Saturday 19 May 2012


A slow start to the day this morning. Grey cloud, a little breeze and the ground wet from overnight rain.

For the second year running, Crows have nested in a neighbour's Ash tree. By this time last year, foliage had hidden the nest from view, so we weren't able to see when the young fledged. However, so far in 2012, the leaves are barely bursting from the buds. Our Lass and I watched the antics of the pair of nestlings, who were in a blur of frantic wing flapping, as they attempted to build up their flight muscles.

Following breakfast, a text from the Admiral alerted us to the presence of a Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, which had appeared at Manor Farm quarry workings, a little further upstream across Milton Keynes. We needed some fresh air and a walk, so decided to try the footpath loop through this area, between the West Coast main line railway viaduct across the River Great Ouse and the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which carries the Grand Union canal across the same valley.

Path, earth bank, gravel, factory. Just another wildlife walk
We parked just off Haversham Road, by the viaduct, and walked up through the fields to the buildings at Manor Farm. Conveniently, a birder had set up his x50 'scope here, looking down into the floodplain, and he had already located the Cattle Egret, so we were able to enjoy views of the bird, even at such a great distance. The peachy markings on head, front and back, characteristic of summer breeding plumage, were clearly visible. Using bins wasn't much use and I'd wisely left the camera at home!

Thanking our saviour profusely, we sauntered on towards the canal, whilst overhead, countless Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and Swifts careened through the air, hoovering up any insect brave enough to attempt flight in the cool conditions.

At the canal we turned right along the towpath and were amazed to find the world's most obliging Grey Heron. It stood stock still, by the path, as we walked past, not even batting an eyelid when I stopped to take its picture using the camera on my phone.

Just before we reached the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, we descended the steps back to the valley floor and followed the path between the river and the gravel workings. This area had recently been flooded, as is mentioned in one of the local wildlife blogs, but water levels have returned to normal once more. Occasionally, views of the quarry workings would open up through gaps in the banking. We stood at one of these for a while, scanning the area with our bins. Within a short time, we had located a Wheatear, a Yellow Wagtail, a Redshank, several members of a species of Ringed Plover (could've been Little or plain old Ringed, difficult at distance with bins) and, happily, the Cattle Egret. Common Terns were plunging into the river behind us and Lapwings were busy chasing away Crows from their nest sites on the shingle banks. Thinking about my ID quandary above, I suspect that whatever I say, it would be a Wronged Plover!

After the gravel extraction is completed in a few years' time, this area will become a wet woodland nature reserve, managed by the Milton Keynes Parks Trust. Obviously, the wildlife hasn't read the relevant documentation and has already moved in.

With nary a glimpse of the sun or much in the way of any warmth in the air, the sum total of visible dragons and damsels was zero. Oh well, next week promises to be hotter.

1 comment:

lyrical lady said...

Great place, isn't it? The water's actually still quite high, but the new puddles, islets and lakelets add something special! This afternoon the Cattle Egret was doing what it says on the tin! We watched it following the cattle round the field....until they all came too near. I like my bullocks on the other side of a fence :(