Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Week

What a difference a year makes. This time last year we had a lot of snow, temperatures below freezing day and night and ice covering all of the lakes excepting a small area kept open, on the main lake, by the Swans. This week we have temperatures into double figures during the day and not even a night time frost!

I spent Wednesday and Thursday coppicing in the park with Nicky. We cut back the trees nearest the path between the Rough and the main lake and further along past the Steps. Before we started on Thursday I went round to Kramer hide before first light and found 10 Little Egrets still at roost. The last one left at just after 8am and headed north after initially going south.

I arrived early again this (Saturday) morning and was in time to see the Jackdaws leave the roost in good numbers. A Kingfisher was seen in the north east corner of the main lake. There was even a synchronised departure as groups around Fingers and on Kings Mead left at the same time as myself and JA walked along the Navigation Channel. Despite arriving at Kramer hide before 8am all the Little Egrets were gone, just a few white feathers to show they had been there.

We walked back around to the Crescent and met up with DK along the Spit. There was little to see on Fingers, just a pair of Gadwall on the east lake and a pair of Shoveler and 3 Teal on the west lake. A party of Lapwing (~40) passed over south as we headed along the main path to the Steps. It was very quiet along by the Rough but as we turned to head down to the Sedgewick seat I spotted a Goldcrest in the Elders. 3 Teal flew up from Fingers as we continued alongside the Sheep Pen. Passed the Sedgewick Seat JA spotted a Great-spotted Woodpecker in the Sheep Pen and as we looked at that a Green Woodpecker flew from the big Willows behind the seat.

We continued our circuit and stopped to checkout Kings Mead where there was a small group of Canada Geese and a single Greylag Goose (we'd had 3 Greylags over north east earlier). Back at Kramer hide and it was still very quiet, none of the expected Shoveler or Teal, but a Water Rail was a morning highlight.

Continuing back along the navigation channel I spotted some birds in the top of the plantation behind the beach and with the aid of the scope these were identified as Fieldfare (40+). Along the canoe slalom we unexpectedly picked up a Grey Wagtail, despite 2 dogs running up and down the slalom course. We also had 20 Redwing in the Willows over by the Barns hotel.

Next stop was the main lake hide for a wildfowl count. 30+ Pochard, 20+ Tufted Ducks, 22 Cormorants, 3 Wigeon and 9 Great Crested Grebes was the result. There was also a good number of Coots and Gulls including 9 Common Gulls, the rest being Black-headed Gulls. We had a mixed party of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls over earlier.

We checked Fenlake for the Stonechat but is was a no show again, we did have a number of Snipe and 80+ Lapwing. Little else then until we reached the north west corner where a Goldcrest was calling from the pines.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Guided Walk

This morning was bright and breezy but the bird life didn't disappoint, with the highlight being 2 Northern Pintail on the main lake. We headed off down the west side of the main lake which was very quiet, but at the fishing swim a pair of Wigeon were close in the bank, giving us good views through the scope. Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Coot and Common Gull were also seen. Parties of 40 and 25 Lapwing passed over south. Several other smaller groups were seen during the morning.

As we moved off I heard a Reed Bunting calling and located it in the tree by the reed bed, the scope revealed a rather drab male. We continued around the corner and while watching a couple of Moorhen under the Willows a Kingfisher flew across the corner of the lake.

We had very good views of another Gadwall close in along the south side and a little further along we stopped to have a look at the Pochard but I spotted 2 Pintail on the edge of the group of ducks so we had a good look at those before checking out the Pochard.

We had a brief stop to look over at Fenlake but were unable to spot anything other than Lapwing, which were feeding across the far side of the meadow. On Saturday we had seen the Stonechat perched up on the fence but it failed to show today.

At the main lake hide we added a couple more species of Gull with a single Lesser Black-backed Gull and three Herring Gulls (1 first winter). Pochard were a little closer giving reasonable views but the Pintail had gone along with some of the Wigeon and Tufted Ducks. These had probably been put up by the sailing club members who had arrived.

Black-headed Gull, Cormorant and Great-crested Grebe completed the main lake list so we headed off towards Fingers. A party of Log-tailed Tits were noisy but elusive along the navigation channel. At Kramer hide Shoveler and Teal showed well, as did a Grey Heron in the fallen Willow. On Kingsmead a small party of Canada Geese were present but the 2 Greylags, which I had seen earlier, had departed. Half a dozen Cormorants were roosting in the usual trees on the far side of Kingsmead.

Just before the Sedgewick Seat we had a Treecreeper in one of the Willows and a Green Woodpecker flew  into the large Willows behind the seat before departing across the Sheep Pen. At the Dead Seat we came across the remains of a Sparrowhawk's dinner, on the picnic table. A lot of feathers, a leg and the beak identified the victim as a Bullfinch. A party of Goldfinch were chattering as we walked down along side the Rough.

From the Steps we headed back along the main path and cut across the New Meadow to the car park and the Visitor Centre where we finished of the walk with good views of Dunnock, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinch in the staff car park.

Many thanks to those that joined me on the walk this morning, hope you all enjoyed it. Next one is Sunday the 29th January at 9am. Meet by the Visitor Centre.

This mornings full list, including those seen by me before the walk started:

Black-headed Gull
Mute Swan
Tufted Duck
Canada Goose
Greylag Goose
Song Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great-spotted Woodpecker
Wood Pigeon
Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
Water Rail (west Fingers)
Teal (at least 4, 2 pairs)
Shoveler (at least 4, 1 pair and 2 other males)
Great Tit
Kingfisher (east Fingers and main lake, south west corner)
Grey Heron
Long-tailed Tit
Wigeon (at least 7)
Lapwing (40, 25, +)
Reed Bunting
Pintail (2 males)
Herring Gull (2 adults, 1 first winter)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
House Sparrow
Collared Dove

41 Species, not bad given we didn't manage a raptor or a Fieldfare this morning, the Pintail were a bonus.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wed/Thurs 21st and 22nd December

Spent a couple more days in Putnoe Wood. The days couldn't have been more different, weather wise, with overcast and drizzle on Wednesday and clear and sunny on Thursday. There were a few more species to add to the list of birds seen and heard:

Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Carrion Crow

Black-headed and Common Gulls were seen on the football pitches by the wood.

The Woodpeckers were particularly active on the Thursday with several GSW drumming all day and lots of squabbles over territory. The Greens put in an appearance right by us at lunch time. In fact the good weather  seemed to bring out the birds, with much more activity throughout the day in general.

Grey Squirrels are also doing very well, I don't think I have seen so many concentrated in one area before, and that's saying something!

There were also quite a few fungi about including this nice little group:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday 20th December

Spent the day, with the rangers, coppicing in Putnoe Wood. This wood is managed on an 8 year cycle, meaning there are 8 plots each being processed once in 8 years. Although it looks harsh it has the effect of opening up the lower levels of the wood to more light which improves the conditions for the woodland flowers such as Bluebells. Also it is just a relatively small area of the wood that is affected each year. There is a lot of cut timber left at the moment but this will be processed by the BTCV early next year. They will take much of the material for fencing on other projects and the remainder will be used for dead hedging in the wood.

As usual I arrived at the Wood a little early and checked out the bird life. The morning was bright with a cold wind so the wood provided good shelter and the birds seemed to be enjoying it with many species seen and heard throughout the day including:

Great-spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Coal Tit
Sparrowhawk (JB)
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Goldcrest (JB)

bedsbirds : Message: Priory today

bedsbirds : Message: Priory today:

'via Blog this'

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday 17th December

Chilly again this morning, west Fingers frozen, but the rest of the lakes were free of ice. Met up with JA in the car park. It was still a bit dark on arrival so tricky to pick out much on the main lake but Gadwall and Tufted Ducks were present along with the regulars. From the Dipping platform it was obvious that a few more Pochard had shown up this week, still low numbers though.

On west Fingers a pair of Shoveler and a pair of Gadwall were making use of a couple of ice free corners, on the east side the Mute Swan Family were present but no sign of any Little Grebes. Bullfinch was heard along the Spit, and a Water Rail was heard squealing, probably on the island between east Fingers and Kramer.

Along the Navigation Channel we found a single Little Grebe and on Kingsmead the cattle feed buckets were proving popular with 7 Magpies and 2 Pheasants. A couple of Carrion Crows were picking over a dead Magpie. 30 Canada Geese were grazing on Kingsmead.

Before we got to Kramer hide we spotted 7 Shoveler through the gap between east and west Fingers. At Kramer hide there were a couple of Greylags with 4 Canada Geese. 4 of the Shoveler flew in, probably flushed by DK as he walked along the Spit. We watched a male Sparrowhawk and a Magpie hassling each over for several minutes, the Sparrowhawk was the aggressor most of the time for a change. A large flock of Fieldfare passed over south, filling the patch of sky we could see from the hide. JA estimated 200 which tallied with DK's estimate when we met up later.

A walk up to 100 Acre had little reward. There were more Canada Geese, some Mute Swans and Gulls. Some tree planting had taken place with a small group on the north side of the small lake.

