I don’t know about you but for me there are certain months in the birding calendar that I mentally switch off to - months in which I expect very little from the patch and easily drift through en route to more productive times of year. February is one such month. If I get a good start to the year, most things are nailed by January and so Feb is really about picking up odd missed birds. Things are often quiet at Moore in February, relatively speaking. Another such month (and my least favourite of the birding year) is June. The migrants have arrived, spring passage is over and the residents can go a bit quiet. So today when I set out to do one of my regular counts on the patch, I wasn’t expecting much and figured I’d be out for no more than an hour or so. Five hours later, I’d done the entire patch from end to end and seen some good birds – not how I thought things would pan out. Funny thing birding. Always throws up surprises.
Anglers Pool 08:50 – I always start or finish my count here and figured I’d pop in on the way to the east end of the reserve to see if there are any Kingfishers about. There aren’t. There IS a fisherman though... Bird wise, it’s a fairly predictable start to a June morning: 1 Mute Swan, 4 Mallard, 4 Tufties, 2 Coots and a pair of Great Crested Grebes out in the middle of the pool. No sign of any young. Singing; Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Reed Warbler and Yellowhammmer. Cool. My first 10 species of the day.
Eastern Reedbed 08:58 – Not much here either at first glance... 5 Mallard, a pair of Tufties a juvenile Grey Heron and a Coot... hmmm. At least there are a few more songsters about; Blackcap, Willow Warbler, 2 Reed Buntings, Wood Pigeon and two more Reed Warbler. Carrion Crow over calling and 7 Common Swift hawking are new for the day too. A Little Grebe has just trilled, and a Great Crested Grebe has emerged from behind the reeds with a single chick. They weren’t there a minute ago. This was just like last year. No sign of anything much going on apart from occasional sightings of a single adult and then, 2nd June, adult appears with a single chick. Although, judging by the size of this one, they probably laid about three weeks earlier than last year! Curious. Another juvenile Grey Heron has just dropped and a Song Thrush is singing. Cuckoo... cuckoo... cuckoo. Cuckoo! First surprise of the day... Very nice. I’d given up on hearing another in 2010 (as it turned out, I heard another across the ship canal, and another on the Snipe Fields later...or it could have been the same bird moving around...)
Millbrook Pond 09:05 – 20 Canada Geese, plus a pair with two goslings feeding on the grassy bank. They’d had three not so long ago. Fox? A female was here the other evening rolling in the Juncus and dashing about like a pet dog chasing after sticks. Mad as a fox of brogs (see what I did there...). Wonder if she came back and nabbed a gosling? Parents sure were unhappy about her manic romp at the time. Shame really, even if I’m not overly fond of Canada Geese. Still, at least the Mute Swans still have their brood of 9 – looking very contented so they are. What else? 9 Gadwall, although to be honest there could be more. The wet flush is very overgrown now and they’re tucked among the vegetation at the back. There are 9 Mallard too, mostly eclipsing males on the bank, 4 Coots (one on a nest) and a pair of Great Crested Grebes. I can hear a lot of Grey Heron squawking in the trees at the back of the pool. Wonder what that’s all about. Adult has just flown. Quiet now. Nest?
Pumphouse Pool (East hide) 09:15 – Water level looks low. Either that or the Crassula is spreading. Or both. Quick scan with the bins adds 2 Lapwing, 1 Oystercatcher, 4 Grey Herons (2ads, 2 juvs), a pair of Tufties, 1 Coot and 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There are 2 Willow Warblers singing, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Robin, 1 Wren, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Song Thrush,1 Chaffinch. Yay. Hang on... Blackcap. OK... time for a scope scan. First off, viaduct for Peregrine... and... nothing. Second off, far side of the pool. Three more Tufties, four more Coots, a male Mallard, a Moorhen... with...1... 2... 3... 4...5 quarter grown chicks and that’s about it. 2 Common Swift, 4 Crows and 2 Magpies over. Blackbird just landed right... and so has a Stock Dove and there’s a Willow Warbler flitting about in the bush to my left. Time to sex the Lapwing. Scope up and... what’s that? Small wader. Take my eye away from the scope and squint at the shoreline – can’t see it. Bins. Nope. Scope. Yes. Bloody hell, you’d have thunk I’d have spotted that already! VERY cryptic. Dunlin. Summer plumage. Gorgeous. It’s a small one too, with not much breast streaking on it and kind of buffy looking on the back... I reckon that’s maybe a little arctica on its way to Greenland. What a cutie...AND... second surprise of the day. AND, I think that’s the first Dunlin I’ve had on the patch away from the river. Damn fine! Woot!
