A little while back now: a drizzly weekend was rescued by the visit of many old friends (of which more later perhaps) and by a bright and sunny Friday evening. From my home-bound train I spotted a red deer stag in the reed beds of Barrowscout Fields and so it seemed the obvious choice, once off the train, to head away from home and towards the reed beds of Leighton Moss. Crossing the causeway at Leighton Moss between tall reeds, meres and occasional stands of alder, what struck me was just how quiet it was – no cacophony of gulls, no scratchy of warbler’s songs. But there were a few dragonflies about.
I watched the jinking flights of two dragonflies for a while. They disappeared together amongst the alders at the side of the path and when only the larger of the two re-emerged I looked for the other amongst the alder saplings. Without that clue I don’t think I would have spotted this elegant chap resting on this stem, despite the striking blue blobs. I’m pretty sure that this is not a migrant hawker, like the one I photographed at Gait Barrows back at the end of August. I think that it might be a common hawker, but frustratingly, because of the angle it was perched at, and because it was above head height, I couldn’t see the distinctive markings on the abdomen which might confirm that identification.
My favourite Leighton Moss view.
A friend who lives nearby, but not all that nearby, was telling me recently that she had seen the egret roost at Leighton Moss, and that she was suitably impressed. I was a bit put out – egret roost? Really – how come I haven’t seen, or heard about, this? From the public hide I thought perhaps I could see some egrets in distant trees. I walked around to the Lower Hide, thinking I would have a better view from there, but although I was sure that I could see the relevant clump of trees, now I couldn’t see any egrets at all. A marsh harrier flew low over the far side of the mere, close to the trees where I thought there might be egrets and in the wake of the harrier’s passing a host of pure white birds flew up from the trees and briefly circled, seeming to savour the heavy wind, playing as rooks and jackdaws will in gusty conditions.
I continued from lower hide, on the path which curls around to Storrs Lane and which has recently become a favourite. I noticed several places where the rich black mud close to the perimeter fence had been heavily churned. Whilst examining the prints in the mud, I looked up and looking back at me, not 10 yards away, were three red deer hinds.
Of course, they were away pretty swiftly, but they stayed in view and I eventually found a vantage point where I could see them through the trees.
It soon became apparent that these three were part of a larger group and I watched perhaps 20 deer as one after another they elegantly hopped over a fence and disappeared across a field. The last across was a fine stag.
Whilst I took the photos I was noticing that the scene behind the deer was also impressive – late sun illuminating autumn colours with dark sky behind and a sliver of rainbow. Rainbow? Hang on…
It was soon raining, and continued to do so as I passed the gnarly old horse chestnut onto Storrs Lane.
But there was the compensation of a full rainbow however (couldn’t squeeze all of it into a single frame sadly).
And as I walked along the lane I did finally have a good view of the egret roost…
Could there be a better way to relax at the end of a working week? What a privilege it is to have this on our doorstep.
*The title is filched from the post – On the Benefits of Exploring your own Backyard – a book review, but a lot more besides.