Sunday, May 01, 2011

Dawn Chorus

04:30. What does the "O" stand for, Oh my god it's early (ref: Good Morning Vietnam). I'm sure that's what the 9 souls were thinking as they rolled up for the Dawn Chorus walk this morning. Thankfully the good weather held and although a little chilly at that hour the sky was clear and the wind had dropped to a light breeze. While waiting for people to arrive a Fox trotted across the green in front of the visitor centre and on across the car park.

After a brief introduction we headed off down to the Rough, usually closed to the public as a wildlife zone, also the main bird ringing site in the park. Already the early birds were singing, Blackbirds, Robin and Song Thrush. A keen Sedge Warbler was singing over on the island which was a bit surprising. As we reached the Steps Reed Warblers could be heard quietly burbling away in the reeds by the main lake.

Into the Rough and Blackcap joined the choir and sound level moved up a couple of notches as more birds joined in. It gets to the point where it is hard to pick out individuals so it's often best just to stand back enjoy the choir. As we moved around the Rough we came across Garden Warbler warming up with a Song Thrush behind pumping out it's repertoire of repeating phrases, including a passable Buzzard impression.

Continuing around more Blackcaps and Garden Warblers were singing with the earlier starters beginning to break off, probably beginning to get some food. At the north side of the Rough a Chiffchaff started up, a regular on that side so far this year. Back at the open area by the entry to the Rough and the first Whitethroat began singing.

An hour in and EG arrived to setup for a mornings ringing, the first CES session of the year. A Common Buzzard was spotted cruising along over the main lake heading east. We left the ringers to get setup and headed back to the main path stopping briefly at the Dead Seat as the Cettis Warbler announced it's presence on the Spit.

Along the main path a Reed Bunting showed briefly after calling in the Willows and the Reed Warblers were now singing more loudly than earlier. Along the Spit the Cettis was singing at the north end and we had both Blackcap and Garden Warbler singing either side of us a Sedge Warbler was also heard but not really getting into his stride yet. As we moved along the Spit the Cettis was spotted briefly as flew in front of us, it then did it usual trick of slipping past us unseen and singing from the other end of the Spit. The Great-crested Grebe and Coot were still on their nests and a pair of Gadwall were on west Fingers.

Leaving the Spit we rounded the Crescent where a couple of Reed Warblers were singing and a Reed Bunting sang briefly. Back on the main path and as I scanned the Beach where a family of Mallards were snoozing 3 Common Sandpipers flushed and flew low across the main lake over towards the hide before returning to one of the fishing swims on the east side. Before we could follow up on that siting my phone rang and EG said he had caught the Cettis in the Rough so we headed back there where we had a good look at the bird and Ed talked through the details of the plumage and how they age the bird as well as what the CES ringing sessions are all about. He also had a pair of Bullfinch. The nets were then checked again and we were treated to good views of Dunnock, Wren, another female Bullfinch and a Whitethroat, with EG again giving full info on each bird.

While that was going on a Cuckoo arrived in the big Willows by Fingers but moved before we had chance to get the scope on it. It was heard calling regularly for quite a while but wasn't seen again. A Swallow also passed over before we left the Rough.

This time we continued around Fingers in the opposite direction picking out the various birds as we went. We stopped at the Sedgewick Seat to look for Treecreepers in the Willows without success. Next stop was Kingsmead where a handful of Geese, including a couple of Greylags were grazing. Then we stopped off briefly at Kramer hide which has been fairly quiet recently. It was the same today although the Muntjac was on the right hand reed bed again which is becoming quite a regular occurrence.

Leaving the hide we continued down the east side of Fingers stopping at the south east corner where I expected to find a Whitethroat but found a Garden Warbler singing instead. Further along towards the bridge across the flood channel we found a singing Whitethroat which showed off it's song flight.

On the south side of the main lake we cut through to the river and followed it along to the south west entrance to the park, stopping occasionally to listen for Grasshopper Warbler but once again we didn't find it. Six Swifts passed high overhead moving north briefly pausing for a screaming game of chase. We did have good views of a Common Tern fishing over the river where there were a lot of small fish at the surface. Several Sedge Warblers were heard singing on the Fenlake side of the River but by this time the increasing wind was making it difficult to hear them properly.

Along the west side of the main lake Greenfinch were heard calling and singing. These are commonly seen at this end of the park but less often elsewhere. A couple of Collared Doves flew over giving their wheezing flight calls before we turned back along the path towards the Visitor Centre. Another stop to check out the artificial Sand Martin nest site on the main lake island came up trumps as Sand Martins were spotted checking out the holes and one was spotted coming out of a hole. Despite this nest site being here pretty much from day one it has never been used, by Sand Martins, so it would be great if they decide to stick around. A possible knock on effect from the loss of nesting sites on the active gravel workings where many of the pits are now being filled in.

Finally back at the car park a Willow Warbler was singing, another regular, in his usual spot. And the most unusual site of the day was a Blue Tit making a nest behind a clear plastic cover over the sign on the automatic toilet. If successful we will have a window on this nest and should be able to see developments from start to finish, fingers crossed.

Despite the Wind increasing through the morning it was an excellent mornings birding covering pretty much all the expected species with the bonus of seeing the birds, the ringers had caught, up close. The kind donation received from one of the couples on the walk was given to the ringers to go towards the Ivel Ringing Groups fund and was received with thanks.

Back to the normal for the next guided walk which is on the 22nd of May at 09:00am.
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