Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Eve

Spent a couple of hours in Kramer hide this morning. While there I saw a couple of Sparrowhawks displaying over the Finger Lakes. Approx. 35 Teals dropped in and 11 of those showed well opposite the hide. There were at least 3m and 6f Shovelers showing on and off and I heard a Bullfinch and a Treecreeper somewhere close by.  The Kingfisher paid several visits but did not use the new perch so I had to make do with a much maligned subject:

This Cormorant spent quite a while fishing in front of the hide.

It even had a bit of salad with its fish. There is a fish in there if you look closely.

And finally it departed.

The Mallard is another subject often taken for granted, what a beauty:

Aberrant Blackbird
And on my way back to the car I spotted this guy, an aberrant Blackbird. Unfortunately I couldn't get too close so just a record shot. It also had white patches on it's underside.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday 29th December - Guided Walk

It was the final guided bird walk of the year this morning and what a great turnout we had despite the cold. The 3 Black Swans which had been spotted briefly the previous morning were back on the main lake. The early birds got a good view of them before they went behind the island. The later arrivals had to make do with more distant views as they headed towards the east end of the lake. I had hoped to catch up with them at that end of the lake but was we set off along the main path I spotted them, out of the corner of my eye, as they flew over the trees at the south west corner.

We cut across the meadow and over to the north side of the Finger lakes on the lookout for Bullfinches. They didn't let me down with one calling from the Rough and then more calls from the Sheep Pen and finally reasonable views of a female high in the Poplars in the Sheep Pen.

We continued on over to 100 Acre getting great views of a couple of Long-tailed Tits in the trees along side the cycle track. On 100 Acre we cut down the east side of the big lake getting good views of Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Little Grebe, amongst the many wild fowl on and around the big lake. A Common Buzzard also flew across the lake and a couple of Snipe flew over the island.

We followed the trail as it turned towards the crop fields and were just in time to see a large flock of Lapwings put up by a dog and owner. We also had a couple of small flocks of Golden Plover fly over and they looked spectacular as they turned and the sun glinted off them, resembling glitter falling in the sky.

Another Snipe was put up from the rough ground at the north side of the crop fields and many of the Lapwings had set down in the crop field. There seemed to be no Golden Plovers here though, one of the few times in recent weeks when there haven't been any to see here.

One of the group found a couple of Fieldfares feeding with a mixed flock of Starlings and Skylarks and everyone managed to get good views through the scopes.

We gathered together overlooking the Castle Mill workings and scanned the small area of standing water for interesting birds. A couple of Redshanks were the highlight here. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was also on the water and a large flock of Linnets was roving about feeding in the area. A Green Woodpecker flew to the tree in this section and we managed to get reasonable views before it flew off towards the bypass.

Heading back to the park we stopped briefly at the end of Meadow Lane and had a quick chat about the Chiffchaffs which have been present here in recent days. Unfortunately we didn't see any today but it's well worth wandering along Meadow Lane as there are often mixed flocks of Tits and Finches with the odd Goldcrest in the mix, as well as the Chiffchaffs, if they stick around.

We headed back into the park cutting across the meadows and back to the car park and the end of the walk. Quite a successful morning with plenty of species seen and we managed to avoid the flood water around the park. The worst of the flooding has receded for the moment but with more rain forecast this week don't put your wellies away just yet.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 26th January at 9am, meet outside of the visitor centre as normal.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve - After the storm

Awoke to a surprisingly dry morning so headed off down to the park first thing. It was still quite windy and very mild. The ground is saturated so if you are paying a visit make sure you have waterproof footwear and avoid trying out your brand new trainers down here tomorrow unless you really don't like them!

Met up with DK again and we went down to check out the Little Egret roost but could only find 3, a bit disappointing after the 12 we had yesterday morning.

Once again we failed to find the Shag which was first spotted on Sunday morning but we met up with TP who said he had seen the bird the previous day in the north east corner of the main lake. I think everybody else who came down yesterday failed to find it myself and DK included.

We found half a dozen Shoveler on Fingers including 2 males. There were also at least 2 Little Grebes a and a single male Gadwall. Most of the ducks now seem to be on the main lake. We had a small party of Wigeon over north east early on.

On the main lake there were 13 Pochards, 28 Tufted Ducks and 20 Gadwalls. There were also 2 more Little Grebes.

Those were the highlights in the park but I popped down to Meadow Lane afterwards and located a nice mixed flock of Tits, Chiffchaffs and this Goldcrest:

It was a male as I could see some orange/red in the crest in one of the other photographs.

There were at least 2 Chiffchaffs along Meadow Lane and a third along the the cycle track between the STW and Meadow Lane. This last bird looked quite grey initially but it didn't stick around long so I didn't get a chance to look at it closely. All the Chiffy calls I heard today were the normal one.

Earlier we had seen good size flocks of Golden Plovers and Lapwings over 100 Acre so I popped down to the crop fields by the bypass and found ~500 Golden Plovers and ~200 Lapwings. There was a Kestrel over 100 Acre when I made my way back along the cycle track to my car.

There is a guided bird walk, weather permitting, on Sunday 29th December. Meet at the visitor centre at 9am. Weather forecast looks OK at the moment so finger crossed for a nice mornings birding.    


Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday 20th December - Wow!

What a morning we had in the park. Wandered around with DK and we had 6 Little Egrets in the roost and 3 Corn Buntings leaving the Crescent reed bed roost. The usual selection of winter ducks, mostly on the main lake but a few on Fingers along with a Little Grebe and a Kingfisher.

Along the cycle track between the STW entrance and Meadow Lane we found a couple of Chiffchaffs and along Meadow Lane there were another six including one with an interesting call:

All the Chiffchaffs appeared similar in appearance and there were a couple calling with a normal Collybita type call. They were all very mobile, in fact the interesting bird was first heard along the cycle track by the STW and was seen to fly off towards Meadow Lane where we relocated it on the left side just short of the house and garden on the right. It was associating with 2 other Chiffies and I think they all ended up moving off into the newish plantation at the top of the hill.

There was a Common Buzzard sitting in a tree on the far side of the field as we were checking the Chiffies along Meadow Lane.

