Rail Strike

Following my last depressing post, hopefully this is a little more uplifting.

We have a new visitor to Dunces Water Pond, an elusive little water bird that usually spends its time under cover. It is a Water Rail (maybe more than one?). We have had them on the reserve before but its about 5 years ago so its nice to see them back.

Dead Pool

A worrying discovery on Dunces Corner Pond a few days ago when I pulled the bodies of three birds out of the pond.

The strange thing was the disparate nature of the species found, we had a Shoveller Duck, a Jack Snipe (new to the reserve), and a Fieldfare.

My first thought was ‘Oh no Avian Flu’ which it may have been BUT none of my resident waterfowl seem to have been affected. The Jack Snipe and Fieldfare are not pond dwellers usually.

My thoughts are that as these are migrants that maybe they were infected and happened to die while crossing the pond, which seems an unlikely occurrence when they were all found on the same day.


They are migrants that came onto the reserve at night and hit the powerlines above the pond.

I did report the finding on the DEFRA helpline, they did not appear too concerned. My fingers are crossed it is not Avian Flu, I found these birds last Friday and I have been checking the pond every day since and not found any further victims.

Nature Trail Officially Opened

This week we had our first official use of our nature trail by Morpeth Rainbows (5-7 year old girls), they seemed to enjoy it.

I must give a big thank you to Linda Heslop who spent a lot of time and effort making our little animal models that make up the trail (they are fab). We have 10 different animals that are found on site and a fact sheet for each one. The youngsters then have to find the answers to questions we give them. The hope is the odd fact will stay in the memory!

The Rainbows then fed the swans and we finished with a bug hunt. A group 15 screaming 5-7 year olds almost certainly scaring my bugs but I was surprised how readily they picked up some of the beasties. They did seem to have enjoyed it by the end, I think the lolly each one got helped!!

Killer on the loose!

The Otter holt I built earlier this year has had its first visitor, although not a welcome visitor.

I put a camera down into the holt and the result you can see below:-

The visitor is a mink and as can be seen it has already reduced my duck population. This is a non-native killer which I will have to try and catch before it does too much damage!

We did have a Mink on the reserve a number of months ago but it then disappeared, unfortunately it appears they are back.


I have some good news and some bad news regarding our Mink. The good news is that I managed to catch the Mink, so it will no longer be able to terrorise my Duck and rabbit population. The bad news is that it is no more, it is never nice to remove a little creature but it is for the greater good.

Road Kill

One of our local Sparrowhawks decided to knock a pigeon down next to me at the entrance to the reserve. The poor pigeon put up a bit of a fight but there was only one winner.

I haven’t included the more graphic end to the sparrowhawks meal

Spotted – a flycatcher

Yes a Spotted Flycatcher, I have now seen one twice in the last 3 weeks having not seen one here before. So I can add another bird species to our growing list. I believe it is not uncommon to see them, but as with many bird species their population is declining rapidly. Between 1967-2012 their population has fallen by 89%! It is a migrant so I presume it will be departing these shores in the not too distant future as they usually leave us in August! They are one of our longest travelling migrants, travelling down to Southern Africa.

Vole in the wall gang

Now anyone who has a phobia for small furry animals had better give this post a miss!

These are a few photos of the local vole residents around Dunces Corner Hide. The family of voles particularly like the dry stone wall around the hide. They appear to be field voles, which is not a major surprise as this is one of the UK’s commonest mammals (estimated population of 75 million).

They are not too shy so I can usually get quite close to take a few snaps, they are more interested in the food.

Unfortunately the poor little vole is a tasty little snack for lots of predators, so it needs to reproduce in large numbers just to survive. They typically have 4-5 young in a litter, which doesn’t sound a lot but then they have 5-6 litters a year!

Foxy on the prowl

As I was closing up the hides yesterday I heard a little commotion at the end of Dunces Corner Pond.

I went to investigate and found all the birds massed at the eastern end of the pond sounding very agitated.

I could see a little orange/red bundle on the edge of the pond and eventually saw it was a fox curled up having a snooze in the evening sun.

Charlie the male swan was not happy with this and decided to wake the fox up by splashing water onto it. Foxy woke up, shook himself off, yawned, had a stand slowly wandered off.

Dragons Den

The warm weather has brought out out dragonflies for some concentrated egg laying.

There does not appear to be as many as previous years and not as varied. We have our usual Common Darters and Southern Hawkers and I have also had a couple of Emperors for the first time (the largest of the UK’s dragonflies).

I have been trying to get some decent pictures of the dragonflies in flight but its a bit tricky as the never stay in the same place for more than a second or so. Below ae my best efforts so far.

Dragon Pics:-

Female Common Darter
Male Common Darter
Common Darter pair egg laying
Female Southern Hawker
Male Southern Hawker
Male Southern Hawker
Male Southern Hawker
Male Southern Hawker

Nature reserve construction and development