It is 8:15 on Saturday morning. Normally I'd still be stomping around Manor farm, with a view to heading home. This morning, however, I elected not to pop down for my regular early morning exercise; instead having a few extra moments of kip before getting up on a bright, if somewhat windy and cold morning.
My usual Wednesday jaunt revealed a silent Manor farm but for two diggers. I spotted them having a conflab near the pump station, before they took off and trundled south to Chandlers farm. As best I can make out, they flattened the long bank of spoil they created when they dug out the drainage channel some weeks back.
I could not see any evidence of any other work being carried out on Manor farm this past week. Even the piles of spoil which were around the parked bulldozer, which I photographed last Saturday, had not been pushed into Cormorant lake. It was a scene reminiscent of the Marie Celeste i.e. everything suddenly abandoned.
There appeared to be muted activity on the west side of Chandlers farm. Inert appeared to be continuing to operate on the crater (i.e. former lake) near the sports ground. I can't see the east side of Chandlers farm (i.e. by the works buildings) from the south footpath, so can only gauge what is going on by how much noise is being generated. I admit I am not too interested in what happens on Chandlers farm as most of it is being turned into sports amenities.
So as not to waste a trip on Saturday, I took the opportunity to visit Manor farm on Friday morning. Though I have to add that it was reasonably sunny with almost no wind, which would give me good conditions to photograph wildlife.
There was no activity of any sort on either Manor farm or the west side of Chandlers farm. An extraordinary sight, as even at its quietest I would expect to see the odd bulldozer, digger or lorry lurking around. A cacophony of noise pointed to much activity on the east side of Chandlers farm, by the works buildings. Indeed I spotted a bulldozer reversing west, to just be spied from the Bailey bridge, before pushing forward east with soil.
These works buildings are scheduled to be demolished (allegedly by the end of this year), and an extra 50,000 tonnes of gravel extracted shortly after; before the whole area is restored, allegedly by the middle of next year. I suspect this schedule will slip by a year.
I have seen Inert operate in this manner, over the past year and a bit. They flit about the site, with what appears to be no coherent plan, working on a bit, abandoning it, and then returning some time later. I'm sure there is a plan somewhere. :-) :-) :-)
Back to my obsession: the pump. It appeared to be working on Wednesday, in that there was a reasonable flow from their drainage channels into the Blackwater. Only I couldn't tell if this was due to the pump or simply run off from the deluge we had. By my Friday visit, the drainage channels were dry, and the pump was definitely silent.
You may, dear reader, have correctly surmised that I took a wander onto Manor farm on Friday morning. I never do this, normally, as it is dangerous with all the heavy plant trundling around. However, I decided it was safe due to it being obvious that all activity was concentrated around the works buildings. Plus, I could return to the MGLG car park via various paths (made by animals) I know along Manor lake and the grasslands, should a vehicle appear on Manor farm.
Wildlife was a little thin on the ground on Manor farm. Not that I stayed long enough to get a really good assessment. My concern is more photography, especially flying. So unless it is floating, flying or flitting about in plain sight, I tend not to see it. I hear them more than I see them.
I did spot some Snipe on their usual haunt round Manor lake; flying off at speed before dipping back into reeds or sedge. While a couple of Buzzards soared above Chandlers farm next to the Blackwater.
MGLG around Colebrook lake was a mixed bag. Colebrook lake (north) was a hive of activity, not least due to the gulls and tern. Colebrook lake (south) was much, much quieter. Most all of the birds that usually bob about this part of Colebrook lake have flown off to their breeding ground. Still, the bright conditions on Friday morning did lend itself to a couple of good shots, even if most of the flying birds did not cooperate i.e. disappearing behind branches, flying off before I'd even got the lens cover off, etc.
A couple of photos then. The Great Crested Grebes do tend to freak me out a little. They have red eyes. I also feel that people do not realise how colourful or exotic looking our birds can be. Check out the iridescent plumage and head gear on the Lapwings. The Great Crested Grebe was photographed on Colebrook lake (south) while the Lapwing were on Colebrook lake (north).