On the way back into the park a Bullfinch was calling very loudly by the Kissing Gate.We cut through the wood and around to the Rough where Ed and Dave were ringing with DK keeping score. We were just in time to see a Goldcrest, freshly caught. It never fails to amaze me how small these birds are. You really wonder how they manage to survive through the winter, especially the last 2 really cold ones.

Having chatted for a while we left Ed and Dave and continued around Fingers. A Kingfisher flew from the Willow in the north east corner of the main lake, cutting across the main path and over east Fingers.At the main lake hide we found 11 Pochard (2f). I guess the rangers are feeding the ducks now as a party of Mallards came over when we arrived at the hide. There were a couple of Teal out towards the island. A Kingfisher performed a nice fly past for us in the hide.

Good numbers of Coot remain, 30+ Gadwall and about 12 Tufted Ducks were all in the south west corner. Blackbirds, Robins and the odd Song Thrush were the bulk of the sightings along the west side. Once again no Blackcaps despite the large crop of Ivy Berries along the old Priory wall. The Fenlake Stonechat was also AWOL again.

Don't forget the Boxing day guided walk, meet at the visitor centre at 9am and walk off the Xmas day excess!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This week

Sunday 4th: 51 Cormorants and 9 Little Egrets came to roost.
Monday 5th: 50 Gadwalls. Six Little Egrets (roost), ten Corn Buntings (roost); 1 Common Buzzard; 17 Pied Wagtails over southwest to roost somewhere
Tuesday 6th: Stonechat on Fenlake. Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming; eight Little Egrets (roost) only 3 Corn Buntings at roost.
Wednesday 7th: 45 Cormorants and 11 Little Egrets at roost (site best).
Thursday 8th: 80 Lapwings for 'dawn display'; two Treecreepers together on 'the crescent'.
Friday 9th: female Blackcap; 40 Blackbirds.

Thanks to DK for this.

Saturday 10th December

After a cold night the morning was bright and cold with a covering of frost on the grass and some ice on the main lake. I could hear the Gadwall on the main lake before I got to it. There weren't as many as there have been in recent weeks and no sign of any Wigeon. Tufted Ducks and a few Pochard were also present. Down at the Finger lakes the west lake was iced over with just a small pocket of open water at the north end where some Gadwall were hiding. DK joined JA and myself along the Spit. There was no sign of the Little Grebes on the east lake but a Greylag and 14 Canada Geese were getting some grief from the resident Mute Swans. From the Crescent we watched a party of Goldfinch in the Alders but there were no Siskins or Redpoll with them.

DK continued his usual circuit while JA and myself headed along the Navigation Channel. At Kramer hide we had a couple of Shoveler and a Water Rail called. Up at the STW bridge there wasn't much happening on 100 Acre. We had a party of 30+ Goldfinch and a pair of Reed Buntings as well as the usual Geese, Swans and Gulls. On the way back across the bridge we spotted 4 Greenfinch in the Willows along the Cut.

Along the Woodland Walk we had at least one Treecreeper. In the Long Hedge, just before the entry into Fingers, we came across a flock of Long-tailed Tits and closer inspection turned up a Goldcrest. We cut around past the Sedgewick Seat and the Rough and at the Dead Seat we spied 3 Teal on west Fingers.

There was little else of note until we headed up the west side of the main lake where a Sparrowhawk dived into the hedge but came up empty, better luck next time.

In the afternoon I joined the volunteers at Mowsbury Hill Fort for a bit of scrub clearance. This site is one of many now managed by the Priory Rangers. Bullfinch and Redwing were seen/heard during the session.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

4th December - Volunteer Task

I arrived at the park just after 7 this morning. The wind was biting cold but the bird life warmed me up :-)

A quick walk down the main path, scanning the main lake as I went, revealed a couple of male Pochard with a single female. There were also Gadwall and Tufted Ducks present but it was too dark to determine numbers. A Wigeon was also present, given away by its whistling call. A probable Water Rail flew from the north side reed bed to the island. The Jackdaw roost got up at about 7:20am and swirled around over the main lake. I estimate around 1500 birds, possibly more, present this morning. As they swirled around small groups kept breaking away and leaving for the feeding grounds, other broke off and then re-joined. Sometimes they settled back in the roost trees on the south side before getting up again. This continued for quite some time and a flock of Lapwing (~65) came in from the north east and joined the party, swirling over the main lake. This also continued on for quite a while with the Lapwing gradually gaining more and more height before departing back the way they came.

Four Greylag Geese also came over from the north east, heading south. At Fingers 2 Little Egrets were still on roost in the usual trees at the north end of the Spit. I could see very little on west Fingers but the distinctive quack gave them away. I walked down the Spit and turned down the slope to the Crescent and spotted a dark bird flying from the Spit towards the Crescent, across east Fingers, the binoculars showed the silhouette of a Water Rail. I hurried across the bridge, into position on the Crescent path, just in time to see the Water Rail dash across the path and into the reed bed. No sign of any Corn Buntings leaving the reed bed but I may have been a little early. Back on the main path and a Kingfisher was calling from the south east corner of the main lake. I headed back along the main path, towards the VC. Only one of the Little Egrets was left and that departed as I watched, flying to the south east corner of the main lake and stopping there for a while. It's amazing how difficult these white birds are to see at distance, albeit in low light, you would thing they would stand out more, but to the naked eye you could easily have missed them in the trees.

At least 2 Green Woodpeckers were heard around Fingers.

Next stop was the Visitor Centre to get ready for the days volunteer task and the BBQ kindly put on by the Rangers. We did some coppicing and scrub clearance in the W plantation, opening up the glades on either side of the path through the wood. The guys working by the path did a great job dead hedging the edge of the path so no excuses for straying off the marked route for that section.

Highlight of the day for me, other than the BBQ, was a singing Mistle Thrush, initially heard over towards Kingsmead, it came closer and was finally seen flying over us towards the Sheep Pen, rattling as it went. It sang again from the Sheep Pen area. Also a Great-spotted Woodpecker kept it's eye on us most of the day.

Thanks to the Rangers and volunteer Alan for providing the food for the BBQ, and thanks to all the volunteers this year for the hard work put in all around the park.

Next task is Sunday the 8th January starting at 9am and finishing around 3pm. If you fancy joining us but can't do the whole day, feel free to come down for a morning or afternoon. Even just an hour or two is appreciated by all, just let the Rangers know before hand so they can let you know where will be working.

Contact details can be found here.  

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Saturday 3rd December

The rain pushed through early on and left us with a bright and breezy morning. Once again it was pretty quiet in the park. All of the regulars were about but keeping their heads down out of the wind. On the main lake we had a pair of Wigeon, a single male Pochard, 9 Tufted Ducks and 34 Gadwall. We also had a Kingfisher on the south side and 2 Little Egrets in the South East corner early on, 1 of which departed to the north east. By the time we left a large number of Gulls had accumulated on the main lake, mostly Black-headed (1 sporting a black head and 2 others with very grey heads). There were also good numbers of Common Gulls this morning and a single Herring Gull.

Fingers was very quiet again with just 6 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 3 Teal and 4 Little Grebe. The Mute Swan family  were in residence as usual.

A walk up to 100 Acre was a bit of a let down after last weekends Lapwing display we only managed 4 this week. There were large numbers of Canada Geese on the fields east of the big lake with a few over by the small lake. There were some Tufted Ducks on the big lake, tucked in under the near bank. There was at least one Little Grebe on each lake.

We failed to find a Grey Wagtail on the Canoe Slalom and the Fenlake Stonechat failed to show again.

DK had 6 Goosanders and a Redpoll on the 1st.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blackbird Recovery

News came through yesterday of a Blackbird ringed at Priory Country Park on 9th December 2009 as a juvenile male. Unfortunately, it had met a sad end - this is a common way for ringers to find out what happens to some of our birds. The fortune this time was on our side as it had made its way to FINLAND!

It was found on 23rd September 2011, at Vistanvagen, Soderudden, Vaasa, Finland - 653 days after it was ringed in Bedford - a distance of 1775km in a North Easterly direction.

Details of the ringing session this bird was caught on can be found here (it was the first bird caught that day).

Under Rydon Hill: I'm Finnished again

Under Rydon Hill: I'm Finnished again:

'via Blog this'

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday 28th November


Shelduck on the main lake. Gadwalls down to 19. 105 L/H Gulls SW. Best of all were three Blackcaps (2m + 1f) behind the sailing club. Knapweed still in flower. (Per DK).

Nice male and female Goosander; 4 Little Egrets at roost and 15 Corn Buntings. Water Rail, Kingfisher etc..(Per DK).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guided Walk - Sunday 27th November

Just back from the guided walk this morning, a really good turn out, shame the same could not be said for the birds. There was a really strong wind and a few showers rattled through early on, before the walk. Another heavy shower came through just as we started the walk, thanks very much!

With the strong winds it was always going to be hard finding stuff so we started off with a look around the main lake where the winter ducks could be relied upon. From the south west corner we had Gadwall and Wigeon along with the usual Coots and Mute Swans. A Kingfisher flew across the south west corner but hid in the Willows so we were unable to get a good look. We continued around the corner in the hope we might see it but failed to find it through the mass of branches. Some of the group spotted it a little further along the south side.

