Monday, September 21, 2015

Update 21/09/2015

It's been a while since my last post so thought it was time for an update. The August guided bird walk was a bit disappointing from a species point of view. We had a very good turnout for an 8am start but the birds just didn't play ball. At the moment if you find a roving Tit flock you never know what you might find tagging along with them and a sunny morning always helps. Unfortunately during the guided walk we didn't get either so the species count was a bit down. A Kingfisher flypast on the Finger Lakes was a good start and most people managed to see it. We did have great views of a Kestrel and a couple of Buzzards on 100 Acre although we did have to work for the Buzzards as recent ploughing made the going rather tough.

In the last couple of weeks things seem to be improving a bit, especially on 100 Acre where Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Linnets are showing again and a flock of ~80 Lapwings flew in on Sunday morning. Fingers crossed for the September guided walk which is on Sunday 27th starting at 9am outside the visitor centre.

Last weekend a Kingfisher showed well outside the Kramer hide, even staying put for a few photo's.

Kingfisher outside Kramer Hide
This weekend a Common Sandpiper showed well in the duck feeding area. We normally only see these early in the morning before the park gets busy but this individual was still around mid morning and seemingly oblivious to passing people as it hunted for insects in the grass.

Common Sandpiper in the duck feeding area!
On 100 Acre last weekend we found this Wasp Spider. This is a relative new comer to the country but is spreading fast and although not a first for the county we do think it is the first for the park.
Wasp Spider on 100 Acre
In my last post I reported that the Little Grebe's I have been watching all summer had finally had a chick. I have been back twice since I posted but unfortunately I have to report that the chick did not make it. It was rather late in the year for a new chick to appear but I had expected it to survive. Sadly I have not seen any sign on either of my recent visits. Both the adults are still in the same area and appear fine although it was noticeable this week that the summer plumage was beginning to fade.

It was quite misty early on Sunday morning and there were up to 5 Coots in the bay with the Little Grebes. They were the first to show as the light levels came up.

Coot in the mist
The Little Grebes were actively fishing around the edge of the bay and I thought they might be catching invertebrates as they were sticking close to the reeds but this one was making a dent in the Stickleback population!

Little Grebe with Stickleback

Another Stickleback bites the dust.
We had a great turnout for the volunteer task at the beginning of the month and we started the thinning out of the W plantation (AKA the Woodland Walk). Plenty more work to do in there so we might be back again next month. Check out the blog for details of volunteering opportunities in the park, or give the rangers a call.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Saturday 22nd August

The highlight of Saturday morning was an Otter on the main lake. Found by DK and JA, who thoughtfully gave me a call so I could see the animal as well, it spent 20-30 mins out in the middle of the lake, east of the island, just fishing. In the end we left just as it headed off to the south east corner of the lake.

Record shot of the Otter
EG and DH were ringing in the Rough and catching reasonable numbers while we were there. Plenty of Blackcaps in the catch and the odd surprise.

Green Woodpecker (moulting everything!)
A Goldcrest and a Common Whitethroat were a couple of the other ringing highlights.

It was a good morning for Raptors with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and a distant Hobby all seen. We watched the Kestrel dive into a Willow and JA watched it feeding on a Dragonfly. It never ceases to amaze me how good their vision must be. It was across the other side of the river when it must have spotted the Dragonfly on a branch in the Willow!

A Common Sandpiper was heard on 100 Acre and along with a couple of Little Egrets was the highlight of that area.

As always at this time of year there are large areas of the park where it is quiet and then you come across a mixed flock of tits and warblers feeding in a particular tree and you might get 20-30 birds or more in a tiny area.

Sunday I went back to my Little Grebe spot on 100 Acre and was surprised to find they have finally hatched a chick. It's getting quite late in the year so hopefully the weather will hold up to give this little fellow a chance. Here a few pictures. (click for a full size version).

Adult (chick is on it's back hidden under the wings)

Chick peeking over the adults shoulder

Chick eating a small fish

Chick eating a Blue-tailed damselfly
Join us on Sunday morning (30th) for the next guided bird walk. Meet at 8am outside the visitor centre.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Recently in the park

It's the quiet time of the year as the summer migrants start heading off south and the autumn migrants are yet to arrive. Many of the resident species are going through their moults and keeping their heads down.

