Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guided Walk - Sunday 30th December

Well after all the rain throughout the holiday period and wide spread flooding around the park we really landed on our feet yesterday with the weather, and the flood water had receded enough to make all areas of the park accessible. It's still very wet and muddy off the main path so if you are planning a visit wellies are still your best option.

7 people turned out for the guided walk, including Ranger Jane. We started off along the main path but with a cutting wind blowing across the main lake straight into our faces we kept time here to a minimum. Just a quick stop on the dipping platform for a look at the Pochards and the Tufted Ducks.

Along the Spit west Fingers was pretty quiet with just a Grey Heron. At least one Treecreeper was calling towards the end of the Spit and was associating with a party of Long-tailed Tits.

At the Beach we stopped for a quick scan of the main lake, the Slavonian Grebe hadn't been seen for a few days but you never know your luck, no sign though, amazing how it managed to remain unseen on the previous guided walk day and then departed just before this one!

We moved off down the east side of the Fingers and I spotted a Little Grebe tucked under the trees on the east side of the Spit. A single Great Crested Grebe has taken up residence on Fingers and was also giving good views, albeit in winter plumage.

A call from DK had us hurrying back to the beach for some good scope views of 3 Goosanders that had just flown in. A single male with a couple of red heads. Then it was down to Kramer hide, usually pretty quiet in recent months, but today Teals, Shovelers, Little Grebes and a Grey Heron were all showing well.

Kings Mead was a bit disappointing with none of the hoped for Pied Wagtails around the flood water so we continued on to 100 Acre where a Kestrel was very confiding, perched up on the overhead cables. Canada and Greylag Geese were grazing at the north end of the big lake. We moved along the cycle track and had a look at a couple of pairs of Gadwall on the big lake before moving on down to Meadow Lane GP. As expected not much to see on the lake, just a few Coots and 4 Tufted Ducks but while we stood there a Common Buzzard flew into view, flushed a Pheasant and then perched up on the hedge along the back of the  lake. Everyone had good views through the scope before it departed.

We headed back to the park passing the Kestrel on the overhead lines on the way. I planned to cut through the Woodland Walk and across the New Meadow, back to the Visitor Centre but the steps into the Woodland Walk were under water so we ended up following the Long Hedge back into Fingers and stopped at the gate to the Rough where I heard Bullfinch calls. We hung around scanning the Rough but were only treated to the briefest of views a Bullfinch flew from cover, over our heads and into the Sheep Pen. A Kestrel was also seen briefly over the Rough. We continued back to the Visitor Centre, getting brief views of another Bullfinch at the exit from Fingers.

Several small parties of Redwings were seen throughout the morning, good numbers compared to recent days.

So a really good morning with some good sightings and weather, something I hadn't expected earlier in the week. The next guided bird walk is on Sunday the 27th January, meet at 9am outside the Visitor Centre.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Coppicing in Putnoe Wood

I was coppicing the Hazel in Putnoe Wood yesterday with Rangers John and Jane and the Friends group. The weather was kind to us with just a couple of heavy showers during the day rather than the expected constant rain. We managed to work through a good size section of this years plot, dead hedging as we went. The process involves cutting the Hazel back to the stumps and using the cut material to create a "dead hedge" along the edge of the plot. The dead hedge provides a good habitat for insects, small mammals and birds such as Wren and Dunnock. The clearance of the Hazel allows more light to get to the ground encouraging woodland plants such as Bluebells.

Unsurprisingly the ground was very wet under foot with standing water in places, a throw back to earlier years of management of this wood according to John. I haven't seen it this wet since I have been helping out here. The stream that runs along the north side has seldom seen so much water over such a long period, a good thing as it helps to keep it clear of debris.

Back in Priory Country Park the flooding is worse than it was on Christmas Day but, per DK, down on Boxing Day. Wildfowl numbers were noticeably down and, with the restricted access to areas of the park due to the flood waters, it's hard to track down much of anything. The wildfowl have most likely dispersed out onto the various flooded fields that are available at present. Passerines are also hard to come by in the wet and windy conditions.

Given the rain forecast for today and tomorrow it looks like Sunday's guided walk is going to be interesting. Please come in wellingtons as it is extremely muddy with lots of standing water, even in areas not affected by the flooding from the river. Current weather forecast is for a break in the weather Sunday morning which could be good for us and the birds, meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am, Sunday 30th December.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Paid a quick visit to the park this morning and the flooding is much more extensive than it was a couple of days ago.

The Crescent is now out of bounds with the water up to the hand rails of the little bridge off the main path.

The Steps are out of bounds with flood water troubling the tops of my wellies!

Water was still pouring into the Finger lakes through the pipe between east Fingers and the Navigation Channel so expect levels to continue rising around Fingers.

The east side of the Finger lakes along side the Navigation Channel is rapidly filling up but still passable. Kingsmead is mostly under water, providing a sanctuary for a lot of wildfowl.

I didn't bother going around to the south side of the main lake as that was already flooded on Sunday so it can only have got worse given the increase in water levels else where.

So wellies are definitely the order of the day, not those new white trainers you got for Christmas!

On the bird front there was a good sized Jackdaw roost overnight and they all departed just after I arrived, around 07:40. A Kingfisher in the north east corner of the main lake was a nice xmas prezzie. On Kingsmead there were 7 Little Egrets with 3 Grey Herons along with a good quantity of Mallards and Geese. Most of these departed in a hurry when spooked by something but a scan for the expected Fox revealed nothing so no idea what caused them all to depart. A couple of the Egrets came back along with 56 Canada Geese and a single Greylag.

From Kramer Hide I had 3 Shovelers (2m/1f) and a Bullfinch was calling nearby.

Finally back on the main path I found the Slavonian Grebe, along the north edge of the main lake, between the Steps and the Spit.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Work in the park and Slav Grebe

Had some time off work these last couple of weeks and have spent most of it in the park volunteering. It's great to get out in the open for a few days and the rangers have been kind enough to have me along on a few tasks. In the Sheep Pen we cleared a load of brash created by the Shuttleworth students who had done some coppicing in there. Yesterday we created another big pile of brash when Danny took down a large Willow and an Ash in the same area.

Between times we revisited the plantation where the volunteer group did some work for the December task. Another large Willow came down. It was beginning to show signs of rot and some of the larger limbs posed a danger to the public should they have come down. It has also opened up a large glade in this plantation allowing some of the smaller trees to prosper with the added light.

Of course these Willows will regenerate from the stumps that remain so no need to worry that all the trees are being cut down. You will notice that most of the large Willows around the park are multi stemmed, showing that they have been coppiced in the past. This is a species that responds particularly well to being cut back and, especially in a wet year like this one, regrowth rates can be amazing. In fact Willow is a species that is quite difficult to kill off, the smaller coppiced stems will regularly grow if pushed into the ground. The Willow spilings used for erosion control around the edge of the lakes invariably begin to grow after they have been installed. This is, of course, the idea as the roots will bind the earth together, preventing it washing away. The structure above ground is also stronger and prevents the waves washing away the bank.

All the recent rain has led to increased levels of the lakes and river around the park and lots of surface water everywhere. With more rain to come in the next few days I wouldn't be surprised to see significant flooding around the park so if you are visiting please bring suitable footwear. Wellies are the order of the day!

My next guided bird walk is Sunday the 30th of December at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre. Will we get another crack at the long staying Slavonian Grebe. This bird is now the long stay record holder for this species in the park. Still mostly seen in the north east corner of the main lake it can be very mobile so keep a look out for it.

Here are some pics of the Slavonian Grebe from yesterday. First up a distant shot in a small patch of water that was reflecting the early light from the rising sun. This is followed by a couple of closer shots as it worked its way along the north edge of the main lake near the dipping platform.

