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.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

16th April 2016

Plenty of migrants around the park over the last week or so. Weather has been variable with plenty of rain and some sun. Saturday it was the turn of the rain and although miserable for us humans it seemed to bring in the birds.

There were a lot of hirundines over the main lake when I arrived, mainly Sand Martins but a few Swallows mixed in. Swallows seemed to increase as I watched the flock skimming low over the water, many perched up on the buoys for a rest. Many of the Swallows were looking a bit worse for wear, hopefully there will be enough insects about so they can feed up and return to A1 condition for the breeding season.

Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps are now in, in good numbers. I heard a single Lesser Whitethroat singing by the Labyrinth on Saturday morning. No Common Whitethroats in the park yet although DK had one on 100 Acre in the week.

The Finger Lakes Great Crested Grebes seem to have worked out what they are doing, nest building has kicked into high gear with occasional pauses for mating.

Mating Grebes
The neighbouring Coots already have 4 chicks but border wars continue with the Coots one door down!
Coot making a splash on the edge of his territory
Other species also have young by the looks of this Woodpigeon egg that I noticed floating on the Finger Lakes on Sunday morning. The neat edge indicates a successful hatching rather than a predation. The adult bird would then have carried the shell away from the nest to avoid attracting predators to the area. 
Wood Pigeon egg.
I was hoping to photograph the Grebes on Sunday morning as we had a lovely clear start to the day but they were much too busy with the nest building and mating to bother coming in front of the camera. The Coots were a little less shy and the male Mute Swan (Orange 180) did a quick check of his territory.


Mute Swan
As usual 100 Acre is the star location at the moment with a good variety of wildfowl and waders. Wigeon numbers are way down and I expect the last few to depart anytime. A pair of Red-crested Pochards have been around for the couple of weeks at least so wondering if they may nest if they haven't already. With all of the flood water waders have been stopping off as they pass by on their journeys north. On Saturday morning there were 14 Dunlins along with a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, a couple of Greenshanks, a Redshank and the usual Oystercatchers.

It's always worth looking through the Wagtail flocks at this time of year and on Saturday, with the Pied Wagtails there were a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a couple of White Wagtails.

White Wagtail
A couple of Wheatears were my first of the year and on Castle Mill there was a single Shelduck which I always like to see.

Back to the park and it's that time of year again so the rangers have started the egg oiling to control the Canada Goose numbers. The main lake island was the first port of call and the numbers show that we really need to keep doing this work to keep the numbers down.

Canada 40 nests – 234 eggs treated.

The following nests were noted but left alone.

One Greylag nest – didn’t count the eggs.

One Egyptian Goose nest with 6 eggs.

One Swan nest.

At least 6 mallard nests.

The Canada Goose eggs are oiled and left in the nest so the adults keep sitting but the eggs won't hatch. If the eggs were just taken away the Geese would likely lay again so the rangers would have to keep visiting each nest to remove eggs throughout the season. There will be plenty more to do, all along the river as far up stream as Queens Park. There will be some that don't get found but at least we won't have hundreds of extra geese this year.

Canada Goose

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Catch Up - 7th April 2016

Since the Easter weekend we have had plenty of new arrivals on the birding front.

29/03 - Fem. Common Scoter (DK)
30/03 - Willow Warbler, Blackcap, House Martin (DK)
04/04 - Sedge Warbler (DK), Black Redstart (Sewage Works, TP)
05/04 - Common Tern (DK)

The Common Scoter was on the main lake on the Thursday and Friday of the same week. Interestingly I had a Common Scoter at Box End Park on the Wednesday, was this the same bird that was at Priory the rest of the week?

I was in the park on Sunday with the volunteer group. This month we cleared out the Leat to help prevent future flooding. The group worked well and managed to get the full section done between the Leat pool and pipe under the path between the main lake and Press Mead.

I spent today with the Jon B and a couple of the Thursday volunteers. This time we were in the Cut clearing litter and some of the branches and other debris. Again this prevents possible flooding as debris gradually builds up if left and dams the flow. We dragged out an old bike and a huge piece of foam along with as much of the plastic waste as we could get hold of. Our reward for the work was a Kingfisher and biggest pile of Otter poo I've ever seen. The spraint site we found was obviously well used and very recently as well. There were also loads of foot prints all around the area. On the other bank Jon found some fish remains.

Earlier I had a quick wander around with DK and managed my first Common Tern and Sedge Warbler of the year. The Sedge Warbler was singing at the Sewage Works bridge but remained hidden in the reed bed, much like the Cetti's Warbler which was also singing well in the same area. The Common Tern was over the main lake. A Red Kite was an early visitor over the south side of the main lake and 4 Oystercatchers chased around the main lake island. A good size flock, 100+, of Sand Martins arrived early on over the main lake.

DK had the following notables:

20 Chiffchaffs
15 Willow Warblers
12 Blackcaps
2 Sedge Warblers (one was in the SW corner of the main lake to add to the sewage works bird)
1 Swallow