Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday 06/04/2013 - Otter

A fantastic morning at Priory Country Park. The lure of last weeks Otter sighting got me out of bed early and at the park by 06:15. With good cloud cover it was the sort of morning where I was expecting to see Sand Martins over the main lake but they still haven't made it to us yet this year. I was keen to get to the Finger Lakes but had a quick scan of the main lake and the sailing club lawn. I was hoping for a surprise wader at the sailing club but again came up blank. On the main lake there are still a few Pochard and plenty of Tufted Ducks. A pair of Gadwall and 9 Greylag Geese were found up at the Beach.

A quick loop around the Crescent flushed a couple of Corn Buntings from the reeds and a Water Rail into the reeds. At least 9 Little Egrets were still at Roost at the far end of the Spit on the east side.

Along the Spit 3 Bullfinches were active and a Chiffchaff was heard singing over by the Dead Seat. A pair of Canada Geese reluctantly gave way as I headed down the Spit. 3 Great Crested Grebes, 3 pairs of Gadwalls and a male Shoveler were all noted on the lakes. I settled into the last fishing swim on the Spit looking out over west Fingers and waited for the Otter to show. A couple of Little Grebes appeared from one of the reed beds opposite. I waited a bit more. A Coot flew noisily from my left and landed near the Little Grebes. Looking back to where the Coot came from I spotted a sleek body dive, the Otter was there. I must have walked past it as I walked along the Spit.

Otter (West Finger Lakes)
It swam past me checking me out and then porpoised just to my right and I thought it was going to disappear down the end of the lake as the bubble trail headed off that way. I stood up to get some final shots only for the Otter to surface right in front of me. It crashed dived immediately and I thought that would be the last O saw of it but no, it surfaced again further along the Spit, moving close into the bank. A few ripples in the water and then nothing. I waited, then moved across the Spit to the opposite fishing swim, looking over east Fingers. I suspected the Otter might have sneaked across the Spit, in the closed section and I was right. Just a few ripples close to the bank under a tree at first then the Otter showed again and it came my way.
Otter (East Finger Lakes)
3 times it tried to come past me but each time it went back again and the third time i think it worked its way along the edge of the Spit going away from me. That was the last I saw of it but what a morning.
Great Crested Grebe (West Finger Lakes)
Back along the Spit one of the Great Crested Grebes was showing quite well so I set up in another fishing swim hoping there might be some interaction with one of the other GC Grebes. That didn't happen but for a few moments the dawn sun broke through the clouds and the light was golden, absolutely beautiful!

DK and JA arrived a little later and we did our usual circuit of the park but there was little of note. 100+ Wigeon and a Redshank on 100 Acre and the female Sparrowhawk near the nest at Kramer hide being the highlights of the rest of the mornings wanderings. Still no Blackcaps!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guided Walk - Easter Sunday

Lovely weather for the guided walk today, clear blue sky although a bit chilly in the wind. My pre walk recce was a bit of a mammal fest with an Otter on west Fingers, well spotted by DK and a Fox on the new meadow as I cut across to pick up the group at the visitor centre. We also had a Chiffchaff singing by the Steps, my first in the park this year. Just shows how far behind this year compared to last when, on the equivalent weekend counts of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were into double figures! Still no Blackcaps this year, in fact I haven't had one anywhere yet this year.

Anyway back to the guided walk and another good turnout despite the clocks going forward an hour. We started with a scan of the lake in front of the visitor centre. Common and Black-headed Gulls were noted as were Tufted Duck and Pochard. A Meadow Pipit flew over as we scanned the ducks.

We walked down to the Finger Lakes where a Water Rail was heard squealing near the entrance to the Spit. Along the Spit a male Gadwall was spotted on west Fingers and I also spotted a Kingfisher perched up in the Willows at the end of one of the fingers. Some of the group got to see it before it flew but we were to have better luck later on. A Little Egret was still roosting on the fallen tree in west Fingers.

As we headed back up the Spit a Buzzard was spotted above the Rough but was lost to sight as it drifted towards the main lake. I heard snatches of Chiffchaff song so we hurried around to the Steps and stood listening for the Chiffchaff. We were rewarded with brief snippets of song and then a couple of Buzzards on a Thermal directly overhead.

We cut through to the Dead Seat and the Chiffchaff was finally tracked down given good views in the top of one of the Willows opposite the Rough. It even stayed put long enough to get the scope set up for all to see.

A couple of Bullfinch flushed into the Sheep Pen as we moved up past the gate to the Rough and we were luck enough to spot the male as flew and perched in one of the trees on the far side of the Sheep Pen. A cracking sight against the white blossom of a flowering Cherry.

Continuing down past the Sedgewick Seat and the resident pair of Canada Geese. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the Long Hedge. A brief view and the only Woodpecker we had all day, strange given the number of Green Woodpeckers that are about at the moment. The Buzzards were spotted again, this time with a third as they headed out over Kings Mead.

We moved on to the STW bridge where a male Teal was spotted on the back river and then good numbers of Wigeon on 100 Acre, seen in the scope through a considerable heat haze!

Back in the park and the Cormorant roost on Kings Mead provided a nice comparison of plumage with one bird in full breeding plumage, another non breeding adult bird and a juvenile with the pale breast.

Next stop was Kramer hide where I was hoping for the Sparrowhawk to be showing by the nest again. Sadly it wasn't to be but instead we were treated to great view of a pair of Kingfishers over by the fallen Willow. They were showing interest in the root ball with one disappearing, albeit briefly, into a hole in the ball. Looks promising for a nest.

Next stop was the main lake and the hunt for the male Goldeneye that has been around for a few days. It was hanging out with the Tufted Ducks on the south side. We found it using the scope from the east side fishing swims but had better views having moved around to the south side, where the lake side path is now open following the closure over winter. We also had good views of the "rookery" which seemed to be populated by Carrion Crows today. Yesterdays hopeful signs with 3 pairs of Rooks on station may have been a bit premature.

Finally along the west side of the main lake we had good views of a pair of Green Finches, behind the sailing club.

The next guided bird walk is on Sunday 28th April at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre. Hopefully a few more summer migrants will be in by then, that assumes it warms up a bit by then, I wont hold my breath!