I have a new camera, dear reader. After much agonising, deliberating, saving of pennies, research and seeking of optimal deals, I finally settled on a Canon EOS 800d. It arrived on Thursday morning, just in time for the Nightjar walk at the RSPB Warburg reserve, Camberley that evening.
Although still classified as an entry level model (though the 200d is cheaper), when comparing the photographic results of the 800d when against my ancient 350 I shall, dear reader, have to resort to the American expression of...
As detestable and over used as it is, the cliche does describe adequately the differences in image quality.
I was underwhelmed when I got the Canon EOS 350 (or Rebel XTi as it is also known) a couple of years ago as a second hand jobbie. Although better than my bridge camera, the photos we not significantly better. Hardly surprising as the technological enhancements in hardware and software over the years meant that modern bridge cameras were almost as good as the first generation EOS cameras. Also I felt that the 350 never really got on comfortably with the Tamron 16-300mm lens.
That technological enhancement is most evident in the images produced by the Canon 800d. I can best describe it as having an eye test after a ten year interval, then getting a new pair of glasses to match the update prescription. Everything is clearer and brighter. The comments I've read on camera reviews, comparing DSLR and bridge camera photo quality, finally make sense.
The photos produced by my 800d now match the clarity I see in photos posted on t'internet. They also solve one conundrum that has puzzled me for some months. I often read on t'internet that it is better to get a high quality lens with lesser zoom, and simply crop the image to achieve better results than those gained with a cheaper higher zoom lens or bridge camera. This just didn't seem to work with images produced by the Canon 350.
It was just eye popping when I first expanded an image on the computer that was produced by the Canon 800d. I seemed to be able to just keep expanding the image, diving deeper and deeper down, with no loss of clarity. Simply amazing. And this with a modern entry level DSLR. I can't see the need for anything more sophisticated, seeing as I generally use the DSLR as a point and shoot camera.
Still, there is a lot to learn. I have only scratched the surface of what the 800d is capable of. Though I have already found one limitation. The 800d and my Tamron 16-300mm zoom lens aren't quite 100% compatible. At 16 - 22mm the lens does not seem to focus properly on the chip, and I see a lot of severe chromatic aberration. Lots of green and magenta bands edging shapes. You'll see this in some of the images I post today. They look slightly out of focus, with washed out colours.
After a bit of research on t'internet: this is hardware and software related. The lens is a compromise with its large zoom range. It hits limitations where it cannot focus properly on the chip. Some of the resulting Chromatic Aberration can be corrected with in camera software. Allegedly, post processing software like Adobe Lightroom can remove even more CA.
I might drop Canon and/or Tamron a line to see if they have any software updates (more the former) that can address this. Otherwise, I will simply avoid using the camera at 16-22mm and/or try and fiddle with the settings to find something that works. No real hardship as most of my shots tend to be at full zoom. Of course, I might have to start saving all my pennies for a new lens. After all, my Tamron lens is an old second hand jobbie.
Anyway, on to the restoration of Manor farm.
The pump had stopped chugging when the memsahib and I walked around this morning. It was chugging, rather noisily, on Thursday when I visited the site at lunchtime. It's hard to tell if it was turned off deliberately or had simply run out of diesel. Regardless of which, water levels in the lakes and ponds were very low; possibly enhanced by the continuing drought. Many of the plants along the Blackwater's banks are beginning to suffer, with the water in the Blackwater being very low.
As I suspected last week, Inert are forming another small pond - Finch pond jnr II. I think the process for restoration is to form the basic structure with any old stuff - earth with building rubble, bits of concrete, metal, wires, cables, plastic, etc, etc, etc. Then to cap the whole lot with inert soil. The bulldozer driver was hard at work on Thursday, pushing inert soil around edging the banks of Finch pond jnr and some of the shore between it and Finch pond jnr II. The latter pond was being formed with industrial rubble - see photos.
There were signs that the bulldozer had been at work on the south shore of Finch pond proper, possibly extending it further north. Also the diggers were at work around the boulder sorter outer.
