Wednesday 29 June 2011

At last - Langford Lowfields

Bicycle trip today - I was too damn lazy and kneesore to run, so figured on a mild day with not too much wind and lightly grey skies, the much mooted not cooted trip to RSPB Langford Lowfields could take place.

This means a 6 or so mile bike ride out of town, along the Sustrans 64 bike route along Winthorpe Road and through the awkward tunnels to Winthorpe Village. You have a choice of two routes here - on the quiet road by the river and lake, or on the Gainsboro road - I fancy the latter is a bit quicker. Take the turn off to Holme, and just after the railway crossing you rejoin the off road 64 as it pleasantly switchbacks through some fields and industrial sandheaps. Meadowbrown, Ringlet, White and the odd Small Tortoisehell were disturbed out of the hedgerows by my second rand rattletrap. A buzzard, talongs dangling, was circling low overhead.

Eventually you cross over the works entrance road, and go for another half mile or so skirting a wood - as the 64 heads right to Collingham, take a left into a wood and follow the path through the wood until you get to the various lakes and reedbeds that mark the site.

This path is a bit awkward for a mountain bike, but ok if its not too overgrown. All sorts of flapping things launch themselves out of the trees and hedges far too fast for me to identify (not difficult) and eventually I paused to photograph a pretty pink flower - pic later! - and take a little bit of stock. I'll admit to being naughty and jumping the fence to try and get a better look at the reedbeds last year, but I got sent off with a flea in my ear by the volunteers and now I'm a responsible RSPB member, I would never contemplate doing such a thing ever again, oh no. Instead, I bike down to the sort of hide further down the path that overlooks the reedbed.

I think to the newcomer to the nature game when they arrive at a reserve, I guess there is a feeling that the birds should come flying out of the vegetation to greet you personally, emitting coloured smoke like the red arrows and trailing a placard telling you what it is. The reedbed just looks so inpenetratable, you think you are never going to see a damn thing, and the little laminated note telling you that a Purple Heron was seen from here twice seems like a kick in the teeth from the proper birdwatchers!

But, I decided to be quiet, and patient, and all those other things that don't come easily to me, and scan with my little 10x25 field glasses. OK, the mute swans are boring! Where are the Avocets? Where are the Egrets? I think noisily - but it isn't so easy as that and lets be honest it wouldn't be fun if it were. Eventually, a hunting heron revealed itself a couple of hundred meters away, stalking through the water like Max Wall, and large red brown dragonfly buzzed over my head. And then, a little nearer, but a lot smaller, a small bird danced upon a reed stem, swaying in the wind. A black head, a black bib, pale front and a sort of black and white striped tail. After the usual exagerrations, I figured this for a Reed Bunting on my way home and a little wiki proves me right I reckon!

As I watched this little reed dweller, the heron in the background suddenly lunged, and caught a silverly flashing fish which it seemed to struggle to swallow, taking a few backwards tilts of its head to do so.

Then a small group of Common Terns, 5 or 6 strong, came across the reed beds, working them left to right before heading riverwards, I guess. Now, as the afternoon wore on, I was mooting not cooting again, a visit to Besthorpe reserve, so lay on the ground to take one of my idiot photos of a nice group of clover, birds foot trefoil and another yellow flowering plant, and headed back up the path.

On the way back up, another mousy little bird passed before me into a tree, and I figured I'd try and see if I could eyeball it properly and stopped. Once the bike had stopped its deathly creaks, another sound could be heard, that of a broken down rattlesnake, or a wonky band saw grinding through metal. I immediately thought "Grasshopper Warbler" but on getting home and listening to the call, that doesn't sound deep enough. At the same time, another warbler could be seen flitting in the tree, one of the prettier, yellower ones - and not a grasshopper warbler. As I tweeted, I decided this was a Woody Willow Warbler Chaff, but the Lowfields website says there are a lot of Garden Warblers in these hedges and trees by the path, so maybe it was one of them. Or another of these pesky avian jokesters put there to fool me.

After being accosted by another flock of preening, knowing gorgeous Goldfinches, I did indeed head to Collingham and an attempt to find Besthorpe reserve, but abandoned this when I realised just pleasantly cycling around wasn't going to find the reserve, which, ya know, is called a reserve because it isn't in the car park of the village bloody One Stop!

Anyway, after a light soaking on the trip home, here I am having learned two things. 1) Patience on a trip to an RSPB reserve will be rewarded and 2) Trying to write a blog post while playing air guitar to "The Queen is Dead" by the Smiths takes forever.

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