Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guided Walk 29th April 2012

Finally the weather forecast was correct, unfortunately that meant pouring rain and strong winds. I quite expected to have no takers for the guided walk this morning but amazingly four hardy souls turned out. It wasn't a great morning but the highlight was the hirundines. Not the numbers of yesterday but, standing on the main lake dipping platform, we had an ID masterclass. Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins whizzed past our heads or skimmed low over the lake/path giving fantastic views, allowing all to see the plumage of each in detail. By the time we finished everyone was confidently ID'ing everything that zipped past. The only other thing  we wanted was for a Swift to drop in but alas that wasn't to be.

Along the Spit we had Chaffinch singing and calling and on west Fingers I set up the scope on a Coot family with two youngsters. The Great Crested Grebe nest was looking very close to being washed out with nobody home but one of the pair close by. A male Gadwall was stood on fallen Willow at the north end of west Fingers and moor Swallows were zipping about over the water and perching up on the same Willow. We had average views of the Gadwall in the scope as misting became a problem in the wet conditions. A Blackcap sang from the closed off section at the end of the Spit.

Back to the Crescent but no sign of the Reed Warbler or anything else for that matter. Back on the main path and the Coot, in the north east corner of the main lake, was still sitting tight on her nest. The number of Hirundines seemed to have increased slightly with quite a number flying up and down the main path as well a those still over the lakes. There had been ~50 earlier but probably nearer 100 now, mostly Swallows with a few House and Sand Martins in the mix.

We did a circuit of Fingers from the Steps and had a few moor singing Blackcaps and a singing Chiffchaff around by the Sedgewick Seat. By this time the rain was coming down even harder if that was possible so we hurried around to Kramer hide. There were a couple of Greylag Geese with about 9 Canadas on Kingsmead. A larger semi circle of fungi (~8ft diameter) is visible over the fence just before you get to the hide. The question is, what happened to the other half?

Not much from the hide. The Mute Swan and Canada Goose were both sitting tight on their respective nests. Mallard and Coot were also present. Highlight was a Muntjac, sheltering under the trees on the right had spit. I managed to dry off the scope to offer good views of a rather bedraggled looking deer.

Along the east side of Fingers I was stopped in my tracks as something swam across the north west corner of east Fingers. I couldn't make it out at first but the bins resolved a Coot with a huge clump of old reeds in tow. Hasty reinforcements to the nearby nest were the order of the day in case the water level increased too much. His partner was sitting tight. Loads of Swallows and Martins at this end of Fingers were again appreciated by the group.

Another stop at the dipping platform to hammer home those Swallow and Martin ID points before the return to the VC.

Heading back along the main path I spotted 3 Tufted Ducks (2m1f) on the main lake and got everyone onto them just before they all departed north east. There had been 5 on the lake just before the walk started but they had disappeared so these 3 were a welcome bonus.

We finished with a Great Crested Grebe on the main lake trying to swallow a very large fish, and succeeding in the end, it was touch and go for a while. I suspect it will spend the afternoon sleeping off that meal.

Back at the VC and it was off home to dry out. The next guided walk is the Dawn Chorus walk on Sunday 13th May at 5am, then it's back to normal on Sunday 27th May at 9am. Meet at the visitor centre for both of these.