Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Helping out at HQ

I came to Southall to do a variety of surveying on Minet Country Park. The first day we decided to look for fresh water macroinvertibrates. Thomas, an EVS volunteer from France accompanied me and we walked the 30 minute journey with Sarah Leedham. Suitably equipped with waders, trays, nets, keys and a camera we started at the southern section of the Park in the Yeading Brook. Our walk disturbed a few linnets feeding amongst the various flowers in the meadow and innumerable whitethroats sang throughout the Park. Chiffchaffs, blackbirds and a skylark joined in. A bullfinch was also heard deep in the scrub but we were surprised not to either see, nor hear ring necked parakeets.We did both kick and sweep sampling in this section of  the brook and found a few creatures. Most of these were fresh water shrimps with the usual selection of snails. We had three small damselfly nymphs and a wonderful example of Banded Demoiselle nymph.

 Thomas and I then checked out two sections of the small stream that runs south from the pond into Yeading Brook. We did see one large red damselfly, a very large pond snail and several tadpoles but that was all in this section of the Park. They had just endured a very long dry spell so that could have contributed to the sparsity of findings. We then decided to check out the large pond but as we approached a broad bodied chaser flew right past our noses. Rucksacks were ditched and cameras readied to see if we could photograph this stunning pale blue male. He was not for having his image taken, especially when joined by a female. She then started ovipositing at the edge of the pond, so we left them to it. However an emperor decided not to and invaded their personal space. We had just put our cameras away when our chaser male rested on the edge of the pond no more than 5 metres away. Isn't it always the case? Lunchtime beckoned and a rumbling tummy succumbed to the call.
We then decided to try some bat surveying that evening. Thomas, our French guest and Bill Haines, a local bird ringer had never been surveying for bats previously so they accompanied me to Minet. A 2050 start meant we were on site just before sunset.Starting again at the southern end of Minet we waited, bat detectors at the ready for our first sighting/echo locating. A green woodpecker shouted its warning to us so we stayed away from what might be the nest site. At least two song thrushes sang a musical duel and a heron flew down the canal. To our surprise we saw our first bat rather than heard it. It proved to be a common pipistrelle. It made several passes and after five minutes was joined by a second animal. From here a slower journey to our starting point  revealed two more common pipistrelles and two soprano pipistrelles. By 2300 it was getting cooler so we returned home to a warm shower and warmer beds.

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