After a warm and sociable weekend, Bank holiday Monday arrived and whilst it looked a little undecided as to whether the weather would continue its fine form it was definitely a day to get in practice for wild June. If you have never been involved in wild June I urge you to check out the link above in red letters which I can guarantee will make your life more worthwhile (or your money back). As well as my usual, now 8 year old assistant I borrowed a couple of others to check out the highlights of nearby Strumpshaw starting firstly with somewhat of a bribe to get us there by offering the delights of the 25th Strumpshaw steam festival.
Having concluded the necessary and highly entertaining pre-nature bribery we headed towards the reserve with a significant amount of cloud cover potentially damaging our chances of seeing the largest UK butterfly the swallowtail which had been seen the day before. Having got lunch out of the way we headed out onto the reserve to get to grips with nature and set ourselves an ambitious 50 bird species target to see or hear. Plenty of early points around the reception area including mallard and Cetti’s warbler alongside wren and blue tits, chaffinch and a host of singing song thrush.
Very quickly I an my young companions were distracted by the opportunity to check out the nearby discovery tent and a chance to make some butterflies and whilst they got creative I had a chance to offer them the first views of a local specialty bird as a hobby flew overhead.
There were plenty more birds singing despite the clouds including Chiffchaff, chaffinch, great tits and blue tits. and we eventually moved on towards the water meadows but not before my assistants got to watch a fast moving common shrew and singing willow warbler. The next highlight which hung around for a bit of warm up time was a common lizard which initially was difficult to see and the held my assistants transfixed.
Almost straight away and to a backdrop of singing willow warblers was the short but steady boom of a male bittern, followed not long after by our first quartering marsh harrier of the day along with a cast of flyover birds including grey heron, black-headed gulls , screaming swifts and lesser black backed gulls.
As we headed toward the tower hide we picked off tufted ducks and good numbers of pochard and gadwall and had a fly over little egret and quick flash of great crested grebe. There was plenty to keep my companions occupied but the swallowtails did not appear and the only butterfly to transfix then was a lonely red admiral. our final bird tally for our trip around the reserve was 37 species somewhat humble but everyone a winner and plenty of lifers for my young companions.
We concluded our visit with the important choice of pin badges and a chance to watch the gathering big lenses hoping to catch an intimate portrait of water voles which are regular in the pond by the reception hide. Dont forget Wild June and with that in mind perhaps throw out some food and see what turns up in the garden over the next few weeks