I've annotated one of the photos with the location of Finch ponds jnr and jnr II when viewed from the south footpath. I'll leave it as an exercise for you to figure which photos were taken at 16mm. Hint, they are the purplely fuzzy ones.
Now, dear reader, on to wildlife.
Firstly we'll kick off with two photos of an obliging Yellow Ringed Dragonfly. It hung from a small Hawthorn near the Moor Green Lake car park, and allowed us to get really close and take oodles of photos. I've included two. One shows the dragonfly hanging around. The second is a crop of the first image to show how detailed the photos are when taken with the Canon EOS 800d at a zoom of 300mm. Looks sharp throughout to me.
Note, other similar camera from other manufacturers (e.g. Sony, Nikon, Pentax, etc) are capable of such results.
I simply had an existing Canon camera, and therefore had bought into the lens system. No point in shelling out loads of dosh for a new lens if I switch to a different brand.
Now we move to bats, and a warning. I found a dead bat on the 'lawn' (well, grassy area) of my back garden, on Wednesday morning. Luckily I wore gloves when I picked it up. Not so luckily, I handled it a touch when I photographed it.
You see, I researched 'what to do with a dead bat if you find one'. The Bat Conservation Trust website was very informative, especially the dire warnings that bats can carry two type of rabies, and one bat handler in the UK has died of rabies after contracting the disease from a bat. Do not handle bats without wearing gloves, the site advised. Yikes!
Anyway, I rang up the BCT (as it tells you to do on the website) and gave my details to a very nice lady, She immediately despatched a parcel to me, which dutifully arrived the next day. It has a small plastic phial and form and SAE jiffy bag in it. I retrieved the bat from our fridge (I had placed said bat in a small glass jam jar, with tight fitting cap), popped it into the plastic phial and did up the lid tightly, filled out the form, then popped the two into the SAE jiffy bag for first class delivery to some disease testing centre - where they will test the bat for rabies. I will be contacted if the tests are positive.
Here are a couple of photos of the wee beastie. A Pipistrelle I think.
Moving swiftly on from dire consequences of rabies. The memsahib and I attended a Nightjar walk with the RSPB 'Wishmoor Bottom' reserve, north of Camberley. I believe this reserve is part of what was the Windsor great forest aka royal hunting ground. The RSPB manage the huge site on behalf of the MOD, which still uses it for training.
We used to hear them training, at night, when we lived on the Old Dean estate, many moons ago. There would be an almighty bang at roughly 10:30 at night, followed by parachute flares, much small arms fire, and the odd bang of a field gun. This would all go on for an hour or two.
The RSPB wardens describe how when the walk through the reserve these lines or clusters of 'bushes' would suddenly up and walk away.
Anyway, there were nineteen people on the walk last Thursday. We took a long, meandering circular walk to arrive at the location of the Nightjars by roughly 21:40. Then it was a question of wait. At roughly 21:55 the churring started, followed shortly after by the Nightjars. There were two at the location where we stopped, which might have been joined by a third in a territorial display. We could hear churring all round us, particularly as we headed back to where we were parked. Luckily, we also saw one glow worm!
I managed a few photos with my newly arrived 800d. They are not brilliant. The light was very bad when the Nightjars took to flying around us. I would point my camera at a dark, gloomy patch of shrubbery, where I could just make out some slender tree posts and not much else, press the shutter release and hope for the best.
Shooting the Nightjars as they flew into the sky was interesting fun. They fly slow, they fly fast, they do not appear in the sky for long. Anyway, here are two of the best I managed. Not really good, I'm afraid.
Still, it was tremendous fun, with tremendous friendly people.
Now to my back garden. There was quite a ruckus going on at about 18:00 last Thursday. Normally this heralds the return of one of my cats as they are berated by the local family of Magpies. Only the warning cries were not Magpies. They were Green Woodpeckers. Two of them. One even landed on our Oak tree.
I grabbed the 800d and rushed out into the garden. After a bit of stalking, I managed to espy one woodpecker. It had landed on a tall, spindly tree, two gardens down from ours. Although in the shade, I still hauled off some shots - nothing gained, etc - and was somewhat amazed by the results. Some of which I include for your delectation. All photos taken at the maximum 300mm zoom of the Tamron. Funny how online reviews complain about loss of image definition at 300mm with this lens. Looks brilliant to me.
