Saturday, 18 January 2020

Reading RSPB Group

RICK and Elis Simpson delivered an excellent illustrated presentation to the group entitled “Confessions of a bird guide”.

The talk focused on the time when the couple lived in Brazil and led birdwatching groups in the tropical rain forest.

Elis presented some stunning photographs of the birdlife of the area while Rick provided the narrative.

It was interesting to hear about the different people who took the tour — some wanted to be in the jungle from dawn to dusk while others took a much more leisurely approach, starting after breakfast and pausing for a siesta in the afternoon.

Many were ill-prepared, expecting to go into the jungle in shorts and sandals and dressing their children alike.

Elis’s illustrations of aggressive spiders and deadly snakes confirmed this attire was not suitable. A few days later, the group undertook their first field trip of the new season with a local visit to Dinton Pastures.

Here, Lavells Lake provides the most interesting area where a much smaller lake is surrounded by reedbeds and a few trees provide a more diverse habitat than on the main lakes.

The warm September sunshine meant that those early harbingers of winter migration, the wigeon and gadwall, had not yet arrived.

There were only a few tufted duck in the centre of the lake while a pair of mallard and a lonely moorhen patrolled the edges.

Some teasel had formed large seed heads and these had attracted good numbers of goldfinch, including many juveniles which had not yet acquired their red faces.

Several swallows were picking insects from the lake surface, doubtless building their fat reserves before the long migration to Africa.

A larger bird was hunting across the reedbed — a hobby seeking out its favourite prey, dragonflies. Then, from deeper in the reedbed, a noise resembling a pig squealing resonated around.

The group stared intensely into the reeds and some 10 minutes later the water rail responsible tiptoed across an open patch of water between reeds. It was an excellent end to a great morning’s birdwatching.

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