Sunday, 29 April 2012

Apres le deluge

As a quick postscript to this morning's offering, Our Lass and I nipped back to the reserve this afternoon, once it had stopped raining.

From the road alongside the fishery, we could see that the river had burst its banks, flooding the meadows as it flowed into the fishing lakes.

Once inside the reserve, it was noticeably warmer and calmer than a few hours previously. The warblers were singing joyously at this change in meteorological fortune and hirundines were swooping low amongst the scrub, catching the swarms of insects on the wing.

Up towards the Far Hide, a small Willow tree had keeled over, its roots giving up the struggle in the sodden ground. With a bit of branch snapping, we were able to make a path through. Then, along the path around the side of the Far Paddock, we met a more impenetrable obstacle. A tree  had toppled over from the bank and was blocking the path. All the water bodies were obviously much fuller after the rainfall, and St Peter's Lake was even flowing into the main lake under the bridge at the top end of the Far Paddock. However, the River Great Ouse was still contained within its banks by the sailing lake.

Returning to the Near Hide, we met Bob, who pointed out a Little Ringed Plover on what little remained of the bund. He also passed on news that there was a Grasshopper Warbler calling near the front of the study centre. After watching all the Swallows, House and Sand Martins for a while, we wandered back to the car park to see if we could hear the warbler. We caught one all-to-brief burst of whirring, then made our way back to the car.

As we drove out towards the main road, a Cuckoo flew across our bows, possibly the first year I've seen one before I've heard one.

Fox, us, biscuits

Despite the atrocious weather, six hardy souls from the Friends group turned up this morning to carry out some fencing work on the southern flank of the reserve.

Well, I say six hardy souls, it was actually five and the wet blanket that was Yours Truly. I would happily have stayed indoors with a mug of tea and a plate of biscuits. However, so as not to be too much of a damp squib, I gamely joined in and we squelched our way down the track to the area by the cattle pens.

The fencing in this part of the reserve is not much of a barrier to trespassers, as some of it is quite dilapidated and the posts have rotted through. This portion will require more effort and equipment than we had to hand, so we concentrated on beefing up the strands of barbed wire along the next length of fence, including a few of the gates.

A reel of barbed wire later, the mugs of tea and plate of biscuits seemed a much better idea, so we retraced our puddles back to the study centre and sat by the large window overlooking the imaginatively-titled Near Paddock. Whilst we were chatting about the morning's work and future plans, a Fox appeared on the far bank of the pond-dipping pool. In the short space of time it took for all of us to fasten our eyes on it, another one appeared directly in front of the study centre and proceeded to hunt along the edge of a ditch.

For six enthusiastic wildlife watchers, we were somewhat embarrassed to realise that the sum total of our photographic arsenal was a small compact camera and an iPhone. However, these were brought to bear on the foraging Fox to provide the necessary evidence that we weren't all suffering from hypothermia and, therefore, hallucinating.

Just like Springwatch!
By mid-day, there was very little of the bund to be seen due to rising water levels. It is likely that the River Great Ouse will burst its banks soon and flood through the reserve, but at least this will top up the satellite ponds which are not directly connected to the main lake.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Improvements to Site Security Fence

As many of you will know we have had another spate of intruders coming onto the site and damaging the hides.

We believe that they mostly access the reserve by climbing over the gates and/or fence down the south side of the woodland ride. In agreement with the Council we will therefore be fixing more barbed wire to reinforce the gates and fence and building thorny dead hedges to at least make access more difficult.

The work will be carried our starting 10am tomorrow morning (29/04/12) then on the evenings of Wednesday the 2nd and 9th (6.30pm) and Sunday 6th May (10am).

If any of the Friends Group would like to help  with this work we would be pleased to see you.

Kind Regards


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Spring boost

Popping down to the reserve today, ostensibly to put up a copy of the Summer field meeting programme in each of the hides, I met a young family who are new permit holders. They had already been given a copy of the Friends flyer (thanks, Mal!), so you never know, we may be on the point of attaining our youngest recruit. She was in fine voice, bless her, and Mum and Dad were worried she would scare all the birds. However, Baby soon quietened down when a conversation started, giving me that "What the heck are you?" stare that wee bairns do so well. It won't be long before there will be many youngsters, of all sorts of bird species, filling the air with their clamouring cries, as another generation of Nature swells the population. I don't think one more voice will make that much difference!

On the wildlife front, there were a few Common Terns and House Martins to be seen, but they were just passing through. The pair of Garganey were still in evidence, this time on the southern side of the bund. Coltsfoot, Cuckooflower, and a species of Speedwell were in bloom, whilst the Cowslips just keep on giving. There were 5 species of butterfly on the wing: Peacock; Orange Tip; Speckled Wood; Brimstone and Comma. The Blackthorn blossom has just about gone over, but many trees are putting on leaves now, so the colour palette is having a fresh green boost. In between the rain and hail showers, there were some warm, sunny spells. No wonder everything is growing at such a prodigious rate.

Birdsong rang out from practically every bush. Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Wrens were competing with Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Great Tits and Robins to see who could command the most attention. But only this 'Chiffy' was willing to pose for the camera.

