A sad encounter on the river

So this autumn is turning out to be much like last autumn and I am not able to go out for as many walks as I would like, or indeed, need to. I woke up early on Sunday morning and watched the sun come up through the patio doors and as I watched the darkness disappearing and the sun rising, I decided I would put my walking shoes on and head to the river for a quick walk.

As I walked down the road everything was quiet and the roads were car free. I hadn’t seen it that quiet in months, not since lockdown.

There was no sign of any house martins, but I could hear a blackbird and the sparrows were chirping in the gardens as I passed.

As I walked along the river I spooked a heron further ahead and, as it flew past me, it squawked loudly showing its displeasure at being disturbed. A little further on a Kingfisher flew from the bank and flew low over the river and off round the first bend, out of view.

The sun was still rising and casting a bright, golden glow over the river and meadow.

The small birds were hiding in the reeds and hedgerows and the birds that were visible were silhouetted with the rising sun behind them.

As I turned the first bend in the river I spotted the swan family, the male on its own, with the female further ahead with the cygnets, but to my dismay I could only see three. I kept checking and counting as I continued along the bank, but it was true, another cygnet had been lost.

The mother was keeping close and the cygnets were all making little grunting noises as they swam past me.

Such a sad sight, but it was lovely to see that they were keeping close and seemed to be calling to each other, as if to say ‘keep close, stay safe’.

As I continued along the river I heard Cetti’s warblers calling loudly to each other, meadow pipits flew up into the air chirping and grey wagtails stopped at the waters edge to feed.

Just enough to raise the spirits before turning back to home.

Improvement on the Marsh

I had a walk on the marsh last weekend to check out the works which have been undertaken to clear and improve the waterways and pools which attract the birds. A digger cleared the build up of silt and plant debris from the existing waterways and a new scrape was made, another pool of water, where wading birds can feed.

Curlew

As much as I love walking around the marsh, sometimes the birds are a long way off, with these new works, some closer to the path, it will now be possible to see some a little closer. Hopefully, I may get to see birds previously not immediately identifiable, as the subtle difference in the colour of legs, or beaks isn’t always easy to see from a distance.

It’s amazing how many birds are named by the colour of their legs like redshank, Greenshank, lesser yellow leg, to name a few. I started taking photos of my sightings so that I could check what I had seen in my books when I was home. Even then, some birds I found I was unable to identify.

Oystercatcher

On the edge of the marsh there is a stream running underneath the old golf course path, which had become overgrown. It was always a great spot to hear Cetti’s warblers and to see the occasional kingfisher, now it is cleared I hope that it will be a home and feeding ground to many more.

Of course, the non wading birds are unaffected by the works and still are enjoying the grass, scrubs and trees all around the marsh.

Already on the marsh birds are using the newly cleared streams and ponds, feeding in the shallow water and, going forward, it may attract more birds previously not common on the marsh. Only time will tell, but it will be great watching and waiting to see.

A quiet walk along the river

Who knew a few weeks ago that this September would be a rerun of last September. So last year year was a trying time, but now we have COVID too.

Trying to keep a level head in times of stress can be a challenge, but with the added worries of the present pandemic it has meant everything is multiplied and with the ‘no end in sight’ feeling adding to the pressure.

I can normally keep looking on the positive side, not worrying until I’m told I have to, but sometimes it is easier said than done.

So, a quick walk to the river was well overdue. It was later in the day than my normal set off time, but luckily I was still virtually alone as I walked on to the pathway to the river.

It was lovely to catch up with the swan family, with the cygnets practically looking full grown. It is amazing the speed at which they grow. It was also good to see that no harm had come to the remaining four cygnets, (after seeing the fifth injured and eventually dying) still flanked by both parents.

The herd of cows were sitting in the grass all along the first bend in the river and rather than try to navigate my way past them, I walked through the middle of the field toward the wooden bridge.

There were some stonechats in the adjoining field flying up on to the fence and posts, but try as I might I couldn’t get any decent pictures of them. By the time I focused in on them they dipped back down into the grass and the moment was gone.

A couple of herons were hiding behind the hedgerows and as I got nearer they got spooked and flew off.

The river was very quiet, I couldn’t hear any birds from the reed beds and the grassy banks, and there was no sign of the birds in the reeds either. I had decided to turn back before I had even got to the end of the path, unusual for me, as I started to feel a little overwhelmed, and even the sound of the water and the breeze on my face wasn’t giving me the boost it normally does.

