Monday, January 27, 2014

Sunday 26th January - Guided Walk

Despite a terrible forecast for the morning 6 people decided it was a lovely morning for a spot of bird watching and joined me in the park. Given the heavy rain forecast for the day we were fortunate to get about half an hour of dry so we started off by checking out the ducks on the main lake. We also had a quick look at the Black-headed Gulls some of which were developing their "black" heads followed by a discussion about the Cormorants breeding plumage which some of the birds are showing now. A couple of adult Herring Gulls passed through and a juvenile hung around for a while in the south west corner, harassing the smaller gulls for their food.

The plan for the rest of the morning was to make use of the 2 hides in the park so we headed off around the main lake to the south side hide. There was a brief pause along the south side to check out some lovely Long-tailed Tits which were moving through the area and we made it to the hide just after the rain started.

Long-tailed Tit (photographed last weekend)
The session in the hide started with a close up of a couple of the Mute Swans. Looks like this pair may try to hold a territory on the south side as they soon set off to chase off another younger bird. We also had better looks at some of the duck species which were a little closer, particularly the Gadwall. A Little Grebe popped up from out of the reed bed and gave good views as it passed by. This was quite a dark individual and it was fishing constantly so it showed a very slim profile (More on this later).

A few Common Gulls were visible from here giving a good opportunity to compare and contrast with the more numerous Black-headed Gulls.

Recently the Canada Geese seem to be taking up nesting territories on the island. It seems a little early but this warm winter is messing everything up. If we have a cold snap I suspect they'll get back to normal but if it remains mild maybe we'll be out egg oiling a little earlier than usual!

With all of the main lake subjects exhausted it was time to bite the bullet and make the move to Kramer hide on the Finger lakes. The rain looked pretty set in by this time so it was just a case of wrap and move as quickly as possible. The mention of a possible Kingfisher was enough to get everyone moving!

On arrival at Kramer hide we all moved quietly into position and were rewarded with quite a few Teal showing well. Teal usually like to keep hidden and hang about across the far side from the hide or around the back of Fingers by the Sedgewick seat. Fortunately for us these guys were happy to swim about in front of us and the males were displaying in an attempt to impress the females. A single female Shoveler was also showing well here but unfortunately we failed to find one of the stunning males that are around at the moment.

Another Little Grebe came out from the cover and gave great views. Unlike the main lake bird this individual was quite pale and puffed up, showing a completely different profile and looking quite different to the earlier bird. When they are fishing they usually shrink down to the more sleek profile shown by the main lake bird which is quite different to the puff ball look they show when they are dry and at rest.

We hadn't been at the hide long when a Kingfisher arrived and sat on the post directly in front of the hide. It only stayed a few seconds as it quickly clocked the excited faces peering back at him and departed with a flash of electric blue plumage. Always a joy to see these birds but especially so on a cold, grey and wet morning.

With no sign of a male Shoveler it was time to call it a day and head back to the Visitor Centre. On the way back a Short-tailed Vole sprinted across the main path in front of us, by the dipping platform. It hung around long enough, at the edge of the path, for us to get a look at it before it shot off into cover. A nice end to the session. Time to head off home to dry out and warm up.

In other news from the park, the Little Egrets are still coming into roost in good numbers with at least 9 on Saturday and 7 on Sunday morning. Some of them are regularly spending a bit of time feeding on Kings Mead first thing which is always great to see. You have to be up early for this as they are usually gone between 8 and 9am.

Chiffchaffs can usually be found around the STW bridge or along the cycle track between the STW and Meadow Lane. Listen out for one singing from the bridge, especially on a nice bright morning.

There have been 2 Common Buzzards around 100 Acre and the sewage works the past couple of weeks, they were being mobbed mercilessly by the Corvids on Saturday. Hoping they might be a pair that will stay and nest in the area this year if they can stand the mobbing.

The large flocks of Golden Plovers and Lapwings remain at the field by the bypass with DK recording 1200 Golden Plovers one morning last week, the highest count of the winter so far.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 23rd February at 9am. Meet outside the visitor centre.