Saturday, 28 April 2018

Shit Weather

Well, after the euphoria in my last two postings, due to a seven day spell of almost hot and sunny weather after a wet and cold early Spring, this week has slowly sunk back into that cold and wet Spring. It rained off and on most of yesterday and coming home after most of the day out and about, I had to put the Central Heating back on in order to warm up.
As I write this, early on Saturday morning, it is raining hard, it's gloomy and it's cold. Fortunately, by going out with little Ellie at 06.00, I managed to get a less than enthusiastic walk round a wet reserve before this current rain begun. Long, wet grass and cold conditions do not bode well for ant Lapwing chicks that are getting wet and cold without being able to dry out in warm, sunny weather.

To further add to my depression there is a weather warning currently out for Sunday night and all day Monday here in the South East, for heavy rain and gale-force N winds that could lead to some surface flooding.  It's very difficult to feel any kind of positivity at the moment.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Another Early Morning

I was on the reserve by 06.30 this morning and with blue skies and sunshine beginning to quickly disperse the early mist, it looked quite superb.
This is what it looked like when I turned up.

Quickly the mist burnt off and as it did so, from the reed beds on the reserve, came the "booming" calls of a Bittern, a sound like somebody blowing across the top of a bottle, but amplified.

 Not a breath of wind and total calmness, with the variegated foliage of Milk Thistle in the foreground.

 The Flood Field looked as it should do, with a few white birds in it........

 ........which turned out to be these Avocets.

 The Tower Hide

The Coot's nest from yesterday's blog had increased to nine eggs!

Ellie, looking as lovely as ever,

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Early Reserve

A few photographs of the reserve looking quite good early this morning.
How we and the wildfowl would of loved to have seen it look back in mid-winter.

Two views of the "S Bend Ditch" - bone dry at the end of February. Although you can't see it, it curls across the marsh in the shape of an S

 Looking across towards the neighbouring farmland, with the reserve barn part hidden in the bushes in the foreground.

This Coot was doing it's best not to be noticed on it's nest.

And a second Coot's nest nearby. I will monitor it to see if all 8 eggs survive the attention of the local crows.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Here comes the Sun

After an awful week's weather last week where on most days it was grey skies, dampness and difficult to see further than about half a mile through the mist and gloom, the light finally came on. But the weather on Saturday was like coming out from a tunnel, it was sunny all day and reasonably warm, would it last though, boy has it. We have had three days so far of increasingly warm and sunny days, with today being cloudless all day and a temperature peaking at 25 degrees and tomorrow could see us reach 28 degrees. All of a sudden it feels great to be alive, the grass on the grazing marsh looks greener, the flowers of bulbs are bursting open in colour and lambs frolic in the fields - at last a belated Spring has finally arrived!
Not only has Spring arrived but with the wind coming up from the south, the Spring migrants, those birds that travel north from Africa to share summer with us, have also started to arrive, an exaltation of good times ahead. So far I've seen Swallows, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Wheatear, Whimbrel and Whitethroat, the best mid-April for migrants I've had for a few years.

The reserve couldn't look much better than it did today in the sunshine. Plenty of wet areas, plenty of fresh, green grass for the cattle and their calves that are expected soon, everything looks good.

Away from the reserve the Parish Council Speedwatch team that I'm part of, were out earlier this morning monitoring one of our busy roads. We've endured several minus chill factor mornings doing it since the New Year but today was our first really warm and comfortable sessions. We're very visible but out of 405 vehicles that passed us in one hour, we still recorded for the Police website, 17 speeding motorists. A low total when you consider that at one site we often record 60 speeding motorists in one hour, virtually one a minute! We get some abuse from people, such as "get a life you silly old farts" (we're all retired), but it's difficult to understand why some people expect to be able to speed and potentially cause deaths without being recorded.

Also this afternoon, my bicycle came out of winter storage and I had a pleasant ride along the nearby seafront, where the tide was high and calm. No actual swimmers yet but many in shorts and T shirts enjoying the beach.

It's been a good few days, how could anybody not enjoy experiencing it.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Sunday - closed for business

I'm down at my partner's house in beautiful Surrey this weekend, so a change in scenery, though just as wet, where isn't at the moment!
We were hoping to buy plants and manure,etc. today and get stuff planted in her garden before tomorrow's very wet day that is forecast. Unfortunately garden centers are not allowed to be open on Easter Sunday for some reason that mystifies me and  so we decided to get out in the cold and wet countryside and enjoy that as best as we could.
Below is the River Broadwater, which was in full flood and flowing very fast.

