The scarcity of updates here over this last week is testament to the continued disaster that is our so-called summer. It’s rained every day for almost two weeks now and to be honest I’ve had enough. Even the garden is starting to show its displeasure with several plants suffering from waterlogged soil. However we’re promised that the jet stream is on its way northwards in the next few days, so hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime lets talk about last Sunday where a couple of hours of sunshine did miraculously break through the rain clouds. It was so uplifting to feel the warmth of direct sun again, a feeling that seemed to be shared with the gathered wildlife. Everywhere we looked there were birds sunbathing with the award for most extravagant pose going to this Blackbird.
Above her in a tree another Blackbird was similarly basking while out on the main lagoon a Grey Heron had managed to form its wings into a bowl shape around its body. This presumably was to reflect as much warmth as possible back up onto itself. Elsewhere a Moorhen was walking around with wings outstretched whilst a Shelduck was simply panting the extra heat away.
There are several reasons for this behaviour beyond regulating body temperature, my favourite being that they do it for pure relaxation and enjoyment. It is also believed that sunbathing helps birds convert compounds in their preening oil into vitamin D, an essential component in maintaining good health. The extra heat can also dislodge parasites in their feathers or encourage them to move to other places on the birds body from which they can be more easily removed.
From the British Steel Hide we were delighted to see a Spoonbill standing amongst a sea of recently fledged Black Headed Gulls. It’s the first one we’ve seen at the site this year and despite being distant was showing very nicely. The Black Tailed Godwit flock was also present and looked to have increased in size noticeably since our last visit. This was born out by a news article published a few days ago which reported an early influx of the species following failure at their Icelandic breeding grounds due to, you guessed it, bad weather! What this means is that we are already starting to see our autumn migrants with a sizeable flock of Redshank and Curlew also seen on the day. Thankfully conditions don’t seem to have affected the aforementioned Black Headed Gull colonies if the hundreds of fledglings are anything to go by. Many of these were hauled up on concrete outside the Boardwalk Hide which gave some great photographic opportunities.
For some reason I just love their plumage at this age even though they have caused more than a little confusion in the past when spotted at distance. It’s surprising how easily they can resemble certain wader species at times. Other youngsters seen included Shelducks, Mallards, Moorhens and Coots, as well as a couple of Tufted Ducks which already seem to have mastered the art of diving just as a photographer presses the shutter.
As with our trip to Mumbles the lack of butterflies was startlingly obvious. Judging from my twitter feed this isn’t an isolated issue either which means its been a pretty poor year for them overall. Thankfully there were a few damselflies on the wing as well as this Southern Hawker. I’ve seen them on a number of occasions at the reserve but I think this is the first time I’ve ever managed to get a satisfactory photo.
A couple of other notable sightings since my last bloggage have included a Ringlet Butterfly in the lane to the rear of our house and three female/juvenile Redstarts at the head of the valley. Two little gems in another week of mediocrity.