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

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