I find it is always worthwhile to haul off some shots regardless of the light conditions. You never know what you might get. The woodpecker didn't hang around long - they are pretty wary birds - which is one reason why I am so lazy and use my DSLR as a sophisticated point and shoot camera. Admittedly, I have set it up to work well in this manner. Note, I do not use the automatic setting. It can cause all sorts of problems, particularly in low light conditions where I do not want the flash to go off.
Our hard working bulldozer driver was all on his lonesome when I popped over to Manor farm Thursday lunchtime. He was working away around the former site of the Yellow bridge, which is now occupied with the boulder sorter outer. (I looked up a proper name for the boulder sorter outer. Screen unit or screeners or screening plant appears to be the official term. Rather boring I think.)
It is quite evident that the boulder sorter outer has been hard at work over the past week. There is a large pile of new stuff to be screened (look, I'm picking up on the lingo already), and new and bigger piles of screened stuff.
Much has gone on around Finch pond during the preceding three working days. The infill along the north shore now extends all they way across Finch pond. I was able to step off the end of the infill and clamber directly up the north embankment. Last week I had to walk along the north shore of Finch pond for a bit.
Inert have, I feel, widen the infill a bit, but also appear to be creating yet another small pond to the east of Finch pond jnr. It is hard to tell at such an early stage, but it really does look like it to me.
I reckon the little gap Inert leave between the north embankment and the infill is for drainage. Water continues to flow along the narrow channel left by inert. Even on the eastern end of the infill, where it meets the spit running parallel to the ridge, there is a narrow channel. I guess it stops the soil bulldozed for the infill getting too water logged and so unstable. I know to my cost (aka muddy knees) how the soil can turn to the consistency of quicksand when it gets too wet.
I also get the feeling that the infill along the south shore of Finch pond, particularly adjacent to the copse, has been graded so that it is fairly smooth. Now, this might have actually happened over the preceeding weeks, but it was most evident this Saturday when the memsahib and I walked along the south footpath. I kind of feel that the area around the former site of the Yellow bridge has been spruced up. Everything looks a little tidier and smarter.
Elsewhere the pump keeps chugging away. I really get the feeling that Inert will turn their attentions to Cormorant lake soon.
I notice, dear reader, that my website and blog has seen a large increase in hits over the past week; possibly due to my entry to the Artizan summer art exhibition. Weebly, my provider, provides statistics on the number of visitors hit the site and how many pages they viewed per day. However, Weebly provides no details other than x visitors hit the site and they visited y pages. One upshot is that I cannot tell if these hits are caused by robots or not. I suspect 90% are caused by robots and cataloguing spiders.
On the off chance that a proper human has inadvertently encountered my blog, I must remind all that I have permission to be on the Cemex site; and even then I am careful where and when I walk. Particularly now, during breeding season.
Before the slide show, this is how far I think Inert have progressed infilling Finch pond. My crudely drawn blue bits aren't to scale and I may have got some of the thicknesses wrong. It does give an idea how much Finch pond has been filled in and how much there is to go.
As I do not dawdle on my walk, what wildlife I see has to be front and centre for me to capture it. That being said, there is an awful lot to see. There is even more to hear, and I need to get an app that will help me recognise them - not that I have a mobile phone.
Again I am struck by how much the wildlife has got used to the (fairly traumatic) human activity around the site. Large flotillas of Canada geese (and possibly others) and Tufted duck ply Cormorant lake. I spotted at least five Lapwings creeling about the place.
The Shelduck are, as usual, dead wary. I have a sequence where they take to the waters of Finch pond when they spot me. At the time I was over 100 yards away, on the south footpath, wearing fairly sombre coloured clothing and bush hat, largely screened by chest/chin high weeds, and separated by a large expanse of land and water! Yet the blighters were still nervous!!!