As I turned back I spotted a kestrel flying overhead. I would have missed it if I had kept going. It flew across the field, occasionally hovering, and as it flew further away it was mobbed by a couple of crows and quickly they disappeared from view.

The path back across the field was less obvious than earlier in the summer, with several tracks made by the cows sending me in a zigzag course through the long grass.

As I passed one of the electricity pylons, I looked up into the maze of metal, as I usually do, and near the top I found the kestrel sitting on a ledge, watching me pass. I stood underneath watching for a few minutes and as I continued walking I kept turning back to look again, and for a few minutes normality was restored.

De-stressing trip to Marsh

In times of stress a quick walk, or some time spent in the garden can be all you need to recharge and re-balance.

I didn’t have time to go for a walk yesterday, but I thought a quick drive to the marsh to hopefully spot the osprey again would definitely do me good.

I arrived at the Marsh with better weather than the last trip, bluer skies and less wind.

A painted lady flew along the path just in front of me. It landed a couple of times allowing me to get a photo, and I was surprised by the colour of the body, much paler I thought than ones I had seen before. But thinking about, I don’t think I have seen one for quite some time. I saw peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies in the Lake District recently.

I headed straight to Crouch Hill to stand and watch the birds in the harbour, as I wouldn’t be here long, and wanted to be in the best possible place for any likely sightings of bird disruption if an osprey appeared.

There were just a couple of wheatear on the hill today.

The views across the marsh to the Priory and across the harbour to the sandspit were lovely, with blue skies and white clouds moving across above Christchurch, but grey clouds sweeping across Mudeford and the sea.

I approached a bench hidden from view where Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group members sit quietly out of sight to record the comings and going’s of the birds in the harbour. There was a couple there and I asked if they were with the group, but they weren’t, presumably they had found the bench by accident and just wanted to get a good view of the osprey. I left them to it and stayed back from them, standing behind the gorse bushes which run all along the edges of the Hill. The marsh is marked with posts telling you to stay back behind the hedges and gorse so that the nesting/breeding birds are not disturbed. Standing hidden still affords you great views and you know that the birds will not be frightened.

I looked out across the water looking at the terns, gulls, redshanks, godwits, curlews and cormorants. They all looked peaceful, with no sign of any threat from above.

As I was watching the birds I realised that the man from the bench had decided to walk off across the marsh in front of the gorse to get better views. As I watched I started to get a little anxious. Many people use the Marsh for their daily exercise, bird watching and photography, but it is a nature reserve and as such there are restrictions that need to be observed. It is difficult sometimes to know if it is best to ignore the fact that people sometimes do the wrong thing, because they don’t know the ‘rules’, but then if no one says anything they will never know. I had come out to get a quick shot of nature, but I was actually feeling more stressed because I wanted to tell them. So I bit the bullet and made my way back to the bench, and as he came back toward it, I told the couple that it was not really permitted to be beyond the gorse, for the protection of the wildlife. They were very good about it and we had a conversation about the likelihood of seeing an osprey.

I walked away again, glad that I had given them the information they needed to protect the marsh inhabitants and could feel the anxiety leaving. After a few minutes I saw them leave across the Hill, so I decided, whilst no one else was around, that I would go and sit quietly on the bench, for the few minutes more that I intended staying for.

It was the perfect spot for observation, away from other people, neatly hidden from view, and not disturbing the birds. To my astonishment, within a few minutes, hundreds of birds took to the skies in front of me. I scanned to see if I could see an osprey, but try as I might, I could see nothing. After a few minutes, the melee subsided and the birds returned to normal. I kept scanning across the water for any signs of the osprey, as it must have been somewhere when suddenly a little further across water toward the marsh, another large group of birds took to the sky. This time I caught sight of the osprey high above the birds, with the clouds behind it beautifully showing it off.

I watched as it flew off into the distance taking its catch with it, my anxiety levels reduced and a smile on my face. I could go home now. It’s all in the timing.

Migrating osprey over the Marsh

On Sunday morning I had a small window of predicted dry weather to fit in a walk. So I set off early hoping for a rain free walk and, fingers crossed, perhaps a sighting of a migrating osprey stopping for food in the harbour.

When I pulled up in the car park I could see that it was overcast and a little misty. Not ideal for great pictures, but would be nice to have a walk around.

The water in the harbour was flat and grey like a mirror and the sky was much the same.

I walked slowly round the edge of the marsh, with only a curlew and a few gulls to be seen, although you could hear a curlew calling from the water.

There were a couple of bird watchers on Crouch Hill looking out over the water. I asked if they had seen an osprey recently, as this is the time of year that Stanpit gets migrating birds passing over and stopping off for fish. They said that they hadn’t seen any recently, but it was always easy to spot when they were about as all the birds will fly up into the air. As I stood on the hill I did spot a couple of migrating wheatear, a lovely looking bird.

The views across the harbour were very peaceful and atmospheric and the birds were keeping low in the grass on the edges of the marsh.

As I continued my walk around the marsh the swans were still sleeping in a large group on the edge of the channel of water coming to the Bailey Bridge.

Lots of birds were sitting on the sand bars stretching across the shallow water, I could see oyster catchers, swans and cormorants amongst them, but the smaller birds I couldn’t be sure of from that distance.

As I walked around the rest of the marsh there were few birds to be seen. There were a few birds on the top of the gorse (linnets I think), but I couldn’t really hear, or see, any of the usual suspects like stonechats, or birds in the reeds like buntings, or warblers.

Across the centre of the marsh I could see some herons busying themselves grooming, a couple of lapwings and some little egrets fishing in the little pools of water on the marsh.

The ponies were standing around the edges of the marsh with the foals, who have grown so much. Eventually the foals will be taken away, but I’m not sure when. I remember the marsh was closed off one day last year when they rounded the ponies up.

Before I cut through the scrubs to finish off my walk, (in case there were any birds hiding there), I managed to catch a reed warbler in the last patch of reeds at the end of the marsh.

I heard a wren in a distant tree and there were a couple of birds singing, probably blue tits, but I couldn’t see them. A robin sang in a bush in front of me, but he didn’t really want his picture taken.

As I came out from the scrubs, near the visitor hut I realised that a lot of birds had left the water and were flying high above it. Could it be because of an osprey. I quickly headed out on to the path and low and behold, there amongst the birds was an osprey. It was quite a way off and I watched it diving into the water a couple of times.

The osprey certainly had caused a disturbance amongst the birds, and for a while I was following a heron amongst the swarming birds thinking it was the osprey, schoolboy error. This certainly was a great end to a walk, just a pity I don’t have the skills, or equipment, for a better set of photos. The thing I always think to myself though, is that it is better to be there watching these wonderful things happening than it is to miss it trying to get a great photo.

A stroll through the Lake District

We had a lovely week away in the Lake District staying in a lovely cottage overlooking Ullswater and the hills beyond. The weather forecast didn’t look great, but we would definitely get some fine days. Over the last few years I have become less tolerant of really hot weather, so the forecast didn’t really bother me.

We drove up the M6 which provided us with some stunning views across the hills, but not of any lakes.

We were meeting my sister and partner there, and after arriving over an hour earlier than the time to check in, we waited for them at a pub down the road.

At the appropriate time we left to find the property following elaborate directions, which proved to be too helpful, as we arrived at a very scary property first, but then realised that the sign for this house was just one to pass, down the road from the actual sign we needed. You can be given too much information.

The cottage was lovely and the views outstanding, looking over Ullswater (from the upstairs windows) to the hills beyond. Every time you looked through the window the view would be different, with the sun shining, or not, clouds above the hills, or not, and on one day the clouds passing below the top of the hills.

After spending most of the summer wondering where all the butterflies were, I discovered that the buddleia in the garden was covered in them and they loved sunning themselves on the white walls of the cottage.

On the first day we set off on a trip to walk up to Helvellyn. A mountain not far from where we were staying. We set off from a car park and I must admit that just the walk to the start of the route looked daunting to me.

We started the climb and as we rose up higher the views across the valley became better and better. Through the valleys Ullswater became more visible as we turned around to look at the views. Unfortunately, as I got hotter and more out of breath I began to panic about going to high and not being able to get back down. But, not wishing to stop my sister and her partner from continuing on the walk, I decided to wait on a boulder fir them to get to the first peak, and to wait for them to come back down.

I sat contentedly observing the view, talking to the many other walkers on their way up the mountain and watching meadow pipits and sheep scaling the hillside opposite me. This had been an unexpected fine day, not the predicted weather of the week before, just a shame I had not pushed myself a little harder to get to the first peak.

We made our way back down with no problems and I was glad it wasn’t as hard as I had predicted.

The next two days brought a lot of rain so we drove around the lakes, visiting Keswick, Ambleside and Windermere, and enjoyed the dramatic scenery changes from one side of a lake to another. The rugged landscape with slates, rocks and boulders, with the sheep sheltering amongst them from the wind and rain, and then the beautiful fields and cascading water coming down through the valleys from the top of the hills. All this scenery dissected by the amazing dry stone walls stretching for miles and miles in all directions across the valleys and hills.

My sister and I went for a walk over the fields behind the cottage to see what views we could see from the top of the hill. We were joined by house martins and swallows as they skimmed over the field near us and we could hear a distant buzzard which eventually appeared over a distant tree.

One tree in particular seemed to be the roost for all the birds and it was only when I looked at the pictures later that I could see the variety that were sharing it.

We all went on a trip, not far from where we were staying, to Aira Force, a waterfall, a lovely walk following the cascading water through the trees, with the relaxing sound of the rushing water, the rustling trees and the sounds of birds in the trees. I even spotted some firecrest as they moved around the top branches of a tree as we walked along a path level with the trees.

We had a lovely boat trip on Coniston Water looking at the views from the water, seeing things otherwise hidden from view. In one valley we could see a house with a huge water wheel on the side, only visible for a short time before disappearing once more as we continued across the water.

After the boat trip we went for a walk around Tarn Hows, a lake higher up on a hill. As with all the sites to visit, there are long walks that take you to these lovely spots, but today we drove to it and just enjoyed the walk around it.

It is so hard to choose from the many pictures I took whilst away, but I hope the ones I have picked will give you just a glimpse of the amazing surroundings.

A scenic walk across a quiet Arne

I deliberated for a while as to where to go this morning. The weather forecast was good, but the clouds and the breeze contradicted it. I decided to go to Arne as I hadn’t been for so long, and picked up a jumper as I headed out the door, in case it was cold at the start of the walk.

I only got half way up the road when I realised I didn’t have my driving glasses, so I swung back home and ran in to get them.

Second time lucky, I headed off up the road again, heading for the local Express to get petrol. The gods were not on my side this morning, as I spotted the cones closing off the garage, so I drove off through the estate to go to the next nearest petrol station. This now changed my route too, now going via Hurn and the road to Blandford. I saw the first sign for Wareham and took the next left, but it wasn’t my normal route. What else could happen! Safe in the knowledge that all roads lead to roughly the same places eventually, I continued along enjoying the scenery.

I was in a line of steadily moving traffic and as the car in front passed a high hedgerow a bird swept out from the foliage and I realised, despite its speed, as it passed in front of me, that it was a sparrow hawk with a little bird in its clutches. I wouldn’t have seen that if I had taken the right turning.

Once in Wareham I headed down the road toward RSPB Arne. Along the route there was views across open fields and deer could be seen on the far sides near the trees around the perimeter.

I arrived at Arne just after 08:00 and was surprised by how quiet it was. Normally, even as you park up, you are struck by the amount of birds in the trees. Instead of heading for the nature walk to Shipstall Beach, I took the route to Coombe Heath.

On this walk you can see the osprey nesting pole in the estuary, with views across the water to Corfe Castle on a distant hill. I have spotted Dartford warblers, ospreys, coal tits and siskens on previous walks.

Today I was quite surprised by just how quiet it was as I walked across the heath. An occasional bird could be heard from the woods, but no birds were sitting on the tufts of grass and gorse, or the shrubs. I looked across the estuary to the osprey nesting pole, but there wasn’t anything to be seen there. The tide was out in the estuary and so there was little to be seen except for a cormorant standing in the shallow water with its wings outstretched to dry. Beyond him, in another inlet there was a group of white birds, too far away for me to tell if they were egrets or spoonbill, but I’m guessing egrets.

Beyond the water, in the fields. Several groups of deer could clearly be seen, especially the white bottoms as they walked away.

I scanned across the heathand and in the tree tops, hoping for a glimpse of something, but to no avail. I continued to walk enjoying the scenery across to the Purbecks Hills, and the changing views of Corfe Castle.

Just as I was giving hope of seeing any bird I heard a call a spotted a pipit as it crossed the path in front of me. It had a light snack, a spider I think. Also, behind me a flock of geese flew into, and around the estuary, making a lot of noise.

As I approached the wood, before leaving the heath, I heard a very loud call from a green woodpecker, which promptly flew across the path in front of me, before disappearing into a nearby tree.

Once in the wooded walk I could hear more birds, but they were almost impossible to spot. I could hear another green woodpecker and I even thought maybe a great spotted woodpecker. At this time of year, after raising their young, a lot of birds will start to moult, and whilst doing this they tend to keep hidden. Well who wants a photo taken when you are having a bad hair day.

One thing that did seem to be in abundance on the heath were the heath butterflies.

I headed off to the Shipstall Beach walk, not really knowing if I would see many more birds. Under the cover of the trees I could definitely hear more birds, a few wrens singing and an occasional blue tit, but I really wasn’t having a good day for bird watching. I looked in all the usual places for nuthatches, tree creepers and in the highest branches for long tailed tits, but no luck.

The views across the bay were lovely, with the occasional call of an oyster catcher as it flew across the exposed sands of low tide. I walked around the headland along the beach enjoying the peace and tranquillity. Even the boats in Poole Harbour were quiet today.

I hardly passed a soul on my walk. The few I did see said hello as we passed, and on the beach an older couple were enjoying the scenery from a bench on the edge of the sand.

After leaving the beach I walked through the wood and up the hill which overlooks the marsh, and over to where the hide is to view the water birds. I continued along the path to the hide, but for social distancing it was, unfortunately closed, so I continued through the wood on the Nature Walk back toward the car park. There were a lot more people about now, so it was time for me to leave.

A family of kingfishers, a young moorhen and a pink flamingo

I set out this morning at 6:00 with high hopes of catching an otter on my walk along the river. despite the early hour there was very little bird song to be heard. The sun was still rising and was shining straight into my eyes, so I picked up my pace to get to the river as I couldn’t really see anything anyway.

As I walked alongside the waterworks building that sits over the river, I turned my head to watch the water as it came through the sluices and joined the river to the Fisheries. On the bank on the right there was a ‘fisherman’. A beautiful heron waiting to catch his breakfast. Not wanting to disturb him, I carried on walking.

I walked slowly around the building over the river so that if anything was around the corner I wouldn’t frighten it. I peaked around the wall, but there was nothing there. As I got onto the path though, some birds flew up off the water and into the cover of some grass growing on the bank.

I was very surprised to see what I thought to be Dunlin, birds I have never seen on this stretch of the river before, although I do think they are normally on Cowards Marsh, further along the river.

I walked along the path and as I approached where the birds were they flew up off the ground and circled around before flying off up the river.

Walking along there was a slight mist still hovering over the water, but everything was so quiet, with just an occasional tweet from a bird well hidden in the reeds, or trees along the bank.

The long grass was still covered in the morning dew and my walking boots were soon really wet as I walked through it to get better views of the water. The river was very flat today with just the ripples from the plants growing under the water, and an occasional fish coming to the surface for flies.

I walked slowly along the bank enjoying the peace, but wondering where the house martins were this morning. There was no sign of them, or the swifts.

The quietness was broken by the sound of two swans flying overhead, one of the sounds that always stops me in my tracks.

As the sun was getting higher in the sky and the warmth could be felt, so the birds were starting to be more vocal and I could hear reed warblers as they tweeted to each other in the reeds. There was no bird song, just tweets and calls between mothers and their young.

A pipit was chirping from the long grass in the meadow, it sat there for a long time, so I assumed it was a young pipit, although hard to tell from my distant photo.

As I approached the big bend in the river I could see a swan seemingly pulling at the grasses in the water as if making a nest. As I got nearer I realised it was the mother with her young cygnets. I had already passed a single male earlier, so perhaps shared parenting was now over.

The cygnets were asleep on the bank next to her, but as I walked along the opposite bank, so they all began to wake up.

There were five growing young, looking more elegant now with their long necks. I think there were six young originally. I will have to look back on my photos.

Not wanting to cause any stress to the mother I left them to it. Just beyond the swans a young reed bunting appeared from the reeds, and I had now been joined by a group of swifts sweeping around above me with one scooping down to get a quick drink just yards from me. It was long before the swifts were joined by sand martins too, but just as quickly as they arrived they were gone again.