ChiffchaffPhylloscopus collybita
Spring is definitely springing, so I hope you all have the opportunity to experience it in the coming weeks. Enjoy your wildlife watching!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Garganey helps you work rest and play

Less than common visitors to the reserve this week were a pair of Garganey who arrived on the 12th and were kind enough to pose for me on Friday, although at a distance that made a good image difficult, (well it was the 13th). The jungle drums were clearly active and a certain Lee Evans appeared on site later on Friday and was heard to declare down his mobile "there are definitely no garganey here".

The Garganey of course, do not require a permit to visit HESC.

Other more common spring visitors include Chiffchaff and Blackcap, which appear to have arrived in good numbers and along with the occassional Cetti's are singing their little heads off.



Common Tern are now present and Sand Martin, House Martin and a couple of Swallows have also been seen.

Not long until we hear the first Cuckoo methinks.

(Photographs taken by and © Tony Bedford)

Monday, 9 April 2012

A welcome visitor

Yesterday, having helped Tony to re-assemble one of the log piles by the woodland hide, one thing was abundantly clear, there are a lot less logs now. In fact, only enough for one pile. I think this removes Mr Badger from the list of possible suspects and increases the likelihood that some unwelcome human scrotes had pinched the logs for a fire.

On a happier note, there was a much more welcome visitor around the track junction, just passed the end of the butterfly bank. A male Common Redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicurus, has been spending the Easter weekend in this area. However, photographing him proved tricky, and only a long range shot was possible whilst he roosted in the Hawthorn trees across the neighbouring paddock.

In other news, over the weekend, the reserve also had visits from a male Pintail, a pair of Red Crested Pochard, a Red Kite and plenty of hirundines, mainly Sand Martins and Swallows. The Weasel was seen again, near the Woodland Hide, this time over the other side of the rickety bridge.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

March of Progress

(Personal Observations and Photographs by Tony Bedford)

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

The above lines are quoted from the opening of Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th century, prologue to the Canterbury Tales and are not, as it might first appear, an example of a 21st century school leavers spelling test results.

The gist of old Geoff's words, however, prove that March was pretty dry 600 years ago (though maybe not as exceptionally warm as the one we have just experienced) and that the flowers needed a good drink of April showers back then, just as now.

Along with the fine weather yours truly has enjoyed some really good outings to the reserve during March and the first few days of April and have been lucky enough to experience one or two personal firsts, which I would like to share.

Water Rail

I managed to get my first  really good view of a Water Rail from the Woodland Hide and got this picture below.

Water Rail

Another first for me as a photographer (of sorts), was getting some reasonable images of  Little Grebe (or Dab Chick) - among which was this shot of one eating a Newt. At first I thought it may even be a Great Crested Newt, but now think it is more likely to be a Smooth, even so it it is good to know we have Newts breeding in the ponds along with the Frogs and Toads which started spawning around 23rd March.

Little Grebe with Newt

Although, unfortunately no images to show you, other firsts for me include having seen my first Red Crested Pochards (pair) on the main lake (March 31st) and my first HESC Weasel in front of the Woodland Hide (this week).

The last practical task carried out in March by the "Friends", involved clearing scrub from the bank leading down from the centre - the intention being to create an environment more conducive to wild flowers and thus attract butterflies and other invertebrates. Our work was immediately rewarded by visits from Brimstones and Commas, I have subsequently also seen Orange Tips, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells on warm days over the last few weeks.

 Small Tortoiseshell Mating

There are clear sign that many species of birds have started nesting including Blue Tits in the new Woodland nest box. The Herons commenced nest building on the island back in Feb and my attempts to get some photos of them last month collecting nesting material, have produced one or two bizarre looking pictures - here are a couple.

In this second picture I get the impression we may have a flasher on the reserve!

Whilst photographing the Herons I also snapped this Little Egret coming in to land.

The only downer of the month, was when we discovered that during the evening or night of Sunday 1st April, someone or thing had destroyed the log piles by the woodland hide. I will not speculate on the who, what or why this happened - that will just depress me - but assuming it was vandalism, I have reported it to Diane Evans (MK Countryside Project Officer) and at her request, I am also talking to the TVP Wildlife Officer and meeting with him on site.

If anyone spots acts of vandalism taking place, please do notify either: the council, the police (dial 101 for TVP) or one of the "Friends" Committee members, so that we can try to increase Police involvement in keeping the site safe.

On a positive note, having done my best to repair the main woodpile in front of the hide, I spotted a Bank Vole was still resident yesterday and so hopefully, we will all continue to enjoy their furtive comings and goings for a good while yet.

We may be a small outfit, but I like to think that like the Wren (below) we can get a bit feisty and pretty loud when push comes to shove.

Take care.


(Those of you who know me will know that I am a keen observer and photographer of wildlife - but not a birder as such and pretty rubbish on plants and insects - please therefore, feel free to correct or educate me on any mistakes. We will have a number or other regular contributors to this blog and we would love contributions from any "Friends" with pictures, observations or comments to make.)