Ruff Close Encounters

Ruff Close Encounters - Great Crested Grebe


With some heavy afternoon and overnight rain I was hoping that the patch (Manor Farm - I can't bring myself to call it the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve, far too much of a mouthful) would have gained that little extra water that it needs to be really inviting to waders. 

And so with a morning of freedom (I left Zoe [I'm joking the Good Wife is actually quite good] and the little lady at home watching trash TV and Youtube respectively), I headed out onto the patch in search of waders and what ever other migrants might have been brought in by the sudden break of the recent summer weather.


Lone Patch Walk


For the first time in a while, well this summer holiday at any rate, I found myself heading towards the Old Lock area as my first point of call, and to say it was alive with birds could be an understatement. As I wandered through, the chacking of Blackcaps and Common Whitethroats could be heard from deep within the scrub, Chiffchaffs called out from the elder and the odd Willow Warbler seemed to have discovered their voices as they sang out from high in the canopy.

AS I stood by the lock itself birds were flitting about all over, the best of the bunch being a fine Lesser Whitethroat who put in a brief appearance.

High Flying Sparrowhawk
High Flying Sparrowhawk


Stilt Pits


Heading onto the reserve I wandered about checking out both the Iron Trunk hide and teh Farm hide but there was little out of either (in fact the area seemed to be almost deserted just the odd Grey Heron and Mute Swan, so I headed on up to the stilt pits, where I settled into the hide and began to scan through the flocks of Greylag and Canada Geese.

In front of the hide a fantastically close Great crested grebe (opening image) fished the shallow water, while all around hundreds of Geese honked and argued as they fought for space on the small islands. Mallards and Shoveler could be seen dabbling in the deeper areas and a few Little Egret were dotted about the banks.

A Juvenile Tern flew about briefly and as I checked out my Collins app to see if it might be an arctic it vanished from sight (an email later informed me it was indeed an Arctic Tern, my first of the year), looking up from the app 2 Hobby flew over the trees to my left before heading off over the river.

Ruff Close Encounters

Heading down the central track I stopped to chat to a couple who had been actively watching the ruff, which has been present for around a week I believe, currently it wasn't on show however, and had likely been flushed as all the local birds had suddenly taken to the skies or started panicking, scanning the skies revealed nothing and then suddenly a small brown and white dog appeared swimming through the water and dashing along the islands. It is situations like this that really annoy us local birders, a complete lack of respect from someone allowing (or failing to stop either way) their dogs to disturb the nature reserve like this!

Eventually the dog was retrieved (the owners heading off over the millennium bridge) and calmness was restored. The Ruff however hadn't fled and suddenly appeared pecking its way along one of the close islands. I got to spend a good few minutes watching and photographing this stunningly marked bird (no sadly not one in breeding plumage).

Ruff Close Encounters
Ruff Close Encounters

Ruff
Ruff

Ruff standing proud
Ruff standing proud

Ruff feeding
Ruff feeding

Ruff feeding
Ruff feeding

Ruff feeding
Ruff feeding

A Ruff among Geese
A Ruff among Geese


After a while watching the ruff and trying to photograph the Canada Geese I headed off back around the reserve the way I had come to see what else might be about, the flurry of earlier activity had dispersed the birds for sure.

Angry Canada Goose
Angry Canada Goose 
Canada Geese
Canada Geese

Canada Geese
Canada Geese

Canada Geese
Canada Geese


Heading Home


Crossing back over the iron bridge I scanned the main pits and beyond the 9 roosting Little Egret the long neck and orange bill of the Great White Egret could be seen, almost hidden from view. I headed towards the Farm hide to see if the view was better but could not relocate the bird, clearly having one of its more elusive days.

From the Iron Trunk hide I could make out eh form of a sleeping Redshank, my first for a while, and around the corner in the furthest North West corner 2 Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper fed along the bank. In this same area, Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker were performing aerial battles with one another over the waters surface.

Finally heading back through the old lock area a lone, and rather ragged Common Blue butterfly allowed me close inspection of it's feeding on birds foot trefoil.

Common Blue Butterfly
Common Blue Butterfly


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