The Broadwater is formed where the River Blackwater to the left and the River Whitewater to the right, converge........

........ as you can see

 In several places it had begun to flood over into the adjacent water meadows.

What did amuse us was the fact that snails alongside the river had climbed the dead vegetation in big numbers to make sure that they escaped the flood waters.

Further back along the River Blackwater, there is a ford which at times like today, becomes impassable for cars and means a lengthy trip round the lanes to rejoin the other side.

Further along one lane we came across a bridge across the River Whitewater with unusually, a county boundary right in the middle of it - Berkshire to the left and Hampshire to the right.

 Looking back into Hampshire.

Finally, one of the river's residents, a Grey Wagtail.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Another Never Ending Winter

Back in March/April 2013 in my blogs, I gave the weather at the time the nick-name of the "Never Ending Winter" - this year seems to be following the same path. The Beast from the East, the Mini Beast from the East and now, continuing cold and wet weather forecast well into April, does not bode well for a decent Spring this year.
Today it is cold and it began raining steadily at 7.00 and is set to do so all day and it's looking pretty miserable outside. It's often the case in this country that if you wish for a type of weather for too long, that when it does eventually arrive it doesn't know when to stop. That appears to be the case at the moment, throughout our long drought we prayed for rain and lots of it and boy are we getting it now. Trouble is, it's a bit too much at the wrong time, as we go into April, it's warmer weather that we need now, to get the grazing meadows growing nicely and to aid the ground nesting birds.
Lapwings nest on the ground and not in a nest as such, they simply make a depression in the soil/short grass and lay their four eggs into that depression. Steady rain such as today's, falling on to fairly water-logged ground, will inevitably, despite the brooding bird, soak and chill the bottom half of the eggs causing them to fail to hatch. This cold, wet weather is not going to do any favours at all to the Lapwings if it continues as is forecast, which is a real shame because nationally, they continue to decline as a breeding species.


Another casualty of this cold weather has been the frog spawn featured in my last blog posting. Lack of warming sun and at least one night when the pond surface briefly froze, has seen around 80% of the spawn fail to hatch any tadpoles. Hopefully the newts in the pond will fair much better as their eggs are laid individually under the water with a weed leaf wrapped around each.

In my garden the House Sparrows have been busy starting to build their nests and so far I have identified four nests under way, two in my hawthorn hedge and two in nest boxes. The Blue and Great Tits are slow to start though, despite inspecting the nest boxes I have put out for them. This is probably due to the cold weather and the current lack of the insect food that the Tits will need to feed their chicks with. Getting the timing of that insect food right is crucial to when the Tits will start breeding.  

It's a frustrating time in the garden as well. During this last winter I reclaimed a largish section of the top end of the garden by digging out some evergreen shrubs that contributed nothing to either wildlife or scenery. I dug and manured that area and have recently been trying to plant all manner of plants that will add both massed colour and more importantly, attract and feed bees and butterflies, etc.. Unfortunately, cold wet clay is not best walked on and planted when the weather is as it is today, it's getting really frustrating watching pots of various plants stacking up on the patio waiting to be planted.

So, as I sit here looking at a cold and wet afternoon outside, the prospects of another Never Ending Winter increase by the day.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Water, Water.

Today is another thoroughly wet and chilly day and is forecast to remain so all day. I got a thorough soaking this morning on the reserve going down there to put the big diesel pump on that we use to pump water from the ditch system onto The Flood Field and two neighbouring fields. This is pretty much the first time that the ditches have been full enough to do this for two years and we now have those fields looking as part flooded as we would expect at this time of the year.
All in all, I can confidently say that the reserve's two year drought is now well and truly over, ditches and fleets are full, the grazing marsh is water-logged and we now have some mini-flood areas, it looks perfect - dare I say it, this close to the breeding season for ground nesting birds, we don't really need a whole lot more rain - gawd, did I really say that after all my dry weather whinging!
Last week, just a day after the ice in my garden pond thawed out, I got up in the morning to find that the frogs had clearly come out of hibernation and left some clumps of spawn behind. I still haven't seen the frogs but hopefully the spawn will survive OK and for the first time ever, the tadpoles should avoid the hungry mouths of the goldfish that ate them in great numbers. At last it seems, the local Herons have done me a huge favour over the last couple of years and ate every last goldfish after my attempts at catching them proved fruitless.