Saturday, December 16, 2017

Save your country park!

You might not be aware but all of the Priory Rangers have been given redundancy notices.

At the moment two are based at Harrold Country Park and three at Priory Country Park. In total they are responsible for nearly one thousand acres of public green space which also includes Browns Wood, Clapham Park Wood, Putnoe Wood and Mowsbury Hillfort. They also support and provide educational resources and manage and encourage volunteer groups such as those that help out at Priory CP and the Friends group at Putnoe Wood and Mowsbury Hillfort.

They are undergoing, at this time, an internal consultation with Bedford Borough Council. The five current rangers are being asked to apply for two ranger positions (downgraded by one pay grade) and two positions that are being called groundsman positions (downgraded by two pay grades). One position is to be made redundant.

As this consultation is internal and we were not aware of any previous Budget Public Consultations concerning the fate of the Park Ranger Service we cannot directly contribute to these meetings. We can however make our comments and views available to the rangers. This information can then be used to support the their case during their consultation with the Borough.

If the Borough’s plan to implement these redundancies comes to fruition it would not just have a negative environmental and management impact on the main two sites but all green open spaces and all volunteer groups that depend on the rangers for their support and knowledge.

Please help fight the rangers case by emailing your comments and views as to why the Rangers are so important to the upkeep of our country parks and green spaces. This information can then be used to support the rangers case during their consultation with the Borough.

You can email your support for the rangers to me and I will pass it on. A letter or email to your local councillor or the mayor would also be helpful if you have some time to spare. Find your councillor's contact details here:

Please be respectful in any communications, abusive emails will not get us anywhere, reasoned argument and/or impassioned pleas will serve us best.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunday Volunteers - 9th July

The task on Sunday was pulling the Himalayan Balsam along the river bank between the canoe slalom and Cardington lock. A small group of vols got stuck in and managed to clear the stretch. It was quite a transformation as prior to starting we couldn't even see the river. On completion the river was back in view and our native plants now have room to breath! Taking the Balsam out now prevents it seeding and so hopefully next year we'll have less to deal with. Following photo's supplied by Danny Fellman:


A big pile of Himalayan Balsam, one of several!
On the birding front some good news this week with the confirmed breeding of the Common Terns which have used the new tern raft this year. We spotted at least 2 chicks on the raft on Saturday morning. EG has been ringing in the Rough, completing the annual CES visits. These have been going really well so far this year and on Monday the 10th 50+ birds were processed including a second Lesser Whitethroat juvenile.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sunday Volunteers - *** Date Change ***

Please note the Sunday Volunteers date for July has been changed to the 9th. This is to accommodate the Race for Life which is in the park this weekend (1st and 2nd). We are likely to be Himalayan Balsam pulling along the river at Cardington Lock.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Evening Guided Walk - 06/06/2017 - CANCELLED

Sadly this event has been cancelled due to lack of bookings. There is another one in July:

July 11th 7pm - Evening Guided Walk

If you would like to come along please make sure you book in advance.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Sunday Volunteers - 04/06/2017

Please note that the volunteer session on Sunday 4th June will start at the later time of 10am.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A tale of two walks

Last weekend was a busy one for the park with the first bat walk of the year on the Friday evening and the annual Dawn Chorus walk on Sunday morning.

I joined the bat walk on Friday evening along with 20+ others hopeful of seeing a few of the parks bats in action. We weren't disappointed as 6 different species were detected and/or seen. Excellent viewing was had along the south side of the main lake where Pips and Serotines could be seen against the darkening sky. There were also excellent views of Daubenton's bats from the fishing swims along the east side of the main lake. Nicky leading, assisted by Danny, provided great information from basic information about using our detectors through to just about anything you could want to know about bats. All in all a great evening out in the park. The six species we found were:

