Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Cambridgeshire Day 4

I think that this day, Wednesday, was almost certainly the hottest day of the holiday! It was also the day that we decided to go and have a look for the stone curlew. Our chosen destination was NWT Weeting Heath because it offers great views, without disturbing the birds-and you actually have a good chance of seeing them.
I was a bit surprised when I got there! I was expecting slightly more, with ponds and stuff but it was actually a couple of hides overlooking a field with a woodland walk of about 3miles. Even so, I was not disappointed with the birds we saw. We decided not to go for the woodland walk but to only go to the hide to look for a stone curlew.
When we arrived in the hide, some other birders there told us that one had just disappeared from sight down a dip. so as we waited I had a look at what else was around. To be honest, not much really! there were quite a few rabbits, crows, rooks, and jackdaws but there was also a pied wagtail and a couple of lapwings.
Then the moment we were all waiting for-a stone curlew emerged from the ditch and began to move along the steel fence along the edge. It was much too far for the camera, but through the scope you could get great views of the bird, in all its unusual glory. The photos below are just record shots, the bird is in the photo somewhere but it might be a bit hard to find.
You got smashing views through the scope, but eventually one of the crows disturbed it and it flew off, further down the field where we could not see it.

-Stone curlew, surrounded by rabbits and crows
After that, we decided to head back to lakenheath fen, because the woodland walk seemed like it would be too far for my mum. Back at lakenheath I wasted no time in heading to the oriole point, to try and make up for my misfortune yesterday. same as yesterday, I did not see an oriole. I wandered around the stakeout for a while but didn't even hear it. There were however other birds to look at, for example, there were a few whitethroats around.

But then, In a small area of trampled grass with a random stick sticking out from the ground, I found a dragonfly perched. I had read on the sightings board that the dragonfly count was pretty low, the only species being hairy dragonfly, four-spotted chaser and scarce chaser. I knew it wasn't hairy and I could tell that it wasn't a four spotted chaser, so by process of elimination I knew that it was a scarce chaser, which is a first for me.

It was great, that I didn't have to chase it and that I managed to find it whilst it was landed, so I started to get some record shots. I managed to get quite a few, at one point it left but then returned to the same stick, as there supposed to do, but never do in my case, which was nice. The dark eye colour tells me that this is a female as appose to a juvenile.

-scarce chaser
I sadly scared it away by trying to climb over the stick to get a few head on photos, so I didn't manage any. And continuing with the dragonfly theme, I managed to find a Hairy dragonfly perched. It was not a great photography position as there were too many blades of grass in the way. It was also perched so that if i wanted to get the whole dragonfly in focus, I would have to shoot upwards at it, and there wasn't enough space below it for me to do that, but the photo I did manage highlight the stunning colours of the insect.

-Hairy DragonflyI then got a text telling me that I had to go back to the car for lunch. It was a pity, and I would be kicking myself if the oriole came out, but no-body seemed to be seriously looking for it today, where as yesterday, there was always a decent sized crowd.
On the way back I spotted a garden spider poised in mid air wrapping up his lunch, so I decided to take some photos.

-garden spider
After lunch I headed straight back into the reserve, with the intention to go straight back to the oriole site, but in the pool opposite the visitor center I spotted a dragonfly hunting, so I decided to try and take some photos to work out what kind it was. There were two of one kind and a Hairy dragonfly too. It was hard, the dragonfly's just wouldn't stay still, But then I got a real surprise. As I was watching the dragonfly's to see if they would land, a small dark matter began to move across the water. Or at least that's what I saw, but the ripple marks went quite some way back so after about 15 seconds of watching this matter curiously, I realised that this was a grass snake. I couldn't believe it. Its the first time I have ever seen a wild snake, although to be honest all I could see was its head!

-Grass snake swimmingBack to the dragonflys, as the grass snake had reached its destination at the far side of the pond. Eventually one stayed still for me to get a decent view of it. it was quite a way off but I managed to get a quick photo which proved that it was a four-spotted chaser.

-four spotted chaserToday was proving far more successful for dragonflies, but there were much fewer birds than yesterday. Aside from the usual sedge and reed warbler the only other birds, although this is an addition to yesterdays, was a kestrel plus the marsh harriers.
I decided to walk via the vegetation pools to the main reserve rather than the path and was rewarded with more views of a hairy dragonfly, although I didn't manage to get the camera in pin sharp focus, otherwise it would have been one of the best photos of them I have taken.

