Tag Archives: nature reserve

Gibraltar Point

No, it isn’t as far as it sounds, just a trip to the coast near Skegness. That’s 81 miles. The proper Gibraltar is 1,611 miles away and too far for a day trip. It’s a nostalgic trip. I first visited it with school 50 years ago. Twenty years ago we took the kids. Now we do it for fun. Of course, Visitor Centre and windmills weren’t there in the old days.

Nor was the bagged dog excrement left neatly by the side of the centre.

Here are a few shots of the day – more will follow later, with more details.

A Day of Dabchicks

We went to Old Moor, an RSPB reserve in the Dearne Valley between Barnsley and Rotherham.I’ve never thought of this area in relation to birds before, but there are 250 acres of wetland with a variety of hides, toilets, shop, cafe and bird garden. With our new RSPB membership cards it was too good to miss.

Things got off to a shaky start when we left the cards in the car and had to walk back to the far end of the car park to get them.  After that things were pretty good and although we missed the bullfinches that are supposedly common here, we still built up a list of over 40 species from just half of the reserve.

We started with the Bird Garden, which is a piece of lawn between the back of the Visitors’ Centre and an area of woodland. It is well provided with feeding stations and natural-looking perches (including a fork handle for the traditional Robin shot). Only one bird selected the handle while we were there – a Great Tit. So much for tradition.

From there we moved on to look at the display garden and the Tree Sparrow Farm, an area of grassland and hedges with a large number of nestboxes. They claim to have a colony of 250 Tree Sparrows but only two popped by to visit, and neither of them posed for us.

I also had trouble getting a good shot of a Stock Dove as the Wood Pigeons kept chasing them.

I will show a selection of photographs rather than list everything we saw.

 

There were plenty of ducks about, and a selection of waders. The light started deteriorating as the afternoon drew on so I don’t have as many shots as I would like. I was lucky in getting a couple of good shots of Dabchicks (or Little Grebes if you prefer formality) that came close to the hides. One, as you can see, managed to catch a comparatively large fish (which looks like a Perch in some of the photos). The size (and spines) meant it took a long time to swallow. The video clip shows the bird after eating; I think it’s trying to clean the fish slime off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dabchick with fish

 

Good Day at Blacktoft Sands

I was tempted by the alliteration of “Bad Day at Blacktoft Sands” as I like alliteration and it sounds like a black and white cowboy film, which I also like. However, we had a good day, so that plan was doomed from the start.

It shows how things have changed over the years if I say that we saw a Marsh Harrier and a Little Egret, but didn’t see anything special. Marsh Harriers were down to a single breeding pair in 1971 but there are up to 380 pairs now and seem quite common if you go to the right place. Little Egrets have had a population explosion since the 1980s – from being a rarity we now have a population of around 700 breeding pairs and 4,500 overwintering. Give them a few more years and we’ll be complaining about them crowding other birds out.

The Marsh Harrier expansion is down to preserving habitat, changing habits and stopping people persecuting them, though they still have problems. The Little Egret, I’m afraid to say, might be due to global warming though a general expansion of range and protection of habitat may be helping.

The first notable birds we say were Tree Sparrows. They have declined by 96% since 1970, and we only seem to see them on the bird feeders at Nature Reserves!

We did see a group of Pochard, which was nice because numbers have been decreasing, plus a couple of Little Grebes, Widgeon, Teal, Greylag Geese and a few other things. I won’t list them all because lists aren’t that interesting, except to the people making the list.

As usual, the distance was too far for the camera, but fortunately some of the birds helped out by coming close. Buildings, being bigger and slower than birds, were more obliging, so I took a few shots of the buildings.

It’s a very watery place. The Ouse runs to the north of the reserve (connecting Goole docks to the sea). The Trent runs down the east side and where the two rivers meet they form the Humber, which is an estuary rather than a river. I didn’t know that until last week, I always thought it was a short river.

The white building is part of Associated British Ports and overlooks a wharf whilst the lighthouse at Whitgift is still in service and is a waymark for Goole docks.

 

To end the day we went to the Dolphin at Sutton on Sea for haddock and chips. I had a syrup sponge and custard. Julia had a banana fritter. Well, it was Valentine’s Day, and I thought she deserved a treat.

Idle Valley Nature Reserve

Let’s be honest, doesn’t Idle Valley sound like a great place to be? It has to be up there with Happy Valley and Easy Street.