Slavonian Grebe in dawn light
Slavonian Grebe
Slavonian Grebe

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday 08/12/2012

A relatively warm and sunny morning today and some good birds around the park.

I met up with JA and the Slavonian Grebe was quickly found, in the north east corner of the main lake not far from the dipping platform. The Crescent is now accessible with wellies and we had 45 Corn Buntings leave the reed bed roost as we wandered around. A couple of Water Rails squealed in the reed bed and at least one Reed Bunting was present. Along the Spit it was fairly quiet with just a fly over Siskin, 4 Teal on west Fingers and another Water Rail making its way along the edge of east Fingers.

DK joined us and reported a couple of Goldeneyes, but hadn't seen the Slav. We managed to relocate the Slav, now in the south east corner of the main lake with the Goldeneyes. 5 Siskins were in the Alders around the Crescent.

A circuit of the Finger Lakes revealed little else of note other than a couple more Teal on west Fingers and 3 Goldcrest along the north side before the Sedgewick Seat.

There wasn't much about on 100 Acre. Most of the flood water has subsided on Riverside leaving a muddy mess, looks good for waders!

Kingsmead held a few Canada Geese and 31 Pied Wagtails which was a bit of a surprise although we do get good counts after flooding that is usually when there is a bit more water left.

From Kramer hide we found 6 Shoveler, a few Mallards, a Grey Heron and a Moorhen.

There were a couple of Grey Wagtails at the south end of east Fingers, occasionally flitting across to the Beach.

A circuit of the main lake found us little else of note just the usual Gadwall, Tufted Ducks and Pochard. We were unable to relocate the Slav Grebe but it may have been about. There was another Goldcrest along the south west side of the main lake.

TP reported a Blackcap in the Spindle around the car park but we failed to find it on our way back to the cars. A Goosander flew over, heading west.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sunday 02/12/2012

The final volunteer Sunday of the year and a good turnout for a scrub clearance session in one of the plantations on the New Meadow. The weather was a massive improvement on the previous month, cold and clear. A big fire to burn all the cut scrub kept everyone warm and provided the fuel for the "end of season" barbecue lunch, kindly provided by the rangers. Thanks also to Alan for the venison and his mum for the cakes!

There is still more to do in this plantation but it already looks a whole lot better than it did when we started.

I had a wander around Fingers with DK and TP before the volunteer session started and we relocated the Slav Grebe on the main lake at the east end. A Water Rail was heard in the Crescent reed bed and TP picked up a Green Sandpiper on call as it flew over. DK amazingly spotted it and got us on to it as it flew west. A Jay was seen by EG who was ringing in the Rough.

A few Siskins were flitting around, a couple of Treecreepers were in the trees between the main lake and west Fingers. The usual mix of overwintering ducks were around including Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall and Pochard. There was a also a Goldeneye and DK had a drake Goosander early on but TP and myself were unable to relocate it a little later on.

After the volunteer session I had a quick wander around Fingers again. There was a good sized mixed flock of Tits at the north end of the Spit with at least one Goldcrest and one Treecreeper mixed in. I managed to relocate the Slav Grebe again at the east end of the main lake and when I headed back along the main path it was showing well just off the dipping platform. A party of 10 Long-tailed Tits were in the Willows along the edge of the main lake. A couple of Herring Gulls were shadowing a party of Tufted Ducks that were feeding in the north east corner of the main lake.

No sign of any Little Egrets or Corn Buntings but I may have been a little early for those coming into roost.

The next Sunday volunteer session is January 6th, meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am. If you can't make the whole day then come along when and for as long as you like. All help is welcome.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Ringing 02/12/12

A glorious day, a bit on the cold side but if you kept active and wrapped up, you could certainly keep warm. I was out ringing in the rough.

Above: An adult male Kestrel. This is only the second ringed here (the other in 2003).

Above: 6 more of these Lesser Redpolls were ringed today. I like an excuse to show another picture of one of these!

Totals for the day (retraps in brackets):

Kestrel 1 (0)
Wren 2 (2)
Dunnock 0 (1)
Blackbird 5 (0)
Blackcap 3 (0)
Goldcrest 1 (1)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (2)
Blue Tit 1 (2)
Great Tit 1 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (0)
Lesser Redpoll 6 (0)
Bullfinch 3 (0)

More about this catch can be found here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Slavonian Grebe still around

The Slavonian Grebe is still at the park (per DK) despite the no show on Sunday. It was seen Monday and today.

Can't get here? Here's another picture from Saturday:

Slavonian Grebe

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Guided Walk - Sunday 25/11/2012

My recommendation to wear wellies for the guided walk today turned out to be an under estimate, waders would have been a better option! At least the rain had stopped but the wind was blowing a gale and I didn't hold out much hope for the walk as most of the birds take cover during windy weather.

I was hopeful that the Slavonian Grebe would still be around as the weather seemed unfavourable for moving on, however there was no sign of it this morning. Given this image by Robin Edwards yesterday it probably had to get away before it suffered any lasting injury by the Great Crested Grebes!

Despite the blustery conditions there were six takers for the walk this morning and we were joined by Ranger Jane. I had already checked out the Finger Lakes which were surprisingly quiet given the conditions and there was no way to through the flooding on the south side of the main lake so our duck views were rather distant as they were all sheltering along the south side of the main lake. We did get some views of the Tufted Ducks, Pochards and Gadwalls through the scope from the south side fishing swims and also had a nice Kingfisher in the south west corner. A Small party of Goldfinches were roaming about in that corner and along the west side of the lake.

To get out of the wind we headed for the bushes around the car park and picked up a nice male Blackcap in the Spindle along the path behind the wildlife garden. We then cut across to the Rough where Jane let us in and we immediately had a Bullfinch calling before it flew deeper into the Rough. We followed the track around to view the hedge line on the west side. I spotted a male Bullfinch in the hedge and everybody managed to get a view of it as it flew across in front of us. There were several Goldfinch in the same area and then another Male Bullfinch flew up and perched on the top of the hedge giving very good views before it too flew off.

We moved off along the track and I heard a Redwing call and managed to locate it perched high on the opposite side of the tree we were standing next to. Viewing wasn't easy but it then flew to a higher perch on our side of the tree before departing across the Rough with a second Redwing. Goldfinches were all around with their tinkling calls all around. Dunnock calls and occasional song were also to the fore and a Wrens alarm call was also heard. I spotted a smaller bird in with a small group of Goldfinches and this turned out to be a Lesser Redpoll. This group were very mobile and we had great difficulty in getting good views until they settled, briefly, in a small tree on the way back to the gate. I think everyone got to see it before it departed over towards the Sheep Pen with the Goldfinches.

We were too late to for any of the ducks around the back of Fingers, by the Sedgewick Seat, so we carried on up to the STW bridge. Riverside was completely under water but there were just a few Mallards on there so we crossed the bridge and had a look over 100 Acre. A single Little Grebe was on the small lake along with a pair of Mute Swans. The big lake looked devoid of life but there was a large group of Greylag Geese in the field at the north end.

From the bridge we looked out over a mostly flooded Kings Mead where Canada Geese and Carrion Crows were the main residents. Then we headed back alongside the New Cut where a noisy party of Magpies had us searching for a possible raptor perched up, but none was found. Next stop was the car park and the end of the walk, not a bad tally for the morning given the windy conditions and accessibility problems. For me the Redpoll was the star but I'm sure everyone else would probably favour the Kingfisher.

The next walk is on Sunday the 30th December at 9am, meet outside the Visitor Centre as usual.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday 24/11/2012

Well my post last week prompted a change of fortune and DK had a Slavonian Grebe turn up yesterday morning. The good news is that it was still there this morning!

