Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sunday Volunteers - October 2016

Great day with the rest of the vols working around Riverside Pond today. It's that time of year again when we are "slashing and burning" so a big bonfire is a must! We cleared a good section of path and tidied up after the "so called" fishermen who frequent the area. Their main aim seem to be to drink as much as possible and throw all of their litter into the undergrowth around them, oh yeah and cast a line in the water while they are there! If that's not bad enough there was a lot of discarded fishing line as well.

Earlier in the morning I did a quick walk around Fingers with DK and we had the first Redwings of the winter when four flew over and dropped into the Rough. We also had a couple of Siskins over along with a handful of Meadow Pipits. On Saturday morning we had ~40 Meadow Pipits over the park and another 60 on 100 Acre.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Guided Walk September 2016

Had a small group for the guided walk at Priory CP this morning. Sadly all but one person missed the Otter which showed up at about 08:50. The lucky individual who arrived first was treated to great views as the Otter popped up right in front of us and then swam across the main lake to the island. I saw it a few more times tight to the island but it disappeared before any of the later arrivals had a chance to see it.

The highlight of the walk was standing about 5 feet from a singing Cetti's Warbler but it still remained unseen in a bramble patch.

Good numbers of wildfowl on the Finger lakes with great views of Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall.

Quiet on 100 Acre but Snipe, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Linnet were all seen which was a reasonable finale to the walk.

Other news from this week is that another illegal net was pulled from the main lake this week. Please keep your eyes peeled and report anything suspicious to the rangers.

The next guided bird walk is Sunday 30th October starting at 9am outside the cafe.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Guided Walk - 31st July 2016

It's been quiet around the park as is normally the case in the summer months. This weekend however has seen a real sign that the autumn migration is underway with Willow Warblers back in the park along with plenty of other warblers.

On Saturday I did my usual walk around with DK and as well as the Willow Warblers we had a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and a family party of Garden Warblers in the Rough.

This morning the number of Chiffchaffs was quite noticeable with birds calling from most trees along the main path and plenty more around the Finger Lakes. Before the guided walk got underway at 8am I had a quick look around Fingers with DK and we stopped in at the Rough to see how EG was doing with CES ringing session in the Rough. The ringing session had got off to a reasonable start with a few birds logged by the time we arrived and EG agreed to let me know how if they caught any birds to show the group on the guided walk. I headed off to collect the group and noted several more calling Chiffchaffs as I crossed the Meadow.

A small group of 11 joined me for the guided walk and after a quick briefing we headed off down the main path stopping off half way down to check out the birds on the main lake. About 8 Sand Martins were flitting about over the east end of the island and about 20 Swifts were busy feeding up overhead. Swifts are already starting to head south as are many other summer migrants. Chris Smart reported a Great Crested Grebe with a chick on the main lake earlier this week and Val spotted them over in the south west corner but even the scope couldn't do justice to the humbug coloured chick. Those who remained to the end had great views of the stripey headed chick when we looped around the south side of the main lake at the end of the morning.

Next stop was the Rough where EG had a Dunnock and a Wren to show us which was a little disappointing although there was more to come later. The group were also shown how the birds are captured for ringing.

We moved on heading down to the flower meadow and had a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly over us calling as it went. We didn't manage to spot the Lesser Whitethroat which DK had earlier in the Sheep Pen. We looped round to check out the Heron nest on Fingers. Somehow the Heron managed raise 3 chicks to a good size before we spotted them a few weeks ago. We had originally thought all three original nests had failed this year but not so. We think one of the pairs may have had a second attempt and were successful, hidden by the thick foliage of the Willow they were nesting in.

At this point the bird walk turned into butterfly walk as plenty of butterflies were out sunning themselves. Comma, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and one of the Whites were seen but the best was a Painted Lady, the first I have seen in the park for a while. A large hoverfly species also proved popular with the photographers in the group. Having just checked I now know it was Volucella pellucens. Common Blue damselflies were also numerous in the nettles.

