Banded Demoiselle's copulating in the wheel position, this one's not in the Kama Sutra!
Red-Eyed Damselfly - Keep an eye out anywhere there is floating vegetation, look slightly front-heavy when flying over water
Damselfly Heaven - On the River near You
Loads of emergence and activity at the moment across all sections even those without evident water as newly emerged individuals 'teneral' seek refuge and maturity in the greenery after a year or so underwater. Added Red-eyed Damselfly and large Red Damselfly to the year list but despite attempts, the latter have eluded being photographed so far, as have the Four-spotted Chasers which can be bloody annoying at the best of times....In fact come to think of it, most of them are!! I ventured south of the site today, down to Saddington along the Grand Union there where there are literally Damselflies everywhere including loads of Large Red, a few White-legged amongst stacks of Azure etc the habitat looks the same, conditions, vegetation, water flow.. and it's not far so why the absence of similar numbers of Reds and White-legged's.. Dragons are strange things!
Reed Warbler - He's been singing so much he's actually fallen asleep!
LBJ's - Little Brown Job's - My Favourites.... The Common Whitethroat is quite a widespread summer visitor and a breeder on the Meadows and can be heard and seen pretty much anywhere there is some decent scrub and vantage/song posts and perches. It's lovely scratchy song can be heard pretty much all day long at the moment especially in the vicinity of the boardwalk on the north section and the packhorse area in the south. There's plenty of song-flighting going on right now especially at the former site as rival males vie for the best spot.
More an LBJ than the Whitethroat, The Reed Warbler is one of our scarcer birds and there are currently two males (up one from last year) singing on site at the moment.
Black-tailed Skimmer - Similar to the Broad-bodied but look at the wings and tail
The last few days has seen an increase in the emergence of a good variety of both Damsel and Dragonflies. Damsels are fairly difficult due to their small size but will generally perch for long enough periods to enjoy and identify. At the moment, all areas are very productive but especially the long grassy edges of the Biam and the main scrape beside the boardwalk. In fact spending anytime beside the main boardwalk pool is a real joy on fine weather days like today has been. There are currently three species of Damselfly showing (more to follow, hopefully soon), these are the Common Blue, Azure (gorgeous little things!) and the Blue-tailed Damselfly (pic above). There are also now a few Broad-bodied Chasers around, at least two Four-spotted Chasers and the odd Black-tailed Skimmer, these splendid beasts can be seen regularly patrolling the pools mid-morning or perched up on the reeds - the Skimmers often rest on the mud edges. Go and enjoy, you won't be disappointed and whilst your looking, the resident Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler, Kingfisher and Reed Bunting should keep you occupied!
Still writing up China, so little time to focus on this blog but here's a few images I took earlier today. I guess this bird should be regarded as 'habituated' as it sings daily alongside the boardwalk. Believe me, elsewhere on the reserve they are rather typically more elusive and shy.
I'm back and should be updating regularly from now on. Went for a breeding bird survey today with a few nice results to follow later. In the meantime, noticed a large emergence of Banded Demoiselles today, particularly along certain sections of the Biam. This is the beginning of a great season, Dragons and Damselfies....Coming Soon!
Apologies for the limited number of recent posts, I'm away working in China on Spring Bird Migration for the next few weeks....I'll be back soon. In the meantime, anyone see anything interesting do please drop me a line, Cheers!
The really nice weather has brought out an array of wonderful songsters and the Meadows has literally been buzzing with activity. There are now at least 10 Whitethroats scattered throughout the North Section with the birds along the boardwalk, certainly the easiest to see with two great performers near the main scrape. There is a Garden Warbler singing near the main car park but is typically difficult to dig out. Blackcaps seem to be everywhere, especially on the North Section and along the Great Central between the sites. A couple of Lesser Whitethroat have been singing, as usual from inside cover but the bird south of Kings Lock close to the ring road is the easiest to see. Two Sedge Warblers have so far taken up territory but are currently spending a lot of time singing from within the brambles, hopefully the next few days will see them getting a little bolder. Still no Yellow Wagtails, could be the first year in a long time of a no sign in Spring. Sat and watched one of the smaller ponds and had an astonishing 10 male Smooth Newts visible at the same time in the late afternoon, very nice!
Seemed to be stacks of Sylvia warblers moving slowly up the watercourse today. I saw lots more Blackcap than usual, many of them just feeding away indicating they'd perhaps just arrived. The now familiar territorial singers were all blasting out their pretty amazing repertoire. Whitethroats were also very evident today and again migrant birds moving through, every now and again you would hear a burst of that lovely scratchy call. A very smart looking Lesser Whitethroat was new today on the North Section in an area that held one last year and on the Southern Section just north of Bluebank a couple of Tree Pipit which are always good to see. Same thing with Hirundines particularly Swallows, small groups in waves often accompanied by the odd martin. I think the breeding pair are back at Kings Lock as there was a frenzy of arial activity with excited chattering as a/the pair chased each other around - bearing in mind their arduous journey all the way to and then back from Africa I'm surprised they weren't doing loop de loops!