Along the south side we found Pochard and Tufted Ducks along with a couple more Wigeon and plenty more Gadwall and Coots. A small party of Long-tailed Tits gave good views as they moved through the Willows.

We cut through to the river to have a look over Fenlake Meadows for the Stonechat but unsurprisingly it didn't show. With the winter wildfowl zone now closed off we walked around Pressmead which was very quiet until a flock of Lapwing passed overhead (a very rough estimate of 100).

We continued along the east side of the main lake where a very bold Robin showed well on the fence, showing little fear of us. The Little Grebes on Fingers failed to show and we blanked at Kramer hide as well. We continued along the Navigation Channel and a couple of Cormorants were in the usual tree on Kingsmead.

Up at the Sewerage Treatment Works we waited on the bridge in the hope of another Kingfisher but no joy and the Lapwings from yesterday, on 100 Acre, were conspicuous by their absence. A bit of a theme developing :-(

Back in the park we cut through the Woodland Walk and had Bullfinch calling about half way along. We cut through Fingers, passed the Sedgewick Seat and cut across the meadows back to the car park. Another Bullfinch was calling in the scrub around the car park but again it wouldn't show itself.

So not a huge success this morning. Many thanks to all those who came, both old and new faces, hope to see you again on a future walk.

Next walk is Boxing Day at 9am, meet at the visitor centre.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday 26th November

After a bright start and a beautiful sunrise the wind got up and it was quite cool this morning. I met up with JA along the main path who had already had Wigeon on the main lake. 42 Lapwing were circling over the park. Further along the main path we stopped at the dipping platform and found a couple of Tufted Ducks over by the hide.

At Fingers the 3 Little Grebe were in their usual corner. 3 Redwing were flushed from the hedge as we walked along the Spit and a couple of Shoveler, female and eclipse male, were spotted over by the Dead Seat. Met up with DK at the end of the Spit where half a dozen Gadwall were found. DK headed off to the Rough while myself and JA headed up the east side of Fingers. JA spotted a fourth Little Grebe in the south east corner, the other three were up the north end by this time.

We continued out to the cycle track and checked out 100 Acre. There were 67 Canada Geese on the big lake with another large group grazing at the north end of the lake. A good number of Black-headed Gulls were also present but little else could be seen. While I was counting the Geese a Chiffchaff was calling from a little further along the track. We continued on past Meadow Lane GP to the new fields before the bypass which were empty. From the Bridge over the bypass we could see 16 Tufted Ducks along with some Coot on the Tern Pool.

We turned and headed back along the cycle track and suddenly had ~100 Golden Plover overhead. They looked like they were coming down to the new fields but ended up circling before heading off towards Willington. A Snipe flew over heading towards 100 Acre and a Sparrowhawk was spotted heading in the opposite direction, back towards the bypass. As we got back to 100 Acre we noticed a lot of Lapwing in the air, conservative estimates were of about 700 birds. They provided quite a spectacle as they swirled about over the big lake. There were also a dozen Pochard, a couple of Little Grebe and 7 Teal on the big lake. There were a further 5 Teal on the small lake and a male Reed Bunting gave good views whilst it fed on the seed heads by the cycle track. ~20 Goldfinch were quite mobile in the same area.

We continued over the New Cut and along the southern edge of Riverside but had little else of note before we arrived back at the car park.

Guided Walk tomorrow, hope the wind dies down, doesn't look like it will though. Should be plenty to see though, meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday 25th November

Stonechat back again 'in its usual spot' after the mowing. (per DK).

For those who don't know "its usual spot" is Fenlake Meadows, usually showing on the fence.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday 24th November

Back from yet another day in the park working with Danny and Nicky on Fingers lake, coppicing the "Fingers". Danny and Nicky had been out yesterday and cleared all of the brash left over from Tuesdays endeavours, so we cracked on with clearing the second Finger. A large Willow proved problematic to fell which slowed us down a little but we cleared a reasonable amount and got rid of all the brash on the fire.

Not much to report on the wildlife front although we were treated to views of 2 Kingfishers chasing across east Fingers as we boated out to the Fingers to begin work.

Earlier I met up with DK and we had most of the Duck species we would expect at this time of year, Gadwall, Tufted, Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal. we also had a small flock of Lapwing circling over the main lake. The 3 Little Grebe were present as usual in the south east corner of east Fingers. Redwing were present in reasonable numbers in the Rough and along the west side of Fingers lake and I also had a flock of 20 in the area behind the visitor centre before I met up with the rangers. A Mink was seen on west Fingers at the south end.

The next volunteer day is rapidly approaching on Sunday 4th December. This will be some selective coppicing in the woodland walk plantation. Join us between 10am and 2pm.  

Irresponsible Dog Owners Beware..

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday 22nd November

Just back from a day in the park, working on a couple of the "Fingers" of Fingers Lake with Nicky and Danny. Beforehand I had a quick look around Fingers and had 32 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 15 Teal and 3 Little Grebe. There were a couple of Wigeon and 5 Tufted Ducks on the main lake.

Back to task of the day, we continued the coppicing work that has commenced on the 2 Fingers this year. Danny took down a couple of the larger Willows on the Finger, the Rangers had already worked on. Meanwhile myself and Nicky started cutting our way onto the next Finger. By the end of the day the first Finger had a covering of brash ready to be burned on the next visit and the second Finger had a clear path down the middle, allowing better access for the chainsaw.

This work is part of a regular cycle where up to 3 of the Fingers are coppiced each year.

While we sat and ate our lunch a Water Rail was heard squealing over at the south end of Fingers, or possibly the Crescent. 15 Redwing passed over south east.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday 19th November

Not much to report on a grey morning in the park. I missed the good stuff which turned up during the week including the Gannet, which was a first for the park (per DK).

Gadwall are still quite numerous with at least 38 today. Half a dozen Wigeon and at least 5 Shoveler were also noted along with 8 Teal. Just a single male Pochard though hanging about with a dozen Tufted Ducks. A couple of Little Grebes were present on east Fingers. JA spotted a Kingfisher along the Canoe Slalom but, for the second week running, no Grey Wagtail here. The Stonechat, on Fenlake Meadows last week, was also not to be found. We had a single Fieldfare in one of the Poplars in the Sheep Pen and DK had 15 over a little earlier. A pair of Bullfinch were present along the edge of the Rough.

So pretty quiet on a cool grey morning, let's hope it picks up for next weeks guided walk, meet at the Visitor Centre on Sunday the 27th at 9am.

In the afternoon I joined the Putnoe Woods group with Ranger Jane to do a little coppicing. We managed to clear a reasonable area but there is still a lot to do. The cakes were a bonus, thanks to Jane and many happy returns. :-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday 17th November

Following per DK:

A Red-breasted Merganser made a short visit and departed at 0913 after staying for only a few minutes.
Also: 145 Fieldfares S; 64 Herring Gulls south (the biggest movement by far for us this year); 34 Gadwalls; 38 Cormorants; 44 Lapwings over; 1 L. Redpoll; 1 Grey Wagtail, 20 Common Gulls; two Goldcrests and five Wigeon. (Four Little Egrets, 9 Corn Buntings and a Water Rail yesterday evening.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Friends of Putnoe Woods and Mowsbury

As you may, or may not know, the Priory Rangers manage a number of the green spaces around Bedford, One of those being Putnoe Woods at Mowsbury Park. A new Friends group has been setup to help with some of the tasks and there are a couple of volunteer days coming.
  • Wednesday 16th November 1 - 3pm - Coppicing in Putnoe Wood
  • Saturday 19th November 1 - 3pm - Coppicing in Putnoe Wood

Meet up by the play area in the car park off Wentworth Drive at Mowsbury Park.

Please contact the Rangers for further details: Contact Us

Tuesday 15th November

Following per DK:

The Gannet departed at 0944 this morning (unless its come back again!!) flying over the east end of the lake and off in the direction of Willington. Also two separate Shelducks northeast, a Water Rail and nine Lesser Redpolls in the crescent area. Also seen: Grey Wagtail, 1 Siskin, 1 Goldcrest, 28 Lapwings SW, 12 Tufted Ducks NE, 5 Tufted Ducks and four Wigeon on main lake.

Late afternoon: 19 Corn Buntings and 4 Little Egrets in to roost.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday 12th November

Another lovely morning in the park with the early mist clearing quickly to leave a bright morning which warmed up quite nicely towards the end. I started off with 4 Meadow Pipits over south east and a Water Rail squealing from the island, before meeting up with JA and checking out the main lake. I'd already had a couple of pairs of Gadwall and JA confirmed 16 Shoveler to go with the 5 that disappeared behind the island. With the help of his scope JA found a couple of Tufted Ducks. There was also a single Pochard. An early gull count returned 37 Black-headed and a single Common which increased throughout the morning, DK having in excess of 100 BHG and double figures CG later on.

