Monday, 3 November 2014

Sandwell Valley - November 2014

Yesterday I was back volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley. In the morning Alf and I went for our usual walk as there were volunteers aplenty in the hide. Following the heavy rain overnight, the River Tame was looking rather swollen. We saw 3 Little Grebes at Kingfisher Corner struggling against the current!

Kingfisher Corner, looking wetter than usual.
The River Tame.
As we made our way round the reserve, the resident Rose-ringed Parakeets were being particularly active and noisy, moving in the same direction as us through the trees on the opposite bank of the river. We got some nice views of them, especially when two chased a Kestrel for a bit before both parties stopped and landed in the same, leafless tree. Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity, perhaps the Parakeets were concerned about Sparrowhawk attacks but once they got a clearer view of the Kestrel they realised she posed no threat?! Whatever, it was great to see both perched in clear view in the same tree. 

We headed back to the centre to eat our lunch, then down to the hide. On the way we checked the bird table, which has been moved to make way for the construction of the new visitor centre. It was bustling - loads of action! The birds obviously approve of the new location - we saw plenty of the usual favourites, and even a couple of Willow Tits popped in. 

I also spotted a new plant to try and identify, growing in the meadow on the way down to the hide. I could tell it was a Galium but which?

I think it is Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo).
Alf told me he'd seen some ginormous fungus on the way down to the hide too, we found it and I took a few pics. I am pretty rubbish at fungus ID though - if anyone knows what this is, let me know! It was about dinnerplate sized.

Mystery fungus.

The hide was pretty busy for most of the afternoon! Luckily there were lots of great birds to show to visitors - the Pintail pair have now been loitering for a few weeks, maybe they'll stay for the winter? There were lots of Snipe nearby on the islands (surely soon we'll get a Jack or two), Grey and Pied Wagtails mashing around and loads of Teal and Goosander. Even the Water Rails stuck their beaks out of the reeds for a few brief sightings.

I had a go at getting some digiscoped photos of the Snipe while they were resting, this is about the best I managed - cropped to (mostly) remove the vignetting:

Digiscoped Snipe.
As it was busy I didn't get many drawings done but here's what I did manage:

Sketchy Great Crested Grebe, Teals and Snipe. (Apologies for poor scan quality, will use a different scanner next time!).
At around 3ish, there was an EPIC rain shower - this photo should give some indication of its severity!

We had to wait for it to pass before we could close up the hide. However, the Snipe were loving it! They all woke up and started probing around for tasty snacks in the soil, presumably the rain brings all the invertebrates the Snipe like to eat up to the surface. Once the rain had (mostly) passed, we were able to close the hide and head back up to the centre. Alf had been having a clearout of his books at home, and gave me his old copy of Food For Free by Richard Mabey, as I had mentioned it in a previous conversation and he didn't think he was getting much use out of it. Thanks Alf! :o)

I'll definitely be avoiding the fungus section.....but am looking forward to chowing down on a few plants!

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