Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday 17th March

With reports of Blackcaps and Sand Martins in the week I was optimistic of another first for the year this morning. With rain forecast it was an early start for me and a singing Chiffchaff as soon as I got out of the car, a good start. DK was an early starter too and we checked out the main lake which was noticeably down on wildfowl. Pochard seem to have departed with DK reporting none for the previous couple of days either. Mute Swan numbers are also well down, the resident pair seemingly taking control with just a few interlopers hanging around. There are still quite a few Tufted Ducks around with the males now sporting particularly fine plumage.

Several Coots are now nesting with a pair over by the main lake hide, a pair in the north west corner and a pair on the Finger Lakes. Other pairs hold territories along the north shore of the main lake. A handful of Great Crested Grebes remain including the pair on the Finger Lakes.

At the Spit we spotted a Chiffchaff flitting about in the trees and had good views as it went about the business of feeding up. We heard a Blackcap singing quite strongly but couldn't locate it as it stopped shortly after. 20 Redwing passed over east. There wasn't much else about on Fingers, a few Tufteds and a couple of Gadwalls. JA joined us for a loop around the Crescent, where a Kingfisher passed through, before we headed around to the Rough where EG was ringing. We confirmed he had not been using a Blackcap tape this morning!! He hadn't caught much but had a good round shortly after we arrived, including 3 Long-tailed Tits, a Redwing, Great Tit, Blue Tit and a Dunnock. Another check of the nets and the Chiffchaff, that had been singing while EG processed the first batch, was in the bag. It was sporting "Pollen Horns" as explained in EN's blog here.

We left EG to it and continued around past the Sedgewick seat where we flushed a couple of Teal and a couple more Gadwall were tucked around the corner.

On Kings Mead there were the usual Canada Geese and a single Greylag. In the Cormorant roost tree I spotted a single Cormorant with a Stock Dove for a neighbour. A quick stop at Kramer hide but little of note although the Mute Swans look to be nesting in front of the hide this year.

Along the east side of Fingers DK was just showing where the 12 Little Egrets had roosted the previous evening, when one dropped in! Nice to see a day time visitor, maybe they will nest here, we can only hope.

No Grey Wagtail along the Canoe Slalom this week, but back at the main lake DK spotted 3 Sand Martins over the north side. We were soon onto them and shortly after EG phoned to say they had passed over the Rough. Not much to see from the main lake hide. Next stop was Fenlake but no Stonechat or Snipe, just Black-headed and Common Gulls and 12 Teal.

That was pretty much it, we had the usual suspects along the west side of the main lake and then it was back to the VC to add the Sand Martins and 6 Chiffchaffs to the sightings board.

On Sunday next week there is the next guided bird walk starting at 9am. Don't forget the clocks go forward the night before so we'll be into British Summer Time. See you outside the Visitor Centre.

I moved onto Putnoe Wood where the Friends Group had organised a litter pick. 24 bags of litter were collected from this small wood, a great job done by the group.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A busy weekend...

... started off at the park early Saturday morning. Met up with DK and checked out the Finger Lakes. The Great Crested Grebe has found a mate this week and DK said they had built a next but a pair of Coots have now taken ownership! A couple of male Shovelers were doing the rounds along with a few Gadwalls. A party of 10 Tufted Ducks were on east Fingers. DK saw a Weasel along the Spit before I arrived.

After checking out the Crescent we headed along the Navigation Channel where we had good views of a couple of Kingfishers chasing up and down and across Kings Mead. We continued up towards the STW bridge and JA joined us and told us he'd spotted a Water Rail in the Crescent, you can't win them all!

Up to the bridge and DK spotted a Jay flying across to Riverside. A Kingfisher was buzzing about on the back river.

We continued onto 100 Acre where there were a good variety of ducks but just small numbers. Little Grebes were also present. We flushed a couple of Redshank from the east side of the big lake and a couple of Oystercatchers did a circuit in their usual noisy manner. At least 6 Meadow Pipits were in the hedge line to the south of the bay on the big lake. We cut across to the crop field, by the bypass, in search of geese and found a small party of Greylags and the five Egyptians that have been reported regularly in recent weeks. There was no sign of the Pink Foot, then a party of Greylags flew over from Willington and there was the Pink Foot in amongst them. Skylarks were seemingly everywhere. A Kestrel put up c50 Goldfinch as it crossed 100 Acre.

We cut along the edge of the crop field back to Meadow Lane GP and found 2 Oystercatchers (the same 2?). There was little else of note on the lake so we headed back to the park.

At the Rough we found the highlight of the morning, the first Chiffchaff of the year, singing away, it must be Spring. Back to the main path and a circuit of the main lake took in the Canoe Slalom for the usual Grey Wagtail. We failed to connect with the over wintering Stonechat on Fenlake Meadows this week and there was little else of note, just Black-headed Gulls a few Common Gulls and a couple of Teal.

The usual mix of Tits, Finches, Robins and Blackbirds along the west side of the main lake and it was back to the sightings board to update with the star of the day, the Chiffchaff.

In the afternoon it was up to Mowsbury Hillfort NR with the Friends Group volunteers for some pruning of the apple trees and a bit more scrub clearance. Of note on a circuit of the reserve, before the others arrived, was a Common Buzzard, a Bullfinch and a Muntjac. After the task was complete I took the group on a short guided bird walk and along with the more common species a Treecreeper and 3 Lapwing, in the fields on the north side, were added to the list.

On to Sunday morning and the monthly survey at Putnoe Wood. Details as follows:

Blackbird 4
Blue Tit 21
Carrion Crow 21
Chaffinch 7
Coal Tit 2
Wren 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker 3
Great Tit 12
Green Woodpecker 2
Jackdaw 16
Magpie 6
Nuthatch 2
Robin 10
Treecreeper 2
Woodpigeon 20
Goldfinch 2
Long-tailed Tit 6
Stock Dove 2
Redwing 10
Chiffchaff 1
Dunnock 1
Bullfinch 2
Song Thrush 1

Again the star bird was a singing Chiffchaff, just like buses, none for ages and then 2 come along at once (well the same weekend)!