Slavonian Grebe (Winter Plumage)
After the fog cleared a bit I managed to get some record shots when it came in reasonably close to the fishing swims at east end of the main lake.

Slav with Great Crested Grebe in background
Slavonian Grebe
As well as this little gem we had good views of Water Rail. A Lesser Redpoll was seen with a party of Siskins. Redwings were few and far between this morning, a singleton and a group of 7 were all we had to show, and we failed to see any Fieldfares at all.

A Kingfisher was quite active along the main path early on and the usual mix of wintering ducks were present.

Riverside fields were completely under water this morning and the new sluice was working well, even the old sluice was in action!

Anybody coming on the guided walk in the morning, I suggest you wear wellies or sturdy, waterproof boots. Meet at the visitor centre at 9am.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Recent news

It's been fairly quiet in the park these last couple of weeks. There is plenty of stuff to see but no exciting migrants dropping in. There are still Lesser Redpoll around and the odd Goldeneye along with plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares. Goldcrest is another regular on the sightings board and there has been a Chiffchaff hanging around the Crescent end of the Spit.

There is a guided walk on Sunday, meet at the visitor centre at 9am. There should be plenty to see and the forecast is OK at the moment!

Note also that the December guided walk on Sunday the 30th is also at 9am and NOT 8am as advertised around the park.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sunday 4th November - Volunteers

Locals will have noticed that it was a bit wet on Sunday, however this did not deter the volunteers, 6 of whom splashed around in the main lake attempting to build a new sluice to control the water overflowing at the Beach. During periods of high water, excess water overflows into the navigation channel. The overflow has gradually migrated down the Beach and was cutting away the bank, so the new sluice is being used to control the water and prevent the bank, and nearby path, being eroded.

The first task was to damn up the current outflow to allow us to work without water pouring through. This was easier said than done but we eventually managed to reduce the outflow to a trickle.

Water Vols! (Picture courtesy of Daniel Fellman)

The next step was to get the wood in place bring the bank height back up to the level of the surrounding ground. This wood is all reclaimed from the recent work done by the EA on the river at Cardington Lock. While this was being done half the volunteers started building the first section of the sluice and got that in place, closely followed by the second section.

The last task for the day was to join the sluice and the dam which was completed despite a shortage of nails!

We didn't have time to finish the rest of the sluice, a task for another day, but well done to everyone who turned out on such miserable day.

On the bird front, given the weather it was unsurprising that there was little moving. A Kingfisher was a nice spot by Danny and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. Of course the wildfowl were very happy, nice weather for ducks as they say!

The new sluice in action later in the week (picture courtesy Daniel Fellman)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bird of the day

Star bird for the day: Lesser Redpoll. This bird was originally ringed at an, as yet, unknown location:

Ringing totals for today consisted of 52 new birds, 10 retraps and 1 control (i.e. originally ringed elsewhere) of 14 speceies. The species totals are as follows (retraps in brackets):

Blackbird 3 (0)
Blue Tit 3 (0)
Bullfinch 5 (0)
Chaffinch 1 (0)
Dunnock 2 (3)
Goldcrest 3 (2)
Goldfinch 9 (0)
Great Tit 2 (1)
Greenfinch 1 (0)
Lesser Redpoll 12 (+ 1 control)
Long Tailed Tit 7 (3)
Reed Bunting 1 (0)
Robin 1 (0)
Wren 2 (1)

The only other ringing records for Lesser Redpoll are nine in 2005 and one in 2007 (all new), hence the star status of the bird pictured above!

Also, at dusk 3 swallows were seen by myself and DK.

Guided Walk Sunday 28/10/2012

The forecast rain held off for the guided walk this morning and we had quite a successful morning. EG was ringing in the Rough so I checked in with him before the walk started. It had been quite slow with just one bird ringed to that point but the next round returned 9 birds including a bit of a star. I hurried off to meet the group for the walk and sent them down to the Rough so they could see as many of the birds as possible.

There were a good variety of birds in this haul including Goldcrest and of course the star bird, a Lesser Redpoll! Even better news was that it was carrying a ring from elsewhere.

The group got to see all of the birds at close quarters, including the Goldcrests of which there was a male and 2 females so we got to see the difference in the colour of the crest. The male has red/orange in the yellow crest but this is not easily seen unless the crest is raised in display, or the ringer does it for you!

The next net round was less productive but a couple of Wrens gave us a chance to compare and contrast Britain's 2 smallest birds. The 'crests were around the 5g mark but the Wrens were around double the weight. However the wing length was slightly longer in favour of the 'crests! The wing length is often an indicator of the distance a bird might travel (i.e migration). Here we have Wren's which do not tend to move particularly far and the Goldcrest, with the longer wing length, which migrates short distances (many come across from the continent to spend the winter here).

With the Wren's processed we left EG in peace and had a look around Fingers where there were a few Gadwall and Teal showing well on West Fingers. Having moved around to the Spit we also found 3 Little Grebe on West Fingers. There was little else of note although a small party of Siskins were heard and then spotted flying towards the Crescent. We followed but failed to find them.

We left Fingers for a loop of the main lake, taking in the Canoe Slalom on the way. There were no Grey Wagtails along the Canoe Slalom but we did have a party of Redwings over (West) as we passed the Barns Hotel. Back to the main lake and we had a few Tufted Ducks close to shore in the south east corner. We were unable to locate the Goldeneye seen earlier from the north side so we continued along the south side hoping to pick it up further along. A large party of 50 Fieldfares passed over west.

A scan of the south side from just past the hide still failed to find the Goldeneye although there were 3 Common Gulls in with the Black-headed Gulls. There was little else further along the south side so we retraced our steps back east in the hope of finding the Goldeneye. Checking each fishing swim as we went we were lucky enough to see a Kingfisher zip past, a flash of electric blue. Around the east side I finally spotted the Goldeneye which was still feeding, making viewing difficult as it kept diving just as I got the scope on it. Most managed to get a good look at the bird.

We continued around the lake and back along the main path finishing at the visitor centre. A very successful morning and we all remained dry throughout!

The next walk is Sunday 25th November at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre.

DK kindly provided the following counts from his morning circuit of the park:

Goldfinch: 28 + 14 W
Woodpigeons: 37N + 7S
Starlings: 161 SW
Fieldfares: 370 W
Redwings: 33 + 131 W
Lapwings: 13 NE

Also:  Goldeneye, Water Rail, 2 Wigeon, 15 Gadwalls, 23 Tufted Ducks, 33 Teal (30 of which flew through), Woodcock (flushed by EG), 7 Siskins, 5 Redpolls, 6 Crests, 5 L. Redpolls, Kingfisher.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday 27th October

A cold start this morning with a strong wind blowing, intitally from the NE then swinging around to come from the NW. I arrived before 7am and some of the Corvids were already out and about in a large group over the main lake. The main bulk of the roost left around 07:20.

A large raft of 66 Coots were up the NW corner of the main lake and another 12, with 18 Great Crested Grebes were over towards the east side.

Down at Fingers there were 3 Little Egrets still in the roost and they left a little after the Corvids.

Redwings, Fieldfares and Woodpigeons started coming through in small groups shortly after first light and the final totals, courtesy of DK, were:

481 Woodpigeons S
199 Redwings W
183 Fieldfares W
We also had 42 Starlings W.

From the south side of the main lake DK spotted 9 Pochards doing circuits of the main lake.

A nice end to the walk around the park was a single Goldcrest in the NW (Beefeater) corner and then 3 Lesser Redpolls shortly after, along the north side of the main lake.

So some nice birds around, hopefully some will hang around for tomorrows guided walk. Don't forget to put your clocks back 1 hour tonight and meet at the visitor centre at 9am (GMT). Wrap up warm, it looks like another cold start!
Here's a rather obscured picture of the Redpoll which did a great job of staying in cover after the cameras came out of the bags!