On Saturday 8th August I made my first visit to the park after my holiday and had a Cetti's Warbler where the Canoe Slalom empties into the Navigation Channel. The Cetti's we have had in the park recently have been surprisingly quiet for this species and this one was the same with just a couple of partial bursts of song betraying it's presence. There was a Common Sandpiper on 100 Acre.

On the following Sunday I had a Cetti's on 100 Acre where I had set up for another photography session for Little Grebes. This bird was much more vocal singing regularly for the first 3 quarters of an hour and then sporadically thereafter. The Little Grebes are still playing hard to get and despite there being 3 pairs around the bay none appear to have bred so there are still no young to be seen. In fact they still seem to be squabbling over territory!
Little Grebe eating a Stickleback
A Cormorant turned up and did a bit of fishing in front of me but only seemed to be catching small fish which were swallowed unseen.

 I had a Green Sandpiper fly over my hide calling and a Common Sandpiper was seen along with a couple of Little Egrets. Juvenile Sparrowhawks were calling from the trees over by Riverside Pond and were seen occasionally as they broke cover to chase around.

This weekend it was very quiet in the park but there were pockets of birds on Elderberries and Blackberries. Blackcaps were the bulk of these but we had Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaffs and there was a Willow Warbler in the car park, a rarity in the park!

Blackcap on Elderberries.
100 Acre was also quiet with a single Common Sandpiper the highlight of the birds. Highlight of the morning was a very fresh Otter Spraint and tracks on the border between 100 Acre and Castle Mill.

There is a bat walk walk coming up on Friday the 28th at 8pm. You need to pre-book this walk as it is very popular and numbers are limited.

The next bird walk is on Sunday 30th starting at 8am outside the visitor centre, hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sifting the Past - 25th and 26th July

Sifting the Past @ Priory Country Park

Also a change of plan: There is now a volunteer task in August, Jon has a little light meadow management in mind for those of you who would like to come and help out on Sunday 2nd August from 9am to 3pm.  Same as usual, stout shoes, old clothes, packed lunch and we will supply the tea, coffee, water, biscuits, any training, tools, gloves and any other protective gear.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Recent goings on in the park

The last Volunteer session was well attended and thankfully a it was a bit cooler than the previous day. Danny had a big task planned so it was off over to Riverside to put in some new steps on a big slope that has become part of an unofficial path. First we had to load up the truck with all of the tools and half a dozen railway sleepers. Thankfully Danny donned PPE and cut the sleepers in half with a chainsaw, I think we would still be there with panel saws! Despite the rock hard ground we managed to get all 8 steps cut into the slope by the end of the day. A job well done, thanks to everyone.

There is no Sunday Volunteer session next month to the next one will be Sunday September 6th Starting at 9am, meet in the visitor centre.


Last weekend we had a surprise visitor in the form of a Coal Tit. We found it round by the Sedgewick Seat. Not an uncommon bird but not a regular visitor in the park as they prefer coniferous woodland.

This weekend we did even better. I had an early start for some photography and after parking up I had ~200 Starlings over on their way out for a day of foraging, possibly from the Willington GP roost. Time to check that out again. A couple of Oystercatchers were calling from around the mai lake island. DK had a juvenile in flight earlier in the week.

Later as I was prospecting for a photography location I heard what I thought was a Cetti's Warbler along the east side of the Finger Lakes. It was quieter than usual but the distinctive song structure was there. In the end I dismissed it as strange bit of Blackcap sub song as Blackcap started singing nearby but later when myself, DK and JA were in Kramer hide we heard it again, only louder and it was unmistakably a Cetti's.

Over on 100 Acre the Little Ringed Plovers are still around although it is difficult to tell juveniles from adults without a good scope. Another nice surprise was a Green Sandpiper which got up from the edge of the lake before disappearing again. It popped up again a bit later and flew over our heads a couple of times before departing towards Willington GP.