The walk was bracing , and there were some interesting birds about but as we sat in the cafe, eating Fat Rascals and drinking tea a member of staff came in and started to engage in protracted loud banter with the cafe staff. I could have done without it, but it wasn’t too bad. When he started moving chairs and tables, including the ones next to us, I began to have flashbacks to our visit to Attenborough NR.

It looked like he was preparing to remove the Christmas tree, which begged the question why he couldn’t have done it before 10 am or after 4 pm when the cafe was closed to the public. It just goes to show how assumptions can be wrong, because he was actually preparing to have a cup of tea and a twenty minute session of complaining about management changes.

What is it about me that seems to attract this sort of thing? All I want is tea and cake.

The lake is quite a big pit, the sun was in my eyes for most of the time and much of the lakeside path doesn’t run along the side of the lake so it wasn’t the easiest place to watch birds. Fortunately we started off with a big flock of Teal (thanks to one of the telescopes in the visitor centre) so we were guaranteed a new bird for the 2017 list. Part way round I picked a couple of Gadwall out of a small flock of ducks – they are quite dull, greyish ducks, but they stood out by body length and dabbling behaviour in a group of Tufted ducks. It’s another new species for 2017 and they were closely followed by a group of Shovellers and a couple of Pochard, which were also new species for the year. Let’s be honest though, on 4th January most species are going to be new for the year.

Before we set off I’d checked up on the recent sightings and looked the rarities up so I wouldn’t get caught out if I saw them. Well, I didn’t get caught out, but that was due to lack of sightings rather than lack of preparation.

One day we’ll find something rare, some day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gadwall drake – a rather dull duck

 

Attenborough Nature Reserve

We decided on Attenborough Nature Reserve for an expedition a few weeks ago. It had come up in conversation with visiting birdwatchers on the farm and it occurred to me that I hadn’t been there for about 10 years.

I started to remember why very soon after arrival. For one thing, the reserve is a series of gravel pits, and gravel pits on a murky December morning can be a bit bleak. For another, there isn’t much else to it. There’s no ruin or old trees.

First stop was the cafe. It’s so long since I’ve been to Attenborough that they hadn’t built it last time I was there. It wasn’t very welcoming. Some people who arrived after us started moving chairs around, including a couple on our table. They seemed to be regulars from the way they spoke to the staff, and clearly felt we were in their way.

After that one of the staff members started telling them that despite her years of experience nobody listens to her, and they had put the Christmas tree in the wrong place.

It’s a decent cafe (with shop, toilets, classrooms and a sand martin nest bank/hide) but after our experience on the farm we just don’t want workplace politics with our scones.

The nature area at the back of the cafe has several things of interest, including three sorts of bug hotel, all pictured below.

Add that to being trapped in the sand martin hide whilst a lecture was delivered, loud conversations, brightly-clad joggers and a man letting his dog chase ducks. It all adds up to  an uncomfortable experience.

It seems, from postings on the website, that the bustle doesn’t upset the wildlife and the habitat is some of the best in Europe. It’s also clearly well-used by many people for a variety of recreational and educational purposes.  You can’t really fault it when you look at it like this.

It could have been so good…

Ah well, we’ll just have to give it another try in the New Year. I’m sure it has lots of good points, but the last thing we needed at this point was cafe politics (read previous posts if you want to see why).

 

 

 

 

The Nottingham Oilfield

Yes, that’s right – we had an oilfield. We haven’t had one for a while, of course, but I can distinctly remember seeing the nodding donkeys in fields as we drove past in the 1960s. They’ve been looking at starting up again but I’m not sure what’s happening about that.

It was all based at Duke’s Wood, a quiet patch of woodland near the village of Eakring. Apart from the oilfield museum (which was shut when I visited), the wood is a nature reserve, though there wasn’t a lot of wildlife about on a blustery Sunday morning.

I managed an unimpressive  picture of a Meadow Brown, a dragonfly (possibly a Brown Hawker but it was a bit too quick for me), a couple of those white moths in the grass and a frog (which was dead, and thus slow enough for me to photograph).

There are several nodding donkeys in the woods and a statue and plaque in memory of the American oilmen who came across to help during the war. It produced 3.5 million barrels of oil during the war, which was handy, as it couldn’t be sunk by U Boats.

The oilmen were billeted with the monks at Kelham Hall, and one of them, Herman Douthit, fell from a derrick and was killed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA