I recently learnt from a television programme a week or so ago that Beethoven’s Symphony No 6, ‘The Pastoral’, the andante molto mosso movement (Scene by the Brook) ends with a cadenza for three woodwind instruments that imitate birdcalls, Nightingale (flute), Quail (oboe) and Cuckoo (clarinet). Along with the well-known song A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, written in 1939, they have brought this bird to the forefront of people’s attention – and if you want to hear the Nightingale sing in the wild the ideal place to be is Fingringhoe Wick.
Although the day was far from summery and the sky overcast our day was brightened by hearing the varied phrases of the Nightingale song as it floated through the undergrowth, its trills and crescendos answered by another bird a short way off. Another birdwatcher told us that on previous days he had recorded forty-one in all. The nightingale is an elusive bird and not one of us could sight it.
We ambled on toward the estuary hides and around us the songs of Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Robin, Wren, Blackbird and Chiffchaff rose up from the hedgerows, trees and reeds. We hadn’t expected to see too many birds feeding on the mudflats but nevertheless sighted Godwit, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Shelduck.
Although there was not a profusion of wild flowers the abundance of varieties challenged our knowledge. With the persistence of Jill, and her trustworthy field guide, names were given to most; delightful names too: Common Milkwort, Field Mouse-ear, Viper’s Bugloss and Mouse-ear Hawkweed – to name a few.
After our picnic lunch in the Visitor Centre we set off to walk around the main lake to what they call Trout Pool. On our previous visit we had been told that this area would be a mass of dragonflies at this time of year. Bearing this in mind Jill had bought an identification chart and we looked forward to another challenge. Dragonflies don’t sit still and worse still there were few of them. Damselflies were more abundant and we classified those into red ones and blue ones. Of the blue ones we further narrowed it down to Common Blue Damselflies and Azure Damselflies. Both these are the same colour blue and have almost identical black markings except for one small area behind the point where the wings joined the body. Without them obliging by keeping still we had little hope of positively identifying them – so we gave up. In fact we haven’t had much luck with insects having earlier found a red beetle-type insect with black legs but by the time a camera had been found to take a photo for later identification a ruffle of wind came and knocked it off the leaf where it sat and into the long grass. The Painted Lady Butterfly was an exception.
At the first bird hide overlooking a large lake we saw Goldeneye, Tufted Ducks, a pair of Mute Swans with one cygnet, Little Grebe and a pair of Mallard resting on a fallen branch and close to them four tiny ducklings snuggled together. At the next hide the ducklings came swimming along in a line and looking from side to side crossed the lake to the safety of the reeds; obviously they were playing some kind of ‘duck game’ of hide & seek as they hid themselves in the reeds of the far bank – nowhere could we see the adults, perhaps they had their eyes closed and were counting to ten! On the sightings board in the Visitor Centre someone had recorded Great-crested Grebes (courting). Presumably this activity had exhausted them because when we arrived they were lazily floating around with heads resting on their backs with the occasional stretching of the neck.
Another enjoyable day.
Birds Identified: Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Chaffinch, Swallow, Swift, Mute Swan, Little & Great-crested Grebes, Tufted Duck, Golden Eye, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Godwit, Curlew, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls and Little Egret
Wild Flowers Identified: Greater Stitchwort, Dog Rose, Gorse, Bramble, Hawthorn, Yellow Flag Iris, Broom, Buttercup, Birdseye Speedwell, Field Mouse-ear, White Bryony, Elderflower. Common Cat’s Ear (False Dandelion), Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Thrift, Mallow, Elder, Sheep’s Sorrell, Common Vetch, Milkwort, Foxglove, Ribwort Plantain, Goose Grass, Ground Ivy, Bluebell, Cow Parsley, Spear Thistle, Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Red Campion, Bladder Campion, Herb Bennet (Wood Avens), Viper’s Bugloss.
Mustn’t forget the Rabbit!!
This month has been a busy one for Jill & Ken who have participated in a Breeding Bird count that involves two areas around Holliwell Farm and Middlewick and a 5.00 am start!! They have also participated in a Wetland Bird Survey involving two visits to their allotted area. They did find time to travel to Yorkshire and in the River Nid saw Dippers and Kingfisher.
Joy & Chris visited Bempton Cliffs Reserve, Yorkshire on a breezy, chilly day but with sun later. Over 200,000 sea birds were nesting on the cliffs. They report that it was a spectacular sight to see with thousands and thousands of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and Fulmars nesting there. The one disappointment was the small number of Puffins, only seeing about 20. Tree Sparrows and Jackdaws were numerous. House Martins and Swallows were nesting near the Visitor Centre and elsewhere on the reserve they spotted Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks and the usual birds on the bird feeders in the bird garden.