Sunday, June 20, 2010

Duck End Nature Reserve

It’s been quite an emotional day – the Father’s Day card and present from my three boys; visiting Ampthill Baptist Church’s Eco-Festival and catching up with so many special friends again, and being proud as punch with what they’ve achieved today (I’m officially on Sabbatical at the moment); dinner with my own Father….

….and then this evening, when the things I encountered gave me goosebumps and – quite literally – tears of joy. I’d gone down to Duck End Nature Reserve just before 9pm to check up on a few areas that I have been baiting. The first encounter was with a Common Shrew under one of the corrugated tins which gave great views before disappearing down a convenient hole.

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As I walked around Pond 3, I heard the familiar reptilian-like squeak of one of the two Tawny Owl fledglings that I’d discovered here earlier in the week. I slowly walked around the pond until I got some great views of the bird perched in the top of a silver birch tree. By now, the second fledgling was also calling in the scrub to my left. Then, one of the adults gave several gentle calls from the tree behind me and the fledgling I was watching got quite excited and flew almost over my head. The other fledgling also flew across the top of the scrub and the adult then flew right over the pond…wonderful!! Most of the Tawny Owl activity I have experienced over the years has been in woodland without the wide stretches of clear sky where I could watch these three big birds so clearly.

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But the piece de resistance was the bat extravaganza that followed. When I got back to the car, I had already spent some time watching a couple of Pipistrelle Bats hawking over one of the ponds, but what happened next is so hard to describe in words. Just past the entrance to the reserve there is a tall hedge running down the side of a field. As I looked down the hedge I noticed three Pipistrelle Bats flying to and fro. As I watched through the binoculars they would fly straight towards me, increasing in size, until they suddenly banked away at the last moment and whizzed past my face or over my head, now and again making hairpin turns right in front of me before flying away from me back down the hedgeline.

Sometimes, I watched two bats fast approaching one another in a head-on collision course before, at the very last moment, banking away from each other and then banking again to resume the same flight path, one heading away from me, and the other straight towards me. It reminded me of the manoeuvres of the Red Arrows and I found myself humming the theme tune of 633 Squadron! A short while later, I suddenly found 4 bats in the binoculars at the same time…then 5….then 6, an incredible spectacle. And then, to top it all, as I watched the 6 bats, a Little Owl suddenly flew up onto the gatepost right behind them…

…goosebumps and tears of joy. I’m still buzzing!

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