Monday, May 11, 2015

Volunteers and Dawn Chorus Walk

On Sunday 3rd of May the Vols were in the park clearing out the Leat Stream between the Leat Pool and the pipe under the footpath. The usual good turnout, despite the heavy rain that greeted us at the start of the task, meant we managed to get the whole section cleared. A job well done by everybody.

That morning I walked around the Finger Lakes with DK and was lucky enough to hear a Cettis Warbler singing as we walked by the Navigation Channel. We both stopped and listened some more and it finally sang again. It sounded like it was over by Cardington Lock so we headed round there and after a long wait were rewarded with a couple of bursts of song over by the weir. It's been a while since we had a Cettis in the park so this was a very welcome addition to the 2015 list.

On bank holiday Monday morning I was down on 100 Acre very early for a photography session with the Little Grebes:

Riding the wave!


Little Grebe
Mallard family

Mute Swan
This weekend it was another early start, on Sunday morning, for the Dawn Chorus guided walk. This year the weather was kind with a light breeze early on and a beautiful sunrise:

Finger Lakes dawn by Chris Smart
Ranger Jane and myself were joined by six bleary eyed souls at 4am to experience the park waking up. We started off down at the Dead Seat by west Fingers where the Jackdaws and Crows in the Corvid roost were already discussing their day and the Robins and Blackbirds were trying to get their points across. These were soon joined by a couple of Garden Warblers which also seem to be early risers. It was nice to listen to them with the complication of Blackcaps which some people find difficult separate on song alone. The Blackcaps seem to be later risers and didn't join the chorus until it was reaching its peak. Song Thrush, Wren, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits all came on line as the chorus continued, meanwhile some of the early risers stopped singing and headed off for breakfast.

The Corvid chatter was a constant background throughout the chorus. We also had a nearby Treecreeper calling and a bat put in an appearance for while. As the light levels came up 6 Little Egrets left their Finger Lakes roost and a Couple of pairs of Coots went to war as neighbouring Coots often do.

With the peak of the chorus subsiding we moved to the Spit where a Sedge Warbler was just getting warmed up. The Reed Warblers were already well into their stride, burbling away in the Crescent reed bed. A family of Coots mimicked human life with the adults out and about getting breakfast while the kids remained tucked up in the nest.

At the end of the Spit the nesting Mute Swan looked like she may have chicks under her as she was spreading her wings a little to make sure everyone was covered. Hopefully we'll see the family out and about in the next few days. The pair of Grebes have still not settled on a nest site and continue to scout the lakes. A Cuckoo flew to the snag on the Spit but departed straight away so we didn't get great views. We checked out the Crescent reed bed where good numbers of Reed Warblers are now in residence. A Reed Bunting was singing nearby.

Our next stop was on the east side of Fingers to view the Heron nest and we were lucky to have good views of 2 checks on the first nest. The second nest looks to be a none runner as neither adult was on it although one was still standing close by.

We headed off to 100 Acre where we were treated to views of a couple of Lapwing chicks, the first of the year. A male Shoveler was dozing nearby. Red Shanks were active around the big lake along with Common Terns and Swifts. At the far end of the big lake we added Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Kingfisher, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers to the morning list.

A cool breeze was strengthening by this time so we headed back to the park where good numbers of Swifts were active over the main lake and Fingers. After tea and croissants in the Visitor Centre it was time to start the day!

Thanks to all who joined me on the Dawn Chorus walk this year, if you fancy getting to know the parks birds but can't drag yourself out for a 4am start then why not join us for the one of the regular bird walks. The next one is on Sunday 31st May at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Guided Bird Walk - Sunday 26th April 2015

Another good turnout for the guided walk this morning and the birds got in on the act as we notched up a long list with a number of year firsts. We started off along the edge of the car park and had Dunnock, Blackcap and Garden Warbler all singing in close proximity with a Song Thrush joining in a little further away. Blackcaps a numerous in the park at the moment and provide a constant back ground song almost anywhere you care to stop at the moment.

Across the meadow a Common Whitethroat was singing at the back of the play area. A single phrase from a Willow Warbler was also heard nearby. I was guilty of overlooking one of our common birds when a number of the group asked what was producing a particular song. I just could not pick up on what they were hearing. When I finally locked on to the bird it was a Blue Tit singing. Sometimes it is very easy to focus on the "more exciting" migrants and overlook our resident birds but they are every bit as beautiful.

A Robin was singing as we moved into the Finger Lakes complex, another beautiful if somewhat melancholy sound. A short distance on by the gate to the Rough another Blackcap was singing and down by the Dead Seat a GardenWarbler and a White throat could be heard in the Rough. On west Fingers a Shoveler and several Tufted Ducks were seen along with the nesting Mute Swan. A Sparrowhawk passed over the lake heading south.

