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
Noctule
Serotine
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.

Swallow
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

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