment. On Sunday morning we were gripped by the dramatic fledging and first flights of six Blue Tit chicks. They flew from the nest box attached to the pumphouse at the start of the bridleway.
Snake and Blue Tits (c) Bark
It was rendered even more dramatic by the threatening presence of a fairly large and probably hungry Grass Snake. The snake was draped along the top of the door to the hut and was no more than inches from the box. I have in the past seen Grass Snakes both in and on top of this nest box and so the threat was a real one. The young birds kept partially emerging and then retreating all the while the parent birds were coming and going with food for the fledglings and feeding them in the entrance hole.
Being tempted out D&T Miller
They appeared to us to be trying to coax them out. The snake started to move up towards the box and was at once harried and mobbed by the parent birds. The snake must have leaned out too far and lost its balance altogether and fell away pursued by the chivvying parents. This was the cue for the custard coloured chicks one by one to leave the box and fly up into the surrounding willows.
Struggling through (c) Bark
One after another they struggled to get their shoulders through the hole before making their maiden flights and each time we thought that we had seen the last one until another head appeared in the entrance. We were watching for at least half an hour as this little drama unfolded. There was a Slavonian Grebe at Farmoor that I might have gone to look for, but I have seen them before and I’ve anything quite like this.
Anxious male and chick (c) Bark
Elsewhere there were still at least four Cuckoos chasing round and calling, soon we will be seeing the females waiting on bushes or sitting on fence posts along the bridleway looking for the chance to lay their egg in a temporarily vacant Reed Warbler nest. Half way along the bridleway there is a very loud and vociferous Garden Warbler that sings not from the depth of the bushes but right out in the open.
Singing Garden Warbler (c) JR
The Tern raft is very busy now with at least seven pairs of Common Terns in residence and like all tern colonies it can be noisy and there is a lot of bickering and screaming between the individual pairs.

Raft (c) Bark and Tern (c) JR
There was a female Shoveller shepherding five “shovellettes” or as was suggested…. trowels! The ducklings do look particularly odd with their oversize bills.
Shoveller and "trowels" (c) Bark
The Bitterns have almost stopped booming now and we heard just a few rather half-hearted calls as we returned from the second screen. A lone Lapwing was feeding close to the Ashgrave hide on the muddy edge that has been poached up by the cattle. Watching it carefully I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. Just as a Little Egret agitates the bottom to stir up food the Lapwing places its’ foot down and trembles it presumably to stimulate worms and other invertebrates to come to the surface.

Knee trembling lapwing (c) Bark

The year list moved on again with the addition on Saturday of the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year and today a Grey Plover over Greenaways.

Red-eyed Damselfly and Cardinal Beetle (c) Paul Greenaway

The lush growth has stimulated the insect fauna and we have seen Red eyed Damselflies, many more Four Spotted Chasers plus Cardinal Beetles lurking in the cow Parsley.
Turtle Dove preening (c) Bark

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