I can't really call these posting mid-week specials any more seeing as here is another one so soon after the last.
The weather made amends this Wednesday: glorious sunshine and warmth! Shame it is going to end tomorrow. Cloud and rain is forecast for my Saturday stomp.
I popped down to the nascent reserve slightly earlier than usual, this morning. Chandlers farm was very quiet. It seemed totally deserted; possibly the guys had knocked off for a mid morning tea break.
There was a trickle of water from the out flow from the sediment settlement ponds, and the pump was quiet when I got to the Bailey bridge. It must have been running at some point for the trickle of water into the Blackwater. I think I have an unhealthy obsession with this pump.
I could see lots of activity on Manor farm as I walked along the footpath from the Moor Green Lakes car park. At first I thought it was on the north end of the latest infill - Inert having considered the ground consolidated enough to take lorry traffic.
By the time I got to the Bailey bridge it was evident activity was concentrated around the north and east shores of the Land mass; continuing on from last week. This is the area where large flocks (100+) of Lapwing tend to hang out. I haven't seen them there recently.
The southern track was in use (as I surmised on Saturday) whilst the northern track along which the lorries had that long reversing to do, was blocked off near the Bailey bridge. A bit ironic, as the deep lorry ruts leading from the Bailey bridge to the pump had been filled with some nice ballast to firm it up. However, I suspect the lorries once again utilise this track in the near future.
Inert seem to now be concentrating on the north and east shores of the land mass aka the infill done a couple of years back. The land here is well consolidated and able to take lorry traffic- also the bulldozer driver had built a nice track for them. He was all over the place during the short time I was there. One minute down at the south of the infill, the next back up to the north end of the land mass; getting out of his cab to direct lorry traffic - seeing as he knows where he wants to work next.
It is possible that they had also added to the infill on the east shore of Cormorant lake. There were signs that further work has taken place.
Lorry numbers seemed a bit down on last week. At least three John Stacey tippers, and one each of Taurus and Inert. However, I did say it might have been tea break time.
There are an awful lot of people hoping this restoration will be finished soon. There are an equally large number of people perplexed as to what it going on - even local councillors are in the dark. The latter is a bit surprising as most of the details are either in my blog or on the Hampshire county council planning web pages. The fine detail may not be totally accurate, but the overall plan is. I do keep explaining to people I bump into as to what is going on.
The charge on my bridge camera's battery ran out. Luckily I was almost finished. However, I did have to switch to my DSLR. Unfortunately, even at its widest (150mm) it is a bit too much of a zoom for scenic shots. Therefore the slide show is a bit of a mish-mash.
Wildlife wasn't totally absent from Cormorant lake - just rather sparse this morning. Manor lake south fared much better, whilst Moor Green Lakes was heaving. Manor farm should be superb, once restoration is completed.
Anyway, some photos from this morning's jaunt - the best of which are the Great Crested Grebe having caught a fish. Also, where the Lapwing have gone may have been answered; though it must be said that the Lapwing do tend to pop over to Fleet Hill farm.
Bright and sunny, the weatherman said. Wall to wall sunshine, was the claim. Our fickle British weather had other ideas: Fog. It was there, at 6:30am, obscuring the view from our back garden. After a couple of mugs of coffee and a bit of breckie, I decided to chance nipping down to Manor farm. Sometimes it can be foggy at Finchampstead yet down in the valley, Manor farm would be basking in sun. Not today, unfortunately. However, it was more misty than foggy on Manor farm. I could see a darn sight further than I could at home.
Both cameras coped admirably considering the conditions. However, I have had to do a little image processing in FastStone on all the photographs.
Kicking off this week's scintillating instalment, the pump was quiet. This seems to be a regular occurrance. Working during the week and silent on weekends. Not sure why.
Inert appear to have been flitting about the south side of Manor farm this week. Their main thrust, as revealed by my Wednesday jaunt, has been the continuing infill of Cormorant lake. The main 'middle' part has been flattened, so it no longer looks like a battlefield, and I feel it has edged northward a little.