Now for the wow part of the morning. We continued along the cycle track to the crop fields where ~1000 Golden Plovers and ~300 Lapwings were on the ground along with a few gulls and a single Egyptian Goose. The Golden Plovers and Lapwings were quite restless, getting up and returning to the field in varying numbers. Finally they all got up which was a spectacular site with the sun catching the plumage as they twisted and turned. The Golden Plovers looked like confetti or glitter high in the sky. We headed back along the path with the flocks still high overhead and then DK spotted a Peregrine coming in low from north and next thing we knew it was locked onto a Lapwing and a dog fight ensued with the Lapwing twisting and turning to get away and the Peregrine gaining height and making swooping dives at the Lapwing, missing each time. Amazingly the Lapwing finally managed to loose it's pursuer and the Peregrine headed off west in search of another easier meal. How fantastic was that!!!

We also had a Sparrowhawk along Meadow Lane and a Kestrel was over the Rough in the park, not a bad morning for raptors!

Back in the park and it was time for me to head off to the VC to start work with the rangers. I took the main path and checked Fingers as I was passing, a red headed Goosander was on west Fingers at the north end! Could this morning get any better? The answer to that is yes, I could have chosen NOT to take my camera and big lens in for a service yesterday! Oh well perhaps next week it'll all happen again ;-)

I spent the rest of the day with rangers Jane and Jon taking out more of the fallen Willows adjacent to Kramer hide. Still a bit more to go which we'll hopefully get to during the Christmas holiday period.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Saturday 14th December - Chiffchaff hunt

An unusual sight in the park was this Pheasant perched in a tree by the main path near the Steps. It seemed quite happy and did not move as joggers and dog walkers passed underneath. It's not unusual to see Pheasants in the park but I've never seen one here before. 

After last weeks Tristis type Chiffchaff along the cycle track we decided to have another look along there to see if we could find it again and maybe photograph it this time. Unfortunately we did not find that individual although we did have five Chiffchaffs, all seemingly collybita. The calls heard were certainly the collybita type call and the plumage seemed normal enough on all of the individuals. All were found along the track between the sewage works entrance and the corner of Meadow Lane.

The Golden Plovers and Lapwings were again in the crop field by the bypass although only in small numbers, much larger numbers were on the opposite side of the bypass. A passing Sparrowhawk put up the flock at one point. A single Egyptian Goose was still present in the same field.

Golden Plovers and Lapwings
Back in the park we watched this Grey Heron swimming in front of Kramer hide. The new Kingfisher perch was not in use but we watched a Kingfisher in a bush on the opposite bank. Hopefully it will progress to the perch in time.

Grey Heron

Following are a couple of pictures taken when the ringers were in a couple of weeks ago.

Always great to see birds in the hand but especially a couple of crackers like these two!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday the 13th!!!!

I spent the day in the park working with rangers Jon and Danny. We started clearing around the Kramer hide to improve the sight lines. Still some work to do on the left hand side but now there is a good view to the right so all of those ducks that hide down that end will make it onto DK's list :-)

I also put in a Kingfisher perch in front of the hide. Give it some time and hopefully a quiet session in the hide will reward you with a Kingfisher a few yards away!

I had a quick walk around Fingers with DK first thing this morning and the highlight was 10 Little Egrets in the Finger Lakes roost.

Most of the ducks seem to have moved onto the main lake but we had 3 female Shovelers on Fingers. Later while we were working we had a pair of Shoveler and 3 Teal in front of Kramer hide.

There were a good number of Tufted Ducks on the main lake and at least 7 Pochard. Also a few Gadwall on here.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Brash and burn - Browns Wood, Clapham

Brown Wood Dec Event Poster by David Barnes

Winter Wassail - Mowsbury Hillfort NR

Wassail 2014 Poster by David Barnes

What's been happening in the park?

Last weekend we had the final Sunday volunteer task of the year. We continued with the work on the plantations near the overflow car park and opened up the paths between the meadows and the car park. This was followed by a bbq and thanks go to the rangers for providing the food and to volunteer Alan for the cakes and meat. It was a shame that some of the regulars were unable to make it but that meant all the more food for the rest of us :-) Thanks go out to all of the volunteers who have given up their time to help with tasks around the park this year and we look forward to seeing everyone again in the new year. The next task is on Sunday 5th January 2014, 9am - 3pm. As always if you can only make part of the day then please come along as any time you can give is most welcome.

On the birding front it's still surprisingly quiet in the park with low numbers of over wintering ducks, most likely due to the incredibly mild weather we are still experiencing for this time of year.

In the park early morning visits should get you Little Egrets roosting in the trees around the Finger Lakes. Recently they seem to favour the fingers at the north end of west Fingers. Another early morning species is the Corn Bunting which are roosting in Crescent reed bed and can be spotted leaving at around sun rise a little after the Little Egrets depart. And if you are getting up early don't miss the Corvid roost which, although still quite small, is always a great spectacle as they rise up to depart in a noisy group. They are usually the first to go while it's still quite dark.

The best place is 100 Acre where a small number of Wigeon remain along with most of the other duck species we expect to see at this time of year. A Common Buzzard and a Kestrel are regularly seen here and Snipe and Jack Snipe can also bee seen. On the crop fields by the bypass large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwings are regulars along with Greylag and Canada Geese. There are also 3 Egyptian Geese here and occasionally other waders turn up on the standing water on the field. Redshank and Dunlin have both been seen in the past couple of weeks.

On Saturday along the cycle track where it passes by Meadow Lane GP we found a very grey looking Chiffchaff with a very bright white eye stripe. Shortly after we found a second Chiffchaff, a brown bird with a buff, less marked, eye stripe. Unfortunately neither bird was calling and both were very mobile and quickly lost to sight.

If you are of a mind to check out 100 Acre please try to keep to the well used trails in order to avoid disturbing birds like the Snipe where possible. The main trail runs along side the river all the way down to the ditch where you can turn right and follow the track back towards the crop fields. At the crop fields you can follow the edge of the field back towards the big lake and and then follow the edge of the lake back towards Meadow Lane.