Lesser Redpoll

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday 20th October

First visit to the park after my holiday and it was pretty quiet. A lot of Coots and Great Crested Grebes on the main lake but very little on Fingers, just 2 Gadwalls and 2 Little Grebes along with the resident Mute Swans. The young Swans are starting to show much more white in their plumage now. A Kingfisher was in the north east corner of the main lake.

Went down to Meadow Lane with JA and spotted some Barnacle Geese dropping into the crop field just before the bypass. We cut around the back of Meadow Lane GP, where there were 7 Tufted Ducks with the resident Coots. On the big lake on 100 Acre there were 6 Pochards.

At the crop field we found the Geese and along with ~125 Barnies there were a few Canadas and a Single Greylag. In the rough ground between the field and the river there were good numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. We also flushed 22 Snipe as we followed the track along the edge of the field.

In the Channel to the filled in Castle Mill Pit there were 2 Teal and a single Little Egret. As we walked back along the cycle track a flock of Lapwing got up from the other side of the bypass and small group broke away and joined the Geese in the crop field.

Back at the main lake in the park there was a single juvenile Herring Gull and at least three adult Common Gulls. We spotted a Kingfisher on the south side of the main lake.

Those were the highlights of a fairly grey misty morning.

Next Sunday is the October guided bird walk. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am. Make sure you wear suitable footwear as it is muddy and wet in places around the park at the moment. See you there.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Saturday 6th October

A visit to the rough to ring on Saturday produced 65 birds. 40 new and 25 retraps. There were 2 notables, a very late Reed Warbler (carrying lots of fat) and a Jay - only the second to be ringed here.

Above: Jay - photograph courtesy of DK.

Jays are to be seen all over the county at the moment (including Priory Country Park), mostly migrating in a westerly direction according to reports. Undoubtedly some of them are arriving from Scandanavia (apparently in their 100's), some may originate more locally.

The totals for the day are as follows:

Blackcap 7 (0)

Blue Tit 6 (6)
Bullfinch 2 (0)
Chiffchaff 7 (0)
Dunnock 2 (1)
Goldcrest 1 (0)
Goldfinch 5 (0)
Great Tit 8 (4)
Jay 1 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 2 (6)
Reed Warbler 1 (0)
Robin 1 (1)
Wren 2 (2)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday 30th September

Not a bad morning, a bit cloudier sooner than expected, but could have been worse! It was pretty quiet first thing but evidence of migration was there with a trickle of Meadow pipits through and good numbers of Swallows, House Martins and a few Sand Martins also making their way south.

Early on there were 3 Tufted Ducks on the main lake but this increased to 9 by the end of the morning. There were also 4 Gadwalls on the main lake although they were very flighty.

On Fingers there were another 18 Gadwalls, a single Teal and a single Shoveler. We also found our first Little Grebe of the autumn, a youngster still showing some stripes on the head. A Kingfisher was quite active around east Fingers.

A Common Buzzard showed briefly over Kramer hide as it flew in, probably perching up in the Willows. It was seen again later from the Rough and probably the same one again, high south over the main lake.

EG was ringing in the Rough and had caught a few Blackcaps which were coming to his Blackcap tape. Including the one on the Spit there were 9 Blackcaps in total. While in the Rough we noticed 3 Goldcrests flitting about. EG changed the tape and snaffled 2 of the Goldcrests. In fact he had the little and large with a Wood Pigeon hitting the net just before the Goldcrests.

A Sparrowhawk was very active around the Rough, chasing a Jay at one point and putting the wind up everything else on 2 or 3 other occasions.

I continued around the park with DK but there was little else of note. It was just great to be out around the park.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

23rd September Guided Bird Walk

How lucky were we? Well very if we are talking in weather terms, the rain held off and although rather grey and cool it was better than wet and windy.

Five Meadow Pipits passed over the Visitor Centre heading south east although one turned and headed back the way it came.

Five people turned up for the walk this morning and having had my usual early wander around prior to the start I was a bit concerned about finding much of interest but we didn't do too badly in the end. We were fortunate right at the start when 12 of the 20 Wigeon, myself and DK had seen earlier, got up and circled the main lake with a couple of Gadwall, before departing to the north east. There were good numbers of Coot and Great Crested Grebes in front of the Visitor Centre and a single Tufted Duck mixed in. Grey Heron and Cormorant were also perched up on a couple of the buoys giving good views. A small number of Black-headed Gulls were also present.

Down at the dipping platform on the main lake we stopped and had a look at the hirundines over the north east corner of the main lake. First thing, before the walk, Swallows had dominated the counts with 40-50 present but now there seemed to be quite a few House Martins and Sand Martins with a smaller number of Swallows. Siskins were heard and sounded as if they were heading down to the Alders by the Crescent. This was the story of the morning as far as Siskins were concerned, often heard but never seen. A shame as we had seen 6 in the Alders yesterday morning.

We headed down the Spit and had good views of Gadwall, Shoveler and Wigeon as well as the usual Mallards and Moorhens. A Treecreeper was heard in the fenced off area at the end of the spit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Buzzard and Blackcap were also heard here.

We had a good look in the Alders by the Crescent and across the navigation channel, for the Siskins, but failed to locate any.

Next up we headed down to the Steps and around to the Rough where we found 3 Teal by the dipping platform opposite the Rough gate. Again we had good views as they were stood on a branch in the water, preening. Around at the Sedgewick Seat we found a small party of Long-tailed Tits and in with those was a single Goldcrest which was not so easy to see. We continued on and as we came out of the Finger Lakes section I spotted a Hobby coming over the Long Hedge, heading across towards Kings Mead. A brief but satisfying view of this beautiful raptor.

There was little else of note as we failed to pick up a Kingfisher along the Navigation Channel and the Canoe Slalom was devoid of Grey Wagtails. There was a larger party of Tufted Ducks at the east end of the main lake and around the south side a Goldcrest was calling and a Kestrel gave good views as it flew out over the main lake, pausing to hover over the island and then continuing on over the Rough.

So not a bad morning, a few Chiffchaffs were heard and we had a good variety of ducks for this early in Autumn and 3 raptors is never a bad thing.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday the 28th October. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday 15/09/2012

A lovely morning in the park. There were up to 4 Siskins over and a brief glimpse of a Hobby as it disappeared over some trees. There were at least 5 Grey Wagtails in the Canoe Slalom, the best count for some time.

There were ~60 House Martins feeding over the north side of the main lake and the Rough for quite a while during the morning. A few Swallows passed through also.

There were 5 Tufted Ducks on the main lake and on Fingers there were 2 Shovelers and at least half a dozen Gadwalls.

Still plenty of Chiffchaffs about with quite a few singers amongst them. Reed Warblers and the odd Blackcap were also present.

A quick check of Fenlake Meadows proved fruitless as the greenery is still too thick to see much.

Also of note were 2 Hornets on some Ivy flowers in the Long Hedge.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 23rd, meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am. Please ignore the signs around the park saying the next walk is the 30th, it was brought forward a week.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Recent News

Falling behind with my blogging so here's a quick update on the recent activity in the park.

Last weekend was the monthly volunteer task and we were over on Riverside at the pond clearing the vegetation around the edge. A lot of new growth was cutting down the views over the pond so we coppiced a lot of the pond side trees which hadn't been done for a couple of years. In fact this task was a repeat of the first ever task the volunteers undertook. Everybody did a great job with the group working together well to cut and clear away the cuttings.

