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.

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!):


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:



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)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Guided Walk - 24/04/2016

The rain/sleet cleared through early on so we were treated to a few glimpses of the sun for today's guided walk although the wind had a bit of bite to it.

We started off by the main lake looking through the hirundines that were skimming over the water. They were mostly Sand Martins with a handful of Swallows and the occasional House Martin. A pair of Egyptian Geese have been nesting on the main lake island and have come off the island this weekend with 3 goslings from their six eggs. We also had another 4 Egyptian Geese flying around the main lake this morning. Before we moved on a Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing in the plantation between the Premier Inn and the car park.

Pair of Egyptian Geese with 3 goslings
Moving on to the Finger Lakes we had a Blackcap along the Spit and a single Reed Warbler singing in the Crescent reed bed. On West Fingers the Great Crested Grebe is finally sitting tight on the nest they were busily building last Sunday. Last week batch of 4 Coot chicks is down to 2 and another pair have 4 chicks. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard over towards the Sheep Pen.

Next stop was the Dead Seat where views were obtained of the Grey Heron which has been sitting on the nest for a while now. The other 2 Heron nests have been occupied at various times but mostly by birds just standing around.

At the gate to the Rough, Sedge and Garden Warblers could be heard in the Rough and we had good views of a couple of Chiffchaffs just the other side of the gate. Blackcaps were singing all around us which made it difficult to hear the other birds. We continued down past the Sedgewick Seat and cut through to the New Meadow to check out a Snake's head fritillary which I had spotted earlier in the morning. It's the first one I have ever seen in the park.

We cut back through to the flower meadow and I heard a Willow Warbler singing in the A Section so we cut through to the Navigation Channel pausing to listen to the Willow Warbler, unseen above our heads. While listening a Bullfinch called but despite circling the plantation we did not see either the Willow Warbler or the Bullfinch.

Across the Flower Meadow, now with a good quantity of Cowslips showing we reached the Kissing Gate where a Song Thrush was singing strongly. At the Sewage Works Bridge we stopped to listen to the Sedge Warblers singing in the Reed bed on either side of the bridge. We were also treated to several bursts of song from a Cetti's Warbler at the end of the New Cut. As usual it remained hidden but you can't miss that energetic burst of song!

As we looked for a Sedge Warbler in the reeds a Kingfisher flew upstream under the bridge. Then came one of the stars of the morning as a Peregrine flew over and then circled higher and higher above us before drifting off across the park.

We moved on to 100 Acre but there was little of note on the west side of the big lake. We did pick out a single Little Egret before moving over to the east side of the lake where we had a Common Sandpiper and a couple more Coot families. Little Grebes were seen and were calling regularly. A Common Whitethroat was singing from the hedge between the big lake and Meadow Lane GP. 

At the end of the Meadow Lane Hedge line we looked across the big lake and found a single Greenshank and a Redshank. There was a second Little Egret on the near shore. A couple of Wigeon still remain but will likely move on any day. Our final stop of the day was on the flooded gravel section just before Castle Mill and here we were treated to great views of Redshanks and Oystercatchers. Pied, White and Yellow Wagtails flitted about near the waters edge and a male Wheatear joined them. 

Record shot of a Yellow Wagtail seen on Saturday morning.
A single Swallow flew low over the grass on the opposite side of the water. Several Common Terns rested on the shore. Several Skylarks were heard and we finally spotted one as it climbed high above us singing it's heart out.

With that it was time to turn for home but we were not finished yet as we added Common Buzzard over the old settling lagoons on 100 Acre. We had great views of a Red Kite as it flew, from over the sewage works, low over our heads and then circled low just the other side of the hedge over 100 Acre.

Back at the mouth of the New Cut we heard a Treecreeper and had brief views as it flew across the sewage works bridge. And that really was it as we all headed back to the car park taking in a few more singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs along the New Cut as we went.

The next regular guided bird walk is on Sunday 29th May starting at 9am outside the visitor centre. Before then we have the Dawn Chorus walk on Sunday May 15th which starts at 4am and the first guided bat walk of the year on Friday the 20th May starting at 9pm. Please note you must book for the bat walk, for contact details click here.