Going stir crazy so leapt at chance to shoot to the patch early today and get in a couple hours before a day of e-paperwork. The feel of the day? Very much 'parents and offspring...' it turned out.
Anglers Pool (opposite Big Hand Ranch)
Rather quiet – A single Black-headed Gull over, pair of Mute Swan, pair of Great Crested Grebe, 8 Tufties and pair of Mallard. No young of any kind seen. Very over grown along the banks, so could have been stuff tucked away I guess. Singing; Wren and Blackcap and... that was it.
Big Hand Ranch
Pair of Kestrel (one on the old Barn Owl Nest box, above which in the eves was a Stock Dove looking unsure of itself), 2 Mistle Thrush feeding on the horse paddocks with about 80 Starlings (lots of juvs) and there was a Yellowhammer singing.
VERY quiet... and VERY weedy! The pair of Great Crested Grebes are nesting again some way off along with 3 pairs of Coots. A Moorhen is pottering about in front of the screen hide with 2 three-quarters grown young and there’s a single Little Grebe trilling. Mallard count is up to 24 with plenty of eclipse males among them and that’s about it on the water. Blackbird, Wren and Reed Warbler singing.
The Gadwall seem to have piled in here recently and I’m sure it’s a mix of adults and fully grown broods. Today the grand total here is 40! 2 juvenile Grey Herons are again stalking the margins in front of the hide with a single Moorhen joining them, skittishly. Out on the open water apart from the Gadwall are 3 Coots, the 2 drake Wigeon and the Great Crested Grebe pair still with their 2 chicks. 14 Canada Geese have decided to take over the little muddy ‘bridge’ between the two stands of reeds and are roosting among the stubbly bits. Reed Warbler, Wren, Reed Bunting and Chiffchaff in song. No hirundines or Swifts over.
There’s a lone Mute Swan tending the well-grown brood of 9 cygnets today and there’s a family of Mallards nearby – female with 7 two-thirds grown young. There’s way too much weed here. Thick gloopy looking stuff it is too. Doesn’t look like the 1 Coot, 1 Moorhen, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Pochard and 3 Gadwall are enjoying it much. The 4 Grey Herons (Ad, 2y,2 juvs) don’t seem bothered though and are picking up small stuff from the shore where 2 Lapwings (both adults but starting to lose head tuft, plain tertials) are standing around looking for something better to do than watch the herons. Female Blackbird low left to right, Magpie high right to left, Common Buzzard high left to right at the back of the pool and the first Kingfisher of the day has just flitted past. Lovin it. Feeling in my gut? Zero (this doesn't materialise until I hit BWP)
Coffee (!) and I’m in the usual east hide. Oystercatcher calling somewhere to my left and there’s just Willow Warbler singing at the mo – somewhere off to my right. OK, visuals... close in we have... 2 juv Pied Wags on the shore, another Kingfisher – the male from the other day on its twig, 2 Lapwing (forgot to age them – doh!), pair of Coots left with 2 juvs feeding and the family of Little Grebes (2ads + 5y). Last time I was here they were down the far end, tucked in close to the bank in the SW corner. Today they’re out in the open in front of the hide and split 2 and 3 between the two attentive parents. The spit in front of the tern fence is, as typical of late, entirely taken over by the resident hoard of lazing Canada Geese (29 today), which together with the regular Lesser Black-backs keep most things away. No gulls today though – too early, and there’s no sign of the Moorhen brood behind the fence that was there at my last visit.
More coffee and a quick scope of the far end. Great Crested Grebe, male Tufty, pair of Tufties... another pair of Tufties... another pair of Tufties, juv Grey Heron... 9 adult Coots, 1 juv and a juv Moorhen. No waders today. Blackbird alarm calling left and 5 Swifts, 2 Sand Martin over. The Kingfisher is now on one