On Fingers we had another 38 Gadwall, along with 5 Teal and a couple of Little Grebe. A Kingfisher perched up in the Willows over by the Dead Seat, giving good views. From the east side of Fingers I spotted a large flock of Woodpigeons, to the west, heading south, ~260. At Kramer hide we were distracted by a commotion in one of the trees on the opposite side of the river. Several Blackbirds were expressing their displeasure at something in the tree. On closer inspection Blue Tit, Wren, Chaffinch and Robin were also mobbing something in the tree. Unfortunately whatever it was, they were mobbing, will remain a mystery as it was on the other side of the tree, could it have been an Owl?

We headed up to the railway bridge at the STW and had 37 Black-headed Gulls on the power lines. On the 100 Acre big lake, more Gulls along with 9 Tufted Ducks and at least 5 Little Grebes.

Back to the park and pretty quiet although we did have a Skylark over west. A number of Skylarks were heard throughout the morning but we often struggled to locate them. Wagtails were regularly spotted overhead going in various directions, so probably locals. No sign of the usual Grey Wagtail on the Canoe Slalom so we cut back through to the main lake hide and met up with DK. Little to add on the duck front but Coots and Cormorants are still around in good numbers with the Cormorants using the trees on the south side as their roost, in preference to Kingsmead.

We all headed around Pressmead to have a look over Fenlake and were rewarded with a Stonechat on the fence.

There was little else to add to the morning sightings as we continued around the main lake to the car park. DK revealed he now has a key for the sightings board so this should now be a lot more up to date for anyone visiting. He also revealed that he'd had a Curlew over the previous day and Ranger Danny had reported a Jay.

Plenty of new stuff for the new recent sightings page!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

This weekend 05 & 06 November

Just back from Priory after a day coppicing in the Sheep Pen. Who needs Gym Membership, I'm totally "cream crackered"!

Anyway what was about I hear you ask?

Yesterday was quite foggy for most of the time I was in the park although it did clear some what just before I left. Met up with JA early on and we headed down to Fingers as we couldn't see to the the other side of the main lake. It was evident that there were quite a few Redwings in the scrub around the Labyrinth and the Rough as their calls could be heard and odd ones were moving across towards the Visitor Centre.

At Fingers there was little to see with just a few Gadwall and a couple of Teal keeping the Mallards, Moorhens and resident Mute Swans company. A Kingfisher passed through as we walked along the Spit.At least three Corn Buntings passed over head, north, (from the crescent roost?) as we stood at the end of the Spit.

I would say it was quiet as we headed along the east side of Fingers, except for the road noise from the bypass which was amplified in the still foggy conditions. Not much to see although we did have some Siskins, and Redwings over, just couldn't see them in the fog!

Up at the old railway bridge over the river we had, what is becoming, our regular Kingfisher siting but we didn't bother going any further along the cycle track as the visibility was so low we wouldn't have seen anything anyway.

We headed back into the park and cut through Fingers, passed the Rough, and Redwings were still calling and moving about in the Willows and around the Rough. Impossible to tell how many but decent numbers given the number of calls. We then did a loop around the south side of the main lake, taking in the Canoe Slalom where the usual single Grey Wagtail was seen. On the main lake we managed to spot 11 Gadwall and 3 Wigeon from the main lake hide. A party of Pochard with a single Tufted Duck flew in for a brief stay before departing north east. A couple more Wigeon flew in when we reached the west side of the lake. There was a single Common Gull in with the Black-headed Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull was also present.

This morning, before the volunteer session started I did a quick loop around the park. Weather was overcast and quite cool with the wind having shifted around so it was coming out of the north. The Redwings had moved on this morning with just the odd one passing over during the morning.

On the main lake 15 Tufted Ducks were feeding together and 5 Pochard were close by. On Fingers there were at least 24 Gadwall, 6 Teal and 3 Wigeon. A Kingfisher was also seen flying over east Fingers. A single Skylark and a Fieldfare passed over as I looped around Fingers. I also spotted 78 Starlings heading south west as I headed down the east side of the main lake. There was nothing new on the main lake although the Tufted Ducks were still present, the Pochard seemed to have left. A single Common Gull was seen again along with the usual Black-headed Gulls.

At 10am I joined the volunteer group and we cleared a large section of the Sheep Pen. Well done and thanks to everyone who helped out today.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday 29th October

It was pretty quiet in the park this morning with little visible sign of migration although Redwings were in evidence as was a single Fieldfare in the dead tree by the bridge at the STW. Most of the winter ducks were present with Gadwall being the biggest group with 15 on the main lake and a couple on Fingers. Also present were 3 Wigeons including a spanking male and 3 Tufted ducks per JA. From Kramer hide we could hear Teals bleating no sign of any Shoveler around the park though. Pochards were present on 100 acre with ~30 and a single Tufted duck  on the big lake. There were a couple of big Goldfinch flocks about ~70 and ~30 around the Meadow Lane GP.

We saw EG in the Rough ringing or at least standing around with the nets up. He'd had hardly anything all morning and the next check of the nets came up blank. We did have 5 Siskins over, towards the crescent, as we stood around chatting. A male Sparrowhawk also passed through without success. Seems the Rough was not the place to be for catching birds this morning.

Highlight of the morning was 9 Corn Buntings leaving the roost in the crescent reed bed at about 08:15. They headed north east over east Fingers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guided Walk 23/10/2011

Just 4 takers for the guided walk today, in overcast and windy conditions, quite warm though. We started off along the main path stopping to watch a party of Cormorants fishing on the main lake. There were 20+ Cormorants around the lake in total with 12+ in the fishing party. Another stop on the main lake dipping platform and we had Pochard, Wigeon and Gadwall in the scope for everyone to see. We moved on to the Finger Lakes and along the Spit where we had better views of Gadwall in the scope. Our presence put the Gadwall to flight (20+ in total) and they continued to circle overhead until we moved on. A Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard calling at the north end of Fingers and the Mute Swan family were together on east Fingers.

Several new information boards have sprung up around the park including one by the Crescent. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing a Marsh Harrier over the reed bed :-)

We continued along the east side of the Finger Lakes and had 4 Skylarks over west. A couple of parties of Redwings moved through south during the morning, numbering ~20. Occasional Meadow Pipits also moved through unseen. We had a brief stop at the Kramer hide, where 11 Mallards were present with some of the males displaying to the females (6/5), the females weren't interested. Another stop along the navigation channel to check out the Cormorant roost, just 3 birds present.

Then we headed out of the park along the NR51 cycle track stopping on the bridge in the hope of Kingfisher. After a short wait I heard a Kingfisher coming down the navigation channel. It circled the reed bed and came up the back river and perched on a reed briefly where all but one of our group had good views before it flew off downstream. One of the group had been across the other side of the bridge looking up stream, missing the action. Fortunately a few minutes later a second bird arrived and perched up in the Willow on the down stream side of the bridge giving all good views before it too departed downstream. While all this was going on several Grey Wagtails were flying about over our heads with one perching on the side of the bridge briefly. There seemed to be quite a few about today with more seen over 100 Acre later.

We continued out along the cycle path and turned off at Meadow Lane GP where we had a Herring Gull and a LBB Gull in the same scope view, providing a good chance to compare and contrast. There was a second LBB Gull along with a good number of BH Gulls and the resident Coots.

We had a look around the big lake on 100 Acre but failed to find any waders. There were a couple of Little Grebes and a Great Crested Grebe. At the north end of the big lake were a number of Carrion Crows feeding along the north edge of the lake. A couple of Jackdaws flew over then I spotted a Common Buzzard which gained height and drifted north over the Elms Industrial Estate. A little later we spotted a second Buzzard a little further down the river towards Castle Mill. We continued across 100 Acre and at the newly planted field, on the left of the cycle track there were 16 Lapwings along with a small roost of BH Gulls and a single LBB Gull. As we continued around the field a 50+ party of Starlings flew in and settled on the overhead lines. Later they spit and about 20 went over the bypass and the rest dropped into the field with the Lapwings. We saw small parties of Goldfinch all around 100 Acre and as we headed back along the cycle track a party of Long-tailed Tits were moving through the shrubs over the old bridge at Meadow Lane.

Back in the park and as we reached the overflow car park a Green Woodpecker flushed from the grass and perched on one of the low posts around the car park giving excellent views in the scope so we were able to identify it as a male. After that we made it back to the car park and the end of the walk. Another excellent walk with some good sightings. The next bird walk is Sunday 27th November at 9am.

A couple of Pied Wagtails were hanging around the Visitor Centre as I waited for people to arrive before the walk this morning.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Saturday 8th October

It was pretty quiet this morning with little obvious sign of migration, just 3 Skylarks east. Compared to the last couple of weeks we struggled for ducks with just 3 Gadwall, on Fingers, along with the usual Mallards.

When we reached the Canoe Slalom things brightened up a little with a single Grey Wagtail in residence.

Grey Wagtail

A Kingfisher flew in and perched up on the concrete side of the canoe slalom but didn't hang around for long. Then as I stalked the Grey Wagtail for a better shot a Kestrel flew over flushing it further along. It was then flushed by a couple of dogs going by.

This Heron was playing hide and seek along the navigation channel.

The following images are from previous visits.

