Saturday, 27 August 2011

Wetlands Centre - Chasing Hawkers and Moorhens

Last weekend I decided to get out of the house to take some photos and I suddenly realised how lucky I was being in the location I am in terms of nature reserves.  The WWT centre around the corner, and at least two nature reserves, Barnes common and the Leg of Mutton, as well as Richmond Park to name but a few areas. One of the major advantages of starting at the WWT centre, as I did on this occasion, is that you can pretty much guarantee there will be photo opportunities. Also, the ability to see what had been attracted to the site over the past few days, by looking at their wildlife sightings page on their website website and taking a look at their twitter stream, are a great help in planning a visit.

I arrived and managed to tag along with one of the warden walks. This allowed me to see one of the smallest and probably most photographed invertebrates at the centre over the past few weeks; a Wasp Spider. Introduced to this country from the continent, it is usually confined to the south coast but, due in large part to global warming, their range is slowly extending north and they have been spotted as far as Cambridge. Sporting natures warning colours, black and yellow, they are not poisonous, although I've read that they can bite. They are very beautiful to look at though.

From there, I decided to leave the warden and the group to it and head towards the wildside, admittedly my favourite area of the centre. On the way it was lovely to see the many of the wild flowers still in bloom near the RBC rain garden.

On my way towards the wildside, I spotted a Moorhen finishing the lunch it had obviously bought from the cafe. "This cuppa support conservation..." - yes, it certainly looks like it!

After a spot of lunch for me, I finally got to the wildside. I decided to walk around to where I'd seen the Kingfisher a couple of weeks earlier but the island had been given a pretty close hair cut, so there was no where the Kingfisher could perch, even if it did decide to visit. However, I did get a nice shot of a Moorhen, reflected in the water.

I also spotted one (ok, two) of the newest editions to the wetlands centre; newly born Little Grebes. Judging from their size, I would say they were only about a week old and Mum and Dad were, understandibly, very protective of them, hiding them under their wings on their back.

I noted there were a couple of large Migrant Hawkers patrolling the edge of the pond and proceeded to spend the next hour or so attempting to get a photo of one in flight, completely in vain I might add. However, as I continued my walk, I spotted another which seemed all to keen to have it's photo taken, hovering right in front of me, giving me plenty of time to check camera settings, etc, before taking these photos.

This was obviously the spot to find animals who wanted to have their photo taken, as a Moorhen posed gracefully for me as well.

I went into the wildside hide and managed to get a nice photo of some Mallards flying over.

Finally, on my way to the exit, a couple of baby lizards were pointed out to me. Thanks to the guy who drew my attention to them.

From the Wetlands centre, I decided to have a walk to the Leg of Mutton nature reserve on my way home. To be honest, there was not a lot to see, due mainly to the fact I didn't have a lot of time to spend looking. Another Migrant Hawker decided it wanted to have its photo taken, so I gladly obliged.

Also, I think it's safe to say, there are plenty of Cormorants who call the Leg of Mutton home. I spotted eight on this pontoon alone and there were many more to be seen on the others around the reservoir.

It was also nice to see the Swan signets I'd seen earlier in the year all grown up. Six in total, all still in their juvenile plumage but looking to be doing very well.

Finally, I spotted a group of Long-tailed Tits flying from tree to tree just before I left the reserve. A nice day, lots of walking, but well worth the effort.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Nature at its finest, and harshest

After a day of watching rugby and post-match "refreshments", Kelly and I decided that Sunday should include a serene walk around the wetlands centre.

Between the rain showers, it was actually quite a nice day. There were the usual moorhens and coots milling around and, as walked over to the reservoir lagoon, we spotted a couple of Great-Crested Grebe's.

They were looking for fish and having a bit of a dive but no fish, that we saw, were caught.

While trying to spot a bird that was singing away in a tree, I happened to look up and saw a juvenille Blue Tit watching me.

From something so cute, Kelly then spotted the crueller side of nature; a Common Wasp trapped in a Green Orb-weaver spider's web.  We watched, as the spider slowly gained confidence to approach its monsterously large prospective meal, and start to bind it's legs together.  It's not hard to guess what the final outcome was but I think it's safe to say that the meal will last this little spider quite a few days.

To finish our visit, we went back to watching the cuter side of nature, with some baby Whistling Ducks.

Monday, 1 August 2011

A slow, boring day, with nothing to see, but then...

This Sunday, I decided to have a wander around the Wetlands Centre. The sun was out and I was interested to see if anything else was too.

In a word, no. The most I could see was a couple of large Hawkers patrolling their territory, which I attempted to get a shot of. This is the best one I managed to get, which still isn't that great.

My girlfriend, Kelly, came to meet me and, at this point, I was pretty much ready to give up on the photos and settle for a cool beer.

I mentioned to Kelly that there had been a Kingfisher spotted at the wildside area of the centre earlier that morning, which she was very keen to find, as I was. So, rather than wandering around aimlessly in the hope that we stumble across it, we started to have a walk around the ponds to see if we could find the Heron we'd seen flying in a few minutes earlier. After a few minutes Kelly announced, "I think I've just seen something". What, exactly, she didn't say but then we both saw it; a flash of blue. A flash caught out of the corner of my eye was all it was but we were both convinced it was the Kingfisher, which was soon confirmed by a couple of bird watchers who said it had been flying around for a little while.

Alas, it had flown off and I, for one, was gutted. So close to seeing my first Kingfisher properly and the only photo I had managed to get was a blurry shot containing a jumble of unfocussed greenery with no blue whatsoever.  The bird watchers had wandered off to the other side of the pond and I thought the chance was over.

But then I was waved over to the other side of the pond and, when I got there, I was greeted with this.

An absolutely beautiful, bright blue, male Kingfisher. I watched it for a few minutes through a combination of my camera and my binoculars but, to be honest, it was a bit far away. So I decided to try to get closer, which meant climbing through the trees and undergrowth which wasn't ideal in shorts and t-shirt. It was definitely worth it though; I ended up about 2 metres from where he was perched.

And then, after about an hour or so, he flew off. That was ok though as I was perfectly happy with the time I'd spent watching a Kingfisher in the sun which was a nice 30th birthday present. He didn't catch any fish that we saw but then there will be other days to see that.

And anyway, it was time for a refreshing cider in the Red Lion pub garden, where a Robin stopped by to say hello.

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