It’s been FAR too long since I was last at the patch – a whole week dammit! This morning then, I was determined to fling the pre-work window wide open and hit the patch as early as possible in order to catch as many birds as my worm would allow. As it turned out (as seems often to be the case, happily) those few hours first thing delivered a veritable smooregasbord of July birdage, despite the ever-shrinking water levels (see later).
I always check the barns for owls at the Big Hand Ranch as I drive by on early starts and so it was today. Pull over. Window down and... nothing peeking out of the hole in the roof of the first barn... and... nothing under the eaves of the second. Ah well, too much to hope for maybe. Decide to head straight to Halfway House as the pollen seems finally to have settled. Thank God! Driving off when... what’s that on the pill box? Bins up... Little Owl. Excellent! This methinks, bodes well. Change of plan, Pumphouse HAS to be worth a quick shufti first – THEN Halfway House. Sorted. Jay over the track by PHP and a quick check of the viaduct as I drive by yields... Peregrine – usual spot. Score!
Not bothering with coffee as this is a flying visit to check for any passage stuff. Grab my scope and I’m in the east hide (as usual). Kingfisher on his perch, 15 Lapwing scattered about the various shorelines, 2 Oystercatcher making a racket, 2 Great Crested Grebes snoozing down the far end with just 3 Tufties today and a male Pochard. There’s a solitary juvenile LBB Gull (looks like it’s been up all night) on one of the rocks and an adult Grey Heron on the other. A quick scan turns up 15 Coots and a lone adult with 4 new young. Talking of which, there’s a brood of 3 well grown Little Grebe young cheeping away and being attended by a parent and another chick about the same age, being attended by another adult in the SE corner – a brood split I presume. This lot started with 5 young, so they’ve lost one – shame. Hold on though there’s another brood! SW corner, adult with 3 new young. Wasn’t sure if there were 2 pairs as had only seen 3 adults. Guess the fourth must have been on the nest. Cool. Right, no passage waders tho, so I’m off to HWH.
Oi Oi??? That’s odd. Not a Shelduck in sight... not one... anywhere! That HAS to be a first I think. I mean, Shelduck are a given at HWH. I’ve never NOT had Shelduck here. Not that I’m desparate to see another Shelduck... don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying... it strikes me as odd. That’s all. SO... scanning left to right... Lapwing (15), Curlew (1), BH Gull (53), Common Sandpiper (yay!) off towards the canal calling, Grey Heron (1), Mallard (3) another Common Sandpiper low over the water from the other side of the river, following the first, Cormorant (1). Big bunch of gulls. Can I be bothered to go through them? Oh, go on then... for completeness; 167 BH Gulls (including 6 juvs), 195 LBB Gulls, 1 Herring Gull – yee haw! Singing stuff? Quiet this morning tbh – just Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Goldfinch, Blackcap, Song Thrush and Whitethroat. Overhead during my brief sortee I add 1 Gadwall, 1 Pied Wagtail, 6 Crows, 3 Magpie, 2 Swift, 1 Stock Dove, 50 Feral Pigeons, 3 Woodpigeons, 3 Goldfinch, a Cormorant and a male Pheasant. That’s it. Quiet, except for the hint of a suggestion of some passage from the Common Sands – thank you very much. Onwards! Now, as Duncan claims he’s prepared the marsh for passage wader viewing, least I can do is give his handiwork the once over.
En route, Brown Hare in Lane End Field. Screen hide – choppage but no birdage AND I still can’t see the dried up pool – ahem! Tower Hide – CAN see the dried up pool, but still no birdage. WE NEED RAIN!!! Yomp to Norton Marsh hide checking for Little Owl in Balloon Hut Field. Nothing. Norton Marsh Pool – aha! Something!! 2 Lapwing, 3 Woodpigeon, 1 juvenile BH Gull and... *2 Green Sandpipers, ‘kloy-klee-klee’ – Exeelento! Very nice. Return passage has begun...
Norton Marsh Pool 30th June
TODAY!!! But there was still stuff on it.
Yomp back along the UMS paths yields the proverbial Paul Daniels save for Tree Sparrow, singing Yellowhammer and Skylark. No sign of any Stonechat in the Phrag Field, nor Little Egret in the trickling ditches. Do get a bonus Goldcrest in the tall conifer by the rebrick houses though (only regular spot for these this year - winter musta hammered em). Back at the car I get Treecreeper as I’m slinging stuff into the boot and then it’s a slow trundle in the old Volvo along the road past the White House, stopping every once in a while to listen for stuff and check for Hobby. No Hobby, but do get an unexpected Grasshopper Warbler reeling away in the thick of the Snipe Fields. Thought they’d all stopped. Willow Tit and a juv Great Spotted Woodpecker at the feeding station was all I add over coffee and nuts and then it’s...
I can see; 18 Mallard, 1 Gadwall, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 13 Coot, 5 juvenile Moorhen and 1 Little Grebe with a brood of 3 half-grown young. That’s the lot!
Eastern Reedbed and Millbrook Pool
Now, it’s fair to say, I think, that the east end of the reserve is not a particularly pleasant bit of the patch during the dry summer months. For a start, it doesn’t tend to hold much; today just... 18 Mallard, 28 Gadwall, 2 Great Crested Grebes with 2 well-grown, but still stripey chicks, 7 Coots, a juvenile Grey Heron and... the Millbrook Mute Swans with their brood of 9, now well-grown cygnets. It’s also a bit sad looking. The reedbed has a kind of green dreariness about it at the moment – it looks ‘fatigued’. Millbrook Pool is even worse! Choked in green gloop it’s the swimming ground of just 2 Gadwall, a Mallard with 2 half grown ducklings and a Little Grebe with 3 well-grown young today. The wet flush in the NE corner is now and extremely dry clog of thick, knee-high vegetation. If there’s owt in there, it ain’t coming out! There’s a very bored looking Grey Heron wondering 'wtf have I done to deserve this?' Even the 17 Canada Geese seem to have finally given up and are lying in a heap. The only bright spot in this gloomy picture is a Kingfisher! Good on YOU mate! It’s probably the Pumphouse male.
Last time I was here a week ago, the green weed was almost at the island (as you look out from the east hide), so I was curious to see if it had now reached the shore. Quelle suprise! It was back how it had been a week before that (see pix below – note dates).
Now THAT is weird - weedy ebb and flow in the space of 2 weeks??? Wonder if anybody has been out in a boat and hoiked a load of it out or summit? That’s incredible die-back, if that indeed is what it is... very strange! Maybe the Coots ate it... mystery.
Birdwise, not much going on compared to last time, although there are three bigish Gadwall broods here today (7, 9, 9) – only remember there being brood before. There’s 23 Tufties floating about but I can see only 1 brood of 2 half-grown ducklings... Other odds and ends... 2 Pochard, 4 Moorhen, 2 Grey Heron (incl. one lying down), 3 Mute Swan, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe (no young), a herd of 59 Canada Geese and a sharp increase in Coot numbers signalling the start of the moulting flock build up methinks coz I reckon there’s about 65 of them here now compared to about 25 at the start of the month... watch this space.
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufty, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Pheasant, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, *Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, BH Gull, H Gull, LBB Gull, GBB Gull, C.Dove, S.Dove, F.Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, GS Woodpecker, Skylark, S.Martin, Swallow, P.Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, S.Thrush, Blackcap, **L.Whitethroat, Whitethroat, S.Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, R.Warbler, W.Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, G.Tit, B.Tit, W.Tit, LT.Tit, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, T.Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, L.Redpoll, R.Bunting, Yellowhammer.
* 3 Green Sandpipers on Norton Marsh yesterday according to my patching chum