And finally a reminder that there is no Bird Walk this month so the next one is Sunday August 30th starting at 8am outside the visitor centre.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Guided Walk Sunday 28/06/2015

Despite a wet morning we had a very good turnout for the guided bird walk on Sunday morning. While waiting for people to arrive I watched a Sand Martin visit the nest block on main lake island. This had all the hallmarks of a feeding visit as the bird flew directly to the block, went into one of the holes, and came out again after several seconds. Another bird also left either the same, or neighbouring hole, as the first bird arrived. This would be excellent news if it does turn out that Sand Martins are breeding in the park, we'll be keeping a closer eye on the nesting block other the next few days.

The guided walk started off with a scan of the main lake where we had the usual suspects including Mute Swans, Common Terns, Black Headed Gulls, Coots, Great Crested Grebes, Mallards and Tufted Ducks. The previous weekend we had 3 Oystercatcher chicks on the main lake island but there was no sign this week although on Saturday we did have 3 adults around.

Tufted Duck broods have also started to appear this week but they didn't show for the guided walk. There is one brood on the main lake with ~9 chicks and another on the finger lakes with a single chick.

Along the Spit on the Finger lakes we had singing Chifchaff, Blackcap and calling Treecreepers. A Green Woodpecker was calling regularly, probably a youngster and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was up on the snag above the Dead Seat, giving good views in the scope. The Grey Heron chicks have fledged in the last couple of weeks and the nests are now empty. Let's hope they return next year.

Reed Warblers were quiet in the Crescent and we struggled to get a view of a single singing bird, along the north side of the main lake, as it kept low down in the reeds. On Saturday we had excellent views of singing Reed Warbler on the south side of the main lake and it even stayed put when the cameras came out!

Singing Reed Warbler
Continuing the guided walk around the Finger lakes we had a singing Garden Warbler on the edge of the Rough and Blackcaps up by the gate. There was another singing Garden Warbler in the Sheep Pen but despite hanging around trying to get a view our reward was just a brief sighting as it flew between patches of scrub.

Down towards the kissing gate on the flower meadow another Reed Warbler could be heard singing along the Navigation Channel. Up on the Sewage Works bridge a Sedge Warbler was seen and the usual brief view of a Kingfisher. Sedge Warblers have been seen feeding young in the reed bed below the bridge, but just the displaying bird over on the edge of the river today.

Next stop was 100 Acre although we did have good views of a Common Whitethroat along the edge of the Sewage Works as we made our way there. Common Terns are very active around 100 Acre island although the chicks seen last week stayed out of sight this weekend.

At the end of 100 Acre the Little Ringed Plovers have chicks. Unfortunately, due to the rain, they were less active than on Saturday with just one seen running about feeding. There were 2 adults sitting and I suspect the other chicks were underneath staying warm and dry. On Saturday we had 3 Adults and at least 4 chicks.

Those were the highlights of the guided walk and the weekend as a whole. Please note that there is no guided bird walk in July so the next one is 30th August starting at 8am outside the visitor centre.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Catch Up

Last month's guided bird walk was well attended as usual and we had a good variety of species although not in the same league as the month before when we accumulated 63 species!

The Volunteers turned out again at the beginning of the month and did a sterling job in clearing the fishing swims around the Finger Lakes.

On the birding front we have had a couple of broods of Gadwalls on the Finger Lakes. The main lake Mute Swans have 3 cygnets and the Oystercatchers on the island had at least 3 young.

On 100 Acre the Common Terns on the island have chicks, we saw 3 this morning. The terns are very aggressive now seeing off all comers and even coming across the water to "shout" at us!

There were at least 4 Little Ringed Plovers on 100 Acre and we had both a Kestrel and Red Kite over there too.

A juvenile Sedge Warbler was seen in the reed bed under the sewage works bridge and a family of Mute Swans were at the mouth of the New Cut with six cygnets. Are these the ones from the lake on Riverside?

Next Sunday (28th June) we have a guided bird walk. This starts at 8am, meeting outside the visitor centre.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Volunteers and Dawn Chorus Walk

On Sunday 3rd of May the Vols were in the park clearing out the Leat Stream between the Leat Pool and the pipe under the footpath. The usual good turnout, despite the heavy rain that greeted us at the start of the task, meant we managed to get the whole section cleared. A job well done by everybody.

