After yesterday's cold, wet and windy day, this morning I enjoyed a much more pleasant visit to the reserve. It was sunny and warmer and looked a lot fresher after yesterday's rain and the visit got off to an excellent start with a singing Willow Warbler appropriately, in the willows by the barn. That's an irregular bird for the reserve and 1-2 a year is normally maximum and so it was a lovely sound to hear on stepping out of the car.
I had initially decided to start the visit with a look along some of the ditches for Coot's nests to kick off this summer's reserve breeding counts but one of the very shallow ditches surprised me by containing large clumps of Celery-leaved Buttercups along it's length - it wasn't there last year. The two photos below illustrate it.
That side-tracked me for a while as I wandered off and took a few more photos of wild flowers. This first one, White Dead-nettle, is a very common and probably ignored one which illustrates how beautiful some of the ordinary ones can be if you get up close.
Just as this common old Dandelion is, I think they can look quite stunning in the sun.
One that I have featured before is this Milk Thistle, still a few feet short of its ultimate height.
The earth bunds that it grows on were bull-dozed lower and wider last autumn and it appears to have spread the seed over a much larger area and we now have carpets of it appearing all over the place.
After that it was back to the ditches and the hunt for Coot's nests, which to the low water levels wasn't too successful, in fact I only actually saw 8 Coots themselves.
One of the reasons is illustrated in this photograph. In a normal Spring, the base of the sedge stems along the ditch side would normally be a foot under the water and the Coot would build its nest among them, not possible when its like this.
Eventually though, I did find one, with five eggs and built in the middle of a ditch in some dormant bullrushes.
Just ten foot away from the Coot's nest was a half-finished Mute Swan's nest with one of the swans heading towards me with a menacing look.
One common bird on both the reserve and the surrounding farmland is the Red-legged Partridge. I'm always surprised when reading other blogs to see the authors recording this bird as almost a rarity and adding it to their year lists. On The Swale NNR none of us bother to record either this bird or the Pheasant because we consider them to be basically "artificial or plastic" birds because they are released by the thousands each year on the farmland for shooting purposes. But I suppose if you only see the odd one each year its worth bumping up your year list with.
And lastly, while I was doing all that, Ellie and Midge were doing "any other business" and inspecting rabbit holes, or at least Ellie would if she could get in.