The east side of the infill, nearest the pump, appears to have had the south shore pushed further north. The old shoreline of Cormorant lake (south) has virtually disappeared.
A lot of the latest infill seems quite well consolidated to my inexperienced wellies. Other parts, however, particularly the western side of infill are definitely boggy; more so as you get closer to the water's edge. I found it hard going over the soft, slippery mud, even when following the bulldozer tracks. It would not be safe for lorries to drive over this stuff.
Whilst freshly bulldozed soil can be very soft, as I know to my cost, I think some of this bogginess can be attributable to the type of inert material laid about a month ago. Granted we had a heck of a lot of snow and then rain, but it has been quite dry, for a while, and there is a definite different feel to both types of spoil.
The bulldozer has crushed and squished some of the mud into dirty great grey lumps of the stuff, with the consistency of quicksand. It looks like and feels like fine porridge; say Ready Brek. I avoid this stuff like the plague. It has a menacing look about it, and I'm sure it smirks at me.
As I mentioned earlier, Inert have been flitting about the site. The mound of spoil dumped near the copse has now been bulldozed into the ground. I'm not sure what it did, but the bulldozer appears to have operated all the way to the sewage works and then around the old site of the yellow bridge and next to the mighty mound produced by the boulder sorter outer.
However, some of the tracks I see do not look like they belong to our bulldozer. They appear more like earth moving lorry tracks. Shame I didn't see what it was.
The bulldozer has also created a track heading out north west parallel to the west shore of Cormorant lake, across the old infill I have been calling the land mass. It's a curious thing, not least because it bifurcates at its northern extent. I am not sure what it is for, unless it is to allow lorries to trundle down to drop their loads further along Cormorant lake. It felt reasonably firm under foot, so long as you stayed on it.
I've seen Inert do this before; create a track for no obvious reason. However, as I visit the site once or twice a week, I never do see what is going on, really. Instead have to infer what has happened via circumstantial evidence.
I almost didn't take my DSLR with me this morning. It was rather foggy and the wildlife have been missing of late. In one sense I was glad I did take it with me, in another I wasn't. The low light conditions produced very grainy photos. In that respect I was surprised how well my bridge camera did. Though I only use the bridge camera for wide angle shots.
There was a large flock of Egyptian geese lurking in Cormorant lake (south). I haven't seen such large numbers for some time now. I did notice (well, hear) large numbers of Canada geese around; and did spy some in what little remains of Finch pond.
The usual assortment of Mallards and Tufted duck adorned the area, and I could hear the Teal we have had of late.
Nesting has started, as my photos of a Grey Heron carrying a twig can testify.
My greatest pleasure, and grief, was photographing Skylarks. Pleasure, because after hearing them for months now five (yes five!) of them had an aerial display over the land mass, quite close to me. They were wheeling and diving and climbing about all over the place; before descending to the ground. Grief, because the light conditions were so bad, even though they had improved considerably by 8:15 am.
I'm not sure if the Skylarks will nest on the land mass. They usually do so in the grass fields to the north of Manor lake and also to the western edge of Chandlers farm. I hear them all the time. The land mass does, however, attract huge flocks of Lapwing and various geese.
Anyway, on with the grainy photos. One day, perhaps, I will get a clear shot of the Skylarks. Trying to pick out a small dot on a large expanse of sky it quite challenging.
There was a noticeable increase in lorry traffic on Manor farm, which appeared above what I witnessed on my Wednesday stomp last week. I've mentioned before that it is difficult to gauge exactly how many trucks there are. The blighters keep moving. Short of standing still for a long time and noting license plate numbers, which I have no intention of doing, I have to make an educated guess.
