It never feels like much is going to happen when you look out of the window and all you can see is flat white skies; from a photographers point of view the light is dull and really doesn't offer much; from a birders perspective, dull cloud filled skies like today, often mean nothing much will move, birds like clear skies to migrate, and things like rain bring them down. So when I looked out of the window and saw endless flat white skies, you can imagine I was a little apprehensive about what the day would hole.
Flat White Skies
I was so unconvinced I'd not have much use for the long lens that I left the camera in my bag as I walked down the steep slope below Old Wolverton church, wandering through the old lock, quite a few Chiffchaff could be heard singing within the trees and bushes, while Blackcaps scratch away deep within the scrub. Suddenly overhead the scimitar shape of a Common Swift screamed through, the first of this summers arrivals, and always a sign of summer.
As I neared the Aqueduct the sun began to creep out from behind the white sheet of clouds, and I decided it was now time to get the camera out.
The Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve seemed quiet when I entered from the West, I could hear the distant bubbling call of a Redshank, somewhere along one of the hidden channels, but not much from this Western end, walking the path between hides it seems every heron on the reserve began to fly about 3 Grey Herons, flew through as well as at least 4 Little Egret, including one lovely close bird.
|Little Egret in Flight|
|Another of the Egret|
|Calling while in flight|
From the Farm hide, again there was little of note, a brief moment of excitement, as I photographed nest building Coot, a pair of Oystercatcher flew through the reserve landing on one of the small islands between hides, the same islands they attempted to breed on last summer.
|Coot Nest Building|
|Mallard in Flight|
With the action seemingly over I headed on further through the reserve, to the Viaduct hide, settling in I was joined by 3 Common Tern, who dropped in while I scanned the waters. 4 Little Ringed Plover hopped between islands and Swallows and House Martins swooped overhead.
In the little bay beside the hide a stunning summer plumage Little Grebe bobbed and dived, chasing small fish in the dark waters. The deep red of his neck catching the sunshine beautifully.
|Little Grebe in summer plumage|
|Another Little Grebe Shot, looks stuck on for some reason?|
While watching the grebe a pair of Pied Wagtails caught my eye as the male put on a stunning display for his female cohort. At first he strutted around, his long tail pointing straight up, then wing flashing, and spreading in random directions. Quite often she would chase him off, his attentions unwanted, but eventually the pair seemed to find each others company thrilling enough and they began to spend quite a bit of time in a small scrubby area, presumably a nest site.
|Tails Up - Pied Wagtail|
|Female Pied Wagtail waiting for her man|
|Female Pied Wagtail|
I headed off from here around to the new workings, the air was full of the twittering sound and darting bullet shapes of Sand Martin, at first a few and then dozens filled the air with their acrobatic displays. I spent a good half an hour trying to catch the blisteringly fast flights of these wonderful summer visitors. My efforts (see below) were at best average, but it was a fun contest at least till my arms began to ache from holding the heavy camera to the skies.
|Sand Martin in Flight|
|Sand Martin in the Sun|
|Fly By Sand Martin|
|Another Sand Martin|
While trying to capture the flashes of brown in the sky, and while listening to a farmer across the river trying to herd some sheep, the sounds of "Come by" echoing down the river valley, another sound of summer chimed in, the sound of a Cuckoo singing out for a mate. The classic sound now all to often noticeable by its absence.
Heading back to the Floodplain Forest, I wandered along the river, still hoping to see the young goosander that have been reported (and failing), pausing near the millennium bridge to listen to the freewheeling bicycle like reeling of the Grasshopper Warbler, still to be found over the river.
The reserve remained quiet on my second pass through, but nearing the canal once more, a Cetti's Warbler burst into song deep within the trees at the base of the canal, I now have just lesser whitethroat to see and we will have seen all the warblers recorded on teh patch nce more, something I thought I wouldn't achieve this year.
|More Little Grebe|
|Tufted Duck (Female and Male)|
|Another of the Little Grebe|
|Little Grebe, swimming|
|Jackdaw at high speed|
|Canada Geese in Flight|
|House Martin in Flight|
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