The Admiral and our lass are still walking wounded, so with the amount of injuries the Tense Towers Team are carrying, I may have to consider exchanging my 4x4 for an ambulance. Whilst our wildlife sojourns have never been particularly onerous on the aerobic exercise front, if our ambles become any slower, we'll have to start monitoring lichens. On each other.
Second Born needed some time behind the wheel and I needed a dash off the leash, so packing the invalids into our lass's car, we headed up into Northamptonshire to visit one of their Wildlife Trust sites, Summerleys. The plan was that Second Born and I would walk briskly around the lake in a clockwise direction and meet up with the Amblers in one of the hides. Exercise and nature. Perfect.
It was rather cold, that creeping damp cold that seeps into your bones, for which the British Isles is so famous. At least this meant I wouldn't be distracted into birdwatching, unless an Osprey flew past with a Red-necked Phalarope in its beak and Kate Humble in its talons. There were plenty of the usual suspects about, ducks, geese and swans, but our lass was particularly keen to see a flock of Golden Plover. Having had close up views of a breeding pair whilst on Shetland in the Summer, this would be the counterpoint to that experience.
The feeding station was devoid of Tree Sparrows, but harboured several Reed Buntings amongst the tit flock. We were able to see some Golden Plover, sharing one of the small islands with a flock of Lapwings. Every so often, they would all be spooked by some imagined or real threat and take to the sky in a wheeling cloud, but they were just silhouettes, pointy or rounded depending on species.
After the team reassembled, we walked the last bit of the route together, and found another mixed plover flock in a ploughed field. To the naked eye, the field looked devoid of life, but the odd flash of white alerted us to the presence of Lapwings. Looking through binoculars, the birds took shape and dotted amongst them were a few Golden Plovers, now appearing a little more golden against the damp soil.
The route home was somewhat convoluted, principally for the driving practice, but just happened to take in a Little Chef for a lunch that put some much-needed warmth back in to our souls.
Sunday dawned as cold and overcast as the previous day, but Phase Two of our weekend mission saw us journey to College Lake for another striding/ambling combination. Again, Second Born and I hared off around the site, whilst the medically-excused avoided being mown down by passing snails on their way to a hide. A Red Kite glided serenely over the lake, putting the fear of God into a flock of Wigeon and the berry-laden hedgerows were full of Redwing and Fieldfare. And if that wasn't proof enough that Winter's on the doorstep, a biting Northerly wind made sure we didn't hang about on our circumnavigation of the reserve. Meeting up again in the cafe, we thawed out with sandwiches, cakes and several mugs of tea. The Wildlife Trust were having a Family Autumn weekend, with lots of activities for children and parents. Not to be outdone, our lass and Second Born squeezed themselves into kiddies' chairs to make candles out of beeswax. Bless!
We dropped into Linford Lakes on the way home, for another helping of cold and cloudy weather. Just before hypothermia set in, a pair of Kingfishers flew past the hide, and as I followed them through my bins, I picked up a Goldeneye too. This certainly lifted our spirits, so when a fellow birder arrived with news of a possible Starling roost at Willen Lake, we decided to head back to Tense Towers for a brief swig of Hot Chocolate and then head on to Willen.
Parking between the Hospice and the Sanctuary, then pottering to the lake, we arrived just in time to see the assembling of a sizeable flock. As the light faded, Starlings poured in from every direction, in tens and occasionally hundreds, there were soon at least several thousand birds swirling around over the water, sometimes in a tight amorphous blob, sometimes strung out in a thin line across the lake. The wind wasn't too strong to hide the sound of their wings as they all turned in unison, a deep swooshing noise, that is just so undeniably pleasing to a ground-based mammal. As if on cue, a Sparrowhawk cruised passed, choosing to ignore such a spectacle as too mind-blowing for an aerial predator as well. We watched and smiled and watched some more, but all too soon the birds wheeled and turned for the last time. They suddenly descended like a feathery black waterfall into their reedbed roost and the show was over for another day.
|Photo courtesy of The Admiral