Go to the local park or leisure ground and there is a wild scrum as the wildfowl jostle in their eagerness to get at any food you may or may not have for them.
I did get some splendid views of three (yes three) Green woodpeckers. The memsahib and I decided to walk along some footpaths around the Sandmartins golf club on Friday evening. As we walked past the club house, complete with ball bashers engaged in alcoholic revelry, I spotted three Green woodpeckers flying in the club carpark. They landed no more than about 40 or 50 yards from us, and allowed me to haul off several shots with my bridge camera! They hung around for about five minutes, ignoring the noise coming from the ball bashers on the other side of the club house.
Sadly, despite the excellent light conditions, despite it being 19:30, my bridge camera didn't take brilliant photos. It's autofocus isn't wonderful, and I did take the photos at 1200mm zoom without a tripod. Still, I'm well chuffed I got so many photos, and they allowed us to watch them for so long.
On this day last year, dear reader, my partner and I made the fateful decision to turn right at the Blackwater and follow the south footpath into the unknown. She and I usually turned left to follow the southern edge of Moor Green Lakes reserve, then back along the Lower Sandhurst road back to the car park.
We had avoided turning right as we knew the path lead to the Longwater road and we do not like walking along busy roads. It was only after examining a 1:25000 OS map of the area that I 'discovered' the footpath leading into and around the Fleet Hill farm part of the works.
Back then I did not know about the restoration efforts underway; the plans for the nature reserve or indeed its size. I was actually more interested in taking photos of the various excavation machinery for my paintings.
A couple or so weeks later I discovered what was going on and decided to record (out of curiosity and professional interest) the process by which Cemex restored the quarry to nature reserve quality. So was born this blog.
It has been great fun, tramping for miles over the reserve, fighting my way through nettles and brambles and chest high weeds and whippy shrubs, falling down slopes and into ponds, sinking up to my knees in mud the consistency of quicksand, fighting off blood sucking biting insects, walking through the snow and ice. Highlights were spotting American Mink (and catching it on my trail camera), a fox den with cubs (which I haven't mentioned 'til now so as to protect them), a Weasel with dead Vole, Lapwings, Oyster Catchers, Shelducks, Hobby, plus all the other wild birds and insects I now have a fighting chance of identifying.
One unexpected outcome of this project is how much I have learnt about cameras, especially my secondhand Canon Rebel XTi. Even so, I have to admit, dear reader, that I use both cameras as point and shoot devices. Partly as I am somewhat time constrained as I stomp about the reserves, partly as the fast moving animals do not give you the luxury of fiddling with settings (i.e. blink and the blighter has gone), but mainly as I am too lazy to muck about with the camera controls. Occasionally I will fiddle so, but only quite rarely. I have discovered, through trial and error, a series of settings and tricks which take good photos most of the time.
I've included some of the original photos I took a year ago plus what the scenes look like now. Photos from 2017 taken with my bridge camera on the left. Photos from 2018 taken with my ancient DSLR on the right.
Fleet Hill farm. View west from the bridge over the Longwater road. I was fascinated by the conveyor mechanism and the machine I christened 'Stone Crusher'. I reckon it crushed large lumps of extracted gravel so the smaller bits could be carried by the conveyor to the processing plant on the Hampshire part of the works.
Fleet Hill farm. View west over 'Lower lake' taken from the access path. I will have to go back and retake the photo on the right as I didn't quite get the perspective correct.
Fleet Hill farm. View north over 'Stone Crusher lake' from the footpath. Not really a huge amount of change to be seen, apart from more vegetation and the light green tubes protecting the newly planted saplings.
Fleet Hill farm. This piece of machinery is what I called Stone Crusher. Stuff is fed into the large hopper on the left, is then shaken and masticated, before the small bits are fed into the mechanism on the right for, perhaps, more sorting and then dumped on the conveyor for a journey under the Longwater road, across Manor farm, thence a right turn to the works on the Hampshire side of the works.
