Snow, rain, dreary skies, more snow, freezing conditions, rain and yet more rain. Oh, and March winds thrown in. Yes, dear reader, March has thrown everything at us this year. I'm still waiting to dodge the kitchen sink.
The Blackwater was running at full spate and had, in the odd place, breached its banks along the foot bridle paths; although not by that much. We have a short respite (a couple of hours this morning and tomorrow supposedly) before yet more of the wet stuff arrives.
Our valiant pump, still chugging away, now has to deal with the considerable run off from Finchampstead ridges and surround slopes, in addition to pumping out water from Manor farm ponds. There is a considerable flow of water from Hawthorn lake, the grasslands and Manor lake into Cormorant lake. It actually made traversing the area a little tricky. Small streams have sprung up all over the place, along with some rather deep (i.e. more than Welly deep) puddles.
Still, our pump continues to reduce water levels in Cormorant lake and Finch pond to the point where I almost walked around the north shore of Cormorant lake. Only my nemesis was back: mud the consistency of quicksand. Having learnt the hard way previously, this time I gingerly tested my route, and quickly abandoned it when I sunk into the stuff some 10mm shy of the tops of my Wellington boot. I did, however, walk along the gravel spit and cross the channel (well stream now) between Cormorant lakes north and south.
With all this drivel, dear reader, you may have surmised that nothing much appears to have happened on the reserve this week. I could see no signs of any activity - except that the fly tipped rubbish on the Longwater road entrance has been cleared; the larder fridge and garden waste. Yeah!
My trail cameras picked up some interesting animals, even with the stupid thing taking 5 seconds to trigger and start recording. It's taking ages to download the images (partly as I managed to fill one of the 16GB SD cards)., but so far it has picked up the usual Roe deer, Grey Heron (!), Pheasant and a curious fox. It also recorded the Skylarks trilling away; plus a whole host of other bird call I cannot recognise. I need to get one of those app thingies that helps you recognise bird call.
Talking of birds: either the majority appear to have departed these fair isles for their breeding areas or I am missing them because dawn is so early they've woken up and flown to their feeding sites. I suspect the former. However, I did snap two Oyster catchers. We may have a breeding pair. A couple of Lapwing were skulking around. I think they normally head off to Fleet Hill farm. Perhaps this pair will start breeding on Manor farm - if they don't already do so. I did startle the odd snipe. As usual the various gulls and terns were quite raucous.
Although Cormorant spit has reappeared I eschewed a walk along it as the Oyster catchers were on the end of it.
On to the photos.
Firstly, my stint as artist in residence proved quite interesting. John Lewis was very quiet, with the Lower ground floor particularly barren. A few people popped by (none of you lot!), and quite a few John Lewis staff came round for a gander and chat. As a first crack at this lark I found it quite enjoyable. Roll on the next one.
Here are a couple of photos my partner took on her smart phone. My usual pose of hunched over and scratching away at a painting. You can see my first acrylic and scene from the reserve - the gulls on an island in Finch pond. I am working on my second acrylic and, as it turns out, scene from the reserve.
Moving onto meaty reserve matters. Well, not a lot really, as nothing appeared to happen this week. I have a few shots of the ever dropping lake levels, despite the best efforts of the manky weather, plus the Blackwater at full spate, with the odd minor breach of banks. Note, water levels had actually dropped in the Blackwater by the time I took my photos!
Now the wildlife.
Not much to report really. Most of the birds appear to have flown or were seeking refuge from the weather. I did return in the afternoon with my partner and noticed that there were more birds around. This time we came via Moor Green Lakes. The lakes were not heaving with wildlife.
A Lapwing was wheeling and creeling around the sky. Note sure why. We were way across on the opposite side of Cormorant lake,whilst it was more interested in something going on around the south footpath. I did manage to get a more decent photo of the Skylark. There are quite a few around, and at least one on the Hampshire side of the reserve.
Trail cam photos.
I had two trail cams out on Manor farm. The failure of a Victure (taking four to seven seconds time from trigger to video recording) and the ancient Ltl Acorn (with a more respectable 1.5 seconds time from trigger to video recording). Once it gets going the Victure takes really good videos, but it is so slow the wildlife has been and gone. It has a trigger range of 65' (20m), but I can easily walk that distance before it starts recording.
I've purchased a Cornova trail cam. At £65 it is £20 more expensive than the Victure. Unfortunately, I found that its time from trigger to video recording is a disappointing 2.5 to 3 seconds. I almost sent it back, but then discovered that its time from trigger to taking a burst of three photos is roughly 0.8 seconds, and then it almost immediately starts videoing. Its a keeper, and I'll put it out tomorrow.
Both trail cams caught a reasonable amount this week. Mostly foxes, Roe deer, plus the odd Human (!), Pheasant and Moorhen. No Badger though, unless it shuffled past the Victure. The odd Human was actually two. I spotted them last week when I put out the Trail cameras. They were either birders or research people. Anyway, they realised the trail camera was there and tried to (valiantly) get past it unnoticed.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.