Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Sandwell Valley - October 2014

On Sunday I was back at RSPB Sandwell Valley, volunteering in the hide once again. Apart from the singing Chiffchaff by the temporary visitor centre (wonder if he'll stick around over winter?), it felt very autumnal when I arrived, with lots of atmospheric mist swirling around, but that soon burned off in the bright sunlight. However it left all the spiders' webs covered with water droplets for a good while!

Spiders' webs after the mist had cleared.
Autumnal vibes!
Down in the hide, things were feeling distinctly autumnal too - all the hirundines had departed, and wildfowl numbers had increased, with good numbers of Gadwall, Goosander, Pochard, a few Teal and Shoveler, and quite excitingly 2 Pintail (not a regular winter inhabitant), around. No sign of any Wigeon today but I'm sure they'll be back soon too. We also had very nice views of a few Snipe feeding and resting on the islands and shore of Forge Mill Lake, and we heard but did not see a fair bit of Water Rail activity. The clear skies seemed to be conducive to hunting raptors, we had multiple sightings of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. Raptor-like visual acuity would have assisted us too in getting a better look at the Kingfisher that whizzed past the hide a few times!

I, er, completely forgot about looking out for new plants to try and ID, doh! I blame sleepiness brought on by enjoying myself over the past few evenings since my exam, I fell asleep on the bus on the way home from Sandwell :oD I did however at least remember to attempt some drawings. Since mid/late summer, the Cormorants have been gathering and now there are usually between 15 and 20 to be seen most days fishing in Forge Mill Lake and drying off and preening on the boom marking the reserve boundary.

Cormorants on the boom.
I think Cormorants are very charismatic and fun to draw! In particular they have beautiful dark aquamarine eyes! Here are my attempts:

Cormorant sketches.
Cormorant sketches.
I also played around trying to digiscope the Cormorants too, these were probably the best/least vignette-y results:

Digiscoped Cormorant.
Digiscoped Cormorant.
Back at the temporary visitor centre, Alex (Sandwell Valley Visitor Officer) gave me an awesome chunk of fossils! She'd found it at Winnats Pass in the Peak District when she used to work there. The pass is formed of Carboniferous limestone, which long ago was coral reefs, and consequently is full of fossilised wee beasties. Alex had brought it in for me knowing my interest in geology, cheers Alex! :o)

Fossils from Winnats Pass....I think this is part of a bivalve shell.
Fossils from Winnats Pass.....bits of bivalve shell, crinoid stem pieces, and some nice quartz.

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