Sunday, July 31, 2016

Guided Walk - 31st July 2016

It's been quiet around the park as is normally the case in the summer months. This weekend however has seen a real sign that the autumn migration is underway with Willow Warblers back in the park along with plenty of other warblers.

On Saturday I did my usual walk around with DK and as well as the Willow Warblers we had a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and a family party of Garden Warblers in the Rough.

This morning the number of Chiffchaffs was quite noticeable with birds calling from most trees along the main path and plenty more around the Finger Lakes. Before the guided walk got underway at 8am I had a quick look around Fingers with DK and we stopped in at the Rough to see how EG was doing with CES ringing session in the Rough. The ringing session had got off to a reasonable start with a few birds logged by the time we arrived and EG agreed to let me know how if they caught any birds to show the group on the guided walk. I headed off to collect the group and noted several more calling Chiffchaffs as I crossed the Meadow.

A small group of 11 joined me for the guided walk and after a quick briefing we headed off down the main path stopping off half way down to check out the birds on the main lake. About 8 Sand Martins were flitting about over the east end of the island and about 20 Swifts were busy feeding up overhead. Swifts are already starting to head south as are many other summer migrants. Chris Smart reported a Great Crested Grebe with a chick on the main lake earlier this week and Val spotted them over in the south west corner but even the scope couldn't do justice to the humbug coloured chick. Those who remained to the end had great views of the stripey headed chick when we looped around the south side of the main lake at the end of the morning.

Next stop was the Rough where EG had a Dunnock and a Wren to show us which was a little disappointing although there was more to come later. The group were also shown how the birds are captured for ringing.

We moved on heading down to the flower meadow and had a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly over us calling as it went. We didn't manage to spot the Lesser Whitethroat which DK had earlier in the Sheep Pen. We looped round to check out the Heron nest on Fingers. Somehow the Heron managed raise 3 chicks to a good size before we spotted them a few weeks ago. We had originally thought all three original nests had failed this year but not so. We think one of the pairs may have had a second attempt and were successful, hidden by the thick foliage of the Willow they were nesting in.

At this point the bird walk turned into butterfly walk as plenty of butterflies were out sunning themselves. Comma, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and one of the Whites were seen but the best was a Painted Lady, the first I have seen in the park for a while. A large hoverfly species also proved popular with the photographers in the group. Having just checked I now know it was Volucella pellucens. Common Blue damselflies were also numerous in the nettles.


Gatekeeper on Bramble

Red Admiral on Burdock
We headed up to the Sewage Works Bridge before a call from EG had us all heading back to the Rough where he had a bumper catch of birds. There were a handful of Chiffchaffs, a couple of stunning Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler and several Blackcaps. The star birds for the group were the tiny Goldcrest and a beautiful Treecreeper. Another net round added Robin and Blackbird to the species list. Most of the these birds were juveniles, exceptions being the Blackcaps which seem to have had a poor breeding season around here as the number of juveniles ringed has been well down so far. Thanks to EG and DH for another great ringing demo.

With time getting on some of the group departed and the remainder joined me for a loop around the main lake where, as well as the GC Grebe chick we added Holly Blue to our butterfly species list.

Thanks to everyone who ventured out with me today. The next guided bird walk is August 28th starting at 9am outside the visitor centre, or cafe as I should now call it!

And finally........

Some really sad news last weekend when an Otter was found drowned in an illegal Crayfish trap. The Environment Agency and Police have been informed.
Otter
Please note that you must have a license to trap Crayfish which you can get from the Environment agency. To get this your traps must comply with the EA specifications which would make them "Otter safe". Equally importantly you must have the landowners permission to trap so that would be the council for any of the waters in and around the park. For more details see EA web page about trapping Crayfish. I know of at least 7 traps that have been removed from waters in and around the park in recent months so this is a growing problem. If you see anything you think might be a trap please report it to the Police or the Rangers so we can get it removed before anything else gets killed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guided Walk and other bits and bobs from the weekend

This morning was the first of the 8am starts for the guided bird walks but we still had a great turnout. First up was a visit to the Rough where EG was on his 6th CES ringing visit of the year. Unfotunately this session was proving to be very quiet and all Ed could offer the group was a single juvenile Wren. As usual he gave a great demo and expalantion of the ringing process before showing the group the nets. He came back with another capture, another juvenile Wren! To make things worse he had already ringed this one earlier so it was quickly released.

We moved on to the Spit where we had good views of the remaining Mute Swan cygnet and the single remaining Great Crested Grebe chick. Predation has been the word of the spring this year with very few wildfowl chicks making it to adulthood so far. We also spotted the pair of Tufted ducks with 2 young fluff balls.

