With a blog post title like that, it can mean only one thing. Yep, no work on Manor farm.
A quick storm around early Thursday morning (too cloudy on Wednesday) revealed our periodic pump puffing away this week. Though only one of the out flow channels had water coming from it. I swear I arrive at the Bailey bridge round about break time. It all tends to go quiet.
Talking of quiet, there wasn't the usual banging and crashing around the works building that usual accompanies my stomp around the footpath. Needless to say, Chandlers farm looks ever flatter.
On the wildlife front. There were all the usual suspects lurking around, with the scrape in Cormorant lake populated with hosts of, well, Cormorants (hence its name), along with the usual gaggle of Tufted duck, gulls and terns, Canada geese (who have had a particularly spectacular breeding season) and some Greylag geese. These latter birds, on the east shore of Cormorant lake, got spooked by something and all headed for the safety of the water.
It was a bit early for insects to be out in force. There were, however, a fair number of Red Admiral butterfly around. Most were engaged in sunning themselves, trying to warm up.
As usual, well when I can remember, I pointed my camera at the owl box opposite Colebrook hide. I did manage to get a photo of an owl in the box. However, to 'see' the owl, I had to heavily process the image in FastStone. Even then, you can just discern a shape of what appears to be an owl. I've deleted the photos, electing to wait until I get a sharper photo.
Finally, the 'hidden' side of Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust and the Moor Green lakes Group - remember them, the conservation group who maintain (with much gratefully received support from Cemex) the various reserves along the Blackwater. I noticed that just south the footbridge near Colebrook hide, a new section of fencing had been put in.
I call it the hidden side, as the work parties are the more visible side to members and volunteers, as they join in to maintain parts of the reserve. This aspect gets good publicity on various media pages. But it is the on going, day to day stuff that tends not to be 'visible' or reported.
On to the small slide show. I like these short updates. They only take about 45 minutes or an hour; I do have to sort, process and shrink images, before up loading them and giving them captions. A normal update tends to take two to four hours.
Yes folks, I have been subjecting you to photos of the restoration efforts on the Eversley quarry for two years now. Actually, it was the 18th June 2017 when I first took a photo of the conveyor on Manor farm and Fleet hill farm. Back then I thought the restoration was nearing its end. Two years on and...we're still going strong. Perhaps, just perhaps the latest schedule will be adhered to: Manor farm completed at the end of this year, Chandlers farm building razed as well, with hand over at the end of June 2020.
Will Inert/Cemex complete Manor farm this year? Well, as I have said on numerous occasions, it will be touch and go. Manor farm is still out of bounds. Our faithful pump was off when I wandered round on Thursday and Friday; though it had reduced water levels considerably. This means that there will only be roughly five months for Inert to complete the infill of Cormorant lakes north and south, and to merge it with Manor lake. Completing footpaths and bridlepaths, along with any fencing (which desperately needs fixing) can be done in parallel with the infill, and sub-contracted to other companies.
It looks as if your intrepid recorded will have numerous early Saturday morning stomps for at least another year.
I know it may come as a shock to many readers, but I got my first mobile (smart) phone this last Wednesday. Yep, I have been doggedly doing without a mobile phone. All the more remarkable seeing as I have worked in hi-tech industries for decades; well able to program computers from assembler/board level all the way up to using sophisticated data analysis platforms. I still have the phone turned off more times than on.
One reason for buying a smart phone was the thought I could dispense with carrying two cameras around with me. A DSLR for wildlife photos and a bridge camera for wide angle shots. Well, it was a qualified success.
With its 27mm equivalent lens, the smart phone took quite good scenic photos. All went to pot, however, when I 'zoomed' in. Said mobile has a maximum zoom of 8x. Only it turns out it is digital zoom. There is no optical zoom. The results are pretty poor.
The good news is that the smart phone has a very good macro facility. I was most impressed. Unfortunately this facility does require docile subjects as you have to get right up close and personal with them; like within 5cm. That being said, you get stunning results when you can do so.
Thus, I carry three cameras around with me. My DSLR/Sigma lens combo (for long range wildlife), a Lumix bridge camera (for wide angle shots) and the smart phone (for macro). How barmy is that?
These first set of photos are of Chandlers farm as seen from the Bailey bridge. This whole area is definitely getting flatter, and you may notice that the banking along the south side of the site has been eaten into.
I notice mud on the Bailey bridge. This indicates vehicle traffic has occurred over the week. I'm not sure what has taken place on Manor farm or where, as I have been staying off it due to the breeding season.