-Hairy Dragonflyback at the Oriole site there was only more disappointment to be found. However, the verges to the path were still providing a distraction, this time in the form of a large skipper, identification based on the faint spots on the wings.

-Large skipper

Once that had gone, there was still more, although certainly not a easy to identify. I found this wonderful lacewing perched on an overhanging blade of grass. what struck me was the bluey green tint to the wings and also the small black spots on the head. This lacewing is not in my dads insect book, so I can not say what kind it is, not that it matters, its just nice to see. There were quite a few of them fluttering about, so they were quite common down here, whitethroat food!

Because the verges were proving such a success I decided to walk along the path where yesterday there were those wicked beetles, to see if i could find some more, or something else pretty cool. I managed to find this spider, which seems to be protecting her eggs under her. I have had a look in a quite vague wildlife book and it says that this spider is likely to be Nursery web spider, pisaura mirabilis which makes sense based on the behavior displayed here! It was quite big and the egg sack is almost the same size as the abdomen of the spider, so it makes you wonder how many eggs must be in the egg-sack.

-Nursery web spider
Further up the path I spotted a whitethroat, so far the bird of the day, perched really conveniently on a jutting out reed. It didn't stick around long, but the shot I got must be one of the most successful photos I have ever taken of a whitethroat!

-whitethroatAt the top of the path was the familiar stile that led onto the public footpath along the side of the river. I decided to go and have a look up on top, and maybe at the river for damselflys and waterbirds. But as soon as i got to the top of the path I spotted something else. It was a small butterfly but this one was brown as a pose to blue. I knew immediately, as soon as it landed that it was a brown argus, but even so I had a nagging doubt that it may just be an exceptionally brown female common blue.

It was really dainty, and although not as colourful as its blue relations, it was still really cool to see. Incidentally this is my first new butterfly for the holiday. I spent a while taking photos before I just sat and watched it as it fed on the Daisy's on the low grass that covered the path.

-Brown Argus
I took loads of photos for fear that something may go wrong if i only took a few! After it flew away I decided to take a look by the river, to see what was around. I found a banded demoiselle, which was nice and the first one I had found on the site.

On the way back to the oriole site, I spotted another nursery web spider, this one without a egg sack, and so showing how long its legs were i.e. quite long! It was hidden in a leaf. The fact that these spiders didn't seem to asociate with webs made me wonder how they hunt, maybe this one was ambushing something! so I took a few photos and then left, to avoid disturbing the spider.

-Nursery web spider
When i got back to the oriole site, it was about 4 o'clock which mean't that there was the evening light effect taking place. This truly would be the last chance i would get to try and see an oriole. But instead of an oriole I got good views of a cuckoo, finally an unusual bird for today! I got to see it cuckooing without even having to use my binoculars, which was kind of special because it might have been my final memory of the reserve. There were a few reed warblers that were quite angry about the cuckoo being so close to their nests.


In the scrub in front of me, before the poplar plantation I suddenly spotted a small brown bird. It was another whitethroat, once again quite close and so I once again took plenty of photos. Its curious because a few minuets before I had seen a whitethroat with a mouthful of caterpillars, and this one had no caterpillars in its mouth,. so I reasoned that there must be a nest somewhere nearby.


As I was watching and waiting for a potential oriole, I found the scarce chaser again, and it landed for me to take a photo face on, but sadly they diddn't come out well, possibly because of the light fading.

Anyway, I got a text telling me to head back to the car, because it was time to go home. On the way back, I spotted a brown female common blue damselfly, which just adds to the bio-diversity of the place.

-Common blue damselfly

so, once more i have to say goodbye to this fabulouse nature reserve-I thouroughly recomend it to anyone going to the area! So this was the last full day in cambridgeshire, as tomorow we were going home. Its been a great holiday, it almost had asmany new species as norfolk last year, and norfolk is reknown for its wildlife, so that puts it in perspective!

and whats even better is that we saw the whole point of coming down-the stone curlew! thats the best bit, with their beady eyes and wierd personalities.

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