Shadows in the mist
Yesterday I had a good morning with DK and JA. It was misty early on but it soon cleared. We had a Coal Tit singing from the scrub around the Visitor Centre, uncommon in the park and our 107th species of the year. There were 4 Tufted Ducks, at least 1 Shoveler and a Wigeon on the main lake. We had 5 Sand Martins over and small numbers of House Martins.

The Great Crested Grebe families are ever present with the noisy juveniles forever making their presence known on the main lake and Fingers.

Juvenile Great Crested Grebe
There are still plenty of Warblers around, feeding on the Elderberries and mixed Tit flocks are coming together. Keep an eye on these as they often harbour a few Warblers and this time of year you never know what you might find.

We had a couple of Treecreepers in the Willows as we exited Fingers past the Sedgewick Seat. On the stretch along the old Priory Wall one of the Ivies was completely covered with Honey Bees. It literally buzzed! I've never seen so many Bees feeding in one place.

So a pretty good morning, here's hoping for a few migrants over the next couple of weeks.

Don't forget the next guided bird walk is Sunday the 23rd of September (a change from the advertised date) at 9am.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guided Walk - 26th August 2012

It's that time of the month again so we gathered by the visitor centre for an 8am start for this months bird walk. It's a bit of a tricky time as far as birds go at the moment. Migration has started but it's mainly just stuff leaving and none of the winter stuff arriving just yet.

We started off with a look over the main lake, highlighting the plumage variations of the juvenile Great Crested Grebe compared to the adults. There were three Common Terns about and a couple of Reed Warblers in the reed bed at the VC end. Chiffchaffs could be heard calling in the scrub behind the VC and around the Labyrinth.

We headed down the Steps and around to the Rough where the ringers were at work. We were in time for a couple of birds, a lovely little Long-tailed Tit and red headed Blackcap. The next net round drew a blank so we moved on, down past the Sedgewick Seat and out into the Meadow where we picked up the Spotted Flycatcher found by DK a little earlier. This is quite unusual in the park so it was great for one to turn up on the walk. It showed very well, sitting while everyone got good views through the scope.

Moving on I picked up Bullfinch calls and managed to spot a female in the Long Hedge at the south end of the Woodland walk. I got the scope onto it and then the male joined the female in the same scope view, brilliant! Again everyone got views of both birds before we moved on.

Next stop was the STW to look over 100 Acre, on the way we had 5 Goldfinch in the dead tree by the New Cut, 4 Adults and a juvenile which was nice to see for comparison.

On the first lake on 100 Acre the pair of Little Grebes with the young were visible again although only 2 youngsters today, there were 3 yesterday. The young are very small with both still able to ride on the adults back together, seems quite late but hopefully they should be OK if they can dodge the predators.

Back in the park and the next stop was the Canoe Slalom where we had a single Grey Wagtail which showed quite well before flying off towards the river. Back to the main lake and along the south side we found four Tufted Ducks and while we watched those a mixed party of House Martins and Swallows flew low across the lake heading south west.

Next stop was the Catfish Seat where a couple of Reed Warblers were noisily going about their business in the reed bed.

Those were the highlights of a very pleasant walk this morning. Thanks to the five people who joined me this morning. Next month the walk is on the 23rd September and we are back to a 9am start. Meet at the Visitor Centre.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Latest news

The highlight of my visit last Saturday was the first Wigeon of the autumn which DK had located on west Fingers. House Martins, Swallows and Swifts were all present and a Kestrel was also seen.

Wigeon (Eclipse male)

There is a guided bird walk this Sunday (26th) at 8am, meet at the visitor centre.

Note also the change in date/time for the September bird walk which will now be on Sunday 23rd at 9am, not on the 30th as originally planned.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday 11/08/2012

Last Sunday the volunteer group were working in the park. The first task was to remove the Himalayan Balsam along the river between Cardington Lock and the Canoe Slalom. It seems a shame as this is a beautiful flower as seen below:

Himalayan Balsam flower
However as you can see below it is an extremely invasive non native species and soon takes over:

Himalayan Balsam
Having removed several blocks of this plant during the morning we moved over to the Finger Lakes in the afternoon where we removed 3 boat loads of Water Soldier from the east lake. This is another invasive species which is rapidly taking over the Finger Lakes this year. The plants sit below the surface and then rise up at flowering time.

This morning it was quite a foggy start over the main lake and the light was a little disappointing after yesterday mornings glorious start. I did catch this group of Canada Geese coming in to land in front of me and the main lake dipping platform is a good place for a Tern fly past.

Canada Geese

Common Tern
As I walked down to the dipping platform I had 12 Blackbirds on the New Meadow and 3 Greenfinch in the hedge by the Labyrinth. DK joined me at the dipping platform and immediately trumped my Blackbird and Greenfinch counts with 15 and 10 respectively.

EG was ringing in the Rough again so we stopped to have a chat and obviously brought some luck as the first birds of the day were extracted from the nets. A Green Sandpiper flew over calling. This Bullfinch was hanging around most of the time we were in the Rough but was avoiding the nets, at least until we left.

Generally it was quiet with birds of note being the 8 Swallows over north east at the STW bridge, a Kingfisher by the main lake at the Visitor Centre and 2 Swifts in the same area. There were quite a lot of calling Chiffchaffs and we also had a singing Willow Warbler on the corner of the Finger Lakes opposite the Beach.

The sun eventually burned through the clouds and I had a very pleasant wander around Mowsbury Hillfort Nature Reserve. Goldcrest was note worthy among the birds and there were also a variety of butterflies around including Peacock, Brimstone, Large White, Green-veined White, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood. A Brown Hawker Dragonfly was hunting in the Orchard.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guided Walk - Sunday 29th July

There was a really good turn out for the guided walk this morning and for once the sun was out! We saw/heard most of what could be expected, at this time of year, on the bird front and because of the recent warm sunny conditions there were a few butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies about. The butterfly list was as follows:

Meadow Brown
Speckled Wood
Red Admiral

There were a few different dragonflies about most of which went unidentified as they sped past, however a couple of Brown Hawkers were found on vegetation giving us all great views. There were dozens of Common Blue damselflies around and Banded Demoiselles were also numerous.

On Saturday Morning, with DK, we had a Little Egret which flew in and perched up in the dead tree along the Spit and a Common Buzzard passed high over the south side of the main lake. Following are a few pictures from Saturday:

Comma butterfly

Mute Swan preening

Tufted Duck youngsters


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday 21/07/2012

Once again it was pretty quiet in the park but at least the weather had taken a turn for the better. It's quiet on the bird front with some of the migrants already on the way back south. 

DK reported yet another brood of Great Crested Grebes on the main lake. These guys are still small and riding on the adults back. No idea where the nest was! This is the best year I can remember for GC Grebe breeding success.

On Fingers the Tufted Duck family are down to 4 youngsters. They are all accomplished divers now but still vulnerable to predation. 

We found this Brown Hawker dragonfly in the Rough and it stopped hunting for a few moments to allow us a quick photo. I think the name Brown Hawker doesn't do it justice. The wings are gold and as it is hawking around with the sun shining it is quite stunning.
Brown Hawker
We came across our first Gatekeeper of the year and, soon after, another one. The sunshine was really tempting out the insects.
This Grey Heron was posing on the side of the Canoe Slalom.
Grey Heron
It's the July guided bird walk next week, on Sunday 29th at 8am. It's generally a quiet time of year for the birds but hopefully we'll have a few dragonflies and butterflies to fill in any gaps. Hope to see you there.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday 14th July

Just when you think it can't rain any more, it does. When will it end. The main lake is overflowing at the Beach again and some paths resemble mud baths but it doesn't stop us. A drizzly start turned to steady light rain and remained that way for most of the visit.

