This morning, during the Warbler Walk, nine warblers were seen or heard (just Grasshopper Warbler missing). A Hobby attacked the Swallows at the Railway Bridge, but they saw it coming. The Slurry Lagoon Mute Swans now have eight cygnets and there are several Coot families and the Great Crested Grebes on the Slurry Lagoon still have their chick. Earlier on, at about 08.00hrs a Cuckoo was singing from an ash tree beside the railway line. PS.
Late this afternoon a Barn Owl was watched for about twenty minutes as it quartered the grass between the Large Gravel Pit and the river, several times pursued by a crow. It dropped onto something in the grass several times but it was not possible to see what it was catching, but it must be hungry to be hunting in daylight when the nights are so long. The northern end of the Large Gravel Pit (the end that was longest under the ice) was covered in wildfowl, mostly Gadwall, Wigeon and Coot. Both the other two water bodies are now more or less ice free. PS.
(At last A BARN OWL on the site for PS – Hurrah – AE)
The two Little Egrets were on the Ouse Dyke again this morning and what was probably one of them was later seen in the Deep Pit. The Slurry Lagoon and Gravel Pits are mostly frozen over now but most of the Deep Pit is still clear. Most of the Coots on the Large Gravel Pit are concentrated into one small area of clear water and the Red-crested Pochard have gone. The Teal have moved to the Deep Pit and a flock of Lapwings are sitting on the ice on the Slurry Lagoon, which is completely frozen over. Eleven Golden Plover looked like they were going to join the Lapwings but eventually flew away. PS.
There were a good number of ducks on the Large Gravel Pit today, including Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and two male Red-crested Pochard, one still in eclipse, as well as lots of Coots. Seven Swallows flew through and four more, possibly the remnants of our residents, were near the railway line. On the Slurry Lagoon the numbers of Teal and Shoveler continue to build and there were two juvenile Ruff amongst the Lapwing flock. PS.
Six people turned up for this walk, despite the threatened rain. As they collected by the foot bridge first a Migrant Hawker flew overhead and then a Southern Hawker came to check us out, before settling on the hedge. It was mainly green and black but the blue on its last two abdominal segments showed it to be a male.
We entered the reserve and went up the steps to the seat. Just by the seat we found the first Long-winged Cone-heads and soon had one in a viewing pot for everyone to see. Although superficially like a grasshopper the incredibly long antennae suggested its true affinity to the bush-crickets. We then caught our first grasshopper with much shorter and thicker antennae and were just getting to grips with its pronotum when the first shower struck. The group dived under the nearest bushes and tried not to get too wet, peeping at the glowering sky from time to time and saying encouraging things like, ‘It’s getting brighter over there.’, ‘I think it’s slackening off.’. When we were all soaked the rain stopped and the sun came out. We identified the grasshopper as a Meadow Grasshopper by the shape of its pronotum, which is the armour like scales that cover its neck and shoulders.
As we walked along to the Causeway the sun warmed our backs and we began to dry out. On the Causeway we located several Roesel’s Bush-crickets, but could not actually see any. Three of our company had ears that could hear them, but the frequency was too high for the rest of us so Alan got his bat detector out and soon pointed out two or three. They are very hard to approach and tend to go silent long before you are close enough to see them. The distinguishing mark on the Roesel’s is a yellow line all the way around the border on the side of the pronotum, but we were unable to point this out. However we did manage to connect with another species of grasshopper, the Field Grasshopper. Again it is the pattern on the pronotum that gives the most significant clue to its identity, followed by the fact that it has a hairy chest. We now began to realise the difficulties involved in identifying grasshoppers as we found several small chestnut brown ones. These were assumed to be nymphs although they were seen to be stridulating like the adults, one even seeing off a much larger adult Field Grasshopper. The pronotums on these nymphs were not well developed or marked so they gave few clues to the species. The other problem with identification is the fact that the same species of grasshopper comes in two or three different colour ways and all can be present on the same site.
We dried out in the sun as we struggled to get to grips with orthopteran identification and were all completely dry when the next menacing black cloud sailed overhead. ‘It won’t rain on us.’ and ‘Look its raining over Carlton’ soon gave way to ‘Let’s go to the railway bridge’ and ‘Run’. The front-runners made it to the bridge still dry but the rear guard were soaked as they staggered through the downpour into the shelter. Even the swallows were staying on their nesting shelves under the bridge. Coots were diving by the bridge and surfacing with large round items in their beaks, surrounded by a screen of water droplets as the raindrops bounced and shattered on the river surface around them. I wished I had a camera with a telephoto lens. Soon the rain abated and we came out from under the bridge. We were just about to go up the steps by the Deep Pit when a Whimbrel called as it flew overhead on its way to the south. This encouraged us to go to the Causeway again so that we could see if anything else had been brought down by the rain onto the Slurry Lagoon. We found three Wigeon that had not been seen before the rain but nothing else. The grass was quite wet now and it was noticeably cooler so that there was little insect activity to detect so we called it a day and went home, having identified four orthopteran species.
A Cetti’s Warbler was singing in the south-east corner of the Slurry Lagoon this evening. Several Water Rail were calling and one Shelduck was still present. On the Small Gravel Pit one Coot has decided spring has arrived and is sitting on a nest. PS.