The Starling roost at neighbouring Willington Gravel Pits is still going strong.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Volunteer Task Sunday 1st December

The next volunteer task is this Sunday, the 1st, not the 8th as previously published. Here are the details from the rangers:

This Sunday’s volunteer task is a continuation of the plantation management, with a bbq to say thanks for all the hard work you have all put in this year.  We will provide the basics (sausages, potatoes etc.) but if you want to bring anything to cook please do.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Guided Walk - 24/11/2013

It's been a pretty grim weekend on the weather front, cold grey and occasional drizzle. On the birding front it has been great with a couple of productive visits to 100 Acre adding to the species list.

Sunday was a slightly warmer start (5°C) than Saturday but still overcast with drizzle at times. There was a nice male Pochard dozing in the north west corner of the main lake to get us under way on the guided walk. Pretty quiet on the main lake otherwise with a surprising no Great Crested Grebes, as has been the case all week.

We headed down to Fingers and found 3 Gadwalls on west Fingers before dropping down into the Crescent. After weeks of the ducks being on west Fingers they seem to have moved this week, preferring to congregate at the gap between the 2 lakes so viewing from the Crescent is a good option now. Tufted Ducks, Shoveler and a few more Gadwalls were all viewed in the scope from here but the Little Grebes that were around earlier were absent. Also earlier 5 Corn Buntings came out of their roost in the reed bed. There were also 5 Little Egrets at roost on west Fingers just before sunrise.

We moved on to the Navigation Channel along the east side of Fingers and found a Little Grebe which gave reasonable views between dives.

Next stop was the STW bridge where I spotted a Kingfisher zip across the back river and managed to relocate it sitting in a tree on the edge of the reed bed so I got the scope set up and about half the group got to see it before it departed.

We continued on to 100 Acre and found some Gadwalls, Mallards and Teals in the bay at the south end of the big lake. Further on we found a larger number of Teals tucked in close to the bank of the island and Wigeon could be heard calling on the far side of the island. A Common Buzzard made a low pass over us and out over the lake giving excellent views to all. One of the group spotted a large number of birds in the air behind us, towards the bridge over the bypass. These were Golden Plovers and Lapwings which have been loafing on the crop fields next to the bypass. I had been hoping to catch them on the ground but we stood and watched them all in the air, swirling about, almost as good a Starling murmuration.      

Past the island there were more Teal in the bay and a nice party of Goldfinch in the trees along the edge of the bay. We approached the crop fields taking care not to spook any remaining birds but as expected most of the Lapwings and all of the Golden Plovers had departed. A few of the Golden Plovers were still overhead and continued to circle but most had dropped onto the fields across the bypass. A handful of Lapwings remained with a group of Black-headed and Common Gulls and large flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese. 3 Egyptian Geese also showed well. A few Snipe flushed from the wet gravel area at the north side of the field along with a single Jack Snipe. Saturday we had 19 Snipe and 4 Jack Snipe in the same area.

One of the group spotted a green woodpecker in a tree over towards Castle Mill which we managed to scope before it moved on. We also flushed a couple of Redshank in the area.

On the way back to the park we stopped at the big lake to look for the Wigeon which we located on the far side of the island allowing limited views through the scope.

Once back in the park we headed to the Rough where the ringers were working. Unfortunately by this time we had missed the best birds but we had a demo of the process with 2 Great Tits and a Blue Tit. As usual it was great to see these birds in the hand.

The final stop of the day was for a quick scan of the main lake where DK had seen a Goosander earlier. We were unable to locate it and the sailing had started so it is likely that the Goosander had left although it may have been hidden from view behind the island.

It was great to get out to 100 Acre again as we always get a few different species and the spectacular flocks of Golden Plovers and Lapwings was a real treat. Thanks to all who came.

The next guided bird walk is on December 29th at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre. Why not join me and walk off the Christmas excess?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday 16/11/2013

A lovely start to the morning, the forecast frost was absent and with virtually no breeze it felt much warmer than the thermometer said. It was still quite dark when I arrived in the park and the gulls and Jackdaws were still at roost. There were ~300 gulls on the main lake, mostly Black-headed but too dark to see for certain. As I headed down the main path on the north side of the main lake some of the Jackdaws lifted from the trees around Finger and moved across to the south side of the main lake. By the time I reached Fingers most of them had come back again but as I turned along the Spit they all lifted off again and departed for their feeding grounds.

Fingers looked quiet initially but most of the ducks were at the north end and I ended up with a tally of 53 Gadwalls, 11 Shovelers, 3 Wigeons and 2 Teals. There were also at least 3 Water Rails around Fingers with one in the Crescent and 2 in West Fingers. A Jay was heard calling over towards Cardington Lock followed by a series of Buzzard calls which may have been Jay mimicry. I walked around to the Navigation Channel and scanned the trees over near the Lock but could find neither a Jay or a Buzzard. As I walked back towards the Beach a Treecreeper called in the plantation nearby.

I joined DK and JA at the Spit and we headed to the Rough where EG was ringing. Highlights were a Goldcrest, 2 female Bullfinches and a female Blackcap, just a small portion of the birds netted while we were there.

There were a few small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares passing through during the morning and early on a large flock of Starlings passed through west, probably from the Willington GP roost. A single Little Grebe was on the main lake along with 3 more Wigeons and the usual suspects. Another Goldcrest was spotted on the south side of the main lake with a Treecreeper heard nearby.

Those were the highlights of the morning. It's the monthly guided walk next week on Sunday morning. For anyone coming please make sure you wear suitable footwear as we may head over to 100 Acre. Wellingtons might be best but any waterproof walking boots should be adequate. The walk starts at 9am, meet outside the Visitor Centre.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Weekend (02-03/11/2013)

Saturday morning proved quite productive, helped by the fact that the ringers were in. They caught quite a number of birds while we were there including this handsome Redwing and Treecreeper. A Goldcrest, Blackcap and many Blue Tits also found the nets.


Around the park we also had a good selection of ducks on the Finger Lakes along with a couple of Little Grebes. A flock of 29 Wigeon were circling over the park for a while early on and later we had 45 Lapwing and 6 Golden Plover over. At least one Kingfisher was active around the park.

On Sunday it was a bit quieter, the variety of ducks was similar but no Little Grebes were seen.

