Saturday, April 25, 2009

Listening And Watching Nightingales

Fabulous day out at Pulborough. The weather couldn't have been better and certainly better than forecast. Warm and sunny with a few fluffy clouds about but no sign of rain. I'd gone primarily to listen to nightingales in preparation for the Nightingale Festival next weekend and they certainly didn't disappoint.

I heard one almost as soon as I walked on to the reserve and needn't have worried about being able to identify it, from it's warm, rich, liquid song with different phrases sung in loud bursts from cover. A different quality and much richer tone from the other great songsters like the blackbird and song thrush. However, not all of them were skulking around in the bushes and there was a great view of one from the picnic area and one at the pond near Fattingates, with several calling around the reserve all day. No, they don't just sing at night ... fortunately.

The adders were out again along their usual sunny spot - nestled down in the grass and despite their bold markings, difficult to see and many people walked past them. This time it was the males warming themselves in the morning sunshine. Smaller than the females and the more familiar black and white.

Treat them with respect. I was annoyed at the people who were either poking around in the grass with a stick or getting far too close to get their photo - one person literally lying on the ground, within a couple of feet of one.

They need to warm up in order to activate their metabolism, so they can go off and feed - especially if they've just emerged from hibernation. If you come across one out in the open - don't disturb it or get too close - not for your protection but for it's. They won't attack and are more likely to have moved off having felt your footsteps as you approached.

There were plenty of butterflies around too - Painted Ladies, an Orange-Tip and a lovely Green Veined White on the edge of the brooks by Jupps View, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies on the paths and around the hedgerows.

The British Whites who have now had their calves and were both in the fields and out on the brooks. Lovely white cows with black noses and ears. There's a wonderful bull in with them in the centre of the reserve and several bright, clean, white calves. They've got sweet, Jersey-like faces and markings like a Siamese but they're an ancient, traditional British breed, developed from the indigenous wild cattle.

I was also there to indulge in a slice of bread pudding. I must have mentioned it before but it has to be tasted to be believed. Wonderfully moist, packed with fruit and especially delicious when it's still warm from the oven. You have to time it right though. Too early and it's not yet ready, too late and it's all gone. Grab a slice at lunchtime and then snack on it when you get hungry out in the hide or end up staying late.

There were a few ducks still out on the brooks - plenty of teal and shelduck with pintail, gadwall out on the brooks and a few wigeon seen from Winpenny, where there was also a greenshank in the distance. It was feeding in with two redshank, so making it easier to spot the difference between the two, even though they were way off in the distance. Yes, I know redshanks have got red shanks and aren't that difficult to spot but it's the comparison with the greenshank that's useful.

There were sand martins flying over both Winpenny and the North brooks and a few swifts, house martins and swallows but not yet in great numbers. The warblers had arrived and there were willow warblers, chiffchaffs, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats singing from trees and hedgerows - mainly along the path between Jupps and the Hanger. A pair of nuthatches were creeping along branches on the corner by Fattingates, pointed out by a couple who weren't sure what they were.

I stayed late, just as the herons were cronking off to roost further up river and on the way back, heard both a cuckoo, calling from the tall trees on the edge of the reserve near Wiggonholt church and a tawny owl from about the same area.

And a lovely sunset to finish off the day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Urban Foxes

Unusual to see two foxes out wandering the streets but coming back from yoga I saw two in about half a mile stretch. Late evening but not yet totally dark. There's either a busy den or there are several families in the area.