Wood Pigeon 

This Wood Pigeon was perched up nicely on an Alder branch in the Crescent producing a pleasing portrait.


This Snipe was on the edge of the island on the big lake on 100 Acre. Unfortunately it didn't sit tight so I only managed this long distance shot.

Grey Heron 

This amused me and brought to mind the phrase "Like shooting fish in a barrel"!

And finally a lovely sunrise photo over East Fingers. I could have done with being a few minutes earlier to catch the best lighting conditions but this one wasn't too bad.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday 1st October

Another glorious day, one of many in this late summer sizzle. I arrived a little late and missed the duck course, JA and DK already having had Wigeon, Pochard and Gadwall on the main lake. They were only half way along the main path! A large group of Cormorants was just flying in as I joined JA and DK and we were up to at least 24 by the time we left the main lake.

Fingers was a little quiet but Gadwall, Little Grebe and Kingfisher were all seen. DK departed on his usual loop while myself and JA wandered along the Navigation Channel. We watched a couple of Chiffchaffs before being distracted by a Jay flying up the NC toward the Canoe Slalom. Six Greylag Geese flew in over the main lake and did a couple of circuits before five of them returned north. Kramer hide was very quiet with just a handful of Mallards in residence.

Next up was 100 Acre. With the usual minimal returns from the small lake, just a Swan and a Little Grebe, and a seemingly quiet big lake it looked like a strikeout then John spotted a small flock of birds at the far side of the big lake. We cut across the field by Meadow Lane GP where the usual Coots and a couple of Tufted Ducks were in residence.

On the big lake a few Little Grebe and a Tufted Duck were spied before a Snipe on the shore of the island caught our attention, our attempt to get a little closer for a photograph ended in disappointment when the bird flushed at the last minute. Having stalked the Snipe we found the expected Pochard and Tufted Ducks right at the far end of the big lake so not all was lost.

The flock that JA had spotted earlier turned out to be Skylarks of which there were many in the meadow on the far side of the big lake. The hedge nearby held a pair of Bullfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, among other things. The newly ploughed field before the bypass held a couple of Herons and, on closer inspection, a number of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.

Over the bypass and it was more Skylarks with some Reed Buntings for variation. Bird of the morning was a flighty Stonechat on the perimeter of the ploughed field, opposite the Tern Pool, which perched on the top of some thistle heads for a short time before flying off alongside the bypass.

It was starting to warm up by this time so we turned and headed back across the bypass. There was little else of note other than a few more Skylarks, Mipits and Wagtails, of which there seemed to be a steady trickle south throughout the morning.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guided Walk - Sunday 25th September

There was a really good turnout for the guided walk with 11 people joining me this morning. We started off by heading across to the Rough where EG was ringing. Having left him a few minutes earlier I knew he had a good catch and would most likely still have some left to show the group. He had a Bullfinch in hand when we arrived and having processed that he let it go along with 2 others processed earlier as they were a probable family group. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Dunnock followed and then it was off to check the nets again. Ed explained how the birds are caught using a bag as the bird and then we left him to it as he extracted the next batch of birds.

Our next stop was the Spit where a Wigeon and 2 Gadwall were seen along with the resident Mallards, Coots, Moorhens and Mute Swans.

Then we made our way along the Navigation Channel, stopping briefly at Kramer hide, before moving on to view the Cormorant roost on Kingsmead. There were a number of Cormorants on roost including both adults and juveniles but we were distracted, firstly by the squawking of a Jay in the woods and then by a Common Buzzard, drifting over the woods being harassed by a couple of Crows.

We continued along the Navigation Channel across the bridge to the STW entrance to have a look out over 100 Acre. I spotted some Pochard on the big lake so moved further along the cycle track to get a better view. The Pochard were with a few Tufted Ducks (30/11). A Kestrel flew past as we watched the ducks.

Back to the park we cut along the Woodland Walk and back into the Finger Lakes but things had gone a little quiet so we stopped back in at the Rough where EG was processing yet another batch of birds. Most of this batch were re-traps including Great Tit and Dunnock but yet another new Blackcap was ringed. We finished off the morning with a Wren before leaving EG to it and heading back to the Visitor Centre.

Many thanks to all who joined me for the walk this morning, hope to see you on the next one. Join us on the 23rd October at 9am.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday 10th September 2011

An excellent morning with obvious signs of migration throughout the morning. Thanks to DK for the following figures:

Steady stream of House Martins south totalled 236 plus 29 Sand Martins and
five Swallows.
3 Common Snipe south (first of the autumn)
1 Swift South
5 Siskins SE (first of the autumn)
3 Meadow Pipits south (first of the autumn for us)
22 Chiffchaffs, 21 Blackcaps, 2 Common Whitethroats, 1 Garden Warbler, 4  Reed Warblers, one Willow Warbler, one Spotted Flycatcher. 55 Long-tailed Tits  included a single party of 32.

JA and myself also had ~30 Pochard on 100 Acre big lake. While scanning the lakes 80+ Starlings came into a Hawthorn bush by the STW entrance. EG and Dave were ringing in the Rough and having a very good morning. We assisted with 20+ batch of birds that came out of the nets while we were there. I think the count was in excess of 60 birds for the morning by the time we left and they were still hard at it.

Met up with ranger Danny who showed myself and DK a bat box where 9 bats were roosting.

At the main lake hide counts for Mute Swans, Coots and Great-crested Grebes were all about normal for recent weeks.

All in all an excellent morning.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Recent bird ringing activities

The Constant Effort season is over at Priory Country Park. All 12 visits were completed (including the odd extra visit). I haven't posted CES totals for a while and on this occasion, for my ease, I'm going to lump visits 8-12 all into one (including non-CES birds/sessions).

238 new birds, 57 retraps (in brackets) of 23 species:

Wren 8 (1)
Dunnock 6 (6)
Robin 6 (7)
Blackbird 10 (8)
Song Thrush 8 (1)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Reed Warbler 24 (1)
Whitethroat 25 (6)
Lesser Whitethroat 2 (0)
Garden Warbler 19 (2)
Blackcap 91 (8)
Chiff Chaff 2 (3)
Willow Warbler 2 (1)
Blue Tit 8 (5)
Great Tit 6 (3)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (1)
Chaffinch 3 (0)
Goldfinch 10 (0)
Greenfinch 1 (0)
Bullfinch 4 (3)
Treecreeper 0 (1)
Sparrowhawk 1 (0)
Wood Pigeon 1 (0)

We'll start with the standout total for Blackcap. This site has always been good for Blackcaps - more Blackcaps have been ringed than just about all other species in the park. The total above includes birds caught outside the CES. On Saturday 27th August I caught 26 Blackcaps (the majority new and the majority male). These birds must have moved on and another lot moved in as by the following Wednesday (31st August) I caught 30 Blackcaps (only one retrap from the weekend and only because it's from a late brood & not ready to go yet).

Above: Female Blackcap

Above: Male Blackcap

Above: This bag contains a big living ball of feathers (see below)!

Above: A Wood Pigeon (the big ball of feathers).

Above: A Lesser Whitethroat. This bird represents one of two ringed on 27th August. This species used to be more regular in the park but there have been very few records this year. I assume therefore that these two birds (juveniles) were migrating through the park (we would likely have caught the adults & juveniles earlier if they had bred).

Above: Normally seen in the skys above & normally too good at airobatics to be caught. This juvenile Sparrowhawk is obviously still learning then!

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Not quite the expected bright sunny morning, instead rather overcast and threatening rain at times, although it did remain dry throughout. I met up with JA along the main path as I was listening to a Cettis Warbler singing on the island, a good start to the morning. Five Gadwall were on the main lake albeit a little flighty. A Kingfisher was heard in the south west corner. It was positively buzzing with bird life along the Spit as a large mixed flock moved through the trees, feeding. As well as the usual Tits, there was also Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and at least 2 Goldcrests in the mix. Not many ducks on Fingers with just a couple of Gadwall and the usual Mallards. A Little Grebe was on east Fingers. At Kramer hide another 3 Gadwall were present. Just nine Cormorants in the Kingsmead roost this week and not much about on 100 Acre other than about 10 Little Grebes and a dozen Tufted Ducks. Met up with DK back in the park and walked around the south side. Good numbers of Coots and Great Crested Grebes on the main lake and the Mute Swan numbers had increased slightly to 50. Quite a few Chiffchaffs around with a particular hotspot in the south west corner of the main lake. Plenty of House Martins moved through during the morning with a peek count of 85. These were accompanied by a handful of Swallows and a small party of Sand Martins. Pretty quiet along the west side and we were back to the car park just in time for the sun to start breaking through!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Volunteer Task on 4th September CANCELLED

Unfortunately we have had to cancel the volunteer day on the 4th Sept as we have a music festival in the park that weekend. If anyone would like to come in the week after (11th Sept ) instead please let the rangers know, otherwise the next date is the 2nd October.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday 27th August 2011

After a bright start cloud moved in throughout the morning but fortunately we beat the rain which arrived late morning. I met up with DK along the main path down to Fingers, there were quite a few Sand Martins over the south side of the main lake with one or 2 Swifts about also. Not many Reed Warblers in evidence in the main lake reed bed this week. JA joined us along the Spit as we scanned the ducks for anything interesting. A Little Grebe was the first of the Autumn/Winter. A single Gadwall was also on west Fingers along with the usual mix of Mallards, Coots and Moorhens. Back along the Spit and around the Crescent we had little of note except for a key we found in the Crescent which we later handed into the Rangers.

