Saturday, 11 June 2011

Snake in the grass

Opening up was fairly unremarkable for the most part this morning - little ringed plover were on the spit in front of Tern Hide (although I didn't see any young I had two reports at lunch time of four chicks accompanied by three adult birds over on the long spit so there must have been a second successful hatching somewhere nearby - all were being harassed by jackdaws and a magpie, but none were taken while they were being observed this morning, so hopefully they will continue to fair well).

The female mute swan in front of Ivy North Hide appears to have come to her senses and given up on her empty nest as she has been off it regularly feeding over the last couple of days, though she does keep going back to the nest, so maybe she has some imaginary young to compensate for the cygnet she lost a couple of weeks ago.

The highlight of the rounds though was the bank vole that I happened to see out of the corner of my eye from Ivy South Hide - from the far right window it was clearly in view clambering around the foxglove and red campion stems foraging for the red campion seed pods. The photographer who entered the hide shortly after me got some brilliant photo's of both that one and a second that we saw soon after. As for me, I had thought about picking up the camera on the way out of the centre and forgotten it! I went back later on after hearing from the same chap that they'd been there most of the morning, seen out of both side windows, but sadly just got a brief glimpse of one and was unable to get a picture - so took one of one of the pair of grey wagtail industriously plucking flies from the dead alder in front of the hide instead:

Today was the "Catch the bug" event advertised in all of the usual places - there wasn't a huge turn out, but enough to more than justify the time spent leading the activity, and everyone that did come had a great time! After signing everyone in we had a look through the moth trap first - everyone was very impressed by the cinnabar moths and heart and darts, which was just as well because that was all we had until the very bottom of the trap when the last egg box was turned over to reveal an eyed hawkmoth which, having been impressed by the previous species, everyone was quite in awe of! It was a relatively cold night last night and the change in temperature had a dramatic effect on the catch. The hawkmoth was very obliging and gave everyone a really good view of itself as you can see:

The meadow was also a hit when we got there - with grasshoppers (field and marsh and possibly other species too!), assorted beetles and bugs, caterpillars, solitary and parasitic wasps, common blue and bluetailed damselflies, spiders and the first crickets (still nymphs) of the summer all being caught in abundance - in fact I overheard one gentleman remarking to his wife as they left just how surprised he had been by the diversity of wildlife that they had encountered.

The highlight though was a lovely dark, large (2 1/2 foot long), grass snake, spotted basking in the middle of one of the mown paths as everyone first entered the meadow to sit quietly and enjoy the sights and sounds. It didn't hang around, but rather headed off into the meadow where it "disappeared" into the base of a clump of oxeye daisies where it would have been very easily overlooked had we not seen it head in that direction - everyone saw it, including the distinctive yellow and black collar that identified it as a grass snake rather than adder, despite its very dark appearance:

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