Manor farm. Apologises about the photo on the right. To begin with I am not entirely sure where I took the 2017 photo. Thus I had to take a guess for the 2018 photo, and even then I had to crop it heavily from a wide angle shot I took this year. Further, I think my bridge camera is set for vivid photos, whilst the DSLR takes photos more or less as the eye sees. Though, the Tamron lens does, I feel, mute the images a little. But then, that is the compromise I accept when using an entry level 16-300mm lens; personally I love the lens.
Inert have built a rather interesting structure, and I can't really say for certain what it is. The nice little 'bay' that they created last week has had its mouth closed by a spit of land.
One interpretation I can give, it that this spit of land marks the route of the Colebrook. Having marked it out, the bulldozer driver need only fill in the 'bay' without having to think too much. Only this doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.
A second interpretation is that Inert are creating a small pond i.e. Finch pond junior. This, I feel, is more plausible. The structure plans do show some small ponds dotted around the area north of the reinstated course of the Colebrook, but they do not correlate with the 'pond' created this last week. Then again, the plans were only advisory and subject to change.
I await developments with interest, but see what you think from the photos in the slide show; some of which I took from the north embankment on Saturday.
Note, dear reader, I am not sure if it is Colebrook or Colnbrook. I have seen both in literature I have come across, and I think (though it was difficult to read) that Colnbrook was the spelling used on the diagrams for the planning application.
Moving swiftly on. That Inert and the haulage lorries were busy this past week is evident by the closing of the 'bay'. However, they were noticeably missing on Thursday. The only activity I witnessed was the water tanker filling up with water from Finch pond, before trundling off to the Hampshire part of the site; and a couple of grab loaders dropping off stuff by the boulder sorter outer.
A rather strange pile of chalk or limestone also appeared near the Longwater road entrance. It looks like some alien craft or Aztec temple. It's just totally weird: one pile of white carbonate material. Other heaps of stuff were dumped on the former location of pump station bridge. All quite perplexing, but as I pointed out on numerous occasions, the restoration progress seems to randomly flit about the site.
I could just hear activity on the Hampshire side of the site, but couldn't see anything.
Our hard working pump has been switched on again, and was merrily chugging away. I even crossed the works bridge to see if water was cascading into the Blackwater. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear the pump if the wind blows in the wrong direction.
It might be coincidence, but I have noticed a large number of R Collard lorries trundling down Jubilee and Longwater roads carrying what seemed to be soil. Could this be inert soil destined for Manor farm or are the lorries simply on another job or heading back to base?
There was a large number of Canada geese in Cormorant lake. Along with the flotillas of Tufted Duck, it almost felt like winter seeing the lakes festooned with wildfowl. Other interesting sightings (for me anyway) were a Redshank feeding on the east shore of Cormorant lake, the usual Lapwings, and a Golden-ringed Dragonfly.
This week's blog, dear reader, is a little bit complicated. I popped by on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
I do not know the Fleet Hill farm part of the new reserve very well. My view of this area was partly tainted by my first foray one bleak autumn afternoon, walking into driving sleet and rain. I got confused quickly as to where I was in the site, as there were (to me at the time) very few landmarks. Eventually I got to the point where my main aim was to get home as quickly as possible to out of the cold, nasty sleet.
Since then I have mainly walked along the north part of the reserve, but knew there was quite an extensive stretch I had not yet visited.
This I began to put right on Friday, when I determined to explore the lake farthest from the Longwater road entrance. It is tucked in the south west corner of the reserve, up against the Blackwater and Fleet Hill farm, see image below.
I now find it the most interesting and pleasant of the ponds/lakes on Fleet Hill farm. I've christened it 'Parallel Pond' as it sports a number of scrapes that run parallel to each other. I do not know if this was by design or happened as that is how the beds of gravel were laid and thus extracted.
Rather stupidly I decided to walk around the west and south shore of Parallel Pond. You see, there is this green strip of land that runs along the Blackwater and hence this and other ponds. It is used by horse owners to get to grazing land. Thus it is fenced off, right up against the lakes and ponds of Fleet Hill farm. This leaves a narrow corridor, sometime less than my body width, between the edge of the pond and considerable growth of shrubs and the fence. All made worse by the uneven ground, chin high nettles, waist high thistles and grass and weeds.