That morning I walked around the Finger Lakes with DK and was lucky enough to hear a Cettis Warbler singing as we walked by the Navigation Channel. We both stopped and listened some more and it finally sang again. It sounded like it was over by Cardington Lock so we headed round there and after a long wait were rewarded with a couple of bursts of song over by the weir. It's been a while since we had a Cettis in the park so this was a very welcome addition to the 2015 list.

On bank holiday Monday morning I was down on 100 Acre very early for a photography session with the Little Grebes:

Riding the wave!


Little Grebe
Mallard family

Mute Swan
This weekend it was another early start, on Sunday morning, for the Dawn Chorus guided walk. This year the weather was kind with a light breeze early on and a beautiful sunrise:

Finger Lakes dawn by Chris Smart
Ranger Jane and myself were joined by six bleary eyed souls at 4am to experience the park waking up. We started off down at the Dead Seat by west Fingers where the Jackdaws and Crows in the Corvid roost were already discussing their day and the Robins and Blackbirds were trying to get their points across. These were soon joined by a couple of Garden Warblers which also seem to be early risers. It was nice to listen to them with the complication of Blackcaps which some people find difficult separate on song alone. The Blackcaps seem to be later risers and didn't join the chorus until it was reaching its peak. Song Thrush, Wren, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits all came on line as the chorus continued, meanwhile some of the early risers stopped singing and headed off for breakfast.

The Corvid chatter was a constant background throughout the chorus. We also had a nearby Treecreeper calling and a bat put in an appearance for while. As the light levels came up 6 Little Egrets left their Finger Lakes roost and a Couple of pairs of Coots went to war as neighbouring Coots often do.

With the peak of the chorus subsiding we moved to the Spit where a Sedge Warbler was just getting warmed up. The Reed Warblers were already well into their stride, burbling away in the Crescent reed bed. A family of Coots mimicked human life with the adults out and about getting breakfast while the kids remained tucked up in the nest.

At the end of the Spit the nesting Mute Swan looked like she may have chicks under her as she was spreading her wings a little to make sure everyone was covered. Hopefully we'll see the family out and about in the next few days. The pair of Grebes have still not settled on a nest site and continue to scout the lakes. A Cuckoo flew to the snag on the Spit but departed straight away so we didn't get great views. We checked out the Crescent reed bed where good numbers of Reed Warblers are now in residence. A Reed Bunting was singing nearby.

Our next stop was on the east side of Fingers to view the Heron nest and we were lucky to have good views of 2 checks on the first nest. The second nest looks to be a none runner as neither adult was on it although one was still standing close by.

We headed off to 100 Acre where we were treated to views of a couple of Lapwing chicks, the first of the year. A male Shoveler was dozing nearby. Red Shanks were active around the big lake along with Common Terns and Swifts. At the far end of the big lake we added Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Kingfisher, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers to the morning list.

A cool breeze was strengthening by this time so we headed back to the park where good numbers of Swifts were active over the main lake and Fingers. After tea and croissants in the Visitor Centre it was time to start the day!

Thanks to all who joined me on the Dawn Chorus walk this year, if you fancy getting to know the parks birds but can't drag yourself out for a 4am start then why not join us for the one of the regular bird walks. The next one is on Sunday 31st May at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Guided Bird Walk - Sunday 26th April 2015

Another good turnout for the guided walk this morning and the birds got in on the act as we notched up a long list with a number of year firsts. We started off along the edge of the car park and had Dunnock, Blackcap and Garden Warbler all singing in close proximity with a Song Thrush joining in a little further away. Blackcaps a numerous in the park at the moment and provide a constant back ground song almost anywhere you care to stop at the moment.

Across the meadow a Common Whitethroat was singing at the back of the play area. A single phrase from a Willow Warbler was also heard nearby. I was guilty of overlooking one of our common birds when a number of the group asked what was producing a particular song. I just could not pick up on what they were hearing. When I finally locked on to the bird it was a Blue Tit singing. Sometimes it is very easy to focus on the "more exciting" migrants and overlook our resident birds but they are every bit as beautiful.