Sunday was also volunteer day and we had a great turnout to continue the work on the plantations by the overflow car park. Judging by the size of the bonfire the day went extremely well with much of the second plantation cleared. A job well done, thanks to all who helped during the day.

Had Water Rails Sharming on both mornings, with a little provocation.

DK had the following on Monday (04/11) morning:

Two Bewick's Swans south at 0912.
1400 Woodpigeons south.
2 Siskins south
1 Redpoll south.
19 LBB Gulls south.
6000+ Starlings south from local (?Willington) roost. 

Speaking of the Willington Starling roost I managed to pop over on both Saturday and Sunday evening. Numbers were down on the previous weekend and both days the murmuration displays weren't the best. Sunday was particularly poor with groups of birds going straight into the reed bed without little or no display. Numbers were good, with several large parties coming in, and probably numbered 6000+.

Saturday provided a better display with similar numbers to Sunday but the bulk of the birds stayed out and joined up before heading into the reed bed. The star of the show was the sunset which was stunning.

Starling murmuration at Willington GP

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guided Walk - 27/10/2013

A good turnout for the guided bird walk again this morning, despite the blustery conditions. The wind steadily increased in strength throughout the morning but at least the rain went through just before dawn and stayed away for the rest of the morning.

After a brief stop on the dipping platform on the main lake we headed down to Fingers to check out the ducks. We had a good variety if not good numbers with Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler and Tufted Duck all present. There were no Little Grebes to be found after the 3 on Saturday morning.

Along the Navigation Channel there were a few cormorants at roost on Kingsmead and we found a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits moving between the Woodland walk and the Willows by the Navigation. As we watched them flying across the meadow I spotted a Treecreeper in with them and just managed to get onto it as it moved up one of the Willows before it disappeared around the back. Despite a prolonged search we failed to spot it again although it did call strongly at one point and another answered nearby.

Next stop was the viewpoint over 100 Acre but there was little of note although distant views of a couple of Little Grebes was nice.

Back in the park we cut through the Woodland walk and then around Fingers where a couple of Bullfinches were heard either side of the path just past the Sedgewick Seat.

Final stop was on the south side of the main lake for a look through the gulls. Black-headed Gulls made up the majority of them with Common Gulls in the low teens and a couple of Herring Gulls.

Another flock of Long-tailed Tits were making their way along the south side of the main lake and a Carrion Crow was eating the apples in the tree in the south west corner.

Not a great list for the morning unsurprisingly given the conditions. Surprised we didn't manage a Kingfisher having had several sightings on Saturday morning and having seen one earlier just after I arrived. Highlight for the morning was the Treecreeper, great little birds.

The next guided walk is Sunday 24th November at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre.

There have been good numbers of Starlings coming from roost over the park early in the morning with a 6000 in the week and 7000 on Saturday morning. Given this news I decided to visit the neighbouring Willington GP on Saturday evening to check out the Starling roost. It was good to see 10,000+ come in at around 17:15 and there was a bit of display before they all disappeared into the reed bed at around 17:30. A few more small flocks came in afterwards but always went straight into the reeds. Well worth a visit if you get the chance, hopefully the displays will improve. Here are a couple of pictures:

Starling Murmuration

The bulk of the Starling flock

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday 19/10/2013

Highlight of the morning was a 300+ flock of Redwings passing over south. Unfortunately we were along the Spit and couldn't see either end of the flock so 300 was the absolute minimum. A few minutes later ~40 Fieldfares passed over south, my first Fieldfares of the autumn. There were a few more Redwings during the morning, mostly in flocks of 5 or less but also a flock of ~30, totalling less than 50 in all.

A party of 14 Pochards including 3 females was on the main lake when I arrived but they departed north east at around 08:25. We also had Tufted Ducks, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and a single Shoveler.

A good number of Black-headed Gulls were on the main lake along with at least 22 Common Gulls and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

A Kingfisher was heard on the Main Lake up by the Finger Lakes. A single Grey Wagtail was on the Canoe Slalom and having heard several Goldcrests around the park we finally found 2 in the Pines in the North West corner by the Priory wall.

Also of note:

TP had one Jack Snipe on the gravelly pools between the east end of the Hundred Acre pit and the Bedford by-pass, along with about forty Common Snipe.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Catch up

Last weekend the volunteers were in on Sunday and we had a great turn out once again. The task was coppicing in two of the plantations by the overflow car park and we managed to clear most of one and got a good start on the second. We usually look forward to the bonfire through the autumn and winter but the unseasonably warm conditions meant most of us kept our distance as much as we could!

It remained quiet on the bird front until this week when the Redwings arrived. DK reported 1318 (roughly) west over Priory on Thursday morning and a further 138 on Friday morning. This was a tiny proportion of the birds on the move in the county, Steve Blain had ~33000 through on Thursday and ~3500 through on Friday at the Pinnacle near Sandy!

This morning we were fortunate to avoid the worst of the rain which passed through early on but it was all quiet on the bird front. We probably managed double figures of Redwings. There was a lot of calling but few were seen. I think most were still at roost in the trees and bushes. There were 3 Wigeons and a couple of Shoveller on the main lake first thing. Just high teens of Gadwalls and handful of Teals on Fingers.

Other than that a quiet morning with the usual suspects.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Guided Walk - Sunday 29th September

Good weather and a good turnout for the guided bird walk, shame the same couldn't be said for the birds. It's still a bit quiet around the park with few signs that migration is kicking into high gear. There are a few ducks in now with the Gadwalls in reasonable numbers and a few Teals the highlights. A couple of wigeon have been around but have disappeared this weekend. I also had a good size party of Tufted Ducks lined up on the main lake ready for the start of the walk until a speed boat from the sailing club put them all up and they departed north east.

We heard a Buzzard calling while we were in Kramer hide but were unable to locate it when we came out.

It was nice to see a couple of Little Grebes back on the Finger Lakes, a sure sign of Autumn.They were incredibly well camouflaged in the lilies, I even lined them up in the scope and people still couldn't make them out!

Those that lasted until the end of the walk were treated to a couple of gems with brief views of Grey Wagtail on the Beach, unfortunately spooked by a family with a dog. Best of the day was the Kingfisher which got up from the Canoe Slalom and flew past the group giving all good views.