Gatekeeper on Bramble

Red Admiral on Burdock
We headed up to the Sewage Works Bridge before a call from EG had us all heading back to the Rough where he had a bumper catch of birds. There were a handful of Chiffchaffs, a couple of stunning Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler and several Blackcaps. The star birds for the group were the tiny Goldcrest and a beautiful Treecreeper. Another net round added Robin and Blackbird to the species list. Most of the these birds were juveniles, exceptions being the Blackcaps which seem to have had a poor breeding season around here as the number of juveniles ringed has been well down so far. Thanks to EG and DH for another great ringing demo.

With time getting on some of the group departed and the remainder joined me for a loop around the main lake where, as well as the GC Grebe chick we added Holly Blue to our butterfly species list.

Thanks to everyone who ventured out with me today. The next guided bird walk is August 28th starting at 9am outside the visitor centre, or cafe as I should now call it!

And finally........

Some really sad news last weekend when an Otter was found drowned in an illegal Crayfish trap. The Environment Agency and Police have been informed.
Please note that you must have a license to trap Crayfish which you can get from the Environment agency. To get this your traps must comply with the EA specifications which would make them "Otter safe". Equally importantly you must have the landowners permission to trap so that would be the council for any of the waters in and around the park. For more details see EA web page about trapping Crayfish. I know of at least 7 traps that have been removed from waters in and around the park in recent months so this is a growing problem. If you see anything you think might be a trap please report it to the Police or the Rangers so we can get it removed before anything else gets killed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guided Walk and other bits and bobs from the weekend

This morning was the first of the 8am starts for the guided bird walks but we still had a great turnout. First up was a visit to the Rough where EG was on his 6th CES ringing visit of the year. Unfotunately this session was proving to be very quiet and all Ed could offer the group was a single juvenile Wren. As usual he gave a great demo and expalantion of the ringing process before showing the group the nets. He came back with another capture, another juvenile Wren! To make things worse he had already ringed this one earlier so it was quickly released.

We moved on to the Spit where we had good views of the remaining Mute Swan cygnet and the single remaining Great Crested Grebe chick. Predation has been the word of the spring this year with very few wildfowl chicks making it to adulthood so far. We also spotted the pair of Tufted ducks with 2 young fluff balls.

We stopped at the freshly re-painted Kramer hide and I challenged the group to spot the nesting Little Grebe. Admittedly it is a tough one to spot, even when I had setup the scope on the nest. The other adult Little Grebe was out front of the hide but playing equally hard to spot under a Willow.

We moved on again stopping to listen to 2 singing Blackcaps in the Long Hedge. A Treecreeper called a couple of times from nearby but didn't show itself.

At the Sewage Works bridge we stopped in hope of an Otter sighting but as usual we were a day late. DK and myself had great views of at least one Otter at the bridge on Saturday morning.

A Grey Heron was in the usual spot in the reeds on the corner of Riverside. The resident Cetti's Warbler sang loudly, as they do. It could still be heard when we were half way across 100 Acre. A stop on 100 Acre produced a nesting Great Crested Grebe, several Little Grebes, Oystercatcher and at least 3 broods of Tufted Duck youngsters. One of the Tufted Duck broods was at least 13, hard to know how the female could incubate that number of eggs successfully. A little further on and we had a Little Egret on the island. A Sedge Warbler was heard and gave brief views as it flitted from one lot of thick cover to another. A small pink flower was identified as Grass Vetchling.   

Back on the cycle track we came across another singing Blackcap, there were many about today, which showed out the clear for a few seconds before it disappeared back into the heavy cover across the other side of the track.

Further along the track we found several Bee orchids which had survived the mower. Lin had found them a few weeks back but it was good to show the group. 

Bee Orchid

A male Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly showed briefly before departing across the wheat crop. A female was more obliging, perching on a wheat stem and allowing me to get the scope on it so that everyone had great views. Yellow Wagtails were calling from the crops and showed briefly while a Skylark perched up on a head of Hemlock and gave great views as he sang.