I could see the young moorhen just around the bend in the river in the reeds, moving its beak to find food in the water. Unfortunately, the little bird was surrounded by plastic rubbish, and just beyond the bird was a partially deflated flamingo shaped balloon. It is such a shame that people do not dispose of their rubbish and balloons properly, as they seem to end up in the waterways, causing unknown damage to the wildlife and environment.

A little further along the river in a reed bed in the middle of the river, young reed warblers, sedge warblers and reed buntings were hopping about in the long stems.

The young birds are normally paler versions of the adults, but with enough identifying features to tell you what they are.

As I reached the end of my walk I stood still looking across the river and the fields around. A flock of birds suddenly appeared from around the next bend further down the river, circling over the river in front of me and making loud squeaking calls. Without the time to look through the binoculars and without the benefit of a photograph of them to tell for sure, as they all took off past me down the river from where I had come, I decided that they must be a family of kingfishers. I honestly am not sure if that was what I had seen, but the calls and the speed and agility as they shot past certainly made me think they were. This made me very excited and extremely happy.

I turned and made my way back to home, enjoying the scenery and a few more birds that had now appeared.

A house martin whistling past my ear as I watch the spectacle

My walk this week has been a long time coming. I have not been for a walk since last Sunday, and deciding if the weather this morning was going to stay fine, delayed my departure for an hour.

I set off down the road with a little bit of blue sky showing through the grey clouds and the wind blowing my lockdown, longer hair into my eyes.

I could look into the house martin nests under the eaves of the last house in the road, but there were no birds to be seen.

As I got to the end of the next road, just before the waterworks, I thought I could hear a woodpecker calling. A quick scan of the tall trees behind the houses revealed a great spotted woodpecker in the uppermost branches, but no sooner had I spotted it than a pigeon landing next to it made it lift off and disappear.

A Great spotted woodpecker

As I walked around the waterworks, over the river, I disturbed a bird, and as it flew off over the river I could see it was a kingfisher, the first I had seen for many weeks. It was much too quick to get a photograph, but it was lovely to see it’s beautiful colours flash across the water.

A kingfisher

As I walked along the path I kept my eyes open for the kingfisher, but it had moved on out of view.

Ahead I could see the house martins sweeping over the river and the meadows, and I stopped to watch them from the riverbank. There weren’t as many as on previous visits, but it was still wonderful to watch, with them twisting and turning all around me. As I stood still one swooped past me, whistling as if to tell me it was there, missing my ear by a few inches. As I followed it flying over the river, I noticed a bigger bird swooping low over the water. It was a swift and I was surprised at how much bigger it appeared than the house martins. Wonderful!

Demoiselle

There were more butterflies than on my last visit, but definitely not as many different types as I’ve seen in previous years.

It was very quiet at the river today, not another person to be seen, just how I like it. Despite the wet weather this week the walk underfoot wasn’t muddy. The waters edge was now well hidden by the height of the plants along the bank, so my views of the river were a little restricted. I could hear the occasional duck, but couldn’t see anything. The reed birds were much quieter today, with just an occasional call from a reed warbler well inside the reeds.

I continued along the river enjoying the peace and quiet. Across the meadow a couple had camped the night under the cover of the trees on the edge of the farmland, protected from the gusting winds during the night.

I had to make a detour around a large area of flooded ground to continue along to the bridge, but luckily today the cows were nowhere to be seen, so I could walk at my own pace and stop and start as I wished.

As I crossed the bridge and watched the river from a slightly elevated position, I could see the young swan family back along the river, unseen as I had walked past.

The gusty wind was making the surface of the river choppy and the birds were mostly hidden in the cover of the trees and shrubs and in the reed beds.

Occasionally small birds flew from one bank to the other looking for food, or just chasing each other.

Lots of plants along the rivers edge were now showing their flowers too.

Bees were now enjoying the blossom on the brambles growing in amongst the hedgerows.

Across the water I could hear some reed warblers in the reeds and as I got nearer I could see there pale colour as they flitted about. It looked like it could be some young birds moving through the reeds.

The reed buntings were missing today. An occasional call from the far bank, but nothing visible. A common tern passed by following the river, but I couldn’t focus on it quickly enough to get a photograph.

One of the NHS flights was landing at Hurn and the plane could be seen descending beyond St Catherine’s hill.

