Saturday, 16 July 2016

Cloudy North Cave Wetlands

A not very promising trip returning to North Cave to retrieve a fleece jacket I left behind on the heat of last Monday turned into a very nice visit. The sky was cloudy with no hint of break in the clouds, and quite cool. I walked anti-clockwise, and I my first hide stop at East Hide I spotted a slumbering pair of Mediterranean gulls, their sharp black heads with white eye rings tucked under their clean white wings and larger size made them stand over the hundreds of Black-headed gulls, many now with full grown chicks. After a few minutes, the Mediterranean gulls woke up, stretched and bowed to each other calling, giving some nice views.

 On the path to Turret Hide I found this fully grown Garden Tiger caterpillar on a walkabout.
 From the hide, a pair of Bullfinches were feeding on the seedpods of Forget-me-nots, something I've never seen them do before.

There were several male Reed Buntings singing around the reserve. The one on the top shot let me get really close, about two meters, and I could photograph it to my heart's content. This Whitethroat by Turret Hide sung atop a willow where a Reed Bunting had done previously.
 In the distance I saw a Shoveler with ducklings. The pair of Shelduck with young were sleeping across the lake, so I couldn't count how many ducklings were left.
A distant shot of a Female Shoveler with young.
 On my way out, I noticed weird jelly-like blobs on the side of the path. Thanks to Chris Drudge and Phil Gates on Twitter, which identified it as colonies of the cyanobacterium Nostoc. Apparently they can appear on ground after heavy rains although they are more commonly seen in lakes.
Nostoc colonies
As I walked along North Path, I saw a Green Woodpecker. It appeared to be bothered by something in its bill, and kept shaking it and swiping it, unsuccessfully. In several of the photos the bill is half open, giving the impression to have a Trichomoniasis infection. It hopped along and disappeared behind the hedge.
 There were many, many species with chicks in the reserve. This, a Blue Tit fledgling on North Hedge, stretches before joining her parents.
 Here, a Gadwall female with her ducklings.
 A number of Lapwing with chicks about, engaging in mobbing other birds around. This one, a male, in a few minutes of peace on the fields.
 As I turned the corner of far lake, invertebrates suddenly became more obvious. The following are a selection
Millipedes on bramble flower.
Common Blue Damselfly
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

Willow Warbler
Araneus diadematus spiderling ball
Helophilus trivittatus.
Salticus cingulatus. Note the iridescent marking on abdomen.
Salticus cingulatus
Nemophora degeerella.

Red Kite over the viewing area.
Mute swan being mobbed by Black-headed gulls.

July at Tophill Low

On Monday the weather forecast was windy with showers in the morning. I briefly considered going to work, but ultimately decided to brave the elements and head to Tophill Low. The wind was there, but the rain was pretty much absent. I walked towards the south of the reserve, with a stop at the lagoons, where I watched a family of Little Grebes. One of the parents brooded the chicks while the other fed them with small fish. 
One of the parents brings a fish.
Brooding Little Grebe.
Another fish is brought.
The verges around O reservoir were teeming with orchids, mostly common spotted, with a single shrivelled bee orchid.
Orchid display
A moth-like insect landed at the base of one of the South Marsh hides. Upon closer inspection I think it is a caddis fly, but I haven't been able to identify it.
At least three Little Egrets fed on South Marsh East.
Two young Little Ringed Plover. The adults were nearby.
This young Garganey was feeding with some mallards, possibly one of the young that this year have been born at the reserve.
An adult Little Gull was sleeping on one of the islands. It woke up briefly and I could take its portrait.
In the window frames of the hides live the Furrow spider, Nuctenea umbratica.
Another Garganey, this one in South Marsh West
A few insects were active, including this pair of Common Blue Damselflies.
and a Large Skipper.
On the path to Watton Carr hide, I found a dead shrew, and, when I upturned it, a Sexton Beetle was hiding underneath. It was a Nicrophorus investigator. I followed this very useful key to identify it.
Small Skippers where out as well. This frontal shot shows the brown underside of the antennae tip in this species.

A single Common Darter sat on the path around O reservoir.
Underside of a large skipper.
I walked to the north side of the reserve and met these amazing flies on the path. The males are as shiny as a mirror and they dart over damp ground flashing like fireflies. They belong to the genus Argyra.
As I opened my lunch box in North Marsh hide, a Kingfished flew towards the perches. It sat on several of them and even hovered over the water in search of fish. It ended up catching a couple. What a great lunch time it was!