With the sailing boats out on the main lake there wasn't much to see so we headed along back river before cutting up the west side of the park. There was a party of Starlings in the brambles behind the sailing club which was the final action of the day. These are not that common in the park although often seen passing over, on their way to or from roost.

Other birds of note outside of the guided walk were Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing and Little Egret.

Hopefully there should be more ducks in by the next guided walk which is on Sunday 27th October at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Recent happenings

It's been a bit quiet on the bird front in recent weeks, not uncommon at this time of year. Migrants are on the move however and it's just a matter of finding the flock. The most recent guided bird walk was a bit like that with several small roaming mixed flocks located containing Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers as well as various Tits and Finches and the odd Treecreeper or two.

DK had a Spotted Flycatcher in the Rough during the guided walk but we didn't manage to relocate it with the group. Kingfisher and Little Egret on 100 Acre were the other highlights from the guided walk.

This weekend was much the same. The Little Egret seems to be a regular at the north end of the big lake on 100 Acre. Otherwise it's all about the mixed flocks!

On Sunday it was the latest volunteer day and we were out by the labyrinth clearing the cut grass from the flower meadow. At the same time we cut back the Blackthorn that was encroaching on the Meadow. A good turnout of volunteers and this task was knocked off before lunch! Following are a few photo's kindly provided by volunteer Jenny.

Raking the meadow

Cutting back the Blackthorn

More raking

And yet more raking

Tea break

A well earned cuppa!
The secondary task was to clear the vegetation from the priory wall, a scheduled ancient monument. It's a shame in some ways as the Ivy and other plants growing on/in the wall provide habitat for birds which like to feed on the Ivy berries over winter. That said all of the growth is damaging the wall so it needs to be cut back. Later weed killer will be applied to kill off the remaining growth enabling the wall to be restored eventually.

The next volunteer day is Sunday 6th October starting at 9am. We work through until 3pm but if you fancy coming along and can only do part of the day then please feel free to join us for whatever time you can spare.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 29th September and we are back to a 9am start. Hopefully we should have a few migrants about!  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saturday 17th August

Well it was another quiet morning in the most part. Finding the flock was the order of the day. The first one was in the Alders by the Crescent, a number of Tits, Chiffchaffs and Reed Warblers were moving through the area. A nice start but nothing compared to what we found in the South West corner of the park later on. In one of the Willows we found some Chiffchaffs so we stopped and scanned the tree and it soon became obvious that the tree was loaded with small Warblers and Tits. As we scanned they started to move off into the next tree across one of the fishing swims. This gave us a chance to count and we ended up with 17 Chiffchaffs and 2 Willow Warblers along with Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a couple of Robins. These are minimum numbers as there were others in the thicker scrub behind us that we could hear calling. One of the Willow Warblers was really yellow in colour and showed quite well:

Willow Warbler
Total Chiffchaffs for the morning was 29! Thanks to DK for that. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a Kingfisher were also seen. Green Woodpeckers are still active around the park and this Great Spotted Woodpecker posed at the top of the snag up by the STW bridge.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
So a quiet morning but that flock of Warblers was great to see. Next week is the guided bird walk on Sunday morning (25th). Meet at 8am outside the visitor centre.

For anyone interested in bats there is a guided bat walk this week on Friday 23rd at 8pm. You will need to book in advance for this as numbers are limited due to the number of bat detectors available. Please contact the Ranger if you would like to book. Tel: 01234 211182.

Monday, August 05, 2013

This weekend in the park

On Saturday I arrived reasonably early and had a Buzzard over the east side of the park before moving on to the beach where a Mute Swan gave me the opportunity to try for an "On Black" portrait. With the sun low in the east and the Swan in a pool of sunlight and the background in shadow you can underexpose the scene leaving the emphasis on your white subject:

Mute Swan on black
In the above shot I would have preferred the head to be turned the other way in order to catch the light on the eye but I really like the line of water droplets falling from the beak. Another portrait of the same bird below:

Mute Swan on black
It was a weekend for Peacock Butterflies which were out in force around the park on both days.
Peacock Butterfly
This Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly perched on a nettle and stayed long enough for a quick snap.
Black-tailed Skimmer
Another nice find was a Common Sandpiper on the Canoe Slalom, sharing it with a single Grey Wagtail.

Sunday morning there was a lot of fish activity in the north east corner of the main lake. This Common Tern took full advantage, making a dive incredibly close to the reeds before making off with its prize.

Common Tern
Along the Spit this juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker perched on the dead tree and posed nicely for a while. Note the red crown which marks this bird out as a juvenile. Note also the way it is using its stiff tail feathers for extra support as it grips the branch with its feet.
Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker
A Greenshank passed high over the main lake and looked like it may have dropped in on the south side or possibly Fenlake Meadows. A Kingfisher was heard on both days around east Fingers. Sparrowhawks were seen on both days around the Rough and a Kestrel was on the wires over 100 Acre. I had a single Swallow over the New Meadow on Sunday morning and an Oystercatcher was heard during the lunch break of the volunteer session.

DK had a Goldcrest on the south side, a Willow Warbler singing in the SW corner and two additional juv Sparrowhawks together on the south side.

Sunday was also volunteer day and ~13 people turned out for the main task which was to remove the Water Soldier from the Finger Lakes. This invasive weed has really taken over in recent years and if left would smother the lake prevent other plant species from getting a look in.

With such a good turnout there were plenty of bodies to carry out a few other tasks so parties were out trimming back overhanging branches and brambles and clearing up litter.

At the end of the day several boat loads of Water Soldier had been removed but there is plenty more left to go! Thanks to everyone for your efforts and hope to see you again next month.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Guided Walk - Sunday 28th July

Although clear and warm the wind had strengthened overnight and the birds were noticeably quieter than they had been the previous morning.

7 people joined me for the 8am start and we set off along the main path towards the Finger Lakes. Reed Warblers could be heard at various points along the path, both adults and youngsters singing and calling. We dropped into the Crescent where it was a little more sheltered from the wind and were able to hear the Reed Warblers in the reed bed a bit better. It was obvious to us why the birds were staying low in the reeds as the wind was whipping the tops around like huge waves rolling through the reed bed.