A young couple were fishing on the last bend of the river before I reached the end of the permissible path. Opposite them was a small bird at the base of the reeds, I thought it was probably a little grebe, but on closer inspection it was probably a young coot or moorhen.

I decided to make my way back across the meadow, instead of by the river. As I followed the path I could hear birds singing where I had previously seen a sedge warbler.

I approached slowly and scanned to see what bird was singing, but couldn’t see anything. Then two birds flew from the tree and sat in some flowers in the meadow. I followed them with my binoculars, but couldn’t really make out what they were. I spotted my first reed bunting in the flowers too, holding on tightly as the plant blew around on the wind. As the birds moved from plant to plant I managed to get some shots of them.

A meadow pipit I think

While I was engrossed in trying to find these birds I hadn’t noticed the cows making their way across the meadow ahead of me.

They were making their way to the bridge I needed to cross, so I started to make my way back, just crossing the bridge in time, whilst watching them running toward the waters edge. I took a diversion across the field, the last thing I needed was to be caught up in a herd of excited cows.

A blustery walk on the marsh

Today’s walk was a blustery affair, a little later than my normal set off time and more scenic than nature oriented.

The birds were few and far between, nothing could be heard singing in the trees as I walked on to the marsh and I could see that the tide was very low. The wading birds were conspicuous in their absence and even the birds normally seen on the edges of the marsh were missing this morning.

As I continued along the path I just spotted a lone curlew as it appeared from a hollow in the grass.

As I walked up to the Hill, I spotted a few rabbits enjoying the lush grass of the marsh, but looking over the marsh all the water inlets were just puddles and there was no sign of any water birds.

The wind was making it hard to hear any bird song. Occasionally I heard an odd greenfinch, but they were very hard to spot, preferring to sit under the cover of the gorse and bushes, rather than perched on the top branches as normal.

I continued my walk around enjoying the views across to Mudeford and the Sandspit. The birds were far out on the shallow water.

In the enclosure on the edge of the Hill I just caught sight of a huge rabbit as it sat perfectly still watching me as I walked by.

Normally here I would see linnets and stonechats and wagtails, but not today. The sand martins were flying over, so fast, as they twisted and turned catching their food.

As I continued over the Bailey Bridge I scanned the edges of the river bank and reeds for any sign of life, but apart from some fish catching insects on the top of the water in the now shallow stream in the river bed, there was nothing to be seen.

Across the marsh I could see the swan family, but I could only see two cygnets. I kept my eye on them as I continued along the path and every now and then another head could be spotted.

As I got nearer I could see that the parents were trying to take the cygnets to the water. Three cygnets were already with their parents, but the other three were finding it hard to get out of a little pond. Try as hard as they might they just kept sliding back in on the muddy bank. Eventually one found a different way to get out and the other two followed suit. All this time the mother, I assume, kept close to them and keeping her eye on me, as I watched from a distance, waiting for them to free themselves.

I kept stood still to give them time to get together and work their way to the waters edge and another group of people were stood behind me watching too.

They definitely had a family walk.

Beyond the swans, the ponies and foals were huddled together on the path. Now the foals were older the mares were less nervy and seemed not to be too bothered by the number of people walking past them. I have a lot of respect for their personal space and try not to get in their way.

Flying overhead were flocks of starlings, almost forming little murmurations as they flew over the water.

As I walked past the horses there were several groups of people with their dogs, luckily on their leads, but some of the dogs did bark, which a few weeks ago would have set the mares off. You have to be careful on nature reserves and in the forest.

Just beyond the horses, a mallard and her three young were making their way to a little pond, and as I stood watching the mother sat down in the long grass with the little ones following suit, hiding, until I began walking again, then they all hurried to the pond and disappeared again on to the water.

Beyond the reeds are views up the river toward Wick and Christchurch Quay. On the far side of the water I could see a heron, some ducks and a couple of lapwing walking on the river bank.

I was nearing the end of the walk where the reeds on the edge of the marsh were blowing in the wind, but I couldn’t hear or see any reed buntings or reed warblers, unlike on my last walk. Last week it was so quiet I managed to record a reed warbler singing.

As I turned to walk I noticed a kestrel just ahead hovering over the heads of a couple further walking ahead of me. They had no idea it was there. What a treat they were missing. I watched as it flew across to the trees and hovered again.