Funniest thing today was a rival, note rival Great-spotted Woodpecker that has taken it upon himself to drum on one of the metal pylons. This isn't actually as daft as it sounds as the drum roll resonates off the metal and seems to be greatly and oddly amplified. It's driving the breeding pair nuts and there is such a response I'm surprised half the trees are still standing - Territorial Evolution in the making?
Another Redstart today, this time a female very briefly along the hedgerows that line the Biam on the Southern Section was a rather lucky find as I was trying to dig out the first singing Sedge Warbler of the Spring at the time. Three now, just like the good old days! A couple more singing Whitethroat had joined the others on the North Section and it probably won't be long before there's half a dozen singing away at each other. LRP's still around, anyone checked the Grove birds recently?
I thought I was having an amazing few days, loads of birds moving through as you would expect with easterlies and a little light rain. Having looked at the various Soar Valley birders blogs I actually feel pretty gripped, the Meadows didn't quite hit the mark the other sites reached. I envy the Bittern, no chance here, we ain't got a reedbed, Adult Little Gulls, Arctic Terns bloody hell! Have a look at John's Drunkbirders blog for some stunning Little Gulls, Russ's Thortonmothman finally lots of migrant activity and the SoarValley birders and the Bittern....
On Friday I was quite surprised to see a Swift cleaving around over the North section as it still seems bloody early. This was followed by a rather superb Hobby straight down the line of the boardwalk and over the gas towers and presumably Leicester City Center. A Reed Warbler made a brief appearance on Saturday near the end of the boardwalk and I'm hoping it's one of our only breeding pair. This was followed by stacks of phylloscopus warblers moving through, presumably destined for breeding areas much further north. Today a couple of Whitethroats holding territory in their favoured haunts on the North Section, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler near Bluebank on the South Section, an overflying Redshank in the same area, a new? pair of Little Ringed Plover, a trio of Common Sandpiper, loads of Hirundines including a lingering group of Sand martin (I wonder if they've located a potential breeding site?) but still no Yellow Wagtails !
Managed to trash my car between finding these and going to get the bloody camera! 2 Male Redstart on the Meadows, 1 on the mound area on the North Section and a very showy bird on the first hedgerow south of Kings Lock cottage, both still present around midday before my little spot of bother! Hopefully present tomorrow!
Actually it's really slow for some reason, especially as Leicestershire in general has been doing rather well with new birds arriving daily. Today new in as it were. a female Stonechat, a very elusive Common Whitethroat at the end of the boardwalk (they always seem to arrive here first, I wonder Why?), a sally of fly through Swallows and a heard only Cuckoo. The Willow Tits all still showing well on the north section as are the Kingfishers. A couple of Foxes, one on each section are entertaining the dog walkers as they hunt, seemingly oblivious, out in the open.
Have been bloody quiet! I've been hoping for a Yellow Wagtail, just one will do! but no, very very quiet on all the paddock flashes. Rain at this time of year often brings down migrant birds and for the last couple of days I've been out looking hard for any of the possibilities we occasionally get at this time of year, another Ring Ouzel, a Redstart maybe or even a Pied Flycatcher....Nowt, not a single Oooh what was that! Still, keep telling myself plenty of time, just got to keep going. I did have an impressive group of Sand Martin with a couple of House Martin come through ahead of a front and also had a fly through 1st summer Little Gull which was a major surprise, it's only (I think) the third one I've ever seen on the site. Other than that (which is good but I'd rather see a Male Redstart) the best sightings have been a very showy pair of Willow Tits that have been around all winter but are now nesting. This species is never very easy to see on Aylestone Meadows but the last few days they've been so showy I might have to drag the camera out...watch this space! The Kingfishers are still showing remarkably well at the rather public nest hole and fortunately our less desirable crowd haven't noticed them. There has been quite an explosion of our rather unusual melanistic (black) Rabbits, especially along the boardwalk and the edge of the Biam. If you see one, don't worry...they're not escapes.
I took this photograph a couple of months ago, on a riverbank, in Brazil - these are Jaguar tracks, a large male (should have put a pen down for comparison) Pumas are wider but similar - take note, Big Cats rarely leave claw marks, there is a hint here but it's very soft sand!
No sign of the Ouzels today or yesterday for that matter - there seems to have been a fair bit of disturbance in the fields, the horses have been moved back and there are several people repairing the fences, so no surprise! Little to report today. I thought I heard a snippet of a Whitethroat call but couldn't locate the bird in the North Section though I'm sure they're on the way. Still a good number of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing despite the weekends whiteout! Only new birds through today were a group of seven Swallow hawking over the fields around Bluebank lock. Got asked twice today "Are you looking for the Panther? - me mates seen it, seen the tracks" Really ? What can you say ? Look they're bloody Great Danes!