Moving swiftly on to some bug shots. Insects are in crisis. This only came home to me when some of us of a certain age will remember the bug splats we got on our windscreens and bonnets when travelling in spring and summer months. Some younger people will never have experienced this. There simply aren't the numbers of bugs any more.
Reserves like Manor farm, Fleet hill farm and Moor Green lakes are even more critical.
Anyway, here are some bugs spotted around Manor farm and Moor Green lakes. Some taken with my smart phone, others with my DSLR.
Now the birdie shots. All but one were on Colebrook lake, near the hide.
Yes, dear reader, this is not a usual weekend posting. I shall be somewhat busy over the coming weekends, taking sprog on various university open days and such like. It's easier to get the weekly posting completed ahead of time.
Firstly, have you completed Gardenwatch? You still have a few weeks to do so. Last time I looked, some 205,000 missions had been completed. This translate to roughly 1 in a hundred households. However, seeing as the mission total includes all three missions, and that the true figure of households taking part is probably the first mission, which clocked up 114,000 entries, then roughly 1 in 200 or so households took part. Bit of a shame, really, that most viewers of Springwatch didn't take part.
Rainfall has been almost relentless this past week. Great for reservoirs and my garden. Not so brilliant for some wildlife. However, those birds that fledged early appear to be thriving.
I was lucky in that a small break in the rain coincided with the time of my Wednesday stomp. Even then I went earlier than usual. Which is just as well, as the rains started not long after I returned.
With all this waffling, you can surmise (quite correctly) that nothing has happened on Manor farm. Inert are still going all out on restoring Chandlers farm. I did notice, as I approached the Bailey bridge, a man in a hi-vis walking north towards the pump - the outflow into the Blackwater was silent, indicating the pump was off. Just as I reached the Bailey bridge, I heard the pump burst into life. Very temperamental, is out pump.
Just as well somebody was despatched to switch the thing on. Water levels had risen dramatically. The Blackwater was up by about two feet, with the various lakes on Manor farm and Moor Green lakes up by six inches to a couple of feet or more. In hind sight, I should have popped over to Fleet Hill farm, as this is prone to flooding, with the Blackwater bursting its banks.
Anyway, with nowt going on at Manor farm, I get this Saturday morning off (which is just as well, as I we shall be on the M4 heading to Bristol) and the wildlife fest continues.
However, firstly some photos of activity on Chandlers farm and the raised water levels in Cormorant lake (south).
Something special. I posted some photos, some weeks back, of a Little Ringed Plover which was lurking around Moor Green lakes. They are seen quite frequently around the area. This Wednesday I was lucky to see it again, this time lurking on the flooded gravel bar I have christened Cormorant spit. I was even more lucky to capture it in flight. Last I saw, it seemed to be heading over to Moor Green lakes.
Lapwings were not to be seen, this Wednesday. A little odd, considering last week's large numbers. These three Oyster Catchers, normally on Moor Green Lakes, put in an appearance. Probably because they have been seen of by the Lapwing nesting on Plover Island.
A post title like that means only one thing: Inert are still concentrating on Chandlers farm. Further more, it was actually a little more 'lumpy' on Wednesday morning. Lots of lorry sized spoil heaps, dumped in the middle of the western side.
On the other hand, our stalwart pump is still chugging away, with a considerable flow of water from the two out flows; which should be a touch greater today due to the torrential rain we had all yesterday and through to the early morning of today. It's been a long time since we've had such sustained rainfall or so heavy. It was hammering down at 2:00 am. Pretty much like what has been happening during this week's SpringWatch.
The result of all this pumping is that water levels in Cormorant lake (south) have dropped considerably, revealing more of the scrape and its gravel bar - what I used to call Cormorant spit. I notice that the birds seem to prefer this long thinnish structure over the scrape. Designers of the reserve take note.
There were lots of Lapwing about. One of my photos has twelve of them on the scrape and spit. This points to them having a successful year, breeding wise. We should see flocks of a hundred or more come autumn/winter. Overall I saw more bird life on Cormorant lake than I have done in many months. This could simply be a fluke or might be due to the re-emergence of Cormorant spit.
I did start my stomp with a sighting of a Hobby. There are some breeding pairs around the reserves, and I have seen them a couple of times. The one I saw was circling quite high above the footpath halfway between the MGLG car park and Colebrook hide.
With no restoration activity on Manor farm, we kick off with photos of the birds on Cormorant spit and scrape, plus three Lapwing on Manor lake (north).
