Monday, 22 June 2015

30 Days Wild | Day 21 - volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley

On day 21 of 30 Days Wild I was back at RSPB Sandwell Valley, volunteering in the hide. Although I normally try to volunteer once a month, my Open University workload has prevented me from doing so over the past few months (apart from the breeding bird survey, which starts so early in the morning I don't really lose any work time!). So now my oceanography module is done and dusted I was very happy to be back at Sandwell! It was great to see the new visitor centre all finished and ready for use, I'll be volunteering at the big launch event on 2nd August!

Nature's Reach, the new Sandwell Valley visitor centre.
In the morning Alf and I went on our usual stroll around the reserve, as the hide was well stocked with volunteers. Despite it being Midsummer's day there was a rather chilly breeze in the air at times! The reserve was however looking very lush with some nice wildflowers out. On the walk down to Kingfisher corner we heard a slightly hysterical-sounding Blackcap, his song sounded a bit weird but he looked happy enough! There were also plenty of Speckled Wood butterflies around; down on the River Tame we saw a Mute Swan with a single cygnet.

Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria).

Distant Mute Swan and cygnet on the River Tame.
Down on Forge Mill Lake we saw another Mute Swan, this one with four very cute cygnets, and on the walk round I was on the lookout as always for interesting plants. The meadow area on the walk down to the hide is one of my favourite parts of the reserve at this time of year due to the diverse display of lovely wildlflowers; we saw a couple of Common Blue and one Ringlet and Small Heath butterfly there, and Alf showed me some orchids he'd tracked down.

This might be Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) but I'm not quite sure.

More cygnets!
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), I was not previously familiar with its flowers.
Yay Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) has started flowering :o)
The meadow area.
Some great colour variations in these Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) flowers!
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).
Down in the hide the islands were blanketed in Oxeye Daisies, providing helpful cover for all the female Tufted Ducks who had disappeared to nest in the undergrowth while their mates loafed around on the rafts. At one point we saw a female Tufted Duck appear from the vegetation carrying a large piece of eggshell, which she deposited in the water before having a little wash. Her ducklings must have been hatching at that very moment! We also saw a humbug-headed juvenile Great Crested Grebe, following its parent past the hide and begging incessently, and one of the two Common Tern pairs seemed to have mislaid their one remaining chick, slightly concerning - hopefully they eventually found it. There were also quite a few juvenile Lapwings around, nearly fully grown now, and a juvenile Grey Heron which was trying its luck at eating anything it could get near - this proved to be very little as it was accosted by the terns, Oystercatchers and even Moorhens! Sadly the Little Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers don't seem to have had much luck breeding. I had a go getting some digiscoped photos and some drawings of them.

Little humbug head.
Digiscoped Little Ringed Plover.

Sketches of Little Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. Don't know why I seem intent on making the LRP's head so big!
Digiscoping also proved useful for getting a photo of these blue flowers which had appeared in large numbers around the shores of the lake and islands (but not anywhere accessible, hence the difficulty in getting a better photo).

I think it is Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides), and there is also some Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) there too!
Finally, outside the hide, I found some small plants of another waterside blue-flowered plant, Brooklime:

Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga).
It won't be long before I'm back at Sandwell Valley once again, as I will be helping with the breeding bird survey this Wednesday. Hopefully we'll find some breeding evidence for some good species......maybe even the elusive Lesser Whitethroat or perhaps Garden Warbler......

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