With such a title as that, you can guess that Inert are still concentrating on Chandlers farm. Wednesday's activity was serenely quiet. Only one bulldozer at work on the western half (not that the other bladed vehicles weren't working on the eastern - hidden - half), and a few tipper trucks dropping their loads.
Water was flowing out of the streams from the settlement ponds, but with the Manor farm pump still resolutely off, it appears the water is from Chandlers farm. Even the gates to the two sites were resolutely closed.
Interestingly, water levels in Cormorant lake (south) appear to have dropped; it has been relatively dry of late. I hope we do not have a return to last year's blistering weather. Apart from run off from surrounding hills (which tends to cease quite quickly after rains) there is no stream feeding Manor farm. This means that during a dry spell, water levels will fall. At some point, in the near future, Colebrook stream should be plumbed into Manor lake, thus keeping water levels more or less constant - unless we hit drought conditions.
Thus, we turn to the wildlife of the area. Firstly, however, a plug for Moor Green Lakes Group. Volunteer work parties come to a brief halt during the breeding season. However, activities for MGLG continue. Some examples can be found on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/MoorGreenLakes/posts/?ref=page_internal
Moving on to wildlife around the area. As you may realise, I tend not to hang around any particular spot for any time; unlike others who can spend hours. Spotting wildlife is even more down to luck. As such, the amount of wildlife (well bird life) I see on Manor farm is quite minimal currently. That is not, to say, that I can't hear lots of it. Rustling of mammals and birds in the undergrowth, bird song galore now accompanied by the demanding peeps of young chicks, and the ever present territorial battle cries of Skylark and Lapwing. Gulls and Terns are always raucous.
We start our slide show with birdlife spotted on Manor farm.
That's it on wildlife from Manor farm. Told you I didn't see much. I would probably see a lot more if I hung around for more than a couple of minutes.
Attention now turns to Moor Green Lakes. I paid three visits to MGL. The weather was glorious, with almost perfect photographing conditions. I also wanted to see if a lens hood made any difference to my Sigma. The jury is still out, but I will say a qualified yes.
Brace yourself, dear reader, I did manage to stay in one spot for 25 minutes! The viewing screens next to the hide on Colebrook lake (north). A quite fruitful location for photographing wildlife. We'll kick off, not with birds, but mammals and insects.
Now on to some birdies. All were on or over Colebrook lake (north)
Wagtail rumble. A pair of Pied Wagtails had a set to on the Sand bar next to Colebrook hide. It was a real ding-dong battle that went on for a bit of time.
Finally, the regulation ahhh...sweet photos. Mainly of Canada geese goslings.
With no discernable activity taking place on Manor farm, this week's moderately 'exciting' update concentrates on the end results we can expect from the restoration. Dismay not, those who hanker after any developments on Chandlers farm. Inert were working away most industriously on the southern edge of this site. I'm quite surprised at the amount of stuff still being shipped in and bulldozed in this part of the site.
Strangely, the outflow from the settlement ponds was quite rapid, even though the pump on Manor farm was most resolutely off. Obviously there are pumps operating on Chandlers farm (it was the original quarry site), and it is possible that some further extraction is taking place. I need to check on the works buildings. I read somewhere that 50,000 tons of gravel was to be extracted from the ground where the buildings stood.
OK, on to the slides, most from Moor Green Lakes. I took my 'proper' camera as Wednesday morning was brilliantly sunny, with little wind. Conditions were not ideal. There was that slight haze you get when it is particularly sunny and not bone dry. However, interesting photos did result.
Let's start with an Oyster Catcher chick. I photographed, some weeks back, an Oyster Catcher sat on its nest on Plover island - an island we clear of weeds and vegetation every autumn. It then dutifully disappeared, but no sight of chick or mother was to be had. Well, hardly surprising as I tend only to visit the reserve once a week, and then for a fleeting few minutes only.
This week I took a speculative for subsequent inspection at home on my laptop. Sure enough, in one of the photos, I found mother Oyster catcher and chick. A bit fuzzy, but my lens does struggle at 600mm at distances over 75 yards.
Hopping over to Manor farm, some more Oyster Catchers, and a cheeky Blue Tit.
Heading back to Moor Green Lakes, a Common Sandpiper made a welcome appearance on the sand bar in front of Colebrook hide. Whether this bird breeds on the reserve is a different matter.
Tern island is cleared of vegetation by MGLG volunteers every year. This used to occur in early January - normally on a bleak, cold, drizzly wind swept day. Last year the event was moved to October, in the hopes of kinder weather. It was mild, but with a torrential downpour of epic proportions.
This didn't stop MGLG volunteers from clearing the shoreline near Colebrook hide, but it did prevent them doing Tern island. Clearing the island was deferred to...January. Luckily the weather was kinder. I tend not to take the boat to Tern island. It's only a small thing, and tends to sit so low it is possible for water to lap over the gunwales. I do the sensible thing and stay with the shore party and hack back willow and such like from the shore line.
Here are some photos of the fruits of our labours. Black-headed gulls seem to be the main users of Tern island. There are a number of ducks and geese, but on Wednesday I finally photographed some Terns. I'm not very good at identifying gull type birds, so may have not noticed the terns before now. No idea what flavour of tern they are.
Also in this slide show are a couple of courting Great Crested Grebe and the ever present Cormorants.
Two weeks ago, I noticed a steady stream of gulls flying between Tern island and the north bank of Colebrook lake (north). I thought, at the time, that the gulls were feeding. It had rained heavily, and I figured the ground was nice and soft allowing earthworms and other grubs to be near the surface.
This week, armed with my proper camera (due to it actually being sunny), what the gulls were up to was revealed when cropping them out of photos. They were gathering nesting material!