We turned our attention to the lake and found a Red Eyed Damselfly perched on one of the lilly pads. This was a very obliging individual and I was able to get the scope set up on him for some really good close up views.

This was the sign of things to come as the bird walk fast became a dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly walk. The birds remained stubbornly quiet but the Damselflies and Butterflies were out in force and Dragonflies kept putting in appearances.

For the butterflies there were large numbers of Gatekeepers along the edge of the Woodland Walk (W) plantation. Meadow Browns and Whites were also showing in good numbers and there were the occasional Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. We also had Peacock, Red Admiral and a single Holly Blue. we tried for a Ringlet but didn't get any confirmed, there were a couple of probables along the edge of the New Cut on Riverside but they wouldn't come close enough to confirm they weren't dark Meadow Browns.

As well as the Red Eyed there were loads of Common Blue Damselflies. I'm sure there were some Azures about but everyone I looked at was a Common Blue. We had a handful of Brown Hawkers and a probable female Common Darter that was warming up at the end of a branch high in a tree. A Hawker, probably Southern also zipped past us on the flower meadow.

We had a look on 100 Acre, taking the trail on the east side of the big lake and managed to add a few birds to the list with Little Grebe and Egyptian Goose but were unable to locate any Green Sandpipiers which I had hoped to find here. Along the north side of the farmers field we flushed a number of Skylarks and were finally rewarded with one singing. There was a small group of Black-headed Gulls roosting on the area where the gravel pits are being filled in, these were sporting various stages of losing their black heads and one or two juveniles were in flock.

We finished off with a walk back along the cycle track, crossing the New Cut at the wooden bridge and following the Cut back to the park entrance. So it wasn't a great day for the birds but the butterflies and odonata made up for it to some extent.

In the afternoon I paid a return visit to 100 Acre, doing the full circuit out along the river and back along the east side of the big lake. This visit proved much more productive with at least 4 Green Sandpipers flushing from the STW pool as I walked past. On the big lake I found a Female Tufted Duck with 8 youngsters and a Pair of Great Crested Grebes with 2 young. There was also at least one family of Little Grebes with 2 young and possibly a second, not sure it wasn't the same one that had moved around the corner while I was on the move.

As with the morning there were plenty of odonata and butterflies. Black-tailed Skimmers were plentiful and I found another butterfly species to add to my list from the morning with a Small Copper.

The best was yet to come though when I spotted a large raptor on the Castle Mill side of the ditch. I was expecting a Buzzard, having had them regularly in the same area, but the cream head and chin in the binoculars revealed it was a Marsh Harrier! It dropped out of site and when I reached the ditch it was on the ground in the field with five Herons for company. I tried to get into position for a photo but it took to the air again flying away from me so I only managed a distant record shot.

Marsh Harrier
A Little Egret joined the Herons and the Black-headed Gulls were still on roost, disturbed briefly when the Marsh Harrier flew close to them.

With the Marsh Harrier having disappeared from sight I continued around 100 Acre and noticed a small slim raptor perched in the farmers field. It was across the far side of the field so I had to head around to where it was to get a definitive ID although it looked like a Hobby. As usual by the time I got to where it was it had gone and I thought I was not going to confirm the ID but as I walked back along the edge of the field it suddenly appeared again and settled in the field a little way off. As I reached for the camera it flew off and I managed a record shot as it flew further across the field and settled again. No doubting it was a Hobby. Shortly after it flew again, crossing the river, and trying for a House Martin in the flock there before disappearing out of sight.
There was another Little Egret with the Cormorants on the big lake and that was it for the afternoon visit.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday August the 25th, meet at 8am outside the visitor centre.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday 27th July

We were in the Rough chatting with EG who was ringing again this weekend when this cheeky chap wandered through:
Looked like a youngster and quite skinny which may explain what happened next. EG went off to do a net round and found the Fox trying to steal a Blackbird from the net! EG managed to rescue the bird but not before it had sustained a few nasty looking injuries. Not sure if it survived the encounter but will update when I hear from EG.

This female Kestrel was keeping an eye out for any passing small mammals on 100 Acre.

There is a guided bird walk tomorrow starting at 8am. Meet at the visitor centre.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Event: Unlocking the Past

Priory Country Park: Unlocking the Past by David Barnes

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Recent happenings in the park

Things have remained pretty quiet in the park, at least on the wildlife front. The hot weather has attracted plenty of human visitors though. Last weekend I joined Ranger Danny on the Dragon and Damselfly transects on Saturday afternoon. We didn't get anything out of the ordinary but Damselfly numbers were quite good, only a handful of Dragonflies though. Learnt a bit from Danny which is always good and am determined to improve my ID skills, those blue Damselflies are tricky blighters!

Signs of improvement this weekend with EG back ringing this morning and catching good numbers. Looks like the first broods are out and about.

A Common Buzzard was heard on the north side of Fingers this morning and a Little Egret flew over the Rough. A Kingfisher was heard on east Fingers. Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler were all seen and/or heard. Both Woodpeckers were about. A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed through early on and Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls were present throughout the morning.

I found out this week that the main lake cygnet that disappeared a couple of weeks ago was killed by the Marina cob when the main lake pair strayed into the Marina pairs territory. The other cygnet was rescued by one of the Marina residents and returned to the main lake with the adults. Apparently the main lake pair didn't learn their lesson and had another foray into the marina but got away without further losses. Thanks to Lin for this info. The remaining cygnet is now looking fairly healthy again and hopefully the family will stay clear of the marina from now on.

The Marina pair finally gave up incubating their eggs this week. You have to give them 10 out of 10 for persistence but it's been looking the likely outcome for some time now. Maybe next year.

The next guided bird walk is next Sunday 28th, meet at the visitor centre at 8am. Let's hope the weather holds out.

For those who prefer an evening out there is a guided Bat walk on Friday 26th at 9pm.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Last week in the park

Had a report from Simon Ramm that "two otters were playing in the gap between the two fingers lakes between 12:45 and 13:30 and longer"  on Monday 1st July.