This week events conspired to allow me to get a better figure for the number of lorries. A load of John Stacey tipper trucks formed a nice, if somewhat rowdy, queue stretching from the works (aka Bailey) bridge to the pump station. It seemed that one of their compatriots was taking rather a long time to dump his load; possibly talking to the bulldozer driver.
Anyway, the queuing drivers showed their displeasure by leaning on their horns; quite a mighty ruckus. It sounded like the ogres in the last Shrek movie, where the ogres held their noses and pushed air out of their ears to produce a sound like blaring horns.
This ruckus did enable me to get a more accurate count of tipper lorries. There were at least eight John Stacey tippers, one Taurus tipper and one Inert grab loader. Quite the busiest I've seen it for sometime. Not to say that it hasn't been as busy of late. Afterall, I'm not down at the site every day, and it is difficult to assess their numbers while they keep moving.
Matters should improve once the infill is firm enough for the lorries to reverse directly onto it. There will be none of this reversing about 75 yards business. It should also help increase the pace of infill, as the bulldozer driver also does not have to reverse a long distance.
I did notice that the drivers negotiated the track between the pump station and works bridge quite gingerly. It is deeply rutted and possibly slippy. Seems to me some hefty ballast needs to be worked into the track. The bulldozer also seemed to find the mud heavy going. I'm sure I saw the tracks slipping a bit.
Our on off pump was on again. Should be interesting to see if it is still chugging away on Saturday.
I noticed a Grey Wagtail on the Blackwater for the past couple of weeks or so. It would not stay still long enough for me to photograph it. One Wednesday it did.
It landed on the Bailey bridge, not more than 15 or 20 yards from me, and stayed for a minute or two allowing me to photograph it. At one point a lorry drove over the bridge, causing it to fly off, but it was back almost instantly the lorry had passed. A little later I managed to photograph what I believe was another Grey Wagtail, hunting on a branch in the Blackwater. I think they were a mating pair.
I also spied two Little Grebes on Manor lake (south), quietly going about their business and totally ignoring the traffic mayhem taking place a few yards from them. Again, I fell they were a breeding pair.
Wednesday was gloriously sunny, if a touch nippy. Two further days of perfect photography conditions and then Saturday rolled in: Dark, dank, heavy, low brooding clouds, with an annoying hazy mist. Hey ho, at least it wasn't cold. At 7.5 degrees centigrade, when I set off on my morning stomp, it was positively balmy and my fingers did freeze.
My Wednesday stomp started off with a mighty traffic jam of John Stacey tipper lorries waiting to drop their loads at the new infill site. It seemed to mark an up tick in activity. I counted at least three John Stacey tipper trucks and one Inert grab loader. I'm not sure how long this increase in lorry traffic will last.
The lorries still do not drive on to the infill. It was very squidgy last week. However, this week it seemed a lot firmer; certainly when I walked on it. Probably helped by not having an incessant deluge, on top of snow melt. The Blackwater was considerably lower, as a result.
The upshot of not being able to drive onto the infill, and the continuing muddiness of the site (trust me, there is still a lot of mud around the consistency of quicksand) means the lorries have to off load on their track. Consequently, the bulldozer driver has a long way to back up to the dropped loads, and a long return shunt to push soil into the lake.
I would expect the ground to firm up, over the coming days or weeks, sufficiently for lorries to drive on to the infill and get closer the shoreline. However, matters in the firming up department and safety department for plant are not helped by the intermittent pump. It was chugging away on Wednesday, but quite silent this morning. Water levels were lower than last week, but possibly a little too high for lorries to get too close to the shoreline.
What I found interesting were the deep bulldozer tracks, created this week. Some were over a foot (30cm) deep, with two foot banking in places. This might indicate how squidgy the area was whilst the bulldozer was pushing spoil into Cormorant lake.
I must say the infill resembled a lunar landscape or pictures I've seen of the Somme. There were deep gouges and heaps of spoil. I almost wonder if the bulldozer packed up, and infill continued with a digger. Normally, the bulldozer creates a fairly flat surface.