A Robin was singing as we moved into the Finger Lakes complex, another beautiful if somewhat melancholy sound. A short distance on by the gate to the Rough another Blackcap was singing and down by the Dead Seat a GardenWarbler and a White throat could be heard in the Rough. On west Fingers a Shoveler and several Tufted Ducks were seen along with the nesting Mute Swan. A Sparrowhawk passed over the lake heading south.

We headed around to the Spit stopping on the way to watch the Swallows and Sand Martins over the main lake and listen to a Sedge Warbler in a Willow on the north shore.

Along the Spit we had excellent views of the Shoveler, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes and Coots with young. Chiffchaff was seen and a Treecreeper was heard. Another Sedge Warbler was singing strongly along here and when we moved down into the Crescent another was singing with the Reed Warblers in the reed bed. This gave us an excellent opportunity to compare these 2 songsters which many struggle to separate but the more manic Sedge Warbler is quite easy to identify compared to the rhythmic Reed Warbler. Of course if you get to look at the 2 they are quite different visually with the Sedge Warbler sporting a bold off-white eye stripe and sparrow like markings on the back and wings, compared with the much planer brown and buff colouration of the Reed Warbler.

While listening to these 2 a Cuckoo called, the first in the park this year. It seemed quite close and then moved further off so we moved back up onto the Spit in the hope of seeing it. At first it seemed like we were going to be unlucky but then I spotted it overhead and we managed to track it into the Willows over by the Dead Seat. It was tricky to see at first but then 2 Cuckoos flew up out of the Willows squabbling with each other and we watched as they flew around before disappearing out of sight.

Our next stop was along the east side of the Finger Lakes for a look at the 2 Grey Heron nests. A second pair joined the first pair in the last couple of weeks but the best news is that the first pair now have a chick. We did not get to see the chick today but yesterday, along with DK and JA, I had brief views as the adults changed over on the nest. This is the first recorded breeding success for Grey Herons in the park and hopefully the beginnings of a new heronry. A Muntjac was on the other side of the gap to the Spit.

A few yards further on by the newly replaced Finger Lakes hide a Willow Warbler was singing strongly giving everyone an opportunity to hear one of my favourite songs of the spring and summer.

A handful of Cormorants were in the roost on Kings Mead, normal at this time of year when the breeding birds are off in their colonies. A Green Woodpecker was spotted hopping about on Kings Mead, mostly just its red capped head popping up above the top of the grass every now and again.

A brief stop on the Flower Meadow to check out some passing Terns was interrupted by the scream of a Swift, another first for the year in the park. We watched them perform their acrobatics for a while until they moved off north east. The Terns were just Commons but with DK earlier in the morning he spotted 3 Arctics passing over north east.

Up at the Sewage Works bridge we had good views of a singing Sedge Warbler on the reed bed under the bridge before we moved on to 100 Acre.

A Little Grebe on the big lake was our first stop on 100 Acre. Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts were all zipping about over the lake. On the island a pair of Oystercatchers showed well. Blackcap and Whitethroat were singing in the bushes behind us. We stopped at the corner of the bay on the big lake and had Redshanks and Lapwings. Another first this year, for me at least, was a Common Sandpiper which flew across from the island to the shore on the opposite side of the bay, where it busily bobbed its way past four preening Tufted Ducks.

Another Sedge Warbler was singing from the scrub nearby. A Teal was spotted across the bay on the shore of the lake and a Shoveler was nearby on the lake.

100 Acre is a joy on a fine day with a backing track of Skylarks and a large variety of other birds providing the accompaniment.

We moved on to Castle Mill end of 100 Acre where a Shelduck was standing on the shore. A scan of the shoreline revealed 5 smart Dunlins working the edge of the lake at the near end. A scan of the meadow revealed a female Wheatear, quite distant but confiding for scope views. Skylarks were flitting about and good numbers of Swallows were over the far end of the lake. As moved along the fence line a Male Wheatear was spotted just a few yards in front of us. This put on a great performance with our group standing just a few yards away. We moved on and relocated both the Wheatears and then a Yellow Wagtail appeared, another first for the year for me, and this gradually increased to 5 by the time we headed back. A scan of the Swallows revealed a real mix of Hirundines with both Sand and House Martins in the mix. A couple of Meadow Pipits flew up and settled on the gravel pile and several Linnets joined the Yellow Wagtails on the edge of the lake, including a fine male. A couple of the Swallows settled on the gate a few yards away from the group which provided excellent views of these fantastic little birds.

