Thursday, 5 May 2011

What... the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Desperate to get out of Devon, we shot up the M5 like scalded cats last weekend. We threw ourselves out of the car, clapped on various bits of kit and trotted smartly into the Avalon Marshes, where we were greeted by a dodgy-looking geezer with a tunic and horse who asked if we'd seen Merlin. Na gave him her Paddington-Bear-stare, and we shunted on into the wetland, past a watery tart waving a sword around (shouldn't be allowed) and into the relative safety of a nice quiet hide.

The memorable page about the sexual proclivities of otters was no longer there in the logbook (shame) - I couldn't find it anyway - and true to form we missed seeing one by about 20 minutes, but the sound of a booming Bittern and the sight of a Hobby or two elegantly drifting over the waters took the edge off the disappointment. I was slightly stunned by the number and variety of dragonflies already out - Large Red, Azure, Blue-tailed, Red-eyed and Variable Damselflies all in numbers, and Hairy Dragonflies and Four-spotted Chasers like you wouldn't believe. We must have hit a major emergence of the latter, actually, as they were literally everywhere: clouds of them lifting from sheltered spots. Surprised the Hobbies could still fly, to be honest.

A prolonged stroll through the reserve produced no fewer than five booming Bitterns - one of which we saw briefly - and a couple of Marsh Harriers, as well as perhaps the most pompous photographer it's been my pleasure to listen to for a long time. Maybe the lens was compensating... We also bumped into a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits, all gingerbread-red and ready for Iceland, as well as a trio of Bar-taileds, though sadly they were all pretty much in winter duds. And a final treat: our first Swifts of the year drifted over amongst the Hobby flock. Mmmm. Nice.

Just to prove that summer's on the way, plenty of nice invertebrates have been out and about locally...

Hoverfly. Species.

Green Tiger-beetle.

Brown Silver-lines. This one has an unfortunate disability: one hindwing has somehow become twisted and now sticks up over it's back like an aeroplane's tailfin. Don't think it's a survivor.

Small Purple-barred moth. Now flying on a heathland near me.

Common Redstart. Having serenaded us from the roof of the office, he sat nicely in the neighbouring Rowan so I could take some distant photos.

White Rock-rose Helianthemum apenninum. For no other reason than they're pretty.

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