There is a possibility that the new south shoreline of Manor lake has started to be produced. You'll see in some of the photos a very distinct terrace has been cut quite close to the south footpath. Its position, as best I can tell, is approximately where I'd expect to see it; though it isn't as wobbly as I would have thought. Also, the whole area between the terrace edge and the old shoreline of Cormorant lake, which used to be vehicle tracks, has now been bulldozed. However, we have seen this before. Terraces are cut, and then filled; also areas are filled in and then scoured out. I surmise that the latter is what we are seeing here, infill being built up and then dug out to produce the final finish level.
Which brings me to a large pile of spoil dumped just west of the south end of the copse. Does this mean that Inert will once again switch what they are doing? Will they flit over to work on finishing Finch pond? Time will tell, as they say, but it did look as if Inert were cutting another crater. This feature was to one side of the spoil.
Water was flowing from Manor lake (south) into Cormorant lake near the pump station. I'm not sure if Inert had cut through the soil bridge the formed last week or if the water worked its way through naturally. I may take a look next week.
I could hear and see the usual plethora of activity on Chandlers farm on Wednesday. Surprisingly, I heard what appeared to be activity on Saturday. I didn't bother crossing the works bridge to have a look see; especially if there was plant moving around. I stuck to the vacant Manor farm part of the site.
I've reworked my progress map a little; adding some landmarks to aid you figure what I am describing. I also moved the inlet to the original drainage ditch that was dug last week. I had it too far to the north. Ironically, the inlet has been filled in. I might have been slightly enthusiastic about the extent of the eastern edge of the infill.
On to the slide show. Once again virtually all the photos taken on Saturday had to be processed in FastStone to brighten them up.
Wildlife was decidedly absent on both my stomps. I can't say this is particularly unusual for this time of year. Although there is a lot of activity going on, the wildfowl seem fairly tolerant when Finch pond was being filled in. In fact, they seemed to positively relish the new environments being created.
To give an idea of the wildlife you can expect to see, I now include some photos I took on my Wednesday stomp from Manor farm and Moor Green lakes. I post them here as I continue my battle with that heinous organisation, Facebook, who now demand you input a mobile phone number to verify yourself.
Not bloody likely, matey. Partly as I don't have a mobile phone, but mainly as if I could be bothered to get one FB is not getting its number so as to bombard me with adverts; despite what they say.
When I visited Manor farm on Wednesday, I noticed that a long pile of soil heaps stretching roughly halfway up the east shore of Cormorant lake south. I did wonder, at the time, could have got access to this part of the reserve. For one, they would have to cross a drainage ditch between Cormorant lake (south) and Manor lake (south).
My Saturday visit showed that the line of soil heaps extended almost three quarters of the way along the east shore of Cormorant lake (south).
When I walked (very, very carefully) onto the latest infill I noticed that Inert had created a land bridge to block off the thin section of lake leading to the pump station. Ah ha, I thought, I can now walk from the south shore of Cormorant lake (south) onto the 'mud flats', and thence onto the North embankment via Hawthorn lake.
Nope. It transpires that the long line of soil heaps marks out the course of a new ditch that had been cut during the week by a digger. This sort of indicates how much infill Inert hope to achieve over the next few weeks or months; breeding season not withstanding. The upshot of this new ditch is that I still have to walk around the pump station to get the mud flats from the south shore of Cormorant lake.
No, I did not propose leaping over the ditch. Although the width of water in the ditch was about 2' (60cm) wide in places, it was at the bottom of deep steep banks, which would be full of extremely soft, gooey mud considering the colossal amount of rain we have received; on top of snow melt! The amount of surface water meant I didn't want to go round to Hawthorn lake as I know I would have to cross some deep streams to get to the north embankment.
