So, happily back in to my Wednesday routine and three of us were off to Oare! (Irene enjoying a holiday somewhere exotic) The weather was good, warm and with good light despite the clouds overhead.
We decided to shake life up a little and do the circuit the “wrong way round” – those of you who come on our outdoor walks will know what I mean by “the wrong way” – I mean the road and the hide before the sea and the creek!
The friendly sedge warbler was singing near the car park as usual, and wood pigeons were keen to get on Sally’s list early. We took a quick look at the mud by the slipway and found whimbrel, curlew, oystercatcher and over 40 black-headed gulls. The skies started to cloud over and we were back to watching the dark skies keen to remain drier than on previous weeks.
As we wandered back down the road past the scrape linnet flew overhead, whilst mute swan, little egret, redshank, cormorant, avocet, common tern and black-tailed godwit were on the islands nearest the road. Huge flocks of starling are gathering everywhere at the moment and Oare was no exception with several swarms flying about over the fields and mixing in with the waders causing us some distraction on occasion.
The godwit were in three distinct groups, one near the road sleeping, a second resting group in the far south east corner and then a more active group which were feeding in front of the hide, we decided to take some time watching them. They were constantly moving, trawling along bringing their heads up to flick tasty morsels back into their mouths from the tip of their bills. Amazing to watch this feeding frenzy, and also to compare their various plumages. The majority were still in mainly breeding plumage with the beautiful russet necks and chests but amongst them some really pale birds – presumably youngsters starting out on their epic migration. This link gives some more information on a particular bar-tailed godwit’s migration – it is absolutely amazing how far these birds travel. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070915131205.htm
We continued our circuit around the reserve, there were lots of coots, pochard (one with six juveniles trailing in a flotilla). House sparrow, crow, dunlin, pied wagtail, reed bunting all found themselves on our list as we moved towards lunch. The highlight for me though was a large number of swift feeding low over the east flood, I was thrilled to count about 20 first of all, but as the day wore on the numbers increased and eventually the sky appeared to be full of these acrobats, enjoying the insects which were obviously in high numbers here.
After lunch in the hide, we moved off to the Gunpowder Works. On the face of this it should be a cornucopia of wildlife, and although it was relatively quiet bird-wise, there were butterflies and flowers to be seen. We did hear a kingfisher near one pool and then spotted one later flying low over the fishing lake.
We did find a large number of horse chestnut trees which had been affected by horse-chestnut leaf miners – Cameraria ohridella to be precise. These originated in Macedonia and have been spreading throughout Europe in the last 20 years or so. It is believed that the moths are transported by lorries. They are not believed to kill the tree although the ones that we saw must surely have been affected in some way as there was not one leaf that had not been attacked. We opened up one of the leaves and found the caterpillar.
If you want any more information, just ask Malcolm next time you see him – he’s an absolute (leaf)mine(r) of information !