Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dawn Chorus Guided Walk - Sunday 12th May

It may have been an early start but well worth it with a clear sky, cool and quite windy to begin with but easing later. 8 people joined myself and Ranger Jane at 0430 outside the Visitor Centre and after a quick briefing we set off along the main path with Blackbirds and Robins already well into their stride. At the steps we turned off to head down to the Rough and a Blackcap joined the chorus along with a more distant Song Thrush. As we skirted the edge of the Rough a couple of Garden Warblers were heard, but quite difficult to pick them from the backing track of the Blackbirds and Robins, even though they were closer to us. We continued to the Dead Seat and looked out over west Fingers in the hope of an Otter cruising by at this early hour but that wasn't to be, instead a Chiffchaff serenaded us from high overhead in the Willows.

Next stop was the Rough, but not before another Garden Warbler sang to us as we passed the muddy patch before the gate. Jane let us into the Rough, a conservation zone, and we did the outer loop picking up yet another Garden Warbler. We also found the Song Thrush which was doing his best to drown out everything else by now. Blackcap, Wren and Chaffinch along with the first Great and Blue Tits started to come to the fore as we stood and listened to the chorus. Robins and Blackbirds started to find better things to do and background levels began to settle back to a point where individual birds could be picked out. The subtle song of the Willow Warbler was still overwhelmed, however, as it song from the top of the Poplars in the Sheep Pen. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were also quite vocal here.

We retraced our steps back towards the Steps noting that the Finger Lakes Mute Swans have settled back to one of their regular nest sites after dabbling with a couple of new sites in recent weeks. Back on the main path and it wasn't long before we found our first singing Reed Warbler of the morning, in the reeds along the north edge of the main lake. A few Swifts were spotted overhead and as we moved along the path to a more open spot we realised there were a good number of Swifts over the main lake and higher up I spotted a group of ~35 Sand Martins with another group of 5 close by.

We turned down the Spit but the Willow Warbler that has been in the first Willows on the right was AWOL this morning, slightly frustrating as I was hoping we would be able to hear this one more clearly than the one in the Sheep Pen. Blackcap and Garden Warbler were again prominent along the Spit and a single Little Egret was on the fallen Willow at the north end of west Fingers. The resident pair of Great Crested Grebes were also on west Fingers, still seemingly not having settled on a nest site. A male Cuckoo made itself known   arriving from the north of the park and circling the south end of Fingers before stopping at the Willows across by the the Dead Seat. It then retraced its steps before going quiet.

In the Crescent we stopped and took in the song of the Reed Warblers and solitary Sedge Warbler. Reed Warblers are still not here in great numbers but there has been an increase this week with more moving in along the south side of the main lake per DK.

We moved on to the Beach where the strong overnight winds had whipped the lake to foam which had built up along the edge of the Beach. We continued along the Navigation Channel with a brief stop at Kramer Hide and continued across the flower meadow to the Kissing Gate. A couple Blackcaps were singing strongly at the north end of the Woodland Walk and yet another Garden Warbler was singing across the road by the side of the New Cut.

From the STW bridge Reed Warblers were the main players in the reed bed, seemingly usurping the Sedge Warblers that had been here in previous weeks. A single Sedge Warbler was trying to start up on the east side of the river but not quite making it yet. A quick look out over 100 Acre where a handful of Starlings were feeding in the long grass and a pair of Mute Swans were preening on the small lake. The wind had eased by this time so I led the group along the cycle track to the Meadow Lane turning off onto 100 Acre just before the bridge. We had stopped along the cycle track as a Sedge Warbler sang from the reeds by the  big lake on 100 Acre. An Oystercatcher showed briefly in the grounds of the STW.

As we headed along the trail on 100 Acre a Common Whitethroat greeted us with its flight song and the single piping note of a Redshank was heard. We stopped at the gap in the hedges and looked out across the island on the big lake. A pair of Tufted Ducks were present along with a Great Crested Grebe. Several pairs of Canada Geese are on nests on the island. The Redshank called again was spotted across the far side of the lake, it settled on the side of the lake and gave good views in the scope before flying off to the island. A Snipe flew over towards Meadow Lane GP and an Oystercatcher showed itself at the north end of the island. It flew and gave us good views as it circled the island. Another noisy fly past and another Oyc showed itself on the island. 5 Mute Swans and couple of Greylag Geese were on the Spit between the main lake and the bay.

As I checked the bay I spotted a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying. They were mirroring each others actions so I pointed them out to the group and we watched as they continued this display. Next they both disappeared and one surfaced with a beak full of weed. A brief wait and the the second bird surfaced and they engaged in the weed dance, a beautiful sight, making the early start worth the effort on its own.

We followed the trail along the edge of the bay and Sedge Warblers were singing strongly on both sides with one bird showing really well in the hedge by the side of the bay.

Next stop was the north side of the crop field where Skylarks were getting up. One of the group spotted a couple of birds on the ground and the scope revealed a pair of Wheatears, undeniably the star birds of the morning. They showed fairly well in the scope before we moved on, checking out the scrape where a couple of Lapwings got up, another great sight and sound as they displayed. A single Pied Wagtail flew in but no sign of the White Wagtails or Ringed Plover of the previous weekend.

We circled back to the cycle track by the bypass and headed back towards the park. Sedge Warbler, Blackcaps and Common Whitethroat were all heard and when we reach Meadow Lane a Swallow flashed across the path in front of us. Looking up Meadow Lane a couple of Swallows were hunting up and down the path and a couple of Swifts were hunting above the large tree further back along the lane.

Back at the STW bridge Reed and Sedge Warblers were now singing strongly, Reeds in the reed bed, fittingly, and the Sedges on the periphery. We followed the road back along the north side of the park but didn't pick up anything new until we reached the car park where a Lesser Whitethroat was singing from the hedgerow between the car park and the Premier Inn. Swifts were still in good numbers over the VC and Martins and Swallows were over the main lake. Sand Martins are investigating the artificial nest block on the main lake island per DK. Will they stay and make use of the facilities for the first time this year? Stay tuned.

Thanks to all who joined me this morning and special thanks to Jane for the tea, coffee and toasted tea cakes after the walk. Back to normal next time with the regular guided bird walk on Sunday 26th May, meet at 9am outside the visitor centre.

For those of a "batty" disposition the first guided bat is on Friday 31st May at 9pm led by Ranger Danny.

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