We have an insect crisis of titanic proportions. The one statistic that stands out for me is this; when you drive in the countryside or trunk road (e.g. Motorway) you no longer have bugs splattered all over the car's bonnet or windscreen. This is a pretty frightening thought. No bugs = no food = no wildlife; and possibly no us. A lot of plants are pollinated by bugs.
I do my tiny bit to help, with my chemical free garden. Even so, I notice a dearth of hoverflies, butterflies and ladybirds; amongst others. Reserves like Moor Green Lakes, and proto reserves like Fleet Hill farm and Manor farm, help in a small way; if anything to simply provide wildlife corridors.
With that morbid thought, here are some photos of various more noticeable insects I photographed from various parts of the footpath running from MGLG car park to and along the Blackwater.
It seems to me that the Canada geese have had a really good breeding year. Here is a large creche, feeding on the north bank of Colebrook lake (north).
Finally, for this weekend's update, the Hobby. Difficult to track with my camera/lens combo as it was quite high up and moving very fast. Strangely, the birds on Colebrook lake (north) didn't seem overly concerned about this raptor flying over their lake. Maybe they didn't see it as it didn't hang around long.
Normally I see Hobbys flying close to the ground. Their favourite prey is dragonfly. No captions as such, simply the photo of the bird (either zoomed in near 300mm or 600mm) and then the heavily post processed cropped image. The latter is so you can see the bird rather than its silhouette.
A considerable amount of water was coming from the out flow to the settlement ponds. My suspicions that the Manor farm pump was back on was confirmed when I got to the Bailey bridge and heard it chugging away quite quietly. I have no idea if it was turned on accidentally. This might herald a return to Manor farm for continued restoration. However, we have been here before - the pump is turned on, seemingly randomly, and then it goes off with nothing apparent happening.
Chandlers farm is looking flatter still - I wont bore you with yet more almost identical photos - and the spoil heaps are getting smaller.
Thus, we turn to wildlife, which is what this restoration is all about. No 'interesting' birds for birders, I'm afraid. I do not stay still long enough in one place - as I stomp around the reserves - and even if I did, one small brown bird looks pretty much like another small brown bird to me.
OK enough waffling, on with the show. I took my proper camera (i.e. DSLR) with me, despite the overcast conditions. It struggled, but didn't do too badly when the cloud thinned a touch every now and again.
We start with birds on Manor farm. While you cannot see many birds, it is their song (and that of their young, begging for food) that gives them away. There is a lot of it, a veritable cacophony. Prominent (to my untrained ears) were: Skylark, Dunnock, Garden Warbler, Long Tail Tits, and the usual Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. It also goes without saying: gulls and terns and Coots having their usual raucous squabble.
These Canada Geese announced their imminent arrival with much honking. Alas, they came in low against a busy background which tended to confuse the focusing capabilities of my camera/lens combo. In one of the photos, you'll see a Grey Heron, more Canada geese and a Mallard (I think) on the distance shore; Pochards and Tufted ducks in the foreground. The usual Cormorants and Black-headed gulls are also in evidence.
What I haven't posted photos of are Lapwing. There were at least two in evidence on the shores of 'Cormorant lake'. This reserve is quite a stronghold for this endangered bird.
This was a long range, speculative shot of a couple of birds floating in Manor lake (south). It turns out to be a Great Crested Grebe and chick. A scant few weeks ago I photographed the chick riding on its parents back. Not any more.
Moving over to Moore Green Lakes. All the usual suspects were hanging around, with nothing 'unusual' appearing on the sand bar in front of Colebrook hide. There were some Yellow Iris (flag) on Colebrook lake (south) which I was determined to photograph. Shame the light was so gloomy.
This Lapwing hangs around a lot on the sand bar in front of Colebrook hide. I had a fair amount of anguish: flat calm, mirror like water, perfect reflections, lousy light. There has been much talk of insect lose of late. They seems quite healthy, on the reserves. The black dots in these photos are small insects, flitting about. Bothersome to the birds, but loved by the Swallows, Swifts and Martins that swoop around the sites.
A long range shot of a Grey Heron along the north shore of Colebrook lake (north). I and other Moor Green Lakes Group volunteers spent a merry time, over several winters, hacking back the willow and birch from this bank - to create a suitable habitat for animals. I note, in this photo, that some willow are growing with their usual zeal. Sigh. At least it is quite fun hacking back willow.
Finally, dear reader, a nesting Lapwing having a rumble with three Oyster Catchers on Plover Island. Vicious little beasties are Lapwing when they defend their nest. Plover island is some 80m or so away from Colebrook hide. Lowish light conditions, couple with a busy background made for tricky photography.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.