On Wednesday 3rd July I spent the day with the rangers carrying out a couple of tasks. As usual I arrived early and had a walk around the park. Of note were the hundreds of Froglets that were to be found around the Crescent and along the Spit. The overnight rain had left the grass wet and the tiny Frogs were taking advantage of the conditions. I also had 2 Oystercatchers on the grass by the Canoe Slalom. A Pied Wagtail on the flower meadow. Juv Song Thrush up by the Kissing Gate. 2 Grey Wagtails at the STW bridge and lots of feeding activity in the fallen Willow on the back river. At least 2 red head Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff along with Tits and Finches.

First task of the day was a trip out to the main lake island to check on the breeding success or not of the Common Terns. The plan was to go around the island and if there was no sign of any activity, land to search for nests. As expected there was no activity seen so we landed and fought our way around the island. It's quite amazing how much plant growth has occurred since my last visit for the Canada Goose egg oiling earlier this year. Still we managed to fight our way through and found 3 Tern nests. All of them looked to have been predated as the eggs were smashed rather than neatly opened. We should also have seen evidence of juveniles, if not on the island then at least when they fledged, had they hatched out successfully.

So good and bad news, evidence of breeding but no successful outcome this year. What this does suggest though is that with the correct management the island could become a nesting site for Common Terns. With this in mind the aim is to continue with the bashing back of the vegetation, possibly adding gravel to some areas to provide better nesting conditions for the Terns.

As far as I could see there was no sign of nesting by the Black-headed Gulls despite having seen them moving sticks about on the island. Again we would have seen signs of juvenile Gulls had they already hatched and fledged so they seem not to have been successful this year.

A wander around the park on Saturday morning produced the usual suspects although a bonus Kingfisher in the Crescent was nice as they have been few and far between of late. EG was ringing in the Rough but while we were there he was having a very slow day!

In the afternoon I returned and took a walk around 100 Acre. The good weather had attracted many visitors to the main park but I did not see another soul as I walked around 100 Acre. Of note were:

Redshank 1+
Oyc 2
Kingfisher 1
Sedge Warbler 2+
Common Whitethroat 3+
Common Buzzard 1
Lapwing ~30
Juv BHG 1
Two Pairs of GC Grebe with 2 young each (1pr on big lake and 1pr on Meadow Lane GP)
A few Canadas, 1 pair with 4 young and a pair of Greylags with what looked like a single, almost full grown, youngster
Green Sandpiper 1

I also found a female Emperor Dragonfly:

Emperor Dragonfly (f)
A Dunnock was perched on the STW fence as I made my way back to the car:

Sunday was the monthly Volunteer day and we cracked on with 2 tasks. One group started putting together a Tern raft for the main lake, hopefully an alternate place for the Terns to nest next year. The other group worked on repairs to some of the fishing swims around the main lake. It was extremely hot so thanks to all who came and participated, great job.

The hot weather attracted a lot of people to the park again on Sunday and having assisted Ranger Jane with the litter pick in the morning before the rest of the volunteers arrived I stayed to help with the afternoon round after the rest of the volunteers left. Having seen the good side of people on the volunteer task we now witnessed the bad as people left litter strewn all around. I really can't fathom the mentality of people who come to the park to enjoy the green space and then leave it looking like a landfill. Yes the rangers do pick up the litter but it's not a job that should need doing, we should all take responsibility for our own litter and either bin it or take it home and dispose of it. It's not that hard is it, after all you brought the stuff with you when the packets and bottles were full so taking them away empty should be easier.

Note also that barbecues and open fires are not allowed in the park. The rangers will be forced to extinguish any they find on the go so please don't do it. There is a danger of fire in the dry conditions and also damage to the plastic tables, as happened Saturday evening to the table by Cardington Lock. Yes those tables are recycled plastic and they melt when a hot barbecue is placed on top of them!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Guided Walk - Sunday 30th June

A great turnout for the guided walk on Sunday, 14 including Ranger Jane who came out with us on her day off!

A quick overview of what has been happening in the bird world this month and then we were off around the west side of the main lake stopping briefly for the singing Reed Warbler out front of the visitor centre. Along the west side we had good views of Greenfinch and Goldfinch and there was another Reed Warbler singing in the south west corner reed bed. Several Azure Damselflies were spotted by Chris Smart.

We cut through to the river and stopped over looking the river and Fenlake Meadows. I was hoping for a singing Grasshopper Warbler (Gropper) but all was quiet except for a distant singing Reed Bunting. We continued along the river side and had another stop for the Gropper. Again all quiet on Fenlake but we had both Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing in the hedge behind us. Blackcaps fast became the theme for the day with multiple singing birds found during the walk. We also had good views of several male Banded Demoiselles in the reeds by the river and there was a single Ladybird Larvae .

We cut back into the park on the east side of Press Mead and continued around the east side of the main lake and Fingers. A Cuckoo flew over as we skirted the south east corner of the main lake. There were good views of Coot and Great Crested Grebe on the main lake and yet more Damselflies along the river on the east side of Fingers. This time we had both male and female Banded Demoiselles including a pair in cop. There were a few butterflies showing, mostly Small Tortoiseshells to begin with but we also had Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Ringlet during the morning.

We moved on to the STW bridge with the hope of locating the juvenile Cuckoo that had been in the area the previous 2 days. I could not hear the call despite waiting several minutes so we moved on to 100 Acre, taking the trail up by Meadow Lane. We stopped to look out over the big lake and the island and soon found a female Tufted Duck with 9 ducklings. The whinnying of a pair of Little Grebes alerted us to their presence and I located them tucked in under the bank of the island. There was also a Coot with 2 young. A juvenile Black-headed Gull was standing on the island. At first I thought it was definitive proof that they have nested on the island as it looked like it couldn't yet fly but a few minutes later it took to the air, so it may have flown in from elsewhere. There were a number of adult BH Gulls which were flying about over the island making a lot of noise so they may have young or nests there, just need to spot a younger chick. There were several Grey Herons around the lake and some Cormorant left as we arrived. A couple more Coot families were spotted, one family having six youngsters. There was also a couple of Mallard families, one with good sized young and the other with recently hatched young.

