Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday 30th August 2010

A Rather Good day at College...

Slipping into quite a good routine now, although maybe I was over-excited by the prospect of a dozen common moth species in the trap and multiple common waders at Argal (common anywhere else, that is), because I couldn't get to sleep at all the night before. Instead, I watched some randomly unproductive tv and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to do some useful and not-so-useful websurfing. Our internet (and the phone itself) seem to be mysteriously uncooperative after about 9:30 of an evening - I suspect one of our neighbours is tapping into our phone line and stealing some of our line connection ... (Or maybe it's just a virus or something, or even a faulty router, but conspiracy theories always sound better...) Of course it could just be that our phone company are rubbish.


The sky was a huge and deep royal blue, tinged already with a yellower suffusion around the eastern edges, a Greenshank calling somewhere high overhead, as I stepped out of the door, scope, bins, and sarnies at the ready. I was at the field by 5:45, to be met by a heavy dew and no moths outside of the trap... hmmm, what would it hold inside? Multiple distant Tawny Owls serenading/arguing with each other added to the atmosphere in the half light, and the idea of actually doing the birding appealed a lot more than waiting the half hour for it get light enough to really check the contents properly, so putting a cover on the trap and placing the whole thing in the shade for later, I left for the reservoirs.

Visibilty was still occurring as I arrived at Argal, but with frequent scanning, and by the time I had walked half way around one side I had notched up 45 or so Black-headed Gulls feeding on the banks or swimming out on the waters, plus most of the other common residents. Two Greenshank, one sleeping, with a watchful and distrustful eye on me as I watched, another preening on the far bank. A third was feeding at the hide end. Three Common Sandpiper were noted, two travelling and feeding together in close proximity on the opposite bank showing an amazing size disparity - one must have been at least twice the bulk of the other. Bizarre, but then maybe I've never looked for such things before. A couple of Curlew were heard to call ... somewhere, and a roving Chiffchaff flock, a couple of dozen strong, with admixed Willow Warblers and a few Blue and Long-tailed Tits kept me entertained for a while. Jays screeched and Blackbirds alarmed, but no Red-backed Shrikes or Wrynecks were to be seen anywhere... Actually there was one rarity of note - my first Teal for the site. It flew in not long after I started, and I caught up with it again at the hide end, warily sifting mud.

Starting the path that leads to College Reservoir I was pleased, much as I shouldn't admit it, to see a Grey Squirrel, first for ages, to add to the Rabbits, and a possible fox/badger/something from the car for the mammal day list. Got me thinking of other mammals that I could add, such as small insectivores that might come bounding down the path, or large water mustelids that could be hiding in the tangled jungle of vegetation at the swampy end of the lake. However, such thoughts were not really worth dwelling on - they seldom are. Reaching the lake, there was not an awful lot to see - the close knit grouping of Coot and such of the past few days seemed to be down in numbers, or more spread out at least. Carrying on, and scanning the floating vegetation for further Moorhens in the more open gaps between the branches, I noticed something else moving in the water - a large fish? The water swirled out in the middle as something large and strong sinuously moved below the surface .... could it be? Crumbs, it couldn't be... or could it? A large mammalian head broke the surface, greyish brown, craggy and ... and with a huge carp clamped in its bewhiskered jaws. It was an Otter. AN OTTER!!!!!

I've never seen an Otter before. Admittedly I've never really tried to. But here one was... on a random early morning walk, not on some stake-out on a secluded scottish loch. That is, it was me on the walk, the otter was engaged in a rather mighty struggle with its prey as it tried to swim with it towards the far bank and the safety of the tangled growth of the island. I caught two further glimpses of the pair (mostly of the back of the Otters head as it surfaced briefly. Excellent! I looked at my phone (which somehow had appeared in my hand, in a futile attempt to try and capture the scene) - 8.01am. I carried on around the boardwalk, elated despite my brief views. By 8.03 I was stunned again, as through the next major gap in the trees, a large and rather distinctive wingspan obliterated a small portion of the sky - just what was going on?! I watched as a magnificent beast of a raptor, another death-bringer to the scaly denizens of the deep, tilted on long wings as it calmly powered up the reservoir and away from me. Osprey!!


Crumbs. I watched it for a good few minutes as it covered the water at the asda end of the reservoir, before it turned its attentions to the trees in the north west corner, presumably to try and roost or something, as it then just seemed to disappear. There was little else of note (20 Roosting Cormorants with 3 Grey Heron in the island trees aside), so I carried on a little further to try and relocate it, without luck (added a definite Fox to the list near Adsa), until I had a second bite of the cherry as I returned back the way I had come. A smart juvenile, it made at least half a dozen unsuccessful hunting attempts, smashing down into the water maybe 50 yards away and flying right overhead as it completed several circuits, before eventually circling higher and disappearing behind the trees and to the south. Very nice INDEED!
Last stop on the boardwalk, and a Kingfisher instantly whizzed in, obligingly posing in a waterside tree and catching a small fish on its very first dive. Maybe more adept at catching fish, but definitely playing second fiddle to its larger cousin. Not a bad mornings haul ...

And the moth trap? - 11 moths of 3 species. 7 Flounced Rustic, 3 Large Yellow Underwing and a Small Square Spot Rustic. Worse trapping result for months - back to reality!!!
(Although I did manage to see a couple of Sand Martins high up after one of my rather frequent naps this afternoon whilst up at the field - don't see them too often up there.)

Now all that remains is to try and think up the obligatory attempt at a clever/witty title for this blog entry ...

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