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.
The warm weather continues and for once, on a guided walk day, it was calm making it a little easier to hear the birds. As usual I got down to the park nice and early and was treated to a beautiful sun rise over the New Meadow.
New Meadow sun rise
As I continued along the main path I spotted 4 Little Egrets heading south over the main lake, most likely having left the roost in the Finger Lakes. There were good numbers of Mute Swans on the main lake with 76 counted and approx 41 Canada Geese. Quite a few Mute Swans were at the Beach making it easy to collect their orange ring numbers to feed back to the BTO.
Here is Orange 500 who, it seems, has lost the territorial battle for the Finger Lakes with Orange 180. Orange 500 is still associating with a ringed (no Orange Darvic) male but they were both on the beach this morning. At one point they headed across towards Fingers but then seemed to think better of it and went back to the beach. Orange 180 and partner remain on Fingers
Orange 500 on vacation!
A quick check over at the Canoe Slalom got me just a single Grey Wagtail this morning and back at Fingers there were just a few Gadwalls, Single Little Grebe and a Wigeon of note. Along with DK I headed round to the Rough where EG was ringing along with Dave and Vic who were helping out today. They came back from a net round, just after we arrived, with a good haul of birds. It's mostly Blue and Great Tits now with a few Blackcaps and the odd Chiffchaff and Dunnock. EG's tape of Goldcrest failed to attract any of that species to the nets although, as we were to find out a little later, they weren't far away.
I headed off to the visitor centre to meet everyone arriving for the guided walk, 15 people today! After a very brief introduction we headed straight back to the Rough for a ringing demo. We were lucky to see a variety of birds in hand, mostly Tits again but Blackcap and Chiffchaff were also caught. Star bird was a beautiful Treecreeper which is always a great bird to see up close as they are so hard to see well in the wild. A cracking Robin was a nice way to finish with the ringers and we headed off with big smiles on our faces.
The smiles got even bigger as we came across 4 Goldcrests feeding in the trees about 25 yards from the Rough. They didn't seem at all bothered about EG's tape!
We then headed over to 100 Acre. I had pretty high hopes having had a Stonechat over there yesterday morning and I wasn't disappointed. First off we checked out the big lake where Wigeon are present in good numbers now and we also had a party of Barnacle Geese, seeming regular visitors from Willington GP in recent weeks. Then, as I was going over the details of the eclipse plumage of the male Wigeon, Jean spotted a Kingfisher which was perched in a small Willow on the edge of the island. I got the scope set up on him and he gave a nice display of fishing technique along with front and back views for everybody before departing. A couple of Snipes were seen as they flew from the edge of the lake as we moved up to get a better look at the Barnacle Geese.
We continued round to the section where we had the Stonechat yesterday and I started scanning the fence line for any perched birds. I quickly located a bird towards the end of the fence line and got the scope onto it. This was a Stonechat but it was quickly joined by a Wheatear and then a second. As I started getting people onto the birds I spotted a dog walker heading towards the area and despite waving of arms she was oblivious to the birds she was flushing. Fortunately at first they flushed along the fence line towards us and we identified at least 2 Stonechats and 3 Wheatears before they finally gave up and flew off into the field.
We also had a couple of Little Egrets, a Green Sandpiper and several Meadow Pipits and Skylarks in this very productive section.
Our final treat back in the park was a couple of Common Buzzards on a thermal high over the Finger Lakes, our first raptors of the day although Vic had seen a Kestrel earlier on 100 Acre which went unseen by the rest of us.
Thanks to everyone who came today, the next bird walk is on Sunday 26th October at 9am. Meet outside the visitor centre as usual.
Things have been bumbling along nicely at Priory over recent weeks with definite signs that migration is picking up in the last couple of weeks.
On Tuesday the 9th of September I accepted an invitation to join the bat group at Priory for a trapping session and was fortunate to be there when a Nathusius Pipistrelle was captured. More details here: http://www.bedsbatgroup.org.uk/wordpress/?p=8949
I spent a little time photographing dragonflies before the bat group arrived and managed a couple of nice shots of Migrant Hawkers.
In the last couple of weeks there have been more signs that migration is under way with the arrival of good numbers of Lapwings on 100 Acre, Golden Plovers in small numbers and the first autumn Wheatear.
Wheatear (100 Acre)
Snipe numbers have also increased and the last of the Yellow Wagtails seem to have moved on along with the House Martins and Sand Martins. A few Swallows can usually be seen, either feeding around the park or passing through. Also listen out for Meadow Pipits and Skylarks which are trickling through in small numbers at present.
On the duck front Teals and the occasional Shovelers are beginning to show up fairly regularly and Little Grebes are moving back into the park after their "summer break". Gadwall numbers are variable but usually around the 30 mark. A Pintail has also been recorded on the main lake this week per DK.
Continue to look out for the roving Tit flocks and associated Warblers, Goldcrests and Treecreepers. We picked up a couple of Willow Warblers in one of these flocks at the weekend which is getting quite late for this species.
There have also been a couple of Otter sightings in recent weeks. These have both been from the STW bridge looking up stream on the back river in the morning between about 8 and 9am.
At the neighbouring Willington Gravel Pits the annual Starling roost has kicked with reasonable numbers of birds present but expected to increase as continental birds come into the country for the winter. Let's hope our continental neighbours have a hard winter so we get really big numbers of Starlings into roost this winter.
The next guided bird walk is this Sunday (28th) meet at 9am outside the visitor centre. Please note we are back to a 9am start now we are into the Autumn/Winter period, ideal for those of you who like a lay in!