At the Castle Mill end of 100 Acre we had good views of Little Egret and distant views of Green Sandpiper, Sand Martin and Swallow also showed well and Linnet and Goldfinch were in the are. Not sure where the juvenile Black-headed Gull has come from but presumably a pair have nested nearby.

On the way back we found a Marbled White butterfly in the same area as the Bee Orchids.
Marbled White butterfly
Back at the Sewage Works bridge I spotted a Common Tern carrying a fish and watched to see where it might be nesting. It headed towards the island on 100 Acre but disappeared from view before I could see if it dropped in there or not.

So another good morning out around the park and surrounding area. The next guided bird walk is Sunday July 31st, meet outside the visitor centre (maybe a cafe by then!) at 8am.

Juvenile Pied Wagtail on the Priory wall (Saturday)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dawn Chorus Guided Walk - 15/05/2016

You don't really expect a hard frost in the middle of May but that's exactly what we had for the Dawn Chorus walk this morning. Of course that did mean we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and the birds did their bit too. Here's a short video clip by Chris Smart (crank up the volume and enjoy the soundtrack!):

After enjoying the dawn chorus we took a stroll around the Rough where Garden Warblers and Blackcaps were most in evidence. A Goldcrest was also heard singing here.

I had hoped the early start were give us a good chance of seeing the Otters at the sewage works bridge but we had to make do with Sedge and Reed Warblers singing in the reed bed below the bridge and a Cetti's Warbler singing a little further down the river.

Along the cycle track by the sewage works Common Whitethroats were in good numbers, their scratchy, cut-off song drawing attention to them.

100 Acre was an oasis of bird life as usual although the star birds from yesterday, in the form of Knot, Sanderling and Stonechat, had moved on. As well as all of the regulars we saw Common Sandpiper, Linnet, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Cuckoo, Little Ringed Plover and Yellow Wagtail. The song flight specialists, Skylark, Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat also performed well.

Here are a few record shots from Saturday morning:



Sanderling (left) with a couple of Ringed Plovers

Stonechat (100 Acre)

And a couple of other things:

At the beginning of the month the volunteers put in a good shift when replacing the steps by the wooden footbridge over the New Cut.

Volunteers test the new steps (Photo by: Daniel Fellman)

I encourage everyone to visit the park and enjoy the wildlife but if you do please put your litter in the bins provided. If it won't go in the bin then please take it home with you. Mr. Fox makes an awful mess if you leave bags of litter by the bins.

Litter in the park
During the recent warm weather the Rangers were spending most of their time litter picking. This is not what they are there for, they are there to manage the habitats to attract the wildlife we all go there to see. Also be aware of the terrible consequences littering can have on our wildlife:

Grey Heron starved to death because of ribbon wrapped around its beak. (photo taken at Biddenham Loop CP)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Guided Walk - 24/04/2016

The rain/sleet cleared through early on so we were treated to a few glimpses of the sun for today's guided walk although the wind had a bit of bite to it.

We started off by the main lake looking through the hirundines that were skimming over the water. They were mostly Sand Martins with a handful of Swallows and the occasional House Martin. A pair of Egyptian Geese have been nesting on the main lake island and have come off the island this weekend with 3 goslings from their six eggs. We also had another 4 Egyptian Geese flying around the main lake this morning. Before we moved on a Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing in the plantation between the Premier Inn and the car park.

Pair of Egyptian Geese with 3 goslings
Moving on to the Finger Lakes we had a Blackcap along the Spit and a single Reed Warbler singing in the Crescent reed bed. On West Fingers the Great Crested Grebe is finally sitting tight on the nest they were busily building last Sunday. Last week batch of 4 Coot chicks is down to 2 and another pair have 4 chicks. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard over towards the Sheep Pen.

