Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sandwell Valley - May

Time for my monthly volunteering jaunt at RSPB Sandwell Valley, which I'd been looking forward to particularly due to the fine weather forecast. As the hide was well-manned for the morning, Alf suggested we go for a walk around the reserve to see what was around, he was hoping the sun would bring out some butterflies as well as the birds. He was not wrong, we saw a fair few Peacock, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and White (not sure which - afraid I'm a bit hazy on them, must try and improve) butterflies.

Peacock butterfly enjoying the sun....
....and tucking into a dandelion.
We had a good walk, it was pretty Warbler-tastic with Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow, Reed, Sedge, Garden and Cetti's Warblers all putting in appearances (or nanosecond fleeting glimpses in the case of the Cetti's). The Garden Warbler was our highlight, my first of the year, he sang his head off while perching very prominently for us, brilliant!

The River Tame, near the start of our walk.

Alf in his natural habitat.
 I spotted some plants whose identities I had a vague idea of, but wanted to double check.

I think this is Bugle (Ajuga reptans).
I thought this was probably Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).
I knew this was a member of the pea family, I thought probably some kind of vetch. There are rather a lot in my key! Going to take a punt at Common Vetch (Vicia sativa).
We spent the afternoon in the hide, where we had good views of the 4 Lapwing chicks and 2 Oystercatcher chicks on the island, the Oystercatchers are very attentive parents and don't let their offspring out of their sight, but the Lapwings' parenting appears rather more lax. The Little Ringed Plovers don't seem to have had any breeding success so far, but we did see the male doing some interesting displaying where he fanned his tail out very wide. No breeding success for the Common Terns either, although that didn't stop them seeing off a Lesser Black-backed Gull or two.

I'm quite pleased with today's drawings, I think they are the best I've done in the field so far, although that's not saying much. They're certainly an improvement on the pathetic efforts of my last trip!

Sketches of Lapwing chicks & Common Terns.

The Common Terns looked like they were really enjoying the sun. The Lapwing chicks are quite forgiving to draw, they are so fuzzy you can just make any mistake into some more fuzz!

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