DK headed back towards the Steps as myself and JA headed along the navigation channel. I spotted a Kingfisher over the main lake zipping passed the east side fishing swims as I looked back over my shoulder! It was quiet at Kramer hide but at the viewpoint across Kingsmead the Cormorant roost was quite busy with 20 birds in attendance. JA spotted a Sparrowhawk overhead as we headed up to the STW.

We were disappointed to see that 100 Acre had been cut again. This has removed most of the Teasels and Thistles which would have been the Winter food source for Goldfinches and Linnets, so I guess we won't be seeing many of those this winter. I just can't see why this area wasn't left wild for the winter.

Still on 100 Acre the big lake had a small party 6-8 Pochards at the far end and ~12 Tufted Ducks near end by the cycle track. At least 2 Little Grebe were also spotted. Back up by the STW a Kingfisher was heard over 100 Acre, cutting across towards the river. At the bridge I spotted a Sedge Warbler in the fallen Willow on the river by the STW. There was a flock of ~30 Goldfinch around the STW entrance.

Back in the park, at the Rough, EG was ringing as part of the final CES session of the year. He already had 20+ birds when we arrived so not a bad morning although we didn't prove to be lucky charms as he only had 2 from the nets during our stay. Of more interest was the aerial display provided by a Hobby hunting Swifts over the New Meadow. A truly spectacular display provided fruitless for the Hobby as all the Swifts managed to keep away from those talons. EG mentioned that a couple of Jays had been noisy neighbours earlier in the morning.

The only other thing of note was the colour ringed Common Tern we came across int he south west corner of the main lake. Blue over white on the left leg and the metal ring over white on the right leg. This was one of Mark Thomas' birds from Broom, hopefully more information to come on that one.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guided Walk Sunday 21st August

A good turnout for the guided walk this morning so I was glad that Jane (Ranger) could accompany us to help out. We started off by the main lake pointing out the various wildfowl on the lake plus the Gulls and Terns. A party of House Martins was feeding overhead with at least one Swift. We moved on to the Finger lakes with a short stop near the Steps to listen to and identify several of the birds calling from the edge of the Rough. Young Reed Warblers were also active in the reeds along the edge of the main lake.

At the Finger lakes we headed along the Spit, stopping occasionally, to check out the ducks. Most of these were Mallards, with males in various stages of eclipse plumage. There was also a single Gadwall over by the Dead Seat. The Shoveler that had been around earlier could not be found. The Moorhen with the one remaining youngster was still adding weed to a new nest. Coot and Grey Heron were also present.

We continued around the Crescent where a calling Chiffchaff proved impossible to spot through the foliage and more Reed Warblers were calling in the reed bed.

It was quiet along the navigation channel and at Kramer hide so next stop was Kingsmead where we watched the ~10 Cormorants roosting on the far side with another trying to join the roost but failing to select an appropriate branch on a couple of occasions. I don't know whether the others were laughing at it or disagreeing with it's arrival.

Moving on to the Sedgewick seat we had excellent views of a couple of Treecreepers moving up the trunk of one of the large Willows. A party of Tits also moved through the canopy. We took a look around the Rough where birds were numerous but hard to get a look at. Goldfinch, C. Whitethroat, Blackcap were all heard and/or seen. On exiting the Rough a Great-spotted Woodpecker was calling but as we attempted to track it down it went quiet so we didn't get a look at it.

We headed back to the car park taking in the hedgerows around the back of the Visitor Centre but failed to add anything new to our list.

Many thanks to all who joined me on the walk this morning, next one is Sunday September 25th at 9am.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday 20th August 2011

A lovely morning, bright and sunny with cloud moving in and taking over by mid afternoon. A slight increase in Mute Swan numbers this week, to 41. Great Crested Grebes were in the low 30's and Coots appeared down to just 25. While heading down the main path a couple of Swifts were over the main lake. Shortly after a dozen House Martins moved in from the north along with another 4 Swifts but they soon departed south.

At Fingers three Gadwalls were present and 2 Shovelers were also in the mix with the Mallards. The Moorhen with the single remaining youngster appeared to be building a new nest but may have just been making good to the old one. A Treecreeper was also spotted along the Spit and Kingfisher was heard.

There were a number of Chiffchaffs calling around Fingers and Blackcaps were also heard ticking. Plenty of Reed Warblers were also flitting about across the Spit and alongside the main path. Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were also seen and heard. Juvenile Sparrowhawk was also heard although hard to pin down the location it seemed to be from the far side of Kingsmead.

On 100 Acre there was nothing at all on the small lake and little on the big lake although a single Common Sandpiper, at least 6 Little Grebe and a male Pochard kept us interested. Goldfinch are also coming together into larger groups with 20+ on the east side of the big lake. There are plenty of Teasels to keep them going through the autumn.

Back in the park Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were both heard singing in the south west corner of the main lake and 4 Mistle Thrush flew over south as we headed up the west side of the lake. Greenfinch were also present as normal in this area.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday 13th August 2011

A miserable morning, grey and overcast with drizzle, heavy at times. As is often the case in this sort of weather the Sand Martins were feeding over the main lake, numbers increasing throughout the morning with a peak count in the mid 60's. At least one House Martin was in the mix. The usual 35 Mute Swans were on the main lake along with 45 Coots and 23 Great Crested Grebes.

On Fingers the female Shoveler was present again. The Mute Swan family were cruising around and a few Mallards were also present. A single noisy young Moorhen was being fed by one of the adults, no other youngsters were seen.

Still a few Warblers about with at least one Willow Warbler and several Chiffchaffs, including one singing individual on the south east side of the main lake. Plenty of Reed Warblers flitting between the reeds and the Willows. I didn't venture into the Rough today as it seemed pretty quiet, the same being said for the walk from there to the Sedgewick seat.

14 Cormorants were in the trees on the far side of Kingsmead, a couple of Herons were also on Kingsmead and a couple of Green Woodpeckers flew across towards the Cormorants followed by a noisy get together. A Kingfisher was also heard across the other side of Kingsmead further up stream.

Half a dozen Goldfinch kept me company along the west side of the main lake with the odd Dunnock and Robin putting in an appearance.

Just a handful of Canada Geese on the main lake this morning and about 14 Common Terns. When I arrived back at the VC 3 Swifts were buzzing about overhead.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sunday 7th August - Volunteer Task

The volunteer task today was building a couple of new benches along the New Cut. The hard work was the digging of the holes and getting the posts level after which fixing the top was a piece of cake. Both benches were finished off by lunchtime so it was an early finish for most. I volunteered to carry out a bit of litter picking in the afternoon and filled a couple of sacks in under 2 hours. It never ceases to amaze me that some people seem incapable of disposing of their litter responsibly. The rangers can spend anything up to half their working day picking up litter, time that could be spent on more useful tasks around the park. So remember to either dispose of your litter in the bins provided or even take it home and recycle it, it's not that difficult is it? Also remember why you visit the park in the first place, I bet you wouldn't visit if it resembled a landfill and, believe me, it wouldn't take long to get that way if the Rangers weren't clearing up after you all.

Please look after our park.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guided Walk - Sunday 24th July

Just 3 people joined me for the walk this morning but weather was good and my early recce showed there were plenty of birds about. I decided to make an anti-clockwise circuit of the main lake in the hope of picking up a Kingfisher along river on the south side. First up it was Goldfinch and Greenfinch along the west side by the old priory wall. While watching the Greenfinch a vole stuck its head out of a hole in the wall before thinking better of it and diving back into cover.

Down in the southwest corner a Heron was found and Reed Warblers were active in the reed bed.

We continued down to the River and headed east with little of interest until we had passed the Leat Pool when a familiar piping call gave away the presence of a Kingfisher. I managed to locate it and pointed it out to the group as it passed up stream.

After the excitement of the Kingfisher we cut back into the park with little of note until we reached Fingers. In the Crescent Reed Warblers were active in the reed bed and a second Kingfisher gave a brief view as it flashed past one of the fishing swims on east Fingers.

On the Spit we scanned the ducks on west Fingers for anything out of the ordinary but just the usual Mallards with all the males in eclipse plumage. A Green Woodpecker was spotted in the dead branches high over the Dead Seat. Excellent scope views were obtained before our attention was switched to the GC Grebes on east Fingers. We had good views of one of the Adults and a juvenile in the scope allowing us to compare and contrast.

We continued around Fingers with a Blue-tailed Damselfly by the Steps, various warblers along the edge of the Rough and a couple of Treecreepers in the Willows opposite the Sedgewick Seat. The overcast conditions and strengthening breeze kept the numbers of Butterflies and Dragonflies down which was a little disappointing.

We headed back, around the north side of the New Meadow, to the car park, picking out various common birds via song or call on the way.