Common pipistrelle
Daubenton's bat
Nathusius' pipistrelle
Soprano pipistrelle

And so to the Dawn Chorus walk. I was joined by 15 people for a 4am start. Sadly the weather forecast was not looking good and for once they got it right! It started to rain lightly as we headed off down the main path. We hung out down in the Crescent where Reed Warblers were burbling away Blackbirds and Robins were already singing strongly joined occasionally by the loud bursts of song from the resident Cetti's Warbler. Reed Buntings joined the chorus singing much stronger than we have been experiencing at our usual start times. Blackcap, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blue and Great Tits all gradually joined the chorus. A backing track of raucous calls from the roosting Crows and Jackdaws grew louder as the rain grew heavier. The consensus of those who were present at last years dawn chorus walk was that this year was a bit subdued by comparison, unsurprising given the weather conditions this year. With the chorus easing down we started a wander around the Finger Lakes but were forced to take cover in Kramer Hide as the rain intensified.

Nesting Moorhen and Canada Goose were visible from the hide and a Little Grebe put in an appearance but the rain continued and a few of the group decided to call it a day and headed off leaving the rest of us to enjoy a cake kindly provided by Charlotte Tenneson. (Glen you have some serious competition!)

Finally the rain eased off so we took the opportunity to head back to the visitor centre, bagging a few more species on the way.

So after a fantastic bat walk the dawn chorus was a bit of damp squib and we didn't get out to 100 Acre as I had planned. Still there is always next year!

With all of the Hirundines in the park and the Swifts too I am often asked to identify which is which. It's not always easy with these fast, acrobatic little birds but here are a few pictures to help you out.

Firstly the Swallow, slightly larger than the 2 Martins with an all dark head and back with a white breast. the colours cannot always be identified easily when they are zipping about in a bright sky so I'm going to skip those for the most part. The long tail streamers are also diagnostic.

Swallow (here with on a single tail streamer, must have lost one somewhere!)
The House Martin is all white underneath including the chin. The back it dark with a white rump. The white rump is often quoted a feature to differentiate this species from its cousin the Sand Martin but you have to be careful as the acrobatic nature of the these species in flight can often make it look like a white rump is present when in fact it is the underside of the Sand Martin you are seeing as it twists and turns in pursuit of flying insects. So to confirm make sure you watch them carefully.

House Martin (note the white chin)

House Martin (Note the white rump)
The Sand Martin is similar size to the House Martin and is actually brown as opposed to the black/blue of the House Martin. However as previously stated these colours are not always apparent depending on the light conditions so watch carefully. The Sand Martin is mostly dark on the back with a partial white collar and all white underneath except for a thin brown breast band or chin strap depending on how you look at it.

Sand Martin (Note the partial white collar)

Sand Martin (Note the chin strap)
The Swift is a little larger than the Hirundines and is all dark with a slightly paler chin. Sorry no pic as yet.

EG was ringing in the Rough on the 9th and caught and ringed this little beauty.

And finally the Great Crested Grebe family are doing great on the Finger Lakes with the 3 chicks growing well. If they eat like their parents they should do OK!

Great Crested Grebe swallowing a Tench

Summertime strolls - Guided Walks

Click on the link below for details of a couple of evening guided walks:

Summertime Strolls with a ranger

If you would like to join us for these walks please make sure you book via phone or email.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dawn Chorus Walk on Sunday 14th May

PLEASE NOTE: Just to confuse things there are 2 dawn chorus walks in the park on Sunday! The RSPB local group are also running a dawn chorus walk starting at 5am, details here: RSPB Local Group dawn chorus walk.

The annual Priory Country Park dawn chorus walk begins at 4am. (We are hardcore! 😀) Anyone attending this walk please note that the 4am start time means you could find the barrier to the car park closed if you arrive before I do. If this is the case please wait in the small parking area, to the left of the entrance by the recycling skips, until I arrive. Meet outside the cafe as normal. Thanks, Dave.