Next stop was the Dead Seat where views were obtained of the Grey Heron which has been sitting on the nest for a while now. The other 2 Heron nests have been occupied at various times but mostly by birds just standing around.

At the gate to the Rough, Sedge and Garden Warblers could be heard in the Rough and we had good views of a couple of Chiffchaffs just the other side of the gate. Blackcaps were singing all around us which made it difficult to hear the other birds. We continued down past the Sedgewick Seat and cut through to the New Meadow to check out a Snake's head fritillary which I had spotted earlier in the morning. It's the first one I have ever seen in the park.

We cut back through to the flower meadow and I heard a Willow Warbler singing in the A Section so we cut through to the Navigation Channel pausing to listen to the Willow Warbler, unseen above our heads. While listening a Bullfinch called but despite circling the plantation we did not see either the Willow Warbler or the Bullfinch.

Across the Flower Meadow, now with a good quantity of Cowslips showing we reached the Kissing Gate where a Song Thrush was singing strongly. At the Sewage Works Bridge we stopped to listen to the Sedge Warblers singing in the Reed bed on either side of the bridge. We were also treated to several bursts of song from a Cetti's Warbler at the end of the New Cut. As usual it remained hidden but you can't miss that energetic burst of song!

As we looked for a Sedge Warbler in the reeds a Kingfisher flew upstream under the bridge. Then came one of the stars of the morning as a Peregrine flew over and then circled higher and higher above us before drifting off across the park.

We moved on to 100 Acre but there was little of note on the west side of the big lake. We did pick out a single Little Egret before moving over to the east side of the lake where we had a Common Sandpiper and a couple more Coot families. Little Grebes were seen and were calling regularly. A Common Whitethroat was singing from the hedge between the big lake and Meadow Lane GP. 

At the end of the Meadow Lane Hedge line we looked across the big lake and found a single Greenshank and a Redshank. There was a second Little Egret on the near shore. A couple of Wigeon still remain but will likely move on any day. Our final stop of the day was on the flooded gravel section just before Castle Mill and here we were treated to great views of Redshanks and Oystercatchers. Pied, White and Yellow Wagtails flitted about near the waters edge and a male Wheatear joined them. 

Record shot of a Yellow Wagtail seen on Saturday morning.
A single Swallow flew low over the grass on the opposite side of the water. Several Common Terns rested on the shore. Several Skylarks were heard and we finally spotted one as it climbed high above us singing it's heart out.

With that it was time to turn for home but we were not finished yet as we added Common Buzzard over the old settling lagoons on 100 Acre. We had great views of a Red Kite as it flew, from over the sewage works, low over our heads and then circled low just the other side of the hedge over 100 Acre.

Back at the mouth of the New Cut we heard a Treecreeper and had brief views as it flew across the sewage works bridge. And that really was it as we all headed back to the car park taking in a few more singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs along the New Cut as we went.

The next regular guided bird walk is on Sunday 29th May starting at 9am outside the visitor centre. Before then we have the Dawn Chorus walk on Sunday May 15th which starts at 4am and the first guided bat walk of the year on Friday the 20th May starting at 9pm. Please note you must book for the bat walk, for contact details click here.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

16th April 2016

Plenty of migrants around the park over the last week or so. Weather has been variable with plenty of rain and some sun. Saturday it was the turn of the rain and although miserable for us humans it seemed to bring in the birds.

There were a lot of hirundines over the main lake when I arrived, mainly Sand Martins but a few Swallows mixed in. Swallows seemed to increase as I watched the flock skimming low over the water, many perched up on the buoys for a rest. Many of the Swallows were looking a bit worse for wear, hopefully there will be enough insects about so they can feed up and return to A1 condition for the breeding season.

Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps are now in, in good numbers. I heard a single Lesser Whitethroat singing by the Labyrinth on Saturday morning. No Common Whitethroats in the park yet although DK had one on 100 Acre in the week.

The Finger Lakes Great Crested Grebes seem to have worked out what they are doing, nest building has kicked into high gear with occasional pauses for mating.