Birch Wood 09:42 – SO, what do we have this morning? Great Tit brood. Chaffinch. Chaffinch. Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘chekking’. Robin. Blackbird. Blackbird. Blue Tit. Wren. Wren. Robin. Chaffinch. Chiffchaff. GS Woodpecker again. Robin carrying a caterpillar. Chaffinch. Wren. Blue Tit. Wood Pigeon. Blue Tit. Blackcap. Robin. Blue Tit brood. Goldfinch. Chiffchaff...and... I’m at the East Hide of...
Birchwood Pool 09:48 – 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Shelduck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Sand Martins, 2 Gadwall... anybody know the way to The Arc? Aha... ONE Pied Wagtail. AND, it’s a juvenile... so more signs of breeding, eh. 5 Canada Geese, 13 Tufties, 3 Moorhen and a bag of Coots (an appropriate collective pronoun for Coots that, I think). Actually there are 20, including 2 on nests and 3 with young. There are also a lot of Mallard about today – 16 and a brood of 4 well grown ducklings, mostly tucked away on the big island and I’m guessing in moult judging by their tatty appearance and the general eclipsey-ness of the drakes. Right... off to... Lapwing Lake via the other two hides on BWP, the old Tawny Owl roost, the feeding station, boardwalk and Hillcrest Quarry – aka...
The Convoluted Loop – BWP South Hide – gulls. LOTS of gulls. About 800 of them I'd say, mostly LBBG, but with the odd GBBG, HG and BHG thrown in. No Common Gulls though. The grassy area at the west end of BWP has 3 Blackbirds on it and 12 Rooks and a Jackdaw in one of the trees. I can hear, but not see Long-tailed Tits calling. Nothing going on in the wood by the Tawny roost. Check. Nope. Tawny Owl not there either. No surprise. Slow walk - ears straining for anything new. Stock Dove singing. Rooks. Crows. Jackdaws. Wrens. Robins. Great Tits. Blue Tits. GSWoodpecker. Treecreeper – good-o. Any Nuthatch? Nope. At the feeding station now. 3 Magpies and a Moorhen... and a Grey Squirrel. No small stuff at all! Nothing. Nada. Ziltch. Hmmm. Boardwalk. Another GSWoodpecker...and... that’s it. Time to try for the Willow Tit brood reported along the North path past Lapwing Lake then I think. Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit but no Willow Tit. North Screen looking out over Lapwing Lake has... Belted Kingfisher! Now wouldn’t THAT be nice!!! I settle for 2 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Tufties and a Coot. Now where are these Willow Tits? This is the tree the male was singing in earlier in the year. Ne pas de sausage. There was another pair further down. I’ll try there. Nuthatch – finally. Getting hot now. Soft, stilted, scratchy song from tree to my right. Grey-brown bird. It sees me – a couple of dry clicks, a flick of the long wings, and it’s darted away. *Spotted Flycatcher! Bloody marvellous. It’s been years since I’ve had one of these on the patch. Last one was in the meadow by the new car park in about 2006. Third surprise of the day! Who says June is ‘one of those months’...
Carrying on along the path to the screen hide looking out across UMS doesn’t throw anything new into the mix, so I cut through to Hillcrest Quarry. At the moment it’s all fine turf, yellow Lotus flowers and gorse. Now nobody, as far as I know, has had Green Woodpecker this year and so, naturally enough, my thoughts turn to Green Woodpecker, as they used to be found on this bit of the patch... when all of a sudden, what should go undulating by but... Mistle Thrush. Damn. Lesser Whitethroat still settled and rattling away just west of the Raptor Viewpoint, but apart from that... quiet.
Lapwing Lake (South Hide) 11:00 – Not a lot. The same 3 Tufties, 2 GCGrebes and Coot as before, plus... 3 Mallard, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Moorhen and a Greylag Goose. Decide to head back to the car which I’ve left at Pumphouse Pool via Birch Wood. Quite fancy another look at that smashing little Dunlin. Pick up a newly fledged GSWoodpecker near the gate, but alas, the Dunlin has headed north. Ah well, maybe next year it’ll bring a chum or two with it. Time to head to do Upper Moss Side I think...
Full list (including UMS and HWH).
L.Grebe, GC.Grebe, Cormorant, G.Heron, M.Swan, Greylag, Canada, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufty, Kestrel, Buzzard, Pheasant, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, BHG, HG, LBBG, GBBG, F.Pigeon, S.Dove, C.Dove, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Swift, GS.Woodpecker, Skylark, M.Pipit, S.Martin, Swallow, P.Wagtail, G.Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, S.Thrush, M.Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Whitethroat, L.Whitethroat, S.Warbler, R.Warbler, W.Warbler, Chiffchaff, S.Flycatcher, G.Tit, B.Tit, W.Tit, LT.Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Rook, Crow, Jackdaw, H.Sparrow, T.Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, R.Bunting, Yellowhammer.
NO Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler, Grey Partridge, House Martin or Little Owl. Still, you can't have everything, eh ;)
*That lil beauty brought the 2010 patch total so far to... 124.