In response to a tip off from a birder (thanks Michael), my partner and I took off to Fleet Hill farm for a spot of poop pondering. Alas all signs of the interesting poop had been eradicated due to the incessant heavy rain and mammalian traffic; that would be humans, dogs, horses, etc.
A crying shame, as from the photo sent to me by Michael the poop (or should we be more posh and call it spraint) had all the features of something interesting like Mink, Badger or Otter! Had it been the latter then my trail cams would have been repositioned around the area in a flash.
What has my world become to that I descend on the reserve not once but twice to have a look and poke at poop!
Expect some dramatic changes to the photos in the coming couple of weeks, dear reader. I noticed that trees were beginning to leaf out. The warm weather expected next week will accelerate this process. Already other plants like hogweed, cow parsley, nettles, etc are romping along. Quite a lot of the reserve will be obscured from footpaths as it changes from dreary brown, black and grey to glorious green.
Now dear reader, on to the iron footbridge. Cemex have finally got around to removing this fine, if somewhat lethal structure from the south footpath. A small part of me will miss this edifice. It always focused my mind to carefully walk up and down the slippery iron steps, but it did provide a good view of the Manor farm part of the reserve. Many a birder used to pause on the iron footbridge to survey the area. It is amazing how much difference a two or three metre high platform makes.
The bridge hasn't been removed fully. It has been parked on the reserve, awaiting disposal; along with pump station bridge and yellow bridge.
The works bridge has a brand new shiny (and I mean shiny) gate on the north side of the footpath. Both it and the southern gate were closed to vehicle traffic. The latter gates being firmly padlocked. The reasons for this, in addition to my musings last week, could be that Cemex will halt restoration work for a few months to allow the birds to breed in peace. I was reminded of this by Michael, and it tallied with what one of the presenters at the Moor Green Lakes AGM said. As an aside, the MGLG AGM is really worth attending. It isn't your usual stuffy old AGM. Presentations are short and sweet and packed with interesting information, with free food afterwards.
What I do find odd is that the pump is still chugging away, with water levels in Finch pond and Cormorant lake now at the lowest I have seen them. If work is halted, why pump?
You'll notice from the photos that Cemex have spread a bed of gravel across the footpath. I believe that the plan is for the south footpath to be converted into a bridle path. It makes sense, really. Some naughty horse riders already ride their horses along it, plus there are numerous cyclists who use it. The latter should increase as they no longer have to hoick their bikes over the iron footbridge. Having a nice wide bridle path should accommodate all users safely. Though horses really tear up paths something rotten. A bigger problem is keeping motorcyclists off it. I did spot four or five antisocial types haring along the footpath on Fleet Hill farm. They really damaged the paths, though it may possibly have been a one off.
Cemex are putting a lot of effort and money into restoring this site. Hopefully it will become a well recognised asset; though more work for the Moor Green Lakes Group and Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust to maintain. Part of the fun, really.
There was considerable flooding of the footpath through the Fleet Hill farm part of the reserve - despite the fall in water levels. This was caused, in part, by the drainage ditches being blocked. It added a little interest to our walk.
Light conditions were pretty appalling. Low heavy clouds and mist. It made photography a little challenging, even more so as I only took my bridge camera.
Now a short wildlife section.
As you would expect the breeding season is in full swing. Many birds are nesting, others squabbling for nesting sites and fighting territorial battles. A couple of Lapwings pairs appear to have set up shot along the south shore of Finch pond and Cormorant lake. While the Great Crested Grebe in Lower lake, Fleet Hill farm, is still alone.
I noticed a UGB (Unidentified Grey Bird) poking around on the shore of Cormorant lake and took several photos. We met a couple of Moor Green Lakes Group members further along the south footpath who immediately identified the bird as being a Redshank. They also reported seeing a Black Redstart. I am continually astonished at the range of birds that this site hosts.
The Swallows and Martins are back, skimming and wheeling around Cormorant lake picking off insects.
My partner who is continually on mammal watch did spot a bank vole,which is quite good going seeing how quick and elusive they can be. After all, we are walking along the footpaths, not sitting still for ages waiting for something to appear.
My trail cam captured this unfortunate fox. He looked fine apart from his traumatised tail; poor thing.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.