There was a good count of Common Terns on the main lake with some juveniles present. There were 108 Mute Swans with a possible second main lake family with 2 cygnets (TBC). The main lake Great Crested Grebe family was still present with at least 2 youngsters.

On Fingers the Tufted Duck family still has 5 youngsters this week, as last. We also spotted a Weasel along the Spit.

There was little else of note, not surprising in the conditions!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Saturday 07/07/2012

Well we are getting into that quiet time of the share for the birds. Many have completed breeding and are into their moults and therefore keeping quiet and hidden away as much as possible. Others are still singing and probably trying for second or third broods. With all the rain this summer it's been a very poor year for insects and this appears to have had a knock on effect on the breeding success of the birds as many also seem to be having a poor year. We'll get a feel for the winners and losers over the next few weeks as the ringers continue with the CES sessions.

The good news is that a female Cuckoo has been heard over the last month and was again this morning (per EG). Highlights of the morning were a Hobby hawking for insects over the big lake on 100 Acre and a Lesser Whitethroat singing in the car park as we were leaving. The Great Crested Grebes on the Finger Lakes have hatched out 3 youngsters which can be seen on the back of one or other adult. Another surprise was the three GCG youngsters found on the main lake! These guys were a little more advanced than the Finger Lakes young and were swimming alongside one of the adults. DK thinks they were probably from a nest near the main lake hide but they had remained hidden from view until today. This is the first time I have seen Great Crested Grebes successfully hatch out any young on the main lake. Until last year I hadn't seen any nesting attempts on the main lake so this is really good news.

I paid a visit to Mowsbury Hillfort, late morning, and by this time the sun was out and the butterflies were flying. Ringlets were quite numerous as were Meadow Browns. There were also several Marbled Whites about. Highlight here was a Nuthatch heard around the edge of the orchard.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Volunteers in the park

I joined the volunteer group in the park again today and we were back on the south side of the main lake repairing on the of the fishing swims. We are reusing some timber, reclaimed from the recent Environment Agency work at Cardington Lock, to replace rotten timbers that make up the fishing swims. Quite a small turnout again this month so just a single swim was completed. Well done to everyone who turned out and special thanks to Alan, and his mum, for the chocolate cake which fueled our efforts today.

There has been little change with the bird life around the park although a brood of Tufted Ducks has appeared which is the first time they have bred in the park since 1986 (per DK). They most likely nested on the main lake island and were first seen on the main lake. More recently they have moved onto the Finger Lakes where they can often be seen. This morning there were six youngsters with the adult female, down from 9.

A Common Buzzard was spotted high over the New Meadow with a couple of Corvids in attendance just after lunchtime today.

A trip up to Mowsbury Hillfort NR yesterday morning proved a good move for Butterfly watching as Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown Marbled White and Large Skipper were all recorded in the courtyard. There are still good numbers of Common Spotted Orchids here also but many have now gone past their best, still worth a look if you get a chance though.

If you would like to join the volunteer group for the next volunteer session check out the volunteer programme here or contact the rangers for details. We're a friendly group and whatever time you can spare would be much appreciated by all. Come on get stuck in!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guided Walk - Sunday 24/06/12

It was the first early start of the summer (8am) and a bit damp just make it even less appealing. That said there were 4 takers for the walk so we set off around the car park hedges in heavy drizzle. 

The first bird of note was a Common Whitethroat singing strongly by the over flow car park. A few glimpses were all we were afforded as the bird sensibly kept under cover but it continued to sing strongly until we left. We cut across the New Meadow towards the Finger Lakes and had a singing Blackcap on the way. There were good numbers of Swifts overhead but few if any hirundines. 

We stopped off under the cover of some trees by the edge of the Rough as the rain got a little heavier. I was hoping for a Garden Warbler in a known territory but it failed to sing so we continued towards the Sedgewick Seat. Jackdaws are quite numerous around the Finger Lakes, roosting between raids on the recently cut Kingsmead. A stop overlooking Kingsmead only added Carrion Crow to the list.

Continuing downstream along the Navigation Channel we came across a Sedge Warbler singing well but again struggled to get a good luck as it kept it's head down in the Willow. At the STW reed bed a single Sedge Warbler was a little more confiding before it disappeared into the reeds.

We walked around to the bridge but just before we got there a Garden Warbler was heard so we stopped to listen and a Blackcap began singing on the other side of the path. We took the opportunity to compare and contrast the 2 songsters and their notoriously similar songs. The Blackcap uses a more pure whistled note, especially when it is singing strongly. Sometimes the scratchy beginning can be mistaken for Garden Warbler, but once it gets into its stride there is no mistaking it. The Garden Warbler is much more bubbly in it's delivery, the song seems to be more of a gargle than a whistle. I've often had it said to me that the Blackcap sounds like a speeded up Blackbird and I can see that, but once you have heard them both a few times the 2 are very different, particularly in structure.

On to the bridge and we had good views of some Common Terns fishing on the river and making some low passes over the bridge. In the reed bed on the north side of the bridge Reed Warblers were singing and showing well. A single House Martin was seen briefly and a Common Whitethroat was heard along the New Cut. The pair of Mute Swans on the river still have 2 cygnets, now much larger than when I last saw them.

We turned back and headed into the park but there was little of note until we reached Kramer hide, just after which a Reed Bunting was singing in a Willow next to the Navigation Channel. This bird was also elusive until Mark spotted it close to the centre of the Willow and we all had good views.

Moving on there was a Grey Heron on Kingsmead. We cut through the Crescent, where Reed Warblers were singing, and onto the Spit to have a look at the nesting Great Crested Grebes.A pair of Gadwall were also on west Fingers. I also spotted a Hobby as it flashed past on the other side of the lake but none of the group got onto it in time and the surrounding trees of the Spit prevented us seeing the bird again. Back to the main path and we headed back towards the Visitor Centre. Reed Warblers were singing in the Reeds along the edge of the main lake.

There are still good numbers of Mute Swans on the main lake (100+) and Swifts were still present in good numbers, swooping low over the main lake.

Finally we arrived back at the Visitor Centre and called it a day. The next walk is another 8am start on Sunday 29th July, let's hope for better weather, surely there can't be much more rain left up there!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ahhhh... Babies!

Todays bird ringing session - CES visit 5 at Priory Country Park - was dominated by juvenile birds.

41 birds of 13 species, 32 new & 9 retraps (retraps in brackets).

Chiffchaff 4 (2) - 5 of these were juveniles
Great Tit 4 (0) - all 4 juveniles
Wren 1 (1)
Blue Tit 7 (0) - all 7 juveniles
Long Tailed Tit 1 (0) - a juvenile
Bullfinch 1 (0) - a juvenile
Dunnock 1 (2) - of these 2 were juveniles (the other being a retrap adult)
Blackbird 4 (0) - 4 new juveniles
Robin 2 (1) - including 1 new juvenile
Blackcap 4 (2) - including 1 new juvenile
Greenfinch 1 (0)
Chaffinch 1 (0)
Song Thrush 1 (0) - a juvenile

That's a total of 27 juveniles. If you are interested in totals from our other CES visits, please click here.

Here are some of the cast from today:

Above: A juvenile Blackbird on the left and an adult female on the right for comparison.

Above: A juvenile Song Thrush - note all the thorn shaped markings on the wing.

Above: A juvenile Chiffchaff.

Above: A juvenile Robin (left) and adult Robin (right) for comparison. It will be a while yet before the baby Robin gets its own red breast - it has to replace and grow more feathers before that happens.

Above: A juvenile Bullfinch

Last weekend, we made a visit to 'the crescent' where we caught 20 different adult Reed Warblers moving between the reed bed and surrounding vegetation. Of the other 10 birds we caught, of note was our first juvenile Blackcap of the year.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Bank Holiday Weekend

Typical Bank Holiday weather, wet and cold. Not much to write home about on Saturday, just the usual suspects. The male Cuckoo was ever present and there were good numbers of Hirundines and Swifts over the main lake.

