Monday, August 25, 2014

Saturday 23/08/2014

On the birding front it remains quiet in the park although the autumn/winter ducks are beginning to gather with increasing numbers of Gadwall and the first Teal of the autumn this week. Other species are on the move south so we are seeing Willow Warblers regularly at the moment. These are often associating with the roaming Tit flocks that can be found as you walk around the park. If you come across one of these, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff can often be found in the flock with a little patience. Listen for the high pitched contact calls of the Long-tailed Tits which usually give away the location of a flock. A handful of Common Terns remain and can be seen over the main lake, youngsters can be identified by their browner plumage. Another couple of weeks and they'll all be gone on their way back to central and southern Africa.

100 Acre continues to evolve with the introduction of new fences and the cutting of large areas. This area is still managed by the gravel extraction company so we have little control over what gets done when. Although disappointing that some areas have been cut it was good to see that the wader area at the Castle Mill end had been, we just need a bit more water now to attract some passing waders this autumn. Hopefully in future we will be able to leave some areas uncut to support flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets through the winter months. In the short term, at least, it is likely that cattle will be introduced on some areas to keep the vegetation in check. Despite the disturbance on the site this week we still managed to find a single Green Sandpiper and good numbers of Swallows were skimming over the cut sections hoovering up the insects. Of note also was the large number of Little Grebes on the site with 14 counted at the south end of the big lake alone and 20+ altogether. Looks like they had a good year. A couple of Common Gulls were loafing on the earth works, with a bunch of Black-headed Gulls. We also had a single Yellow Wagtail

Other good news from the week was that DK spotted an Otter on the back river at the Sewage Works bridge, the first sighting for a while.

Next weekend it's time for the monthly guided bird walk so come and join me on the hunt for autumn migrants. Meet outside the visitor centre on Sunday 31st August at 8am.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saturday 09/08/2014

It's been pretty quiet on the bird front, not unusual at this time of year when some of the migratory species are already on their way back to their wintering grounds and many others become more elusive as they go through their moult. Many of the small passerines are coming together in roaming flocks so if you come across one of these it's like hitting the jackpot. They are usually given away by the constant and distinctive calls of the Long-tailed Tits which usually make up a significant proportion of the flock. There are usually one or more family groups of Long-tailed Tits in these flocks but also look out for other Tits, Finches, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.

This week we had a few Willow Warblers around the park as they make progress south on their way back to Africa for the winter. There were also at least 8 Gadwalls on the Finger Lakes early on. These are quite tricky to distinguish from the Mallards as they all go through their moults but if you happen to see them side by side it becomes easier as they are slightly smaller and the head shape is more rounded.

The ringers were in the Rough again and had a couple of reasonable hauls while we were there. Plenty of juvenile Blackcaps were caught and it was interesting to see to difference in appearance as they were at various stages of post juvenile moult.

Now that a path has been cleared on 100 Acre we are able to get over there again and were rewarded with a Cuckoo. This is quite a late record for this species, many of the BTO tracked Cuckoos are already in Africa with others in central or southern Europe (Tracking Cuckoos to Africa... and back again).

There are a lot of new fences going up on 100 Acre and new paths will follow, for the time being the path along the river is blocked in several places.

4 Little Egrets were present on the large lake and we had 2 Kestrels hunting between the large lake and the Sewage Works Pool. A Common Buzzard was heard by the river down towards Castle Mill and a couple of Swallows were seen in the same area. At the end of our wander around 100 Acre we flushed 5 Green Sandpipers on the Sewage Works Pool.

Back in the park there were a few Sand Martins over the Main lake in the south west corner, a small number of Swifts were also present.

The 2 Tufted Duck families remain and 4 well developed youngsters were also present on Saturday having flown in from elsewhere.

In the afternoon I went back to 100 Acre hoping to photograph the Great Crested Grebes which have 2 chicks. The photography wasn't great but I did see a Snipe and a Sedge Warbler so a pretty good afternoon.

Those were the highlights for this weekend.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recent goings on in the park

It's been a while so here's what's been going on in the park recently.

First up the volunteers were back in early in the month and put in a great shift clearing the path between thee the cycle track near Fish Ponds down to and along the river to the spillway. This was becoming overgrown in some areas and now the new bridge is in place over the Marina entrance people were wanting to use it again so it's been cleared. Thanks to everyone who came along and helped.

Please note that the August volunteer task has been cancelled but hopefully we'll be back to normal in September.

It's been pretty quiet in the park on the bird front, just the normal stuff and sometimes pretty hard to come by on the hot days. Plenty of Green Woodpeckers about so sometimes quiet is not quite the word to use. This weekend just gone we had some nice views of a Jay and the first Willow Warbler on it's way back south. Amazingly this was exactly the same date as we had the first returning Willow Warbler last year and only 2 days different from the year before (thanks DK).

On Friday evening I tagged along on the guided bat walk led by Danny Fellman. This was very well attended and we managed 4 species of bat although not the numbers we might have liked. Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule and Daubentons were all caught on the detectors. The Pips and the Daubentons were seen with the Daubentons providing excellent views over the Finger Lakes. I also spotted a Hedgehog as it crossed the main path between the Beach and Fingers and heard a Common Sandpiper and an Oystercatcher, the later being between 22:30 and 23:00.

It was a busy weekend in the park with the Archaeological dig and display on both days and the Triathlon, Canoe Slalom and Guided Bird Walk all on Sunday. The Bird Walk was a bit of struggle with birds, butterflies and dragonflies all playing hard to find. Fortunately EG was ringing in the Rough and had a bumper haul just as I arrived with the group so we all got some close up views of the birds in the hand as they were processed. Here are a few pics kindly provided by Chris Smart:

Reed Warbler

Juvenile Robin

Robins wing

Juvenile Green Woodpecker

Juvenile Green Woodpecker


Blue Tit wing

Song Thrush

Song Thrush having its tummy tickled :-)

 A nice variety of birds there and we also had a few Blackcaps. Once again many thanks to EG for his time and patient explanation of the ringing process.

Gatekeeper Butterfly
There were quite a few butterflies on the flower meadow but these were mostly Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns with the odd White sp. just for variety.

100 Acre is not ideal for taking groups onto at the moment with head high nettles in abundance, so we headed out along the cycle track and down to the end of 100 Acre where it looks over to Castle Mill. There has been a lot of work here in recent weeks and the large earth mounds have gone, having been used to bring the gravel workings back up to level. There wasn't much to see here although there was a nice flock of 125 Lapwings on the earth works and quite a few Carrion Crows picking over the bare earth on the lookout for invertebrates to eat. The water level has dropped a lot on 100 Acre, unsurprisingly, but 8 Little Egrets were working the edges of the lake and family of Great Crested Grebes with 4 youngsters was great to see. As we turned to leave I spotted a Kestrel low over the earthworks and it perched for a while before flying off and giving us good views.

There was little else of note other than a small party of Goldfinches in the scrub opposite Meadow Lane GP, as we made our way back to the park.

The next guided bird walk is on Sunday 31st August at 8am, meet at the visitor centre.

The group checking out the Lapwing flock on Castle Mill earthworks
(Picture courtesy of Glen Bowen)