Monday, May 08, 2017

New steps at 100 Acre access point

A great job by the Sunday and Monday volunteers, supported by the rangers, putting in place a new set of steps to ease access down to the 100 Acre area of the park. These may look like the steps to nowhere at the moment with the barbed wire fence preventing further access to the site but a new kissing gate is on the cards which will create a circular route around this area of meadow and lakes.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

May Day bank holiday weekend

The last couple of weeks have seen some interesting birds passing through the park and neighbouring 100 Acre. The previous weekend saw a brief visit to 100 Acre by a Curlew. It dropped in unseen and left soon after, I managed to get this record shot as flew off.

I spent sometime photographing the Little Grebes on 100 Acre and was lucky to have a Common Sandpiper land nearby where I managed a record shot.

Common Sandpiper

Little Grebe eating a fish

Down it goes!
A Whinchat showed up on 100 Acre the same day I photographed the Little Grebes but I had to wait until the following day to catch up with it. Again just a record shot as it perched up on a fence post.

On the way back from the Whinchat JA spotted a Wheatear on the west side of the big lake.

 A pair of Grey Wagtails at the Sewage Works Bridge had a couple of youngsters and the adult female spent her time on guard duty.

Grey Wagtail
On Sunday 30th April I had a big turn out for the monthly Guided Walk and we had a good morning capped by the arrival of a Grey Plover while we were out on 100 Acre looking for the Whinchat. There were also a lot of Butterflies active and a single Small Copper was the highlight of those.

May day saw a switch in the weather with strong easterly winds and heavy showers. This brought an influx of passage migrants and on Monday morning the main lake was home to 3 Black Terns, single Arctic Tern and a single adult Little Gull.

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Terns

The Black Terns remained stubbornly out by the island limiting the photo opportunities but the Common Terns came closer to shore and continued to entertain during one of the heavy showers.

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern
Of the residents a number of Mallards have young now. Both Coots and Moorhens also have young. A pair of Egyptian Geese have 3 young and a Greylag pair has six goslings. All the summer migrants have arrived now with the most obvious, the Cuckoo, seen and heard regularly around the park at the weekend. Reed Warbler numbers continue to increase and can be found burbling away in the reed beds while Willow Warblers numbers have dropped again as they continue their journeys north. The Grey Heron nests all contain young of various sizes.

And finally the new Tern raft has seen interest from several Common Terns, hope to see some using it for nesting in the coming days.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Recent News - 19/04/2017

The drake Garganey hung around until the weekend at least. No reports since Saturday but it might be hiding itself somewhere, you never know.

The Red-crested Pochards also seem to have departed but I got this picture of the male which looks quite weird front on like this!
Red-crested Pochard

A Cuckoo was heard near the Priory Wall on Apr 11 per Lin.

Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warbler both at Priory on Apr 12 per TP. This is the earliest record of Reed Warbler in the park per DK.

On Saturday (15th) JA and I had a Swift over, again the earliest record in the park per DK.

Plenty of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps but Whitethroats are hard to come by. On Tuesday (18th) I finally caught up with a House Martin which was in a mixed flock with Sand Martins and Swallows over the main lake.

Here are a couple more pictures from recent encounters. Firstly a Chiffchaff at the Sewage Works bridge.

 And finally here's a Chiffchaff sunning itself in the Long Hedge up near the Kissing Gate.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Saturday 08/04/2017

Garganey (M)
A drake Garganey turned up on the Finger lakes on Saturday, found by TP. DK called me to let me know it was there and I managed to catch up with it on my way back from 100 Acre. I also had my first Sedge Warbler of the year on the south side of the Sewage Works Bridge. There was a second in the sewage works compound.

On 100 Acre were 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Snipe, 3 Redshank, a pair of Wigeon and a Cetti’s Warbler down by the mooring place on the river. There seem to be at least 5 Cetti's Warblers in and around the park with the usual 2 (Crescent and Sewage Works Bridge), this one on 100 Acre and another reported in the week at Cardington Lock along with a second near the Crescent.

