Monday, 18 November 2013

Sandwell Valley - November

Yesterday I was once again volunteering in the hide at RSPB Sandwell Valley. For once it was very calm down on the lake with no breeze at all, which meant unusually that we could keep all the windows open - normally we have to close the ones on the side the wind is coming from so we don't get too cold. Everything felt well and truly autumnal with the trees in varying states of senescence.

Autumn colour by Forge Mill Lake.
There was plenty of duck action, with all the winter wildfowl now present except for Goldeneye, always the last to arrive. Plenty of Pochard and Gadwall were about, and Goosanders in the morning (they all flew off elsewhere before lunch), along with smaller numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. Wintery passerines were also prominent, with lots of Redwing, Lesser Redpoll and some Siskin flying around. Snipe have been regular around the lake and marsh for a while now.

The most exciting sightings of the day were some very lively Water Rails! They'd been wailing on and off all morning from the reeds and rushes around the lake edge, and we'd had a couple of snatched glimpses of the skulkers. Then in the afternoon, something obviously came to a head because after some more squealing, 2 Water Rails burst out of the vegetation and started chasing each other around the lake edge, both in flight and in the water. This continued intermittently for some time, with the Rails going out of sight and quieting down for a bit, only to reappear again and recommence their antics! We had some awesome views of them doing this, and at one point while we could see them both, we heard 2 other Water Rails calling from opposite ends of the lake. So there must have been at least 4 Water Rails present, brilliant!

I attempted some drawings of a pair of Goosanders that were sitting resting and preening on the boom across the lake but they are pretty shonky, except maybe the female at the top!

Goosander sketches.
Somewhat better were my Common Gull field notes, I decided to take a field notes approach to sketching this gull because although I was pretty sure it was Common and not Ring-billed (you never know!) it did have a black ring around its bill, so I thought it would be a good chance to practice taking some field notes concentrating on ID features.I found approaching my drawing this way very useful, I think it helped get me in the right frame of mind for concentrating on features and detail, so I will try and do this more in future.

Common Gull field notes.

N.B. the gull was standing on one leg - I didn't just miss one out ;o)

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