A Day for Sunbathing and Sounding the Last Post

At Farlington again today, on what must have been the best day of the year so far. It was volunteer day and the task was the removal of some old fencing from South Marsh and clearance of some clumps of bramble growing out in the field. However I was not able to join them until later as I had a health and safety inspection of the Building to deal with first, there are a few things to do as a result, but nothing too serious I think. Whilst waiting for the inspection to start I could hear four singing Cetti’s warbler from the Building and at least 4 bearded tit calling in the reeds.

I then set off to see the work the powerline contractors have ben doing north of the road, however I was stopped on the way and while talking spotted a bittern in the reeds behind the Building, one had been reported there a couple of times since the New Year but they are not often seen well at Farlington so it was worth at least a second look.

bittern

bittern

It seemed to be just enjoying the sunshine, I have seen them seemingly sunbathing before and it will not have had much chance to do any for a good while. After a minute or two it started to climb up into the reeds, gripping a large bunch of stems in each huge foot.

bittern climbing

bittern climbing

I left a number of visitors looking at the bittern and headed off to see how dramatic the clearance under the powerlines had been, the answer was very.

powerline clearance

powerline clearance

I think we will look to maintain this area as an open ride in future as I don’ t think we can entertain this level of destruction every few years, even if it is essential for the powerline company. A well managed ride could develop into some good habitat in time and it does allow the WWI magazine site to be seen. Despite the devastation I did see one interesting bit of wildlife, a woodcock that I flushed by accident from the path side.

It was getting late and I had done no “real” work, nor had I had any lunch, so I headed back and went to join the volunteers in South Marsh. Passing the building I saw the bittern was still catching some rays. The Marsh was looking great in the sun, in many ways better than it would in high summer when the reedbed would be green and the sun produces a shimmer of heat haze.

The Lake and reedbed from the viewpoint

The Lake and reedbed from the viewpoint

The volunteers had made great progress both with cutting the bramble clumps and taking down the redundant fenceline.

volunteers

volunteers

The fence has been replaced and slightly realigned to straighten out some of the bends and get it away from the very edge of a ditch. This fence was originally put up in the winter of 1963 to keep the cattle out of the reedy area so allowing the development of a proper reedbed, it was christened the “RA Fence”, RA standing for “Reed Area”, as a result. The original fence had strainers made from old tar impregnated telegraph poles and squared posts made from heartwood from slow grown larch trees. The strainers have survived well, perhaps not so surprising, but that some of the posts are also still serviceable is remarkable.

heritage fencepost

heritage fencepost

I’m pretty sure none of the treated softwood posts used today will still be of any use in anything like fifty years! We collected up the old posts and wire and loaded them into the truck to take back to the compound and then everybody headed back, hoping that perhaps the bittern would still be on view, although not holding out too much hope.

bittern enjoying some late afternoon sunshine

bittern enjoying some late afternoon sunshine

Remarkably it had been sunning itself for over four hours!

Acting on a tip-off, I headed home via a particular clump of birch trees, that just happened to be growing at the end of a road I used to live in. Luckily there was still some sunlight left to allow me to get good views of a party of 10 waxwings, another one for the yearlist, although I have lost track of just how many the list currently stands at.

waxwing

waxwing

 

 

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