The Sunday volunteer task was to refurbish some of the fishing swims on the south side of the main lake. The weather was even worse than Saturday and it put a dent in the volunteer numbers with just 4 people but Nicky soon had us hard at work. We had to strip down some reclaimed timber before we headed around to the fishing swims. We managed to complete one swim by lunch time and with after a short break we headed back to the yard to prepare some more timber for next time, there being insufficient time for us to complete another swim.

Hopefully there will be better weather and turnout for the next task on Sunday 1st July. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am.

Again the male Cuckoo was ever present, moving between the Finger lakes area and the Visitor Centre. Excellent numbers of Swifts were present throughout the day, at least 200 being a conservative estimate.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Guided Walk - Sunday 27th May

It was a cracking  morning in the park with the weather playing ball this month after the wash out that was last months walk. Yesterday's plan of attack came to fruition and we headed over to 100 Acre for a walk around. We had only just left the Visitor Centre, cutting through from the car park to the New Meadow when a Cuckoo was heard. We hurried through to the meadow in the hope of getting a look and were just in time to see it fly off, being pursued by a small bird. It sounded quite distant the next time it called, but when I played the bubbling call of the female Cuckoo for the group the male returned and sat in a tree not far from us, calling. We had great views in the scope until it finally headed off across to the New Cut.

Cutting across the meadow we stopped a couple of times for singing Common Whitethroats, getting good views of both birds and song flight from one of them. One of the group spotted a Common Buzzard high overhead and we watched it as it drifted west. 2 Egyptian Geese flew over from the north east and looked as if they dropped into the main lake which was hidden behind trees.

From the Meadow we cut across to the cycle track where we stopped to listen to 2 Blackcaps singing either side of the track. Then up to the STW bridge for Sedge Warblers but only Reed Warblers were singing so it was onwards to 100 Acre, starting along the river. A Kingfisher was heard just up stream from the bridge but it did not show for us. A pair of Gadwall were on the river. Heading downstream there were a number of Reed Warblers and then another Whitethroat. Finally we came across a Sedge Warbler singing strongly along the edge of the small lake. We watched for a while and were treated to a couple of song flights and some good views before we moved on.

The Hemlock is growing very strongly this year, already over head height. It is providing good cover for Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers. A Willow Warbler was singing across the river on Riverside but remained unseen.

We continued down stream to the point where we could look back across the river to the new Waitrose car park. As yesterday several Lapwings were present here and it looked like one may have been sitting on eggs. It was initially seen standing with head down as if moving the eggs, before settling back down. A couple of Black-headed Gulls were scouting the area. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard on the other side of the river.

A few yards further down stream a Garden Warbler was singing in a small clump of trees by the river with Blackcap singing in the small plantation in the middle of the field. The Garden Warbler gave brief views and sang reasonably while the Blackcap did its best to drown it out from the plantation.

We turned away from the river following the ditch line where another Sedge Warbler was singing. I began telling the group that this was a good place for Buzzards when one appeared out over the gravel workings at Castle Mill. It flew low across workings towards the bypass before dropping out of sight. 8 Greylag Geese flew over, heading for the big lake.

We continued along the trail towards the crop field stopping off to have a quick look over the gravel works where they are draining the water. There was a Ringed plover here but it moved off before I could get the scope on it to verify but one of the group spotted a couple of Partridge in the area and these were identified as Red-legged. Moving up to the crop field a small party of Linnets were in the area, moving and feeding. We had poor views of these before we headed back long the edge of the crops towards the big lake. A couple of Sky Larks flew up from the gravel area, next to the crops, singing strongly as they headed upwards. A Lapwing flew up and gave its characteristic "peewit" call. Four Linnets passed overhead and then circled around settling on the gravel. They remained hard to see properly although another Sky Lark was spotted as I scanned the area with the scope. The Buzzard was spotted again, over towards the river, with a Crow in close attendance. Yellow Wagtail calls were heard in the crops but they stayed put and remained unseen today. A handful of Swallows and a couple of House Martins were zipping about.

On the east side of the big lake a number of Tufted Ducks were present again. Little Grebes were heard regularly during the morning but remained unseen. No sign of any Redshank again. The flock of Starlings was present again but no sign of the Sparrowhawk or Kestrel today. The 2 Greylag Geese with the big downy gosling were present on the big lake again.

It was getting late by now so we cut back across to the cycle track and headed back down the track, across the bridge, and down towards the car park.Birds were still singing strongly along the New Cut with Dunnock, Blackcap and Chiffchaff all leading the way. A Great Tit was feeding in the long grass close to the track. All the usual suspects were seen and/or heard during the morning so a it was a pretty successful walk, if a little warm by the end. Can't complain though after the soaking we got last month.

The next bird walk is Sunday, June 24th but note the earlier start time of 8am. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday 26th May

Did a recce of 100 Acre this morning in preparation for tomorrows guided walk. I always think this is one of the best areas of the park, especially in the spring.Sadly today we didn't find the variety of waders I was hoping for, just the odd Lapwing but the Warblers along the river were great and we had a couple of bonus species. First up we had a Kestrel on the telegraph pole as we started out along the river. Sedge and Reed Warblers were regulars along river but we also had a Willow Warbler in the trees on Riverside. Haven't had one of those in the park for a couple of weeks or more. A little further along a Mistle Thrush was singing, also on Riverside. Chiffchaffs were regularly heard as we headed further down stream. There were a number of Lapwing on the cleared land next to the new Waitrose, this area looks perfect for Lapwings at the moment but a layer of Tarmac in the near future will put an end to that. A couple of Black-headed Gulls were checking out the same area and we had 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls over as we watched the Lapwings. Sky Larks were singing overhead and Little Grebes were also heard on the big lake.

We skirted along the ditch and turned back along the crop field where a couple of calls betrayed a Yellow Wagtail which was on one of the new tree collars, along the edge of the field. It flew as we approached and dropped into the crops. Shortly after a second was seen over the field and this also dropped in further over towards the cycle path. A Sky Lark lifted from the gravel area, next to the field, singing strongly and a couple of Linnets flew in. As we cut across to the east side of the big lake a female Sparrowhawk flew low across the field. A few minutes later it flew back across towards Riverside and put up a large flock of Starlings, taking one in the process.

On the big lake, Little Grebes were heard again and there 10+ Tufted Ducks. A pair of Greylag Geese had a single large downy gosling with them. No sign of the expected Redshank. Most of the Starlings were in hiding in the hedge line along the east side of the lake by this time. There was little else of note on 100 Acre so we headed back into the park and were just in time to see a Red Kite fly over Fingers and turn down the east side of the lake. A phone call to DK and he picked it up over the south side of the main lake. A good end to the morning.

There were good numbers of damselflies around the park and on 100 Acre this morning, plenty of Banded Demoiselles, both males and females, Common Blues and a very nice Blue-tailed damselfly. Not as many butterflies about as I had expected given the favourable conditions.

The guided walk begins outside the Visitor Centre at 9am in the morning (Sunday 27th).

I had a quick look up at Mowsbury Hillfort nature reserve after I left the park and added Lesser Whitethroat and Stock Dove to the bird list for the site. The Lesser Whitethroat was initially heard in the hedgerow between the golf course and the crop fields on the north side of the reserve but it made its way up the north side scrub before it was lost to sight and went quiet. A pleasing find none the less.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saturday 19th May

The damp overcast conditions this morning seemed to suit the Hirundines and Swifts. My early count was around 250 but more Swifts arrived throughout the morning. The highlight of the morning was the 3 Common Sandpipers that JA and myself flushed along the north side of the main lake. They settled up near the Visitor Centre where DK flushed them when he arrived. They flew around the back of the island where they were lost.