Mating Grebes
The neighbouring Coots already have 4 chicks but border wars continue with the Coots one door down!
Coot making a splash on the edge of his territory
Other species also have young by the looks of this Woodpigeon egg that I noticed floating on the Finger Lakes on Sunday morning. The neat edge indicates a successful hatching rather than a predation. The adult bird would then have carried the shell away from the nest to avoid attracting predators to the area. 
Wood Pigeon egg.
I was hoping to photograph the Grebes on Sunday morning as we had a lovely clear start to the day but they were much too busy with the nest building and mating to bother coming in front of the camera. The Coots were a little less shy and the male Mute Swan (Orange 180) did a quick check of his territory.


Mute Swan
As usual 100 Acre is the star location at the moment with a good variety of wildfowl and waders. Wigeon numbers are way down and I expect the last few to depart anytime. A pair of Red-crested Pochards have been around for the couple of weeks at least so wondering if they may nest if they haven't already. With all of the flood water waders have been stopping off as they pass by on their journeys north. On Saturday morning there were 14 Dunlins along with a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, a couple of Greenshanks, a Redshank and the usual Oystercatchers.

It's always worth looking through the Wagtail flocks at this time of year and on Saturday, with the Pied Wagtails there were a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a couple of White Wagtails.

White Wagtail
A couple of Wheatears were my first of the year and on Castle Mill there was a single Shelduck which I always like to see.

Back to the park and it's that time of year again so the rangers have started the egg oiling to control the Canada Goose numbers. The main lake island was the first port of call and the numbers show that we really need to keep doing this work to keep the numbers down.

Canada 40 nests – 234 eggs treated.

The following nests were noted but left alone.

One Greylag nest – didn’t count the eggs.

One Egyptian Goose nest with 6 eggs.

One Swan nest.

At least 6 mallard nests.

The Canada Goose eggs are oiled and left in the nest so the adults keep sitting but the eggs won't hatch. If the eggs were just taken away the Geese would likely lay again so the rangers would have to keep visiting each nest to remove eggs throughout the season. There will be plenty more to do, all along the river as far up stream as Queens Park. There will be some that don't get found but at least we won't have hundreds of extra geese this year.

Canada Goose

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Catch Up - 7th April 2016

Since the Easter weekend we have had plenty of new arrivals on the birding front.

29/03 - Fem. Common Scoter (DK)
30/03 - Willow Warbler, Blackcap, House Martin (DK)
04/04 - Sedge Warbler (DK), Black Redstart (Sewage Works, TP)
05/04 - Common Tern (DK)

The Common Scoter was on the main lake on the Thursday and Friday of the same week. Interestingly I had a Common Scoter at Box End Park on the Wednesday, was this the same bird that was at Priory the rest of the week?

I was in the park on Sunday with the volunteer group. This month we cleared out the Leat to help prevent future flooding. The group worked well and managed to get the full section done between the Leat pool and pipe under the path between the main lake and Press Mead.

I spent today with the Jon B and a couple of the Thursday volunteers. This time we were in the Cut clearing litter and some of the branches and other debris. Again this prevents possible flooding as debris gradually builds up if left and dams the flow. We dragged out an old bike and a huge piece of foam along with as much of the plastic waste as we could get hold of. Our reward for the work was a Kingfisher and biggest pile of Otter poo I've ever seen. The spraint site we found was obviously well used and very recently as well. There were also loads of foot prints all around the area. On the other bank Jon found some fish remains.

Earlier I had a quick wander around with DK and managed my first Common Tern and Sedge Warbler of the year. The Sedge Warbler was singing at the Sewage Works bridge but remained hidden in the reed bed, much like the Cetti's Warbler which was also singing well in the same area. The Common Tern was over the main lake. A Red Kite was an early visitor over the south side of the main lake and 4 Oystercatchers chased around the main lake island. A good size flock, 100+, of Sand Martins arrived early on over the main lake.