The Garganey was still around on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Recent News

Mar 13 - Sand Martin over the main lake this morning. Also 9 Chiffchaffs, 2 Cetti's (DK)

Mar 14 - A female Blackcap at Priory this morning was a first for the year at the site. (TP)

Mar 27 - Minimum of two little gull with black headed gull on main lake. Male red crested pochard and 5 shoveler. (MB)

Mar 27 - 5 Little Gulls Priory Co, Bedford, showing well north west corner @5.30pm (SW)

Mar 29 - c110 Sand Martins, 15 Chiffchaffs and 11 singing Blackcaps this morning. (DK)

Mar 30 - 2 Willow Warblers, 15 m Blackcaps, 16 Chiffchaffs, 2 Cetti's (DK)

Mar 31 - 2 Common Terns (DOM)

Apr 1 pair Red-c Pochards, 2 Jays, 120 Sand Martins, Swallow (TP), 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Common Terns, 13 Blackcaps, 16 Chiffchaffs, 2 Cetti's, 2 Oystercatchers, 3 Otters (ad + 2 cubs). 4 Egyptian Geese (one sitting) (DK)

Apr 2 - Sedge Warbler heard singing briefly south side by the river. (DOM)

The vols were in on Sunday 2/4 doing a quick trim along the edge of the reed bed by the main lake hide followed by a session clearing the upper Leat of obstructions and litter.

The tern raft has finally been launched and can be seen on the north side of the island on the main lake. Fingers crossed that the Terns like it!

Record shot of the Cetti's Warbler NE corner of the main lake

Friday, February 24, 2017

Doris did a bit of damage around the park

Spent the day volunteering in the park to deal with the fallen trees after storm Doris passed through yesterday. This Willow was the biggest challenge of the day (both pictures by Danny Fellman):


It was due for pollarding on Monday but unfortunately Doris got there first!

This one took three of us about 3 hours to clear up. There was another one further along the path but that was a bit easier to deal with so the path along the river is fully accessible now.

Earlier we cleared a smaller Willow which had fallen across the lake side path. A good days work if i do say so myself!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Herons nesting at Priory

The Heronry has gotten off to a good start this year with one pair already on eggs and another two pairs taking up residence. On Monday there was also a seventh heron hanging around. The 2 pairs on the east side of the spit are easily viewable from the east side of the Finger lakes. Keep an eye on the comings and goings throughout the breeding season. If you want to know more why not join the guided walk on Sunday morning (26th). Meet outside the visitor centre at 9am.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Winter at Priory CP

It's been a strange winter so far, generally mild and dry until the recent cold snap. Bird species that we expect to see in numbers have not materialised although with the colder weather a few more Pochard have arrived. We still have a good selection of wildfowl in the park just in smaller numbers than we might expect.

We also expect to have good numbers of Corn Buntings and Reed Buntings roosting in the Crescent Reed bed but just a handful have made the reed bed their home this winter.

Female Reed Bunting
Things are starting to liven up around the park with Rooks inspecting the south side rookery, a pair of Herons already nest building and the main lake Mute Swans staking their claim for territory.

Mute Swans
Lots of birds are starting to sing now with new voices joining the dawn chorus every week. Best of all dawn isn't at stupid o'clock so everyone can get out and enjoy the concert! You might even spot displaying Sparrowhawks and Kestrels over the meadows.

Over on 100 Acre the cattle have departed but the number of Lapwings and Golden Plover is far short of the those we had last winter.

Male Muntjac
The Sunday vols have been busy around the park with a return visit to Riverside Pond, a session in the Rough, plantation thinning on Riverside and coppicing in the Sheep Pen. Meanwhile the weekday crew have been all over the place with a number of sessions in Clapham Park Wood, several sessions on Fenlake meadows and several days clearing one of the spits on the Finger lakes.

There was also a recent hedge laying training weekend up at Browns Wood. (Thanks to Tom Williams for the following photo's):

If you are interested in joining a week day volunteer session these are held on Mondays and Thursdays. Please contact to Priory Rangers to let them know you want to come along and discuss the tasks.