Battling my way along this narrow gap was not pleasant, and it was with considerable relief that I made it to the east side of Parallel lake. However, at this point some flies (Horse?) discovered me, and proceeded to take chunks out of me; biting through my skin and drawing blood! I have nice red welts on my hand tops and arms, which are quite itchy.
The sooner this green strip of land is turned into a bridle path the better. That is the supposed development plan for Fleet Hill farm.
With no real landmarks it is difficult to convey to you, dear reader, where I am taking photos from and where I am facing. Therefore the map below show the approximate positions where I took photos from and the approximate direction I was facing.
What I should have done, dear reader, was print a copy of this map to take with me so I had a better idea where I was. This would have enabled me to take more photos of the east side of this large pond. I will have to revisit this lovely pond to fill in the gaps.
What was interesting about the wild birds was that they were not unduly nervous about my proximity. Yes, they were wary of my. Yes they kept their distance and occasionally flew off, but they were no where near as nervous as the birds on Manor farm or the north areas of this reserve. This might be due to Fleet Hill farm proper, with the resulting large amount of Human traffic. Therefore I have included some shots of a Grey Heron, which allowed me to get incredibly close.
Photos of parallel pond Fleet Hill farm:
Severe bank erosion Fleet Hill farm.
You may have noticed, dear reader, that I have a label for Soil Erosion. During my cold walk in the sleet last autumn, I noticed these 'gullies' running down a bank into one of the large ponds on Fleet Hill Farm. There were quite a number of them, all parallel to each other. They were deeply incised into the soil and quite clearly defined as there was virtually no vegetation.
I realised at the time that they were caused by water, but didn't really understand the root cause. Actually, I didn't put much thought to it at the time as my main interest was making my way back to the Longwater road.
Roll on a few months, I have acquired a better understanding of the topology of the area and conditions due to seasonal changes. The cause of these gullies became clear when I came across a large circular hole at one end of a 'gully'; it was up against a bank, furthest away from the lake shore. On the other side of the bank, across a grass track was the Blackwater.
To my mind there is only one way this feature (and thus the 'gullies') could have formed; overspill from the Blackwater when it floods. The large circular hole, 3 to 4 feet (90cm to 1.2m) in diameter, is basically a plunge pool.
Naturally, this is a supposition on my part, but we did see the Blackwater breach its banks on Fleet Hill farm earlier on in the year. I may have to leg it down there the next time we get flood conditions to test my hypothesis.
Wildlife Fleet Hill farm:
To be honest, I was spending more of my time either negotiating nettles, thistles, shrubs and weeds or not falling into a pond due to my narrow path or looking at the scenery than looking for wildlife. So what there was had to be pretty much front and centre for me to notice it.
That being said, the bird and insect life were fairly obliging; and not too wary to boot. Two Oyster Catchers ignored me, letting me get quite close and take several photos of them. I encountered similar disdain from a pair of Gadwalls.
As I said before, this part of the reserve is damsel and dragon fly heaven. The place is think with them. Some seemed to prefer being over the water. Others preferred land or going high up into trees. Look closely at the photo of the Redshank and you'll see tens of Demoiselles.
There were three Little White Egrets on the lakes, the most I've seen. One was so large I thought initially it was a Great Egret. Sadly it was not to be. I think I spooked a Snipe. Plus there was the usual mini-flocks of Lapwing.
The highlight for me was seeing a Little Grebe and it's chick. The chick was a bonus; peeping away, demanding food from its mum. Every now and again it attempted to dive, but wasn't able to stay under the water for long.
Manor Farm. Saturday.
I am going to kick off this section with photos of something a little weird - least ways I think so. Inert have spread large rubble (i.e. big blocks of concrete, bricks, etc) along the upper track near the pump station. For road footings it is totally over the top, I reckon. I'm not even sure if you need that size of hardcore for building foundations.
It's almost as if the rubble has been spread out to dry. Further shots, taken from the south footpath on Thursday, of the mighty rubble pile are contained further down in this post.