With that we called it a day and headed back to the visitor centre in the park. A very successful morning.

Some recent photo's:

Sedge Warbler at the Sewage Works Bridge last weekend.

Female Wheatear on 100 Acre yesterday.

Male Wheatear on 100 Acre yesterday.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Upcoming Guided Bird Walks - Date and Time Confirmation

Just a quick confirmation of the start times for the upcoming bird walks:

The Dawn Chorus walk on the 10th May starts at 4am.

The guided bird walk on the 31st May starts at 9am.

The posters around the park have incorrect start times.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday 18th April 2015

Caught up with the new arrivals this morning, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Common Tern. EG was ringing in the Rough where a fine Willow Warbler was in the batch he was processing just as we arrived. He also had several Blackcaps, unsurprising as they were everywhere in the park. A second pair of Herons have built a nest adjacent to the first pair which are still sitting. The new pair mated this morning while the original pair should be due to hatch their egg(s) this week.

There was a good variety of waders on 100 Acre including Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover. DK spotted a flyover Whimbrel which we watched until it disappeared from view as it flew north east.

We had good views of an Otter on the river by the STW bridge before it disappeared around the corner down stream.

Quite a morning!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday 13th April

Highlights from DK:

A second pair of herons has built a substantial nest overnight but it is very late and I would be surprised if any eggs are laid. The other pair is still sitting.

12 Willow Warblers, 14 Chiffchaffs, 13 Blackcaps, three Common Terns.

Best of all was an otter watched for about twenty minutes as it caught and devoured three reasonably sized fish.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friday 10th April

Highlights from DK's morning visit to the park:

Common Tern, Sedge Warbler, 11 Blackcaps, 12 Chiffchaffs, Heron sitting, Buzzard, 2 Treecreepers, Grey Wagtail, 2 Kingfishers

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Saturday 4th April Highlights

Nesting Heron, 5 Sand Martins, single Swallow, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Shelduck in the park this morning. Also 2 Singing male Blackcaps. The one in the Long Hedge just at the exit from Fingers and another on the south side of the main lake by the bridge over the Leat.

On 100 Acre there were at least 4 Redshanks, a pair of Oystercatchers 4 Dunlin and 3 Ringed Plovers. Also 100+ Common Gulls for a short time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Guided Walk - Sunday 29th March 2015

Less than pleasant weather this weekend with high winds yesterday and rain and wind today. Yesterday we had a Peregrine over 100 Acre again, Ringed Plover on Castle Mill and the first Blackcap of the year in the park. There is also a Heron nesting at the end of the Spit on the Finger Lakes and they have an egg! After last year's failed nesting they are doing better this year, although the nest looks a little on the thin side so the high winds this weekend are not welcome.

On a quick recce with DK first thing this morning we picked up a/the Blackcap again in the long hedge just after the exit from the Finger Lakes. There were 4 Sand Martins over the main lake again and the Oystercatchers were seen flying around the main lake.

By the time everyone had arrived for the guided walk the rain had started and was fairly heavy. The Sand Martins were not to be seen and with little else of note on the main lake we headed for the hedges around the car park hoping for another Blackcap. We didn't find much and headed for the shelter of the Finger Lakes where a couple of Song Thrushes were engaged in dueling songs and a Chiffchaff was singing strongly in the Sheep Pen.

In the lake by the Sedgewick Seat there is quite a bit of frog spawn now, newly appeared since last weekend. As we exited the Finger Lakes I heard the Blackcap again but just the one phrase and then silence as we stood there straining our ears to hear it again.

We continued through the W plantation with Green Woodpeckers calling from Kingsmead and over by the New Cut. We came out of the plantation and cut across to the Navigation Channel where a couple of Long-tailed Tits were working their way through the Willows.