DK had the following notables:

20 Chiffchaffs
15 Willow Warblers
12 Blackcaps
2 Sedge Warblers (one was in the SW corner of the main lake to add to the sewage works bird)
1 Swallow

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Weekend

With a storm on the way for later in the weekend and the Good Friday forecast looking good it was an early start on Friday to try to make the most of the good light. With 100 Acre still under water it was back to the Spit for another go with the pair of Great Crested Grebes on the Finger Lakes. Without a hide there is a lot more waiting involved for the birds to get used to my being there and, even then, they are still not approaching as close as I would like. Anyhow here are a some shots from the session which mostly turned into a Coot session!


Coot feeding

Great Crested Grebe
The Grebes didn't spend much time in front of me, in fact the female seemed very interested mating but the male looked less than interested, you might even say confused by the whole thing. They have built a platform from weed and reeds and the female kept posturing and laying down on the platform but the male refused to mount her and in the end she gave up. Hopefully the male will get the message and we'll have a nest and some eggs in the not too distant future.

The spot I am using for the photography is right on the border between 2 Coot territories and is a regular feeding area for one of the pairs so there was more opportunity to photograph the Coots. Unfortunately the territorial disputes were all too far away for any decent shots.

Saturday was grey and windy but did remain dry as forecast so I had a wander around the park with DK. We had all the usual stuff the highlight being the first good number of Sand Martins which peaked at ~29 over the main lake. Still no Blackcaps but there are several singing Chiffchaffs dotted around the park. A handful of Siskins are also still sticking around but I'm sure they will depart fairly soon. It has been a good winter for Siskins in the park. They have stayed throughout and have been seen most days.

On Sunday 15 people joined me for the guided bird walk. The forecast looked good for the morning but as usual it proved less than accurate. Things started well with ~20 Sand Martins over the main lake and a small party of Siskins on one of the Alders along the Spit. The Siskins were very confiding and hung around to give great views for everyone. They weren't put off by the group walking past and were still there when we came back a few minutes later. I'd managed to get some photo's of them in the same tree before the walk started.

Female Siskin

Female Siskin

Female Siskin
Further along the Spit I showed the group a very well used Otter spraint point. There was some very fresh spraint in evidence along with quite a few older ones. Otters tend to find an obvious place to deposit a spraint and this case it is an old mole hill. This acts as a territorial marker post for any Otters in the area.

Moving on we checked out the "Heronry" which is very slow to progress this year. After last years 2 nests we had been hoping it would continue to develop but so far only a single nest is consistently occupied. On that nest one of the birds has spent some time sitting this weekend so they might have eggs but it's not certain as yet. The other nest has been occupied at various times but not consistently.

A single female Teal and a pair of Shoveler was the best we could muster at the Kramer hide. Over on Kingsmead we had three Common Buzzards over the woods and Cormorants showing juvenile, non-breeding and breeding plumages which was most helpful.

No Otters at the sewage works bridge but the Cetti's Warbler did sing for us and Kingfisher did a brief flypast before we moved on to 100 Acre.

Along the cycle track I showed the group a beautiful Long-tailed Tit's nest before we moved onto 100 Acre and the weather caught up with us with a heavy shower and hail. We managed to stick it out and even found a rather miserable looking Redshank on the island during the heaviest part of the downpour. As it eased off we found a couple of Oystercatchers and various ducks including Gadwall, Wigeon and a pair of Red-crested Pochard. A Snipe gave brief views as it flew in and promptly disappeared in a clump of grass.

Having got a good soaking I gave the group the choice of continuing on or heading back and with another downpour looking likely the decision was made to head back.

It was a pretty good walk with a good number of species recorded, shame about the soaking but that's nature! The next guided bird walk is Sunday April 24th at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre, hopefully we should be inundated with summer migrants by then!