Now a quick section on wildlife. A lot of birds have drifted back to Finch pond and Cormorant lake. The tufted duck seem up to strength again, as do the Canada geese. There are the usual cohorts of Lapwings, Cormorants and gulls, as well as the usual Carrion Crows, Coots, Mallards and Moor Hens. Overhead, Swallows, Martins, the occasional Buzzard, Kite and Heron drift over lazily.
The highlight for me was a Common Whitethroat which very nicely posed right next to the south footpath for me to photograph. The number of Dragon or Damsel flies does not approach the numbers to be seen on Fleet Hill farm.
Manor Farm, in fill of Finch pond.
I must admit, dear reader, that the speed at which Inert are in filling Finch pond caught me completely by surprise. Based on previous experience I expected a glacial inching progress across the pond, taking until next year at the least. So much so I thought I'd get a breather from posts. Not likely. Inert are racing along. They might, just might even finish by month's end; though definitely by the end of July.
After a brief hiatus of trucks last (bank holiday) week, the trucks (or what trucks Cemex could contract) were back with a vengeance. I don't think in the same numbers as that first week, but certainly 10 if not more. Progress has been rapid. The in fill along the north shore of Finch pond extends further eastward, and has been widened considerably. Curiously, a peninsula, orthogonal to this infill, has been built into Finch pond, thus creating a sort of bay.
The chaps obviously know what their doing, but damned if I can figure their strategy.
It was possible for me to now step off the east end of the infill and walk the short distance, along what little remains of the north shore of Finch pond, to the ridge to clamber onto the north embankment. Walking back along the north embankment was a pleasure, due to Inert bulldozing some of the chest high nettles. Still, I only ventured to the edge of the embankment where some areas of the nettles had been cleared.
As usual, dear reader, please remember that I have permission to be on site. Even so, I keep away from areas (e.g. grasslands, Cormorant lake) that might have breeding birds.
Finally, here is a diagram (badly drawn in MS Paint) of where I think Inert have got to. Although the infill has progressed this far, the land is still lower than what it should be. I suspect the soil from the north embankment and the banking running parallel to the Longwater road will be used to help bring it all up to the correct level.
Of late Thursdays' weather tends to be overcast, dank and murky, with poor light conditions causing difficulties for my cameras. In previous months it used to be the weekends. Believe it or not, human activity at a local level can cause this e.g. the commuting pattern.
This week the boulder sorter outer was quiet. It's job is done, for the time being. The fine soil it sorted appears to have been moved to the enormous pile near the pump station.
Our bulldozer driver has been very busy. He seems to do a lot of directing of the various haulage lorries, and trundles all over the site. At one point I saw him reversing at an impressive speed; almost racing a haulage lorry to the north embankment. I never knew bulldozers could travel so fast in reverse. It reminds me of the film Kelly's Heroes. Oddball's tank had five forward and five reverse gears. He felt they should able to get out of trouble as fast as they could get into it.
There was one strange tracked vehicle that appeared on Thursday which I have never seen before, and am baffled as to what it is used for. A dinky little carrier, which makes quite a racket.
You may notice, dear reader, that water levels are rising. The pump is still off. I'm not sure why. It is a little odd that it goes on then off then on again. I reckon the bird life are getting totally confused with islands appearing then disappearing.
Now on to Thursday's wildlife.
While stomping around the south footpath on Saturday, I encountered three birders at one of the viewing points near Cormorant spit - now Cormorant scape :-) They are awfully patient, standing there for long times viewing the wildlife. I'm afraid I haven't managed to do this yet. My wildlife photography is chance encounters on the hoof, while storming around the various parts of the works - mostly trying to observe what Inert/Cemex have been up to. Thus I will miss most of the finer points of wildlife - not that I can identify most of it.
Anyway, the wild fowl on the Manor farm part of the reserve have largely drifted back, seemingly used to the various heavy plant and people wandering around. Lapwings were much in evidence on the east shore of Cormorant lake, whilst the various flotillas of Tufted duck are back on Finch pond; oblivious to the fate of their aquatic abode. Sprinkled around were the usual bevy of Cormoratns, Canada geese, Egyptian geese (with goslings!), vicious Coots, Moorhens, etc, etc, etc. Plus a whole load of other species I don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of identifying.