We headed back along the NC, passing the Kramer Hide which is closed off as it is replaced with a new hide. We stopped to check out the Heron nest and I was happy to see one of the birds sitting tight in the wet and windy conditions. I spotted a Kingfisher zipping along the NC but it was too quick for everyone to see it, as is usually the case!

We checked out the Spit where the resident pair of Mute Swans are nesting on west fingers. They were nest building yesterday morning but one of the adults was sitting tight all morning in the poor weather.

A single Great Crested Grebe was back on Fingers after being absent for a couple of days, not sure where its partner is. Seemed like they were soon to be nesting but one has disappeared, unless they have chosen a nest site that is out of sight. There was also a Little Grebe on West Fingers as well as several pairs of Shovelers, some Gadwalls and Tufted Ducks. The other adult Heron was tucked away on one of the Fingers awaiting its turn on the nest.

Next stop was along the Canoe Slalom where we found a couple of Grey Wagtails in residence. They are looking cracking in their summer plumage now.

Back to the main lake, and the lake side path on the south side is now open and we had good views of the Rookery which now boasts 14 nests. There was a single Egyptian Goose on the island and a single female Pochard remains on the main lake. A Common Buzzard flew across the west end of the lake while we checked out the Egyptian Goose.

There was little else of note until a Greenfinch was heard along the path behind the sailing club.

Thanks to all who braved the wet and windy weather to join me on the walk. The next one is Sunday April the 26th starting at 9am. Meet outside the visitor centre as usual.

Here are some images from a photo session on 100 Acre last weekend.


Great Crested Grebe


Mute Swan

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday 14th February 2015

Another Peregrine over 100 Acre this morning. It put up ~1500 Lapwing and ~250 Golden Plovers which was quite a spectacle. There was a single male Goldeneye on the main lake at Priory and we had a fly over Goosander while we were in the main lake hide. A cracking morning!

Record shot of the Goldeneye from this morning at PCP. What a handsome chap!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Guided Walk - Sunday 25th January 2015

Another good turnout for the guided walk this morning despite a chilly start. We had a good selection of winter ducks on the main lake with close views of Pochard which have been few and far between in the park this winter. Other species seen were Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon and a very nice female Goldeneye which we wouldn't have seen but for a tip off from Chris Smart. This would normally have been the bird of the day but the best was yet to come.

The Finger lakes gave up good views of Gadwalls and Tufted Ducks. We also had super views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a dead tree as we watched from the Spit. Chaffinches and Great Tits were calling and singing occasionally as we watched the Woodpecker. A Goldfinch also sang as it sat atop a nearby tree, a liquid sound and very varied.

We walked around the Finger lakes complex on the hunt for Goldcrest but were unable to find any in their usual haunts. A Sparrowhawk was spotted overhead, given away by the alarm calls of Long-tailed Tits in the trees nearby. By the Sedgewick Seat the first few in the group had good, if somewhat brief, views of a pair of Shoveler and the rest watched as they flew over having been spooked by us.

Just as we exited the Finger lakes section I heard some Bullfinch calls but we couldn't locate the birds. This wasn't to matter as a little further on, in the Long Hedge by the W plantation I spotted a stunning male and as we watched another 2 males and a female came into view. A Goldcrest called nearby but we were unable to locate it. A couple of Collared Doves were at the Kissing Gate with at least one "singing".

We headed off towards 100 Acre stopping at the old railway bridge where we had a small group of Teals on the back river and a couple of Little Grebes on the main river just past the mouth of the New Cut.

Having crossed the bridge we moved down onto 100 Acre and at the south end of the big lake we had good views of a small party of Teal, the males looking splendid in the morning sunlight. A couple of Common Gulls were spotted in the midst of a large party of Black-headed Gulls loafing on the water. A small party of Wigeon were grazing on east side of the big lake with a few Canada Geese and it was as we watched these that someone noticed more distant group of Gulls get up. I turned my attention to the Gulls to see what had disturbed them and a cracking juvenile Peregrine came into sight scattering both ducks as well as the gulls in all directions as it zoomed low over the water. We watched it for a few moments before it disappeared behind the island and that was it, gone! A really special moment, only the second time I have seen a Peregrine here. The speed and power of the bird was fantastic to see, probably less so by the Gulls and Ducks!

