Monday, 23 February 2015

Soggy times at Sandwell Valley

Yesterday it was once again time for my monthly volunteering jaunt at RSPB Sandwell Valley. With dreadful weather forecast for the afternoon it was with a small amount of trepidation that I headed off there, expecting to most likely be heading home early due to the rain!

At least it was fairly pleasant in the morning; as I walked down to the hide I heard many birds singing including Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Robins-aplenty. Around near the feeders there were loads of Bullfinches and I also heard Willow Tit calling. It was great to see the progress that has been made on the new visitor centre - I hadn't seen it since December and things had moved on quite significantly:

The roof is starting to appear!
Down in the hide it was rather chilly, and fairly quiet both bird- and visitor-wise. Don't know where all the Lapwings had gone but there were hardly any in the vicinity! There were plenty of Snipe around though, a Little Grebe bobbing around at the far side of Forge Mill Lake, and Great Crested Grebe further out along with the Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls and Goosanders. There was one Common Gull hanging out with the Black-Headeds, and we had a Kingfisher fly-by past the hide. I tried to do a few drawings before the rain arrived:

The Gadwall swam off before I was able to get any further! Quite pleased with the Lapwing and Starling; I blame the vagueness of those Goosanders on the fact that the rain had commenced by that point so they appeared somewhat indistinct.
Beyond around midday, the rain and wind became heavy and relentless, and this was unfortunately our view for the rest of the afternoon!

The rain did at least provoke the Snipe into a frenzy of feeding activity, and we counted up to 15 probing around in the mud for worms and other tasty morsels. There was for some reason an influx of Wigeon too, Pete the Snipe had counted 7 in the morning but a bunch more came in taking it up to 23. The Oystercatcher pair which have bred every year for the past few years also put in an appearance. The wind badly affected a pair of Mute Swans that flew in from the east; one of them made the lake with no problem but the other was blown into the tall willow trees on the bank and tumbled down through them in an undignified manner! It all got a bit tense, as not only were the pair separated, but the particularly angry resident male Mute Swan known to regulars as Attila the Swan soon charged down the lake to see off the intruder - he can't tolerate any others on his patch. He chased the other poor swan all the way down the lake and back up again, just as its partner was emerging from the undergrowth looking none the worse for wear for its messy landing. It took one look at the situation and took off, following the other swan which was already beating a hasty retreat with Attila hot on its heels. 

As expected, the rotten weather meant that we had zero visitors that afternoon, so we closed the hide early and headed home! Fingers crossed for better weather next month....

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