I was getting a little worried about the recent dry spell we've experienced, and getting concerned we would have a repeat of last year. Well, the rains finally came, with a few days of deluge. However, the ground was so dry, the rain soaked straight into it, bypassing the mud stage.
My Thursday stomp (car was in the shop for a recall repair on Wednesday - only took them four goes to fix it) revealed Inert firmly ensconced on the southern edge of Chandlers farm. There is a tremendous amount of activity, with plenty of tipper trucks, diggers and bulldozers trundling around. As usual, Inert are flitting about the site.
Our pump was resolutely off, even though there was a trickle of water flowing from the outflow. I reckon this was simply run off from the recent heavy rains.
I only took my bridge camera with me - it was gloomy, and I also had to dodge showers. Just as well as there wasn't much in the way of wildlife around. It's quite normal - some days are good, some days are quiet.
The gull type birds on Tern island were behaving in an interesting manner. There was a constant stream of them flying to and fro between Tern island and the grassy banks to the north of Colebrook lake - next to Plover island. I can only assume there was a worm feast to be had on this shore, due to the rain. Anyway, my bridge camera wasn't up to taking decent photos.
No prizes to learn that Inert continue their restoration efforts on Chandlers farm.
There is this enormous spoil hill on the north edge of Chandlers farm, just to the west of the Bailey bridge. It's been relatively dynamic, over the past 2 years, as Inert remove and then add spoil to it. Various boulder sorter outers (screeners) are seen to work on and around it.
On Wednesday (yep, no Saturday stomp) there were two diggers at work. One was on it, and appeared to be loading lorries. The other appeared to be digging a trench: I'm not entirely sure on this. However, we have seen this sort of activity before. Inert did dig a drainage channel a year or so ago, only to then fill it in.
Manor farm remains resolutely untouched. With the pump still silent, water levels are getting back to their normal levels. Apart from Manor lake north. It is draining into Cormorant lake, and its levels are some of the lowest I have seen for many moons. Large swathes of mud flats are now exposed, which are well liked by Lapwings and gulls type birds in particular.
Part of 'gull pipe' is now floating. This will prove popular with the gull type birds, once water levels have risen to surround the pipe.
There doesn't seem to be anything using the scrape. Which is rather odd, considering its isolation, as it used to be quite popular. There seemed to be more birds on it when it was larger and less cut off from the mainland.
We received a 'Finchampstead Parish Council' leaflet which provided updates on what the council's main priorities are for the coming year. I noticed two entries pertinent to this blog.
1. For 2018/19, under Rights of Way: "Encouraging the completion and opening of the new nature reserves at Fleet Hill and Manor Farms and the rights of way on the sites"
2. Plans for 2019/20: "New nature reserves and rights of way at Fleet Hill and Manor Farms"
I have talked to one or people about what the plans are for the site. Strangely, they do not know what is happening on the site. Granted, some do, as one or two actually helped design the layout of the new reserves. Most were more concerned about having the noise and dust from the workings finally coming to an end. Which is understandable, but the sand, gravel etc used to build their houses and local infrastructure has to come from somewhere.
Sadly, others were only interested in the restoration as simply to provide them with a recreation area, particularly to walk their dogs! It's not like they don't already have miles of areas and fields to walk their dogs. Well, unless the reserves are securely fenced in, I reckon you can kiss goodbye to the Skylarks, Lapwings et al, currently nesting on the site.
A couple of the Cemex/Inert workforce I chatted to made the observation that a fully operational quarry, where people are kept out, has a highly diverse and vibrant wildlife. Those converted into 'Country parks' witness this wildlife being devastated. Simon's wood and surrounds is a fairly good example.
Anyway, what chance have Inert of completing restoration efforts in the next year, particularly on Manor farm. Hmmm, it is touch and go, I think. The infill of Finch pond was a major exercise. Inert were at it most of last year, and it still isn't complete.
Cormorant lake isn't as big, and some progress has been made on filling it in this year. It must be noted that Cormorant lake has already undergone a considerable amount of infill - reducing it to almost half its former size. I believe that Inert are staying away from Cormorant lake because of the breeding season, which means they will not return until mid to late July at the earliest; giving them five months to meet the last completion deadline I saw, namely Dec 31st of this year.
It will be close, especially as all the rights of way have to be established and fenced in, plus the car park at the Longwater road entrance has to be built and the entrance remodelled. Quite a tall order for five months. But then again, the deadlines have been extremely fluid over the past few decades.
We still do not know who will be taking over the site. Presumably a combination of Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust and an extended Moor Green Lakes Group. Both underfunded and understaffed.
Still, it will be a great day when I can hang up my stomping boots, and re-purpose this blog to a, more relaxing, narrative of how the scars of restoration transform into a vibrant nature reserve.
Cor blimey, that's a bit philosophical for a Saturday morning.
Onto the slide show, what little there is of it.
Now onto the wildlife, well bird life.
It is probably quite amazing I manage to get as many photos of birds as I do, seeing as I do not stay still at any one place for very long. I normally storm through the sites, starting at MGLG car park and walking to the middle of Manor farm; sometimes to Longwater road entrance, and back. Thus, it is testimony to the richness of the wildlife on these sites that I can get so many photos.
The highlight of Wednesday's stomp was photos of a Little Ringed Plover. A birder motioned me over and pointed out this bird to me. He had already spent quite a bit of time photographing it, and said he had seen it on a couple of occasions the previous two days. Only spotting the one, we didn't know if the bird was simply passing through.
It was awfully tame. We couldn't have been more that 20 feet away from it. The birder said it had come even closer. He must have reeled off hundreds of photos of the bird on his high end Canon set up. I took about 50 photos (very easy to do with a modern digital camera), and then left him to it.
Plover island seemed somewhat light on birds. I couldn't see any plovers on it, but then again I do not spend sufficient time in any one spot.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.