The rest of the morning was pretty much as expected although Dunnocks seem to be singing again after a quiet period. The Great Crested Grebe nest, on Fingers, was unoccupied and both adults were seen to dive so no youngsters on either of their backs. Maybe they'll have a another go soon. We had 3 Grey Wagtails at the STW bridge. Sedge Warblers were very quiet at the bridge with very little singing.

Back at the car park a Lesser Whitethroat sang from the scrub between the car park and the Beefeater, the first for a couple of weeks.

Next Sunday (27th) is the next guided walk. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am.

In the afternoon I joined the Friends Group at Mowsbury Hillfort NR for a guided walk. Ed Burnett led the walk and concentrated on the plants and trees around the site which was very interesting. I also spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest hole and watched both adults visit several times. The youngsters could be heard calling in the hole. A Common Buzzard circled overhead while we watched the Woodpeckers.

On Sunday morning I carried out my monthly survey of the birds in Putnoe Wood. A couple more Great Spotted Woodpecker holes were found here and one had a youngster peering out from the hole, almost ready to fledge. Surprise of the morning was a Common Whitethroat which was found in the middle of the Wood, off the main path. I thought I might one or two of these on the edge of the golf course but wasn't expecting one in the middle of the Wood. Garden Warblers were recorded for the first time this year.

Another busy weekend!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dawn Chorus guided walk

This morning it was up early and down the park for a 5am start, the aim being to experience the Dawn Chorus. 10 people joined me along with Jane, the ranger, at this unearthly hour and we started with a look at some of the 13 Tufted Ducks that were on the main lake, quite a high number for this time of year. There were 8 Common Terns around the lake and a single Black-headed Gull perched on one of the buoys at the west end of the lake. At this early hour there were no Hirundines or Swifts, although the Swifts did arrive shortly after. After a look at the Tufted's through the scope we headed off down the main path and immediately had a male Reed Bunting singing from one of the Willows along the side of the lake. A little further along and it was a Reed Warbler burbling away as we passed but we struggled to see this individual as it was tucked down in the reeds behind a small Willow.

Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both singing along the south side of the Rough by the Steps. Further along the main path we turned off along the Spit and had good views of a Blackcap while a Chiffchaff sang from the top of the Willow above us. Reed Warblers were singing from the Crescent reed bed and the reeds on west Fingers. The Great Crested Grebe now seem to have a more substantial nest and was sitting tight this morning. Further along the Spit a Great Tit was singing his chiming two note song. There was little else of note along here although a distant Cuckoo was heard for the first time. This became a regular back beat for the morning. The Coot nest in the north east corner of the main lake was empty having been occupied by mum and several youngsters yesterday. Several of the Coot nests along the north side of the main lake have produced young this year, it remains to be seen how many survive to adulthood. 2 of the earliest brood on west Fingers are now quite well grown and look as if they will make it. A brood of 4 Canada Goose goslings were on the east side of the Finger lakes with both adults in attendance this morning.

Heading back along the main path we had reasonable views of a Reed Warbler along the edge of the lake before we turned down the Steps and headed along the path up to the Rough gate. By this time the Chorus was really getting into gear and it was becoming difficult to pick out individual birds. However just opposite the gate a Garden Warbler was beginning to sing, although it wasn't quite into full stride by this time. In fact after yesterdays slightly later start when we had a lot of singing Garden Warblers with birds along the Spit and several around the Rough it seemed that Garden Warblers were late risers this morning.

Things improved as we entered the Rough though as EG was into his second CES ringing session of the year and he had a Garden Warbler in hand as we arrived. This is the archetypal "Little Brown Job" (LBJ) with virtually no distinguishing features, excepting the large eye. The ringers caught three while we were there along with a Blackcap and a Song Thrush. The level of song peeked while we watched the ringing demonstration with a couple of Common Whitethroats joining the chorus in the Rough. A single Little Egret flew over, probably leaving the Fingers roost and several Swifts glided around overhead. The Cuckoo was calling regularly but remained unseen.

It was quite a cold start this morning and with people beginning to stamp their feet to keep warm it was time to thank the ringers for their time and we left the Rough and continued along the north side of Fingers. The chorus was beginning to subside by this time and it was becoming easier to pick out the individual songsters. The next stop was the STW bridge where the Sedge Warblers were active but silent in the reed bed under the bridge. A single Reed Warbler was singing in the reeds over on the Riverside bank of the river. Along the New Cut a Moorhen family was seen with both adults attending to 2 youngsters. A pair of Canada Geese with 5 goslings passed under the bridge and stopped at the mouth of the Cut. The pair of Mute Swans, initially back on the nest, finally woke and headed up towards the mouth of the New Cut with their 2 youngsters. The male Swan took and instant dislike to the Canada Geese and tried to move them on but they were happy to stay put on the bank. A Common Whitethroat sang briefly from the Willows at the end of the Cut. Two Jays were seen flying from Kings Mead across to the Woodland Walk.

Back in the park we followed the navigation channel up stream in the hope of finding a singing Sedge Warbler. This we did although the individual was not really up to speed, another late riser like the Garden Warbler it seems. We reached the small copse before cutting across to Kramer hide and were delighted to hear and then see a Kingfisher circling the copse. It became apparent that a second was also present and as the first continued to circle the second was finally seen as it flew from a perch in the plantation on the opposite side of the path. Both birds disappeared but not before another fly past by one of them, giving great views as it flew across the river, headed out over Kingsmead before turning back and departing up stream along the river.

A brief stop in Kramer hide revealed little of note, the Mute Swan was on the nest and did not reveal any of the 3 young we saw yesterday morning. We had a quick look at a Wrens nest before continuing on along the east side of Fingers. Up at the Beach we stopped to scan the main lake for Hirundines which were still absent. However by now 60+ Swifts were gliding around over the west end of the main lake.

I continued to point out the various songsters as we continued along the east side of the lake and then along the south side. We stopped at the "Rookery" where there only seems to be a single active nest now and a couple of Rooks were seen by the nest. Another Reed Warbler was heard along the south side before we turned off towards the river.

Now for the morning challenge, would the Grasshopper Warbler (Gropper) be singing on Fenlake Meadows and, if so,  would all of the group manage to hear it. This is a notoriously difficult bird to hear, let alone see, but we were in luck, it was singing when we arrived at the view point. I gave a description of the song which, as it's name implies, sounds like a grasshopper or like the cicadas you hear when abroad. It can also be likened to sound that a fisherman's reel makes when he is winding in his line. Most of the group managed to hear it but I had to break out the iPod and let a couple of the group hear a recording before they latched onto the real bird. A Sedge Warbler was also heard over on Fenlake but like the Gropper it was fairly distant.

We moved on, cutting back through to the main lake and continuing along the south side. A Goldfinch was singing in the south west corner and gave good views as it flew over our heads. Another Reed Warbler was in the south west corner reed bed. There was nothing new along the west side of the lake but we had a quick stop in the Marina to check out another nesting Mute Swan which had its wings slightly spread suggesting it may have young, but none could be seen. The final leg back along the north side of the lake to the Visitor Centre revealed yet another Coot family with another pair still on their nest. Back at the Visitor Centre and that was the end of the walk. We did fairly well, hearing most of the expected species with just Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat the notable exceptions. Thanks to all of those that braved the early hour.

It's back to normal later this month with the next guided walk on Sunday the 27th May. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 9am. See you there.

And finally some pictures from Saturday mornings wanderings:

Garden Warbler

Great Crested Grebe eating a Bullhead

Moorhen nest

Sedge Warbler