We moved on and had distant views of a Kestrel, hovering, over the east side of the big lake. Along the east side of the big lake we spotted a couple more Little Grebes and a Snipe on the island. Then we headed for the Castle Mill watch point and had great views of a Redwing perched up on a hawthorn bush. A Skylark took to the air in the field behind. Bird numbers were way down on yesterday in this section but there was a large flock of Greylag Geese, including the white one. The Barnacle Geese were on Castle Mill with a handful of Lapwings. A small group of Golden Plovers flew over but there was no sign of the 2 Redshanks we saw yesterday. We also had good numbers of Meadow Pipits yesterday but they were absent today.

Those were the highlights of the morning although a few of the group had a Fox run across the path in front of them as we got back to the car park, a nice end to a great morning.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 22nd February, meet outside the visitor centre at 9am.

Earlier, prior to the start of the walk, I had 4 Little Egrets leaving the roost. I also had 45 Corn Buntings and 21 Reed Buntings out of the Crescent Reed bed roost.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

10th and 11th January 2015

A brief update from the weekend:

At the weekend the 8 Red-crested Pochard which had arrived on Friday were still around. I am told the males looked great in the sun on the afternoon of Saturday but it was pretty grim in the main lake hide on Saturday morning and just seeing anything was a challenge at times as rain was blown horizontally through the open windows! It was fun watching the lone wind surfer trying to remount his steed as he headed towards the reeds on the north side :-)

A complete change of weather on Sunday morning was welcome. It dawned bright, cold and relatively still, allowing the song birds to be heard. 4 Little Egrets were seen leaving the roost and 16 Corn Buntings left the Crescent Roost just before sun up. A female Goldeneye was on the Finger Lakes first thing.

After a quick look around early on Sunday I joined Jane to help with the clearance work around the Cardington Mill car park. We did some work on a Monday volunteer session before Christmas so I completed the brushcutting and we coppiced and dead hedged by the ditch. Hopefully this will prove popular with users of that car park especially on the dark mornings and evenings this winter, as it is now much more open.

Coming up we have the next guided bird walk on the 25th starting at 9am outside the visitor centre and the Sunday Volunteers meet the following Sunday, 1st February, between 9am and 3pm. It currently says this is the 8th February on the website but I checked with the rangers today who confirmed it is the 1st.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Another catch up post

Too much time in the park and not enough time at the computer so not many posts recently. Any way we now have a selection of wintering ducks in the park covering all of the expected species although not in the numbers we normally expect, probably due to the warmer winter weather we have been experiencing. The decision not to feed the ducks, by the rangers, unless we have a prolonged cold spell may also be having an effect in the numbers of winter ducks.

We've also had a couple of occasional visitors in the form of Goldeneye and Goosander. The latter showed up on the Christmas guided bird walk which was handy.

Another recent visitor was a Penduline Tit which showed up on 100 Acre. This caused major excitement amongst the local birders and some not so local birders too. There are some great pictures of this bird over on the Beds Birds Blog.

As I mentioned earlier I've been volunteering with the rangers a lot recently. Firstly there was some tree cutting at Fish Ponds. We did some tree pruning and brush cutting in the Cardington Mill car park followed by a trip to Browns Wood and Putnoe Wood on the following day. I then joined Jane for some tree thinning up at Mowsbury Hillfort NR over the Christmas/New Year period.

Yesterday I was back with the monthly Sunday volunteers coppicing at the east end of the main lake. We had a good turnout despite freezing temperatures and we managed to get quite a bit done. It needs a little more tidying up so we might be back there again.

Mute Swan drying off after morning wash and brush up.
We've had a couple of dead Mute Swan's in the last couple of weeks. Not sure of the cause, they may have been taken by Foxes or dogs but we are keeping an open mind and will be keeping our eyes open over the coming days and weeks. If you come across any dead birds in the park please notify the rangers. If they are not at the visitor centre office then a contact number is always posted on the VC door.