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