(CLICK ON A PIC AND IT WILL GO BIG)
Lots and lots of lovely flowers and bugs and, yes I'm afraid there are a few spiders snuck amongst them so beware! We have a little surprise for you this week. Our venerable honorary member David Riley is the guest writer. (For a bit) Primarily because, well neither James or I could be arsed to write this one up. We bullied David a bit and bribed him with promises of fame and fortune if he does our job for us. David decried the fact that we didn't seem to know many of the varied species of flora and fauna which we took great offence to this and as such have made a special effort to provide a concise identification to all the illustrations. On with the sage words and cue Mr Riley.
I was making my way to Decoy Hide at the Shapwick road end of the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve. Killing time I was awaiting the arrival of fellow birders and natural history devotees Andrew and James. So for a while I had the path to myself. Not that I was complaining. On one side the lagoons, a shining level of water sparkling in the late summer sunshine, the ‘whisper’ of the reeds as the wind idled amongst them, a dreamy constant susurration. The surface of the lagoon was punctuated by Water Lilly pads that flapped languorously . And on the other side the Carr Woodland an almost tropical micro-climate where little stirred in this, the quiet of the year. The way to Decoy Hide at this time of year is garlanded with white and pink comfrey, tufted vetch, stately clumps of purple loosestrife, dense yellow heads of common loosestrife, meadow vetchling and meadow sweet. All the scents and fragrances of late summer breathing out a wondrous pot-pourri of aromatic sweetness mingling with the smell of peat.
This is a erm!
and some errr
Ah now this is the Scottish flower isn't it?
Something to do with Bees
Erm white ones
This is the quiet of the year when migrant birds are filling stomachs for the long journey ahead, too busy feeding to worry about expending energy on such things as frivolous singing! Along the walk to the Decoy Hide I passed the reconfigured ‘sweet track’ – a reconstruction of the 3000 year old built up walkway through the reeds. I heard the occasional sedge warblers, the calls of chiffchaffs – gone the excited fervour of Spring when there is an almost continuous wall of song from newly-arrived migrants including cuckoos.
A Bramble I know this is a Bramble. This is definitely a Bramble
This is a Bramble flower oh and an ant
A very small frog, no toad no frog no toad no frog. Or is it a toad?
A Daddy Longlegs definitely
Don't want to know
Definitely a Butterfly
Definitely another Butterfly
A BEE THIS IS A BEE. THIS IS 100% A BEE
I cannot think of a more primeval, bewitching place – other than the occasional interpretation board there is a sense that time has stood still, somehow transfixed and that the huge spreading oaks may very well have stepped out of another age. Here and there the trees and reeds masking the lagoons give way to glimpses of Glastonbury Tor swathed in a mist – this place is spell-binding.
Finally Andrew and James joined me in the Decoy Hide unpacking their fashionable equipment – cameras with telescopic lenses the size of canons.
A pixies Sunflower
A purple flower
Now I don't need to tell you what this is do I
Or this one
We watched little egrets and a hunting marsh harrier – the latter quartering the reeds – sometimes almost nose diving with a swirl of wings then reappearing - sweeping upwards in effortless flight.
On the lagoon were great crested grebes, spinster mallards, tufted duck and coots. Hard to believe that in the next 3-4 months this place will be bristling with a myriad duck and geese down from the north.
Now I looked in the book and it's either a Red Wattled Lapwing or a White Spectacled Bulbul. Difficult to tell at that distance. (You need a bigger lens James)
Obviously a miss-fire
Something to do with bulls and waving
Big Black Balloon
We left the hide and tracked through the Carr woodland with its speckled wood, brimstone, peacock, small copper and red admiral butterflies. Patient subjects for camera lenses.
That Scottish flower again with another bee
A brown one, definitely brown
Bee no Fly no Bee no Fly no Bee
A brown one with spots
This was definitely alive
This jumps and is shinny
Daddy's back in dah house
A Bee fly bee fly bee oh for heavens sake
Seriously this was impressive. I've had a look but can't ID it
Another walking leaf thing
Fly in a mess
Yellow eyes looking backwards blue thing
Later we transferred to Catcott Heath nature reserve visiting ‘Pat’s Pond’. The pond recognises Dr Pat Hill-Cottingham’s work for local nature and in particular her discovery of the Shining Ram’s Horn Snail (Segmentina Nitida) at Catcott Heath in 1997. There are a few sites where the snail can be found in Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Sussex.
not so close
With lenses focused on gaudy dragonflies, Andrew and James followed the erratic flights of ruddy and common darters, emperor and gold ringed dragonflies – the latter proving impossible with its unpredictable flight.
What James was after most of the afternoon
Some water and grass by the looks of it
The small Grass Snake. The large one scarpered, honest.
A Bee sucking it up big time
Leaving the reserve via boardwalk and passed the new hide perched above a lagoon Andrew and James came across two grass snakes.
Right then enough of that flowery waffle nonsense! This is what really happened.
We arranged to meet at the far end of Shapwick for a wander along the Sweet Track via the woods. It's a nice spot and I was in macro mood. James was all for it to. David wanted Catcott Heath but I put my foot down, we saved that for after. David was prompt, I thought I would be late but wasn't, James was half an hour late. David was ahead down the Sweet Track but we weren't sure which way. Was it right by the two wheelbarrows or straight on? All was sorted and we wandered along meeting him in the Decoy Hide. There was sod all save for a solitary Marsh Harrier in the distance. It's that time of year. We chewed the fat for a bit mostly listening to David decry the fact that more people are going to nature reserves and spoiling it for him. I explained Pokemon Go to him which quietened him down a bit. We wandered back. I was snapping merrily with the macro while James was looking desperately for something big and flying. David was away with the fairies or Pokemons. While trying to get a couple of Dragonflies James went knee deep into the stinking swamp. We all had a good laugh for 10 minutes then asked if he was alright. He was squelching for the rest of the day. Just cleaned the car as well apparently. He didn't get the Dragonflies but he did manage to pick up 15 Ticks along the way!!!!
All day James was on about some rubber things he wanted to build for his new man-cave. I tried to not get involved. He was after tyres and planks of wood but I didn't want to pry.
Catcott was better with lots of little things to snap away at. I wandered around while James and David messed about near the little pond. David spouted out his usual story of knowing someone who invented a leather horn or something, stuffed a slug in it then wrote a book about it. Or was it about polishing sheep? It's a bit like Christmas when all the old stories come out again and again and again.
We suffered his meanderings and tried for a rather sporadic Emperor Dragonfly. Finally we all made our excuses for leaving having had just about enough of each other. James found some discarded tyres and nicked them along with an old parcel shelf, David had to go for his afternoon nap, I went home and watched Leicester loose.
That's what actually happened.