We stopped at the freshly re-painted Kramer hide and I challenged the group to spot the nesting Little Grebe. Admittedly it is a tough one to spot, even when I had setup the scope on the nest. The other adult Little Grebe was out front of the hide but playing equally hard to spot under a Willow.

We moved on again stopping to listen to 2 singing Blackcaps in the Long Hedge. A Treecreeper called a couple of times from nearby but didn't show itself.

At the Sewage Works bridge we stopped in hope of an Otter sighting but as usual we were a day late. DK and myself had great views of at least one Otter at the bridge on Saturday morning.


Otter
Otter
Otter
A Grey Heron was in the usual spot in the reeds on the corner of Riverside. The resident Cetti's Warbler sang loudly, as they do. It could still be heard when we were half way across 100 Acre. A stop on 100 Acre produced a nesting Great Crested Grebe, several Little Grebes, Oystercatcher and at least 3 broods of Tufted Duck youngsters. One of the Tufted Duck broods was at least 13, hard to know how the female could incubate that number of eggs successfully. A little further on and we had a Little Egret on the island. A Sedge Warbler was heard and gave brief views as it flitted from one lot of thick cover to another. A small pink flower was identified as Grass Vetchling.   

Back on the cycle track we came across another singing Blackcap, there were many about today, which showed out the clear for a few seconds before it disappeared back into the heavy cover across the other side of the track.

Further along the track we found several Bee orchids which had survived the mower. Lin had found them a few weeks back but it was good to show the group. 


Bee Orchid

A male Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly showed briefly before departing across the wheat crop. A female was more obliging, perching on a wheat stem and allowing me to get the scope on it so that everyone had great views. Yellow Wagtails were calling from the crops and showed briefly while a Skylark perched up on a head of Hemlock and gave great views as he sang.

At the Castle Mill end of 100 Acre we had good views of Little Egret and distant views of Green Sandpiper, Sand Martin and Swallow also showed well and Linnet and Goldfinch were in the are. Not sure where the juvenile Black-headed Gull has come from but presumably a pair have nested nearby.

On the way back we found a Marbled White butterfly in the same area as the Bee Orchids.
Marbled White butterfly
Back at the Sewage Works bridge I spotted a Common Tern carrying a fish and watched to see where it might be nesting. It headed towards the island on 100 Acre but disappeared from view before I could see if it dropped in there or not.

So another good morning out around the park and surrounding area. The next guided bird walk is Sunday July 31st, meet outside the visitor centre (maybe a cafe by then!) at 8am.


Juvenile Pied Wagtail on the Priory wall (Saturday)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dawn Chorus Guided Walk - 15/05/2016

You don't really expect a hard frost in the middle of May but that's exactly what we had for the Dawn Chorus walk this morning. Of course that did mean we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and the birds did their bit too. Here's a short video clip by Chris Smart (crank up the volume and enjoy the soundtrack!):

video

After enjoying the dawn chorus we took a stroll around the Rough where Garden Warblers and Blackcaps were most in evidence. A Goldcrest was also heard singing here.

I had hoped the early start were give us a good chance of seeing the Otters at the sewage works bridge but we had to make do with Sedge and Reed Warblers singing in the reed bed below the bridge and a Cetti's Warbler singing a little further down the river.

Along the cycle track by the sewage works Common Whitethroats were in good numbers, their scratchy, cut-off song drawing attention to them.

100 Acre was an oasis of bird life as usual although the star birds from yesterday, in the form of Knot, Sanderling and Stonechat, had moved on. As well as all of the regulars we saw Common Sandpiper, Linnet, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Cuckoo, Little Ringed Plover and Yellow Wagtail. The song flight specialists, Skylark, Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat also performed well.

Here are a few record shots from Saturday morning:

Dunlin

Knot

Sanderling (left) with a couple of Ringed Plovers

Stonechat (100 Acre)

And a couple of other things:

At the beginning of the month the volunteers put in a good shift when replacing the steps by the wooden footbridge over the New Cut.

Volunteers test the new steps (Photo by: Daniel Fellman)

I encourage everyone to visit the park and enjoy the wildlife but if you do please put your litter in the bins provided. If it won't go in the bin then please take it home with you. Mr. Fox makes an awful mess if you leave bags of litter by the bins.

Litter in the park
During the recent warm weather the Rangers were spending most of their time litter picking. This is not what they are there for, they are there to manage the habitats to attract the wildlife we all go there to see. Also be aware of the terrible consequences littering can have on our wildlife:

Grey Heron starved to death because of ribbon wrapped around its beak. (photo taken at Biddenham Loop CP)