We finished back at the car park having had most of the expected species. Join us for the next walk at 8am on Sunday 21st August.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday 23rd July 2011

After a week of heavy rain showers the morning dawned bright and sunny making for a great walk around the park. DK must have been out of the traps early this morning and neither JA or myself managed to catch him so no update of the weeks comings and goings. JA caught up with me along the main path while I watched a family party of Blackcaps in the Willows. A single female Tufted Duck and a new brood of Moorhens on Fingers was a highlight. We walked down to Meadow Lane and had half a dozen Swallows over North, chattering away. On 100 Acre big lake a single Little Egret was accompanied by 2 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper. At least 5 Lapwings were also present and a single Little Grebe was spotted. 2 more Little Grebe were on Meadow Lane GP along with the usual bumper haul of Coots and their young.

Keeping up the recent run of Kingfisher sightings we had one during our stop at Kramer hide and another later, on the south side, along the river at Fenlake.

There are still plenty of Warblers around although, apart from a couple of singing Blackcaps, they are quieter now making them harder to find. Several Chiffchaffs were heard calling and Treecreepers were heard along the navigation channel. Mute Swan numbers are increasing again with 30+ on the main lake this morning and the Common Terns, with this years youngsters are still making their presence known.

It's the guided walk tomorrow with another early start at 8am, see you there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The last couple of weekends

It's getting quieter around the park now although most of the regulars can be found with a little leg work. Last Saturday we had at least one Common Sandpiper on 100 Acre and a Kingfisher along the Cut. Along the Riverside side of the Cut there were plenty of Ringlet butterflies along the slope along with Meadow Browns and the occasional Gatekeeper.

Definitely not a butterfly day today with drizzle interrupted by heavy rain. However we still managed a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and excellent views of a Green Woodpecker, from Kramer hide, as it fed on grubs chiseled out of the dead tree. At the STW bridge we had a Kingfisher and a Mink. Back at the main lake hide in the park, as we waited out a heavier spell of rain, another Kingfisher flew out from the south side to the island and over to the west side of the lake. Great to see them a bit more often in recent weeks.

After that we made a break for the cars and made it just in time as the rain really came down on the drive home.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

BBC - Nature UK: Springwatch: Some more of Britain's barmiest nests 2011

If you missed it on Springwatch then check out this blog for the photo of the Blue Tit nest in the toilet sign here at Priory, plus some other strange choices for nest sites:

BBC - Nature UK: Springwatch: Some more of Britain's barmiest nests 2011

I had seen some nest material behind the perspex bubble a few weeks earlier and was hoping we would be able to follow the progress as the Blue Tits raised their family. However the nest ended up behind picture of the people as the adult birds made another hole to get behind it. It wasn't until the young were about to leave the nest that three of the youngsters moved into the front room allowing all to see them. The day after this picture was taken the nest was empty. Still, made us smile :-)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bird Ringing: Totals for CES Visits 6 & 7

CES Visit 6 (26/06/11)

Totals: 29 birds of 10 species: (retraps in brackets)

Robin 6 (0) = 6 [all juveniles]
Wren 3 (1) = 4 [2 juveniles]
Reed Warbler 6 (0) = 6 [5 juveniles]
Garden Warbler 2 (0) = 2 [1 juvenile]
Blackbird 2 (1) = 3
Dunnock 3 (0) = 3 [all juveniles]
Whitethroat 2 (0) = 2 [all juveniles]
Blue Tit 1 (0) = 1 [a juvenile]
Song Thrusth 1 (0) = 1 [a juvenile]
Blackcap 1 (0) = 1

A ringing demonstration was held during the morning - the highlight of which was a Song Thrush.

CES Visit 7 (03/07/11)

Today, the new CES period started so I decided to squeeze in Visit 7 of 12. I had high hopes after my success at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve yesterday (click here for more details).

The wind was virtually non existant for once. It was very sunny to start with the second half of the session very cloudy.

In order of appearance, the totals were: 35 birds of 11 species: (reptraps in brackets)

Great Tit 1 (0) = 1 [a juvenile]
Dunnock 8 (3) = 11 [8 juveniles]
Wren 1 (1) = 1
Blackcap 5 (1) = 6 [5 juveniles]
Robin 3 (1) = 4 [all juveniles]
Chiff Chaff 4 (0) = 4 [3 juveniles]
Reed Warbler 1 (0) = 1 [a juvenile]
Whitethroat 2 (0) = 2 [1 juvenile]
Chaffinch 1 (0) = 1
Blackbird 1 (1) = 2
Bullfinch 1 (0) = 1 [a juvenile]

Above: A juvenile Bullfinch.

My high hopes didn't get realised but I have no grounds for complaint! Thanks to David Howes for helping and to DK & DB and JM (ranger) for stopping by for a chat.

Being all at sixes and sevens for the last couple of weeks, we'll be have to wait a while before we're after eight!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guided Walk Sunday 26/06/2011

Six people for the walk this morning and a good start with an Oystercatcher flying in and settling on the lawn in front of the sailing club. Yesterdays Sand Martins had moved on so it was just Swifts over the main lake today. Plenty of singing going on from the migrants and residents alike so all the usual suspects were heard and identified.

From the Spit a Green Woodpecker was spotted on one of the dead branches on the west side of the Finger lakes. It was soon seen off by a territorial Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Great-crested Grebe and Mute Swan families were seen on east Fingers and the Coot families were on west Fingers. Along with plenty of Mallards, males now taking on eclipse plumage during the moult. Males in various stages of eclipse could be seen.

In the Crescent Reedbed a number of Reed Warblers were heard and seen. A Reed Bunting was also singing.

We headed along the Navigation Channel and stopped to identify the Carrion Crows and Jackdaws on Kingsmead. Also of interest were the various stages of the Ladybird which could be seen on the Nettles. A little further along the NC a Sedge Warbler was singing and showing well.

Circling around we headed back to Finger Lakes with good numbers of butterflies in the meadow before we entered by the Sedgewick Seat. Meadow Browns were most numerous along with a few Whites and Commas.

Behind the Sedgewick Seat I spotted a large dragonfly hanging from a nettle leaf, later identified as a female Emperor. It stayed put long enough to get the scope on it and everyone had a good view.

Next stop was the Rough where another CES ringing session was going on. We were just in time for EG and DH to check the nets, returning with 4 birds. Pick of the bunch was a Song Thrush. Thanks once again to EG and DH.

Not a lot else of note as we headed back to the Visitor Centre and the end of the walk.

Next bird walk is July 24th at 8am.

Not a lot else as we departed

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday 18th June

It was pretty quiet around the park this morning but at least the rain held off for most of it. There are still plenty of migrants around with Blackcap and Garden Warbler singing in and around the Rough. A male Cuckoo was also present most of the morning.

100 Acre was also pretty quiet, the highlight being 4 Redshanks.

EG was ringing in the Rough again and everybody ended up there. Myself and JA missed out on the Marsh Tit that was caught and ringed, as we were still back at the STW at that time. However we were in time for a bumper haul when a party of Long-tailed Tits were caught along with a handful of other birds. It was all hands on deck to get the birds processed and released as quickly as possible. As the Long-tailed Tits were a family party they were processed last and held for release together. As the ringers processed the birds I handed out rings and JA turned scribe in order to keep the capture time as short as possible. Along with DK we all released a couple of the LTTs each, at the same time so the family stayed together.

While in the Rough JA spotted a Hobby overhead and we all had good views of it's aerobatic skills as it soared and dived in search of prey. Later a Common Buzzard drifted over north east, again giving great views.

The heavy showers finally caught up with us just after we released the LTTs so having sat out the rain under the Hawthorns in the Rough we decided to call it a day and left EG to complete his ringing session.

Next Sunday is the next guided bird walk and it's an 8am start, see you there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday 11th June 2011

Nothing special this week although a Garden Warbler was singing in the car park when I arrived. There were also a lot of Swifts over the main lake (~50). The pairs of Mute Swans on the main lake and Fingers both have broods of fluffy youngsters, but the biggest surprise, on my return from holiday, was the Fingers Grebes. So much for 1 or 2 youngsters, they have 4! Also Coot families with 3 and 4 young on Fingers, they seem to be doing well this year, unlike the Moorhens. I also had 2 Cuckoos before meeting up with DK and JA, one over on the south side of the main lake and one in and around Fingers.

JA joined me for a walk along the 100 Acre side of the river where we had a single Kingfisher heading downstream. Also 2 Redshanks, 2 Oystercatchers and a Common Buzzard.

Back to the park and alongside the Long Hedge before Fingers JA spotted a Small Skipper butterfly in the nettles, which also held any number of insects including loads of Ladybird larvae, damselflies and Scorpion Flies.

