Sunday, 16 October 2011

Indian Summer

This summer just goes on and on, despite threats from the Met Office. According to the tabloids, we should be up to our necks in ice-bergs by now, or at least expecting The Big Chill next week. Visitors keep telling me that we'll pay for it later, but I don't care. What I crave is sunlight on my skin and that feeling of being alive, almost flying, when you look up into a deep Dali-blue sky; or was that just a 60's flash-back?

Redwing from the RSPB web-site.
In  the last couple of weeks I've developed a serious crick in my neck by sky-watching. I hoped for honey buzzards in September and cranes, harriers and geese in October, but all I saw was sparrow hawks and buzzards; lots of them. Aren't they great though? Then last week the redwings started streaming in from the far north. Among them I found a few continental blackbirds but no fieldfares until the14th when an un-mixed flock of them settled in the car park.

There are still swallows passing over (I saw some on the 15th) and finches such as redpolls, siskins and crossbills pass over us daily, but you have to be really tuned in to see them or hear them. Looking lower in the bushes you might find goldcre

Otter at Kingfisher Hide
Friday 14th October
by Kevin Robson
While I've been walking around watching the sky (I must do a risk assessment on this), others have been sitting very still in the hides, with cameras at the ready. If you really want to see an otter, the opportunist approach doesn't work: You have to act on the 'gen' and stake them out. Several people have seen otters this week at the Kingfisher Hide, which means that you now have more chance of seeing an otter there than a kingfisher!

The arrival of autumn migrants in mid October should come as no surprise. After all, the lakes are full of winter wildfowl such as wigeon, shovellers and tufties (plus a scaup and a couple of pintails). Its just that we still have blackcaps, chiff-chaffs and swallows around.

Red Admiral, taken in July.
You couldn't fail to have noticed the large number of red admiral butterflies and late dragonflies around the Reserve, but there are a few smaller beasties around that I wouldn't expect, such as small coppers and masses of caddis flies.

This week we ran another set of traps to check for "killer shrimps" in Pumphouse Pit. We didn't find any, but there was a strand line of washed up weed under which we found swarms of shrimps, up to metre from the water's edge. These were not the dreaded shrimps that we sought, but another species that inhabits the freshwater splash zone. There were thousands of these grey and glossy hoppers there and they are really good at burrowing. They are very similar to the sand-hoppers that you find under seaweed at the beach. I think they are Orchestia cavimana whuich is described as semi-terrestrial. The Freshwater Biology Association has a good key that you can see on-line.

In another existence, I have had a close encounter with the real killer shrimps; see Stream of Dreams which is my fishing blog that isn't really about fishing!