Our stirling pump was silent again. No idea why. Perhaps the leaky pipe, lack of diesel or it's knacked again. Surprisingly, water levels are comparatively low, even though they are rising fast. This could make infill tricky. The Blackwater was running high, with all the rain and melt water. I'm not sure if its burst its banks. I didn't wander down to Moor Green Lakes. Though in hind sight, I should have popped over to Fleet Hill farm to check the flooding there.
I quickly discovered the route taken by the digger, to get to the west edge of Cormorant lake (south) when I went around the pump station. The ditch between Cormorant lake (south) and Manor lake (south) had been partially filled in. This happens quite frequently, I've noticed over the years. When you stand on the land bridge you are struck by how much lower water levels in Cormorant lake (south) are when compared to Manor lake (south); it is some 4'-6' (1.2m - 1.8m) difference - with the latter lake being much higher.
Other than a great deal of infill taking place, I haven't really noticed anything else happening on Manor farm. Chanlders farm was very busy on Wednesday.
Parts of the fencing bordering the south footpath of Manor farm have fallen down. One suspects that Cemex will fix these when the south footpath is converted into a bridlepath. Not that the footpath designation appears to have prevented at least one stupid horse rider to use this path.
We'll kick off the graphics part with my feeble attempt to show the extent of infill on Cormorant lake (south) - the orange bits - and the course of the new ditch. Though I think the ditch was extended between Wednesday and Saturday.
Now onto the galley proper. Light conditions were, as usual, quite bad. Exasperatingly so. Just as I had stomped to the main area for photography, a whole load of cloud arrived to obscure the sun. What little sunlight did get through, was feeble. A large majority of the photos have been lightened in FastStone.
This can be a quiet time of year for wildlife. Matters are probably not helped with the restoration work. However, far better it progresses quickly so that the reserve can become as such.
Last year I photographed large flotillas of Tufted duck sailing around Finch pond and Cormorant lake (south). This year their numbers are much diminished, but their place have been taken by Teal.
On Wednesday, I photographed a Herring gull on the scrape. It didn't look too well. In fact it looked dead. This morning, its deceased state was confirmed. All was not bad news. The bird's carcass attracted that scavenger the Red Kite. A couple flew around me, sometimes passing within 15 or 20 feet of me. Tragically, the light just wasn't good enough to get a really good photo.
No weekend site visit.
I toyed with the idea of visiting the nascent reserve during Friday to photograph the place in snow, but decided to hold off until Saturday. The snow was slushy, which I didn't want in my camera and lens. Also it was expected to be sunny and I would get better shots.
This plan was scuppered, partly as it continued snowing throughout Friday afternoon and into early Saturday morning, which in turn saw my car refusing to go up a small incline (despite having just gone up a very steep incline) when I picked up my daughter at 19:00 on Friday evening. Having crashed at her house, I spent a merry half hour early Saturday morning cutting a path through the slushy, compacted snow on the road; which shouldn't have been there had the snow stopped at 13:00, when the Met office said it would.
Oddly, the snow where we live had virtually disappeared when I set off to pick up my daughter at 19:00, but four miles away it was seven inches deep. I saw lots of accidents on my journey. The most major was a cohort of police cars at Finchampstead memorial, dealing with a crash and closing off the road.
With temperatures hovering around -8 degrees centigrade this morning (Sunday), I declined to get out of my nice warm bed and shoot down to the reserve at 7:00 am.
Enough of my harping on about a little cold snap. My visit to Manor farm on Wednesday revealed continued infill of Cormorant lake (south). Activity appears still to be fairly sedate, with a small handful of lorries; though it is difficult to count them all as they keep moving around. :-) :-) :-0
The pump was chugging away, but appears to have a small leak in its outflow pipe. The jet of water fell onto a nearby sapling, instantly freezing and making it look all pretty.
Activity continues unabated on Chandlers farm; which seems mainly to consist of Inert's favourite pastime of building large piles of soil.
With kinder, albeit it wetter, weather arriving tomorrow I expect normal service to resume.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.