Monday, 14 April 2014

Sandwell Valley - April 2014

Yesterday was my monthly volunteering jaunt at RSPB Sandwell Valley; I was looking forward to it as many new Spring friends had arrived since I was last there! Indeed on my walk down to the hide I heard and saw many fine things, including singing Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and Peacock, Comma and Orange Tip butterflies.

Peacock Butterfly (Inachis Io) in the wildlife garden area.
The marsh and Forge Mill Lake looking fine!
Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) on Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Those Orange Tips were too quick to photograph though!
Down at the hide, the Oystercatchers appeared to be incubating eggs - they had cleverly chosen as their nest site a small area that had been fenced off to try and protect nesting waders from the marauding tramplings of Canada Geese. This doesn't appear to have been entirely successful as there was also a Canada Goose sitting withing the fenced area! However the Oystercatchers weren't fazed by the geese, and maybe it will prove a wise choice as the geese could assist with chasing off predators. During the day we saw the male and female swap over a few times, taking turns to sit on the eggs. Something they definitely were fazed by were the several juvenile Grey Herons which flew overhead a few times - this was guaranteed to set off the Oystercatchers a'squawking.

Nesting Oystercatcher, with an attendant Canada Goose. My digiscoping efforts I think are slowly improving :o)
I also saw my first Swallows, Sand and House Martins of the year. During the day we saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes swim right past the front of the hide a couple of times, possibly searching for nest sites - at one point they briefly investigated an old Coot's nest very close to the hide, but seemed to decide against it - probably for the best as it is rather exposed and shoddily constucted! Another Great Crested Grebe pair were seen further down the lake, possibly building a nest beneath some overhanging trees.

Don't nest there, it's shoddy.
Nearly all the winter ducks have gone now, there were a small handful of Goosanders about and someone reported that they had seen a pair of Shoveler on the marsh. The confused Pochard that thinks it's a Tufted Duck was still there though - he normally stays all year round with his tufted friends.

I'm a Tufted Duck! I'm a Tufted Duck! I'm a Tufted Duck!
I had fun practicing my digiscoping on the Lapwings:

This was probably the best one.....only a tiny bit of vignetting...
And also the Little Ringed Plovers! Despite numerous attempts this was about the best I managed, it's no coincidence that it's of one of these normally busy plovers sitting still for once:

Digiscoped Little Ringed Plover....shame it's not quite in focus!
However I am quite pleased with some of the day's drawings, as well as the 3 Little Ringed Plovers there was also a Common Sandpiper bumbling around.

Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper sketches. The Little Ringed Plover on the left hand page is my favourite. I was trying, but not quite succeeding, to nail the head patterns in the two bottom right sketches.
On the path down to the hide, I tried to look out for interesting new plants to attempt to ID. It's more difficult when not much is in flower, although not new to me I saw some lovely Cuckoo Flowers:

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis).
And these leaves which were a bit more mysterious:

I'm going to hazard a guess at..... Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans). Might have to wait until it flowers though for confirmation!

I also spotted a white butterfly and I can't decide whether it was Small White or a female Orange Tip, my butterfly ID skills are still in their infancy! I'm inclined to think Orange Tip due to the time of year (a bit early for Whites?), unfortunately this is not a good photo, but if anyone can tell from this picture I would welcome that! :o)

Male Small White (Pieris rapae) or female Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)?

Also in other news, I finally took my thumb to the GP this morn, who diagnosed De Quervain's tenosynovitis, likely to be brought about by my intensive note-taking with poor writing technique from my studies. The best course of action is definitely resting the area completely so I am going to stop my paintings again for a while as I really want this to recover now (if it doesn't, the next step is steroid injections and I don't like the sound of that!) So alas, there will be no paintings for a while and I will be using the time instead to ice and stretch my thumb!

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