I managed quite a good sequence of an Egyptian goose seeing off a Carrion crow.
This week, dear reader, haulage lorries were conspicuous by the absence when I popped over to Eversley quarry site on an overcast Thursday afternoon. Our bulldozer driver was helping out the digger by the boulder sorter outer by moving various heaps of soil and spoil around. However, it was evident that a lot of activity had taken place around the north shore of the copse. The bulldozer drive had wrapped soil around the north shore of the copse and joined it up with the south east infill.
Five large heaps of inert soil had also appeared near the pump station. They were dumped in the middle of a large, shallow depression between Cormorant lake and the south footpath. I know that depression well, having negotiated it many a time over winter, sometimes gingerly stepping through 6" (15cm) of water and mud, sometimes breaking through ice.
When the memsaab and I returned for a long walk around the site on Saturday (keeping to the footpaths - partly as we were in a hurry) the five piles of soil had grown considerably, with much heaping by the bulldozer evident. Also, one of the huge piles of soil the bulldozer was working on around the boulder sorter outer was suspiciously gone.
My initial thought was that the soil was going to be used to fill in the depression. This supposition has changed. I mean, why pile up the soil if it is going to be spread over the depression?
When we got to the Longwater road entrance I noticed that further soil had been heaped around the north shore of the copse and that there was suspicious signs of activity around the channel between Finch pond and Cormorant lake. I might pop down to get better photographs, but am slightly reluctant to do any vigorous hiking as I have managed to injure my back. Still it isn't too bad. Gives me the odd twinge to remind me to be careful.
The pump was chugging away on Thursday but was silent by Saturday. I haven't worked out why it gets turned on and off.
Inert do not padlock shut the gate to Manor Farm, and the sliding bolt doesn't work. More often than not the gate swings ajar. Last week we noticed three lads larking around on the shore of Manor lake (south) near where the old bridge used to be. A couple of them were attempting to swim. Bit foolish. The water is very cold, the lake full of reeds, pond weed and other industrial stuff bulldozed into it; all ideal for snagging legs. The shore and bottom of lake will have all sorts of industrial waste (glass, wire, ironworks, etc) to cut feet and hands. Plus the idiots appear to have thrown the life belt into the lake.
My walk on Thursday was curtailed when, 10 yard shy of the works bridge, there was a mighty clap of thunder. I immediately turned around and headed back to my car, thus not taking a photo of the piles of soil in the depression from the works bridge.
A problem we now face, which you may detect from the photos and what I foretold in an earlier posting, is that the vegetation now makes it difficult to see the site from the south footpath. In places it is completely screened either by brambles or by head height nettles.
Wildlife. I didn't dawdle on Thursday to take wildlife photos, especially after the mighty clap of thunder. We were in bit of a hurry on Saturday, so again couldn't take the slow walk with long pauses so necessary to capture wildlife.
Not that there was much variety around. I spotted an Oyster Catcher on Plover island. A number of Lapwings were flying around Cormorant lake. I suspect they may be none breeding. The Canada geese seem a particularly nervous bunch. A whole group of them took to Cormorant lake when I started photographing them. Bearing in mind I was some 75 or 80 yards away, on the south footpath, with most of me hidden by waist high nettles.
I managed quite a good sequence of shots of a Grey Heron, close to the works bridge. Normally the blighters fly off at the merest long distance sighting of me, but this one let me get very close and haul off quite a few shots. I think it had a fish within striking distance, and wasn't about to give it up. It certainly did a strike, wings arched over to cover the water. Unfortunately, just then a cyclist came over the bridge and spooked the Heron off.
I think I could hear more species of birds singing than I could see. Though on Saturday morning, I didn't hear any Skylarks. There were loads on Thursday, mostly around the fields near the sewage works.
If you are a dragonfly or damselfly aficionado then this might be heaven for you. There were hundreds of them flying around. I remember them getting quite large on Fleet Hill farm.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.