|Autumn Crossover - Common Blue|
Elderberries drip from the trees, Sloes are ripening on the Blackthorn, and the brambles are slowly turning their fruits into the sweet, tasty, purple and black berries that will fill the birds over the coming months (and my daughter), and it is a great time to get out onto the patch.
With the autumn crossover we are still in a season where the large Dragonflies zip about the air, Butterflies are still fluttering among the grasses and bushes, yet bird migration is just starting to kick into gear a little.
It also helps that the kids are back in school and I can spend a few hours, each day off, out exploring.
And so it is that I have spent a few days recently out snapping away at the last signs of the season and searching for the early passing migrants and remaining summer birds.
Sadly, the current state of Manor Farm is one of very low water and very high plant growth, what little mud is there is almost impossible to see from the current viewing spots (I have been informed by the Parks Trust that the paths and hides should be going in over the next few months, sadly too late for the autumns wader passage).
Friday 4th September
A walk after finishing a night shift led me out across the fields, searching for remaining odonata and in hope of an early passing migrant, in particular in the shape of a Redstart or a Spotted Flycatcher, sadly, the tally of exciting birds was limited to a Fly over Red Kite, who gave me some lovely, silhouetted views as it passed over the river and spent a few minutes circling above the church in Old Wolverton.
|Red Kite Silhouette - Old Wolverton, Milton Keynes|
I was also lucky enough to spend some time with a party of Swallows as they youngsters practiced flight, and sat on the overhead wires begging their passing parents for an extra mouthful of food to help build their fat levels ready for the long haul flight they have ahead of them.
|Young Barn Swallow begging for a snack|
Also along the river it was lovely to see the local warblers had had a pretty good year as Reed Warblers were with young, as were Chiffchaff, there were a few Sedge Warblers, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warblers.
In terms of late in the year Odonata I was pleased to see so many Brown Hawkers and finally managed to add a photo of one to the Dragonflies of Milton Keynes page (only 3 species to go).
|Brown Hawker (photographed with a long lens 400mm)|
|Mallards along the river Ouse|
Sunday 5th September
As a family we decided to go for a long Sunday walk out along the river (my Fitbit buzzed the 10000 step mark about of a third of the way around), my aim was to see as much wildlife as possible (as was Toby's), Zoe's idea was to collect Blackberries for a crumble, and Bubs idea was to eat them all before we got home!
As wildlife goes we didn't see much in the way of exciting birds, sadly nothing much was happening, but there were good numbers of butterflies and Dragonflies around, in fact we managed over 15 Migrant Hawkers, 7 or 8 Brown Hawkers, 1 Southern Hawker, 5 Common Blue Damselflies and 10+ Common Darter (including the one below).
|Common Darter (female)|
As for blackberries, well, we came home with a tub full and Bo did eat a good number so we did quite well, but I should point out that Zoe was concerned enough to leave plenty still on the bushes for the resident birds (although there are plenty of Sloe, Elderberry, and hip about anyway).
Monday 6th September
Monday was due to be a warm day (although more of an Indian summer is expected later in the week) and so with the little lady packed off and school and not needing pick up till quite late, I set out on a long solo walk full of hope of migrants and more Odonata, long lens attached to the camera I was convinced there would be loads of bird photos to follow, but the day didn't quite work out as planned.
Things started well, the area around the old lock had plenty of Blackcaps moving about as well as Chiffchaffs, and Whitethroat. Goldfinches were feeding in good numbers along the sea of seed heads and teasels. But there wasn't much else for a while. Odonata numbers were low around the early part of the walk, and very few butterflies were on the wing, that was until I reached on small clump of blackberry laden brambles beside the old aqueduct that crosses the river.
At first I spotted a lone Volucella Zonaria, the UK's largest hoverfly and a hornet mimic, feeding on the few remaining flowers, and quickly decided to change my lens, a few photos later and a stunning Comma flew in quickly followed by a couple of Speckled Wood and Green-veined white butterflies, the day quickly became a day for macro photography (and as you will see hoverflies in particular).
My continued walk along the river produced little bar a fly over Yellow Wagtail (good to know there was some passage), until I was approaching the East end where the water is still visable, here there were 2 Green Sandpiper and 2 Common Sandpiper (the first wader movement?) and a few Little Grebe, but sadly nothing else overly exciting.
Further around the river, near to the viaduct I saw what I imagine will be my last Common Blue butterfly of the season, a striking silvery blue adult male sunning himself just for my pleasure it would seem.
|Male Common blue|
|Male Common blue|
crossing the small wooden bridge I was overtaken by a small flock of mixed tits, mainly Long-tailed tit but suddenly in amongst them were two striking Coal Tits, my first new patch birds for quite a while. It's great to be surprised in such a way, I really thought the day would hold nothing new.
Now on the patch there is a small path, fenced on both sides that winds through the quarry yard (still working cleaning the stone?) on the south and the old quarry site on the north, either side is very rough ground full of buddliea and wild flowers and here I was suddenly confronted by huge numbers of hoverfly, I managed quite a few photos and each one is named, but there were many more I didn't manage to capture or ID.
A quick stop by the first bride looking out over what used to be prime wader ground revealed very little as it is too dry and over grown, but heading up the hill towards the farm buildings I stopped to look back and saw a huge flock of gulls approaching. I decided to sit on a dry patch of ground and watch their decent.
As I watched (mainly Black-Headed Gulls, a few hundred mixed with Lesser Black-Backed Gulls) I spotted a large falcon which on closer examination turned out to be a peregrine Falcon, who hunted over the lakes for a few minutes before disappearing off North. I continued to scan the skies and soon spotted a rather late Common Swift in amongst the hirundines that were swarming the skies.
As I wandered back up the hill and homeward I stopped for one last scan and that is when I picked up a bird I could not fully identify! At first I took it to be the Peg returning, but as it banked slightly I saw a more rounded wing, thick at the base but thinning towards the "fingers", my instinct was a red kite, however on another bank you could clearly see the rounded tail. The bird began to sit almost motionless in the wind head down, with the odd hovering flap, but then started to quarter the lakes all the while head down, clearly hunting. I watched for a long while as it slowly drifted off down river and was lost from sight.
Sadly I have no idea what it was, but can rule out Kite and Buzzard, and Falcon. The old fisherman's tale of the one that got away I guess.
|Common Darter (male)|
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