Not my Greatest Walk

Not My Greatest Walk - Female Mallard
Not My Greatest Walk - Female Mallard
I was in two minds this morning about weather I should venture out or not, I had to drop the little lady at school first, and get a little shopping in so I wasn't going to be making an early start by any means, but after a while "umming" and "ahing" the sun was out, there were some blue skies and I thought "sod it, if I don't go I'll only regret it".

Although in hindsight I now regret going, but more on that later.

My approach along the canal today was interrupted by some massive helicopters (Chinook?) at one point I was convinced they would start strafing the ground with the gunfire, of course they didn't, but it is odd seeing such massive machines flying low over your local area.

Chinook Helicopter?
Chinook Helicopter?

Not My Greatest Walk


I decided to vary my walk today, and also get more of a feel for the work going on at the Farm Pits by heading out across the South of the main reserve (which is the path below the farm buildings but above the pits). I've avoided the area as with paths going in it has been kind of pointless walking this way of late, and today wasn't much of an exception.

The fields were full of sheep, mainly your bog standard ewe used by the Parks Trust to keep the grass down, but interspersed with the females were a couple of rams, now there were two ways to tell they were rams, firstly the rather obvious male appendages (and I don't mean horns!) and secondly they were decked out in some kind of weird bondage gear!

Sheep (ram) in mating attire!
Sheep (ram) in mating attire!

I think these are used to mark the ewes that have been mated with?

Black and White Feast


Anyway as well as disturbing these amorous sheep there were plenty of Magpies, Rooks, Crows and Jackdaws dotted around the long grass, although where I had started the day in lovely sunshine the golden orb of light and warmth had decided enough was enough and she had let the silvery clouds fill the sky, so as well as poor light for most photos there was a distinct chill in the air.

Magpie in flight (the Out of Focus nature I think makes it a nice action shot)
Magpie in flight (the Out of Focus nature I think makes it a nice action shot)


Approaching the corner of the pits I suddenly became aware that the grass was also spotted with Pied Wagtails, their chipping calls coming from all over and their wagging tails (hence the name) could be seen pumping all over. One even popped up onto a Bench for my enjoyment. After a couple of quick snaps I was distracted by my first Kingfisher of the day as it zipped past me emitting its whistling, piping call and alighted in a bare tree that was over hanging the stream, sadly she didn't stay for long and was off up over the hedge and across the lakes.

Pied Wagtail at home on a bench
Pied Wagtail at home on a bench


Surprise Returns


By now the efforts of my walk were causing my back to spasm (I have taken to popping my strong pain killers prior to my walks so that they kick in roughly when the pain of the walk does, alas today I forgot!) but I pushed on (a mistake) and carried on past the viaduct and round to view the pits themselves.

It was clear the workmen on site today hadn't really been out doing much today as the lakes still had a smattering of wildfowl and gulls for my enjoyment, Shovelers were intermixed with the odd Tufted Duck, piping Wigeon were hurrying small Teal around and 20+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls were joined by 19 Common Gull and one lone Herring Gull, as well as the usual high numbers of Black Headed Gull.

Further around the pools, my first Gadwall (3) of the month were sharing a bank with a solitary Green Sandpiper (oddly the only wader of the day, not a lapwing in sight?) as Little Egret and Grey Heron flew from island to island looking for an ideal fishing spot.

And then on the opposite side of the river the female Stonechat put in an appearance as she chased a female Reed Bunting away from her perch, she was quickly joined by the male and the both put on a little, alarm calling, show for me (regular readers will know about my Obsession here) before the male hopped the river and landed on an old fence post very near to me! I haven't seen them the last couple of walks so it was great to see they are still about.

Male Stonechat on Post
Male Stonechat on Post

Male Stonechat on Post (portrait)
Male Stonechat on Post (portrait)


Back Pain Trumps all


By now my back was screaming at me to stop, I was resting for a good 5 minutes on every bench as I passed but my walk was slowing and my concentration was gone. I carried on up river passing the camp site lakes with its stock of Coot and Tufted Duck as well as the only small party of Pochard on the patch at present, and made my way towards home.

Cormorant in Flight over the patch
Cormorant in Flight over the patch

Cormorant in Flight over the patch
Cormorant in Flight over the patch


My only stops were for another Kingfisher brief appearance just before the Aqueduct and a final brief view of the female Goosander from Thursday still using the river as a fishing place. Although she did not allow me a close approach and was off up the river very quickly upon seeing me.

After yet another bench stop I headed home across the fields only managing to briefly see a couple of Bullfinch as they flew from a hedge at my approach before my concentration had totally gone and it was all I could do too keep going and make it home. Sometimes I do wish I had a back that could cope with more.

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