We headed around to the Spit stopping on the way to watch the Swallows and Sand Martins over the main lake and listen to a Sedge Warbler in a Willow on the north shore.

Along the Spit we had excellent views of the Shoveler, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes and Coots with young. Chiffchaff was seen and a Treecreeper was heard. Another Sedge Warbler was singing strongly along here and when we moved down into the Crescent another was singing with the Reed Warblers in the reed bed. This gave us an excellent opportunity to compare these 2 songsters which many struggle to separate but the more manic Sedge Warbler is quite easy to identify compared to the rhythmic Reed Warbler. Of course if you get to look at the 2 they are quite different visually with the Sedge Warbler sporting a bold off-white eye stripe and sparrow like markings on the back and wings, compared with the much planer brown and buff colouration of the Reed Warbler.

While listening to these 2 a Cuckoo called, the first in the park this year. It seemed quite close and then moved further off so we moved back up onto the Spit in the hope of seeing it. At first it seemed like we were going to be unlucky but then I spotted it overhead and we managed to track it into the Willows over by the Dead Seat. It was tricky to see at first but then 2 Cuckoos flew up out of the Willows squabbling with each other and we watched as they flew around before disappearing out of sight.

Our next stop was along the east side of the Finger Lakes for a look at the 2 Grey Heron nests. A second pair joined the first pair in the last couple of weeks but the best news is that the first pair now have a chick. We did not get to see the chick today but yesterday, along with DK and JA, I had brief views as the adults changed over on the nest. This is the first recorded breeding success for Grey Herons in the park and hopefully the beginnings of a new heronry. A Muntjac was on the other side of the gap to the Spit.

A few yards further on by the newly replaced Finger Lakes hide a Willow Warbler was singing strongly giving everyone an opportunity to hear one of my favourite songs of the spring and summer.

A handful of Cormorants were in the roost on Kings Mead, normal at this time of year when the breeding birds are off in their colonies. A Green Woodpecker was spotted hopping about on Kings Mead, mostly just its red capped head popping up above the top of the grass every now and again.

A brief stop on the Flower Meadow to check out some passing Terns was interrupted by the scream of a Swift, another first for the year in the park. We watched them perform their acrobatics for a while until they moved off north east. The Terns were just Commons but with DK earlier in the morning he spotted 3 Arctics passing over north east.

Up at the Sewage Works bridge we had good views of a singing Sedge Warbler on the reed bed under the bridge before we moved on to 100 Acre.

A Little Grebe on the big lake was our first stop on 100 Acre. Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts were all zipping about over the lake. On the island a pair of Oystercatchers showed well. Blackcap and Whitethroat were singing in the bushes behind us. We stopped at the corner of the bay on the big lake and had Redshanks and Lapwings. Another first this year, for me at least, was a Common Sandpiper which flew across from the island to the shore on the opposite side of the bay, where it busily bobbed its way past four preening Tufted Ducks.

Another Sedge Warbler was singing from the scrub nearby. A Teal was spotted across the bay on the shore of the lake and a Shoveler was nearby on the lake.

100 Acre is a joy on a fine day with a backing track of Skylarks and a large variety of other birds providing the accompaniment.

We moved on to Castle Mill end of 100 Acre where a Shelduck was standing on the shore. A scan of the shoreline revealed 5 smart Dunlins working the edge of the lake at the near end. A scan of the meadow revealed a female Wheatear, quite distant but confiding for scope views. Skylarks were flitting about and good numbers of Swallows were over the far end of the lake. As moved along the fence line a Male Wheatear was spotted just a few yards in front of us. This put on a great performance with our group standing just a few yards away. We moved on and relocated both the Wheatears and then a Yellow Wagtail appeared, another first for the year for me, and this gradually increased to 5 by the time we headed back. A scan of the Swallows revealed a real mix of Hirundines with both Sand and House Martins in the mix. A couple of Meadow Pipits flew up and settled on the gravel pile and several Linnets joined the Yellow Wagtails on the edge of the lake, including a fine male. A couple of the Swallows settled on the gate a few yards away from the group which provided excellent views of these fantastic little birds.

With that we called it a day and headed back to the visitor centre in the park. A very successful morning.

Some recent photo's:

Sedge Warbler at the Sewage Works Bridge last weekend.

Female Wheatear on 100 Acre yesterday.

Male Wheatear on 100 Acre yesterday.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Upcoming Guided Bird Walks - Date and Time Confirmation

Just a quick confirmation of the start times for the upcoming bird walks:

The Dawn Chorus walk on the 10th May starts at 4am.

The guided bird walk on the 31st May starts at 9am.

The posters around the park have incorrect start times.