With a headline like that how can you not read this week's 'thrilling' instalment. Our bulldozer driver has been a busy little bee, this week. Also, it has to be said, have the lorry drivers. They have been all over the land mass and the latest infill near the pump station; well only the bulldozer was on the latter part. Looking at the forensic evidence (i.e. caterpillar tracks in t'mud) our bulldozer driver also took a wee jaunt over to the Finch pond infill, and flirted briefly with the Longwater road entrance.
The upshot of all this activity on the land mass and around the mighty heap was that my stomp was much easier. No slogging through gooey mud, though I still had to be careful where I stepped. There is still a lot of that grey mud the consistency of quicksand lurking around.
Infill has continued apace on the north and west shore of Cormorant lake (south), plus the east shore near the pump station. This will continue over the coming weeks or, dare I say, months. I shall stick my neck out and say that the scrape will be a feature. Inert are taking a lot of care to infill around it.
I have mixed feelings about the scrape. One part of me wants it as large as possible, or even to have more than one scrape. Another part of me (that part frozen to the core on a Sunday morning, stood on an exposed scrape with driving rain and biting wind, clearing weeds and shrub) wants the scrape to remain its current size. Nah, go for a big'un - we're hard! :-) :-) :-)
I did think of hopping over to the north embankment to take a photo of the latest infill. However, after an hour of walking around the site with the remnants of a filthy rotten cold, I decided to head home and make myself a cup of hot coffee.
Oh, the pump was silent. Strangely, water levels were on the low side in Cormorant lake, even with spill over from Manor lake south. I suspect they will rise dramatically after storm Freya hits tomorrow morning. That will make a mess of the mud for Monday. It could be hard going for the bulldozer and trucks.
The erstwhile pump station bridge has taken a bit of a bashing this week. I didn't wander over to have a look see, but it did have one of its walls missing. Very strange.
We'll kick off the piccies with my best estimation about the extent of the latest infill. It's best guess on the drawing, partly as the google earth image was taken when water levels were much lower. Therefore I feel Inert have possible filled in more of Cormorant lake than I have given them credit for.
Now on to wildlife; I'll talk about Skylarks in a bit. There wasn't a huge amount around, this morning. Again, partly due to the time of year (i.e. gearing up for breeding), partly the activity going on and partly as a lot of the birds tend to fly off to feeding grounds shortly after sunrise. I did espy one Roe deer near the east embankment, plus something small, fast, brown and furry scurrying along side the gate at the Longwater road entrance. Possibly a rat or, due to its slenderness, a weasel.
I did spot about three Egyptian geese lurking around Cormorant lake north and Finch pond, plus the usual plethora of Canada geese and small flotilla of Tufted duck.
Now onto the Skylarks. I have heard a lot more Skylarks around Manor farm this year than I did last. And least years I made a particular effort to listen out for them. This year there is a cacophony of Skylark trill, and I see them flitting about all over the place; not just the grasslands or Chandlers farm. I wonder if they had a successful year last year.
I also noticed, for me at least, more Mute swans around Manor farm. Three yearlings seem to fly around together a lot. They were complemented by three adults, this morning.
There was a small flock of equally small birds that took off from the land mass near the copse. I was hoofing back to my car at the time, so it too me a while to get my camera up. By this time the flock had flown some considerable distance. I gave it a shot or three, but wasn't too hopeful as I was trying to pick out small, fast moving birds against a busy background, where the birds themselves were pretty much the same colour as the background. Plus, as you can see from the photos this week, light conditions were pretty poor.
Anyway, getting home and cropping their fuzzy images, and consulting the RSPB pocket bird book, there is a small possibility that I saw a flock of Hawfinch. Now don't get too excited. Remember, my bird spotting skills are second to bottom. Have a look at the images and decide for yourself. I thought they might have been Goldfinches, but the yellow wing flashes are absent.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.