Priory Country Park is a former gravel pits located on the South East edge of Bedford, adjacent to the River Great Ouse. Find us at Barkers Lane off A428, or in Priory Business Park off A421 Bedford bypass. Admission is Free with access to the Visitor centre and 2 hides, one overlooking the main lake and one on the Finger lakes. You will find Winter wildfowl, passage terns and waders, and Water Rail all year.
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.
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.