Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guided Walk - 26/02/2012

What a great morning at the park. 12 people came down for the guided walk this morning and the weather really turned it on too. As usual I arrived early for a quick scout around, and met up with DK for a wander around Fingers. I had a Treecreeper in the Alders around the Crescent and a Kingfisher across Fingers and into the Beach corner of the main lake. On Fingers there were Gadwall, Shoveller, Teal, still just the single Great Crested Grebe, Coots and Canada Geese pairing up and taking up territories. On the main lake a pair of Great Crested Grebes (GCG) were doing the weed dance. There was little else of note until we came down the east side of Fingers and DK spotted the leucistic Gadwall which looked stunning in the early morning light. It is a paler grey version of a Gadwall but the paler plumage really sets off the black bill and rump.

Leucistic and normal male Gadwalls
After that I headed back to the Visitor Centre to pick up the group, and had a Water Rail call from the Crescent reed bed. We started with an anti-clockwise loop around the main lake. On the main lake we spotted a pair of Gadwall feeding with a few Tufted Ducks and some Coots. A female Sparrowhawk flew over low south west from the car park out over the Marina. Down the west side of the lake we had at least half a dozen Greenfinch calling and "leering" at us. Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits were also seen. By the disabled access fishing swim I heard a Reed Bunting singing quietly in the reeds just inside the sailing club fence. Four Long-tailed Tits passed overhead and as we moved off I spotted an odd looking Blackbird in the south west corner, with the bins I found it had a white head. I think DK has seen this bird before but it was the first time I have managed to catch up with it. With the naked eye it initially looked like a bird that had lost all the feather from it's head but that was just an optical illusion made by the white head feathers.

We walked down to the river to check out Fenlake Meadows and found 3 Teal on the lake which gave good views through the scope. Next stop was the regular spot for the over wintering Stonechat which was waiting for us, perched up on one of the fence posts on the east side of the lake. I just managed to get the scope on it and a couple of the group got a look before it dropped down into the reeds and was not seen again.

Various versions of Great Tit song kept us entertained as we walked around Press Mead and a Song Thrush joined in with his repertoire. Next stop was the Canoe Slalom where the Grey Wagtail gave good views through the scope for everyone and a 20+ party of Redwings passed overhead stopping off in the trees behind the Canoe Slalom. Again we had good views of some of the birds in the top of the trees.

We continued along the side of the Canoe slalom, getting even closer to the Grey Wagtail, and crossed the bridge back towards the main lake. There was no sign of the GCG seen doing the weed dance earlier but we did spot a small group of Pochard and Tufted Ducks feeding not too far out.

Over to Fingers and the resident Mute Swans were showing signs of mating. This time of year a pair can often be seen "mirroring" where they copy each others moves, this often includes a lot of bathing. The female then sits lower in the water so the male can mount her for the actual mating act after which the pair do a little dance together facing each other so their heads and necks make the shape of a heart. We watched this play out in front of us, absolutely beautiful. A few metres further along and I spotted the Leucistic Gadwall again and the group got a good view of this stunning bird. There was also a regular male close by for comparison.

One of the group had joined us half way round and mentioned he had seen a Common Buzzard earlier, over Kings Mead. Sure enough we found the bird a little further along, just past Kramer Hide, low over Kings Mead and we watched it getting some attention from a Crow before it dropped below the tree line. We continued around Fingers, heading up towards the Sedgewick Seat and found a nice little group of Teal nice and close and unusually confiding. While watching a Muntjac moved out of cover on one of the Spits behind the Teal and walked along until it went out of sight behind a closer spit. One of the group asked what bird it was that was in the Willows behind the Teal. The Scope revealed a male Sparrowhawk having a preen.

One of the group spotted another Buzzard coming in high from the west. I looked up and there were 2 then 4  all coming in from the same direction. Suddenly 3 more were coming in from the east and then another 4. Suddenly we had 11 Common Buzzards in a thermal high overhead, superb.

We continued around Fingers back towards the main path and had a flyover Great-spotted Woodpecker. There was little else of note as we made our way along the main path back to the Visitor Centre. By this time the park was extremely busy, the good weather having persuaded lots of people to come down to the park for a spring picnic.


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