Monday, March 21, 2016

19/03/2016 - flooding subsides

The flood water went down very quickly last week with just the Finger Lakes remaining at a higher level. Everywhere around the park is accessible now except for the Crescent where you still need wellies to get through.

100 Acre is a little less accessible, you definitely need your wellies over there and the final field is still too deep for wellies. Having said that it's well worth having a look over there as it was a wader fest on Saturday afternoon.

Redshank 6+
Dunlin 2
Lapwing 60+
Golden Plover 150+
Snipe 30+ (May have been as many as 50 but not sure if the 20 I saw was just a sub group of the 30)

2 Ruff were also reported by others in the morning.

Other noteables were:

Pintail 3 (2m1f)
Buzzard 3

1 Rock Pipit was also reported by others in the morning.

9 of the Oystercatchers
Back in the park the first Sand Martin of the year was reported by DK this week. The geese are taking up positions on the main lake island. Looks like we may have 3 nesting species this year with the Canadas, Greylags and possibly a pair of Egyptians. The high water in the Finger lakes seems to have put the geese off for now.

With the high water on 100 Acre scuppering plans to photograph the Little Grebes again this year I spent Sunday morning on the Finger Lakes hoping the Great Crested Grebes might display. They are building but don't seem that excited about the task and I didn't see any displaying, although they did disappear for a while. One of the birds did catch a nice Perch, I assume it was the male as the other bird quickly arrived on the scene hoping for a gift but that never materialised and the male managed to get it down eventually. The male often catches a fish and presents it to the female to strengthen the pair bond. It shows the female that he is capable of providing for her and her young but this guy obviously still has a bit to learn!

Male catches a Perch

Female arrives hoping for a breakfast gift

Great Crested Grebe
The Finger Lakes Mute Swan family is down to 3 remaining young. The adults seem to be tolerating them at the moment but they seldom spend time with them now and I'm sure they'll get the boot soon so the pair can get on with the business of producing another batch of youngsters this year.

Adult male Mute Swan (Orange 180)

Male Tufted Duck
Easter Sunday is the next guided bird walk. The clocks also go forward 1 hour at 1am so don't forget to change them. The walk starts at 9am and we meet outside the visitor centre.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

12/03/2016 - Flooding at Priory CP

Very wet around the park this weekend. The water levels have come up further than shown in these pictures, by Dave Kramer, from Saturday morning.

Access around the Finger lakes is restricted to the Spit and the north side although Wellies are a must. There is no access around the main lake as the Leat has overflowed the path and is too deep for wellies, so no access to Press Mead.

North end of the flower meadow

Flower meadow looking towards the navigation channel and Kingsmead at the back

Change of plan no way through to Press Mead, the Leat normally passes under the path!
Last weekend the volunteers were out on Riverside clearing back the path around Riverside Pond and finishing off some cutting back along the riverside path. It was a smaller turnout than usual, probably due to it being Mothering Sunday but we got a lot of work done so thanks again to all who helped out. The next Sunday Volunteers task is still to be confirmed but join us on the 3rd of April between 9am and 3pm. Contact the Rangers here for more details.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Guided Walk 28/02/2016

The guided walk was very well attended again this month and the weather was much more agreeable than last month. With Spring on the way I chose to focus on some of the bird songs and calls for this walk. It's a good time to start learning a few bird songs as many species are starting to sing as the breeding season begins. In fact with this mild Winter there have been reports of some species breeding already. After an initial scan of the main lake we headed across the meadow to the Finger Lakes and stood outside the Rough identifying the various songs and calls that could be heard, the best being Bullfinch calls and even a bit of "Trumpeting".

A circuit of the Finger Lakes returned good views of Heron, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe. There were no Siskins to be found in the Alders around the Crescent reed bed but one did fly over calling as we cut through to the Spit. A good size flock of Barnacle Geese flew over, seen briefly between the trees. There was little of note on west fingers just the remaining members of the Mute Swan family, down to 3 cygnets now. The adults are getting quite feisty so I suspect those 3 will be out of there pretty soon.