Working our way back along the path I spotted an Oystercatcher on the island and everybody got a good look at this beautiful bird. There was a good number of Tufted Ducks on Meadow Lane GP with many of the males now starting into eclipse plumage.

We stopped at the STW bridge again but still failed to locate the Cuckoo. With quite a breeze getting up by now we crossed the bridge over the New Cut and walked along the north side of the Cut in the shelter of the embankment. I was hoping for a Ringlet Butterfly along here and was rewarded at the very end of the path just before we arrived back at the main park entrance.

Skirting the car park we had lovely close views of a Goldfinch which perched just above our heads as we made our way back to the visitor centre and the end of the walk.

Not a huge number of species this month and sightings were restricted to just a few of those, relying on our ears for the rest. It was nice to see a few damselflies, as well as those mentioned we had Blue-tailed and Red-eyed and probably a few others that I was unable to ID. I only saw one Dragonfly which I think was a Black-tailed Skimmer from the brief view I had. Also good to see a few butterflies around probably due to the rise in temperature and the sun putting in an appearance. A shame we couldn't locate the juvenile Cuckoo, but here are a few photo's I got on Saturday afternoon:

It's another early start next next month, 8am on Sunday July 28th, meet at the visitor centre.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Saturday 22nd June

Pretty steady this last couple of weeks. Everything is still around but some are quietening down while others spring back into life and we have the occasional unexpected visitor.

This week Chiffchaffs have sprung back into life after a quiet period. I had noticed this on my local patch in Kempston and when I mentioned it to DK he said he'd noticed the same for the park. He'd also had a Lesser Whitethroat singing in the car park during the week.

The surprise visitor was a Black Swan on Thursday. It was on the main lake first thing before moving to the river and heading up to the embankment later on.

The Cuckoos are still about but we still don't have a confirmed female so all the males singing may be for nought. The first of the BTO's ringed Cuckoos has already departed for the continent so they may not be around much longer.

It was very blustery on Saturday morning which probably kept things quieter than normal, we did have a Mink sprint across the main path, by the entrance to the Spit, in front of us.

It's been a bad year for Mallards so far with duckling numbers way down on last year, unless they have a late rally.

The Fingers Mute Swans still have 5 cygnets and the main lake pair surprised us with 2 youngsters this week. We thought they'd given up!

Would be nice to get out to the island to see what is actually nesting on there now. We're sure the Common Terns are although how many is another matter. Not sure about the Black-headed Gulls but given the numbers hanging around there it seems likely they have nests. Also still not convinced about the Sand Martins. Unfortunately the nettles now mask the hole which one appeared to be using last week and although there was at least 1 flying around on Saturday I didn't see it go in. A single Swallow was spotted on Saturday and there were 50+ Swifts.

After the success of 3 Great Crested Grebe families last year it's looking like a zero this year unless there are some hiding in the reed beds somewhere that we don't know about. It's also been a poor year for Coots and Moorhens with the latter failing to get any young off so far. What a difference to last year when we had Coot nests everywhere and families dotted all along the north side of the main lake and others on Fingers.

It's bird walk time again next week with an 8am start outside the visitor centre on Sunday 30th June. Hope the weather picks up and the wind drops a bit. See you there.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday 11th June

Popped down to the park this morning to find most of the Canada Geese on the meadow and a quick count totalled 94 plus 17 goslings. There was a batch of 6 goslings, quite old, so not sure where they have come in from.

A nice surprise was an Egyptian Goose with the Canadas. It was much more wary than the Canadas, they stayed put as I walked along the path but it flew onto the lake. Following are a few shots of it after it had flown onto the lake.

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose with Canada Geese

I included the last shot as it shows the size difference between Egyptian and Canada Geese.

Staying with the Goose theme, 11 Greylags, in total, flew over in groups of 9 and 2.

There were quite a few Swifts about and at least a couple of Sand Martins. After my last post where I said the Sand Martins weren't nesting in the artificial nest block I saw one of the holes being used this morning. I saw 2 visits to the same hole and judging by the time of each visit they seemed to be feeding visits, although just guessing as I was unable to tell if they were carrying food with my binoculars.

I moved down to the Spit where there was little of note but a Cuckoo was calling over to the east side of Fingers and then a second started calling over towards the Dead Seat. Unfortunately no photo's but I did see the 2 fly past over east fingers.

A quick look around the Crescent and then an unfamiliar call got my attention. It was a single note piping call, repeated but interspersed with Pied Wagtail like calls. I moved around to the fishing swim in the south east corner of east Fingers. Sure enough there was an adult Pied Wagtail with its beak stuffed full of insects. There were at least 3 Wagtails there with at least one juvenile but I didn't want to hang around too long as I didn't want to disturb them too much.

Pied Wagtail
I headed up to the STW and had a Hobby and 2 Lapwings over the flower meadow. There wasn't much about on 100 Acre so I returned to Fingers. I picked up some litter by the Dead Seat before heading back to the car as the rain started, earlier than forecast, but what's new!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Saturday 8th June

One or possibly 2 Jays today, 2 sightings but may have been the same bird, was really nice for a change. Otherwise pretty steady stuff this morning. Common Terns are taking fish back to the main lake island now so we may have hatched out young, or could be the males feeding the females sitting on the eggs. Black-headed Gulls are still hanging around the island but difficult to tell if they are nesting or not yet. It looks like the Sand Martins have flattered to deceive again and are not using the island nest block after all. There were a handful over the main lake this morning but no sign of any visiting the nest block. At least 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the main lake as well.

Plenty of activity in and the Crescent Reed bed with Reed Warblers singing and one bringing in food. Some good reed growth this week so the south east corner of the reed bed is now looking quite green, still plenty of room for improvement though. Also a pair of Reed Buntings bringing in food which seemed to consist of a lot of Banded Demoiselles!

Female Reed Bunting with a healthy breakfast for the young!
 The Cuckoo was around early on, doing a big circuit of the park. And those were the highlights of a disappointingly overcast and cool morning. For those late risers, believe it or not, it was clear when I got up, not a cloud to be seen. Half an hour later, having lured me out of the house with the promise of some nice light for photography, the cloud had piled in. Hopefully better tomorrow, but it doesn't look too promising.