In the Rough we met up with DK and the ringers. EG was have a good mornings ringing again having just extracted another 6 birds from the nets as we arrived. While chatting we heard a Lesser Whitethroat sing briefly. Earlier EG had a Turtle Dove purring in the Rough.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Bird Ringing - CES Visit 4 - 05/06/11

CES VISIT 4 today 05/06/11: 47 birds of 14 species (retraps in brackets)

Robin 4 (0) - all juveniles
Blackbird 0 (1) - fledged last year and a regular
Whitethroat 4 (0) - 3 juveniles and an adult
Chiff Chaff 5 (0) - 3 juveniles, 2 adults
Garden Warbler 1 (1) - adults of both sexes
Blackcap 5 (0) - 3 juveniles, 2 adult males
Great Tit 2 (0) - both juveniles
Blue Tit 13 (0) - 9 juveniles, 4 adults (including one in moult)
Chaffinch 2 (0) - 1 juvenile and one adult male
Dunnock 1 (2) - one juvenile and the retraps were adults
Wren 0 (1) - fledged last year
Long Tailed Tits 3 (0) - 3 juveniles
Coal Tit 1 (0) - a juvenile and only the second of this species ringed at Priory
Green Woodpecker 1 (0) - an adult male

Very good totals for this site.

Above: This juvenile Coal Tit is only the 2nd bird of this species ringed here (the first being in September 2010).

Above: A Green Woodpecker (my bird of the day).

For more info (including more photographs) of these birds and other sessions, please click here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday 26th May

It was a mammal morning with Mink, Fox and Stoat all seen on a quick walk around the park. The Mink was spotted from Kramer hide having just raided a Coot nest I think. The resident pair of Coots were going mad but I couldn't see what was going on as their nest is hidden by reeds. The Mink was spotted heading towards the island on the left of the hide, coming from the direction of the Coots. It had something in its mouth, which was probably a Coot chick.

The Fox was on Kingsmead, almost hidden in the long grass. It was getting a hard time from a group of Crows, one of which carried a stick over towards the Fox and dropped it close to it! I have read and seen Crows using tools and dropping snails and the like from a height onto hard surfaces to break them open, but weapons!

The Stoat shot across the path in front of me as I walked along the north side of Fingers towards the Rough.

Very windy again this morning but all the regulars were about, Cettis Warbler and Cuckoo both heard. At the STW reed bed a very agitated Wren was standing guard over a tiny fledgling. Reed and Sedge Warbler heard here also. Good views of a singing Sedge Warbler were had on the south side of the main lake where it perched in a small Willow between a couple of the fishing swims. A single Sand Martin was seen, earlier, along the navigation channel. Still plenty of family parties of Tits around the park, given away by there calling youngsters.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ringing results

From 'The Rough'

Sunday 15th May: 21 birds of 14 species (retraps in brackets)

Blackbird 0 (2)
Wren 0 (1)
Whitethroat 1 (0)
Great Tit 0 (2)
Dunnock 0 (2)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Blue Tit 0 (1)
Robin 1 (0) - our first juvenile of the year
Blackcap 3 (0)
Bullfinch 1 (0)
Chiff Chaff 1 (0)
Garden Warbler 3 (0)
Song Thrush 1 (0)
Cetti's Warbler 0 (1)

Sunday 22nd May: 26 birds of 9 species (retraps in brackets)

Blackcap 5 (1) - the retrap being first ringed in 2004!
Dunnock 2 (3) - including 1 juvenile
Wren 0 (1)
Robin 2 (0) - both juveniles
Garden Warbler 3 (0)
Reed Warbler 1 (0)
Great Tit 1 (2)
Bullfinch 1 (1)
Blue Tit 3 (0) - all 3 juveniles

Guided Walk: Sunday 22nd May

Very breezy on Sunday morning for the guided walk, for which we had 4 people. The wind made it tricky for birding as the birds tend tuck themselves away in the cover, still we had all the usual species either heard or seen. Unfortunately the Slavonian Grebe from yesterday had gone so no star bird to show the group. Ed and team were ringing in the Rough again so we dropped in there for a quick demo, seeing Garden Warbler, female Blackcap and Great Tit in hand. A female Cuckoo was heard a couple of times, some where close by, while we watched the ringers. The male was also singing around the edge of the Rough.

At the Spit we watched the young Coots and had glimpses of at least one Great-crested Grebe chick. The Cettis Warbler was also heard.

Around the park many of the Spindle trees are covered in web. This is not a spider invasion but instead the work of the Spindle Ermine moth Caterpillar. You will note that many of the trees covered in web are missing most of their leaves as the caterpillars have eaten them all. Looking closer you may see long threads hanging from the trees and possibly groups of caterpillars heading down the threads as they depart a stripped tree in search of another food source.

Next stop on the tour was Meadow Lane on search of the Nightingale that has been there for a few weeks but unfortunately the windy conditions put paid to any chance of finding it. We did have good views of Sedge Warbler in the adjoining field though and singing Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden Warbler.

Then it was back to the car park via a walk alongside the Cut on Riverside. A family of Mute Swans with 8 youngsters were on the flood channel.

In the car park we checked out the automatic toilet, a strange choice for a birding walk you may think, but the fledgling Blue Tits, photographed yesterday, had gone. All those lovely nest boxes around the park and they choose the toilet!!

Next walk is Sunday 26th June at 8am. Yes that is correct 8am not the usual 9am, we are running the summer walks an hour earlier as it usually goes a bit quiet by the time the walk starts otherwise. See you there.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Slavonian Grebe - 21/05/2011

Spotted this cracking little bird when I arrived this morning, just before 0700. It was associating with a Great-crested Grebe to start with. I managed to get these shots with my Canon G7 hand held through my scope, not great but good record shots none the less. We seldom see them down here in breeding plumage, should be in Scotland, Scandinavia or northern europe now.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday May 14th

No big surprises this weekend with all the usual suspects present. The Cettis Warbler is still singing well and roaming around the Spit and Rough.

I headed down to Meadow Lane, with JA, to check for the Nightingale which was persuaded to sing with a little help from my iPod! I played the Nightingale song on my iPod in the area we had heard the bird last week and sure enough it started singing.

We also checked out the island on the 100 Acre big lake. The Coots on the pond still have 2 youngsters which are looking quite chunky now. Common Terns are looking quite interested in the island with at least one looking like it was sitting on a nest. A pair of Redshanks and odd Lapwings were also present on the island. Tufted Ducks were also present.

We watched a Kestrel hunting over 100 Acre, and it dropped onto something, wrestled with it for a moment, then flew directly to a tree on Riverside. As it arrived at said tree a second Kestrel shot out, there was a brief scuffle (presumably the food pass) and both disappeared.

We checked out the tree when we got back to Riverside but could not see any obvious nest although we did not get too close and the foliage was quite dense.

We continued, on Riverside, along the Cut and had a single Buzzard high over head, being buzzed by a couple of House Martins.

Back at the car park the usual Willow Warbler was singing in it's regular spot and the Blue Tits were visiting their nest in the automatic toilet sign. Unfortunately they have a hole into the back of the sign so we cannot see any of the action.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

This weekend in the park (7th/8th May)

On Saturday it was a rather wet start, the first rain we have had for several weeks. It didn't seem to bother the birds though with all the usual suspects present and correct.

As I headed down the main path to join up with DK and JA 3 noisy Oystercatchers flew in and continued their chase across the main lake. 3 Sand Martins headed from main lake over the Rough, we didn't spot any visiting the artificial nests on the island but DK had seen them there the previous day.

The Cettis was still present along the Spit, again ranging across to the Rough, singing regularly. On the Spit JA and DK were watching a Garden Warbler that was singing high up in one of the Willows. From the end swim both Coot and Great-crested Grebe were still on their respective nests but a new nest in one of reed beds, over the back, contained up to 5 Coot chicks. Not sure where this nest came from as none of us had seen it until today. It looked fairly minimal so maybe the adults had had to move nest sites and this was just a platform to keep the chicks safe until they are a little larger.

Reports of Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler in the Meadow Lane area in recent days had myself and JA heading over there. We managed to connect with the Nightingale which sang a couple of bursts but not giving it's full song. The hunt for a Gropper goes on as we failed on that front.

As we headed back along the cycle track a Redshank was heard calling from the big lake on 100 acre. There was little else of note on 100 Acre this week.

Back in the park, no Gropper over on the south side opposite Fenlake, plenty of singing Sedge Warblers though. That was about it, just another heavy shower for a soaking before we reached our cars again.

On Sunday I joined the volunteer group to finish off the fence and gate we started last month. Early rain had moved through and the sun was out all day with a strong wind whipping across the lake, to keep the temperature down a little. Everybody worked really hard setting the rest of the fence posts and hanging the gate and we managed to complete the task by mid afternoon. Well done to everyone.

Highlight of the day was a mass emergence of Damselflies which seemed to take a liking to our bags which were piled by the edge of the lake. At lunch we watched several emerge from their larval stage, drying out and then, just as the wind dropped, all taking to the air simultaneously. When I say all actually there were a lot of casualties as the local Starlings, House Sparrows and Chaffinches took advantage of an easy meal, departing back to their nests with beaks crammed full of unfortunate damselflies that didn't quite make the grade.

Didn't spot the Black Tern which DK had earlier in the morning but there was a lot of disturbance on the main lake with the sailing and wind surfing so it had probably moved on.

Next volunteer task is on Sunday 5th June so why not come along.