We finished the walk with a circuit of the main lake and were rewarded with views of a pair of Kingfishers chasing along the Leat in the south east corner. A detour along the riverside path to check out Fenlake Meadows bagged us a couple of Snipe which flushed from Fenlake and flew over the river and us, heading north into the park. The hoped for Stonechat was not to be found. From the south west corner of the main lake I picked out a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few Common Gulls within the mixed flock loafing on the lake. Black-headed Gulls in all states of plumage from Winter to Summer can be found on the lake at the moment too.

We couldn't find the Egyptian Geese which are regular visitors to the island but I suspect they might breed on the island this year.

There was little else of note on the remainder of the walk and we finished back at the visitor centre having put together a reasonable list in a couple of hours.

In recent weeks a few more waders have turned up with the Redshanks on 100 Acre and Oystercatcher on the main lake island in the park. The Golden Plovers and Lapwings were still showing well over on 100 Acre up until at least Saturday the 20th February, the Golden Plovers numbering ~2500.

A family party of Otters has been showing well with the mother and 3 cubs regularly at the Sewage Works Bridge and sometimes on the main lake. A fifth Otter joined the party on Monday 22nd. I guess this would have been a male checking out the female to see if she is ready to breed but I didn't see them myself. The cubs should be dispersing soon as they are fully grown now. Hopefully they will remain close to home for a while so we continue getting regular sightings.

The next guided bird walk is on Sunday 27th March. Meet outside the visitor centre at 9am.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

A belated update

It's about time I posted an update so here goes:

The most recent guided bird walk, last Sunday, was well attended with 20 people joining me despite a very wet morning. Despite the rain we racked up a good species list with excellent views of a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Little Egret and a Treecreeper being the highlights. The Treecreeper was a right little show off, very unusual for this normally secretive little bird. We finished off the morning at the Golden Plover flock on 100 Acre where ~3000 gave us a great display along with a few hundred Lapwings. Thanks to everyone who made the effort to join me on such a miserable morning. The next one is Sunday the 28th February at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre. Hopefully it will be a bit drier!

Today a few of the Sunday Volunteers spent the day coppicing the Willows along the edge of the main lake adjacent to the Finger Lakes. With the prevailing wind from the south it made for quite a cold and blustery day but we managed to get most of the older growth Willow coppiced leaving the the younger stuff for next winter.

Over recent weeks we have had quite a few good sightings in and around the park. A single male Goldeneye has been spotted on several days on the main lake. Pintails and Goosanders have put in more fleeting appearances. On 100 Acre at least one pair of Stonechats have been seen regularly. The Golden Plover flock has peaked at around 4500 which makes for a spectacular sight when they all get up in the air together. This weekend there were about 800 Lapwings which is about as many as I have seen here over the winter. Redshanks have arrived in the last couple of weeks and a couple of Dunlin spent a few weeks mixing in with the Golden Plovers although we didn't spot them this weekend.

Two Ring-necked Parakeets are providing a bit of colour, and noise, for the park with regular visits over the winter, the most recent being today when they flew over the visitor centre as we packed away the kit the volunteer group had been using. Earlier this morning I had great views of a flock of Siskins in the Alders by the Crescent reed bed and a brief stop by a Redpoll in the Rough was better than the usual flyover sightings we've been getting.

The various roosts in the park have generally been down in numbers this winter although the Jackdaws still provide quite a noisy spectacle when they all leave in the morning. The mild weather seems to have kept the Corn Bunting roost pretty small although when we did have a brief cold spell the numbers jumped to 46 on one morning. The Little Egret numbers also jumped up during the cold spell. Having been at 3 or 4 for most of the winter the numbers suddenly reached double figures and have remained at those levels since.

And finally, there has been a family group of up to 4 Otters in the Park and over the last several weeks, a mother and 3 well grown cubs. I finally caught up with 3 of the family this morning at the Sewage Works bridge.