Priory Country Park is a former gravel pits located on the South East edge of Bedford, adjacent to the River Great Ouse. Find us at Barkers Lane off A428, or in Priory Business Park off A421 Bedford bypass. Admission is Free with access to the Visitor centre and 2 hides, one overlooking the main lake and one on the Finger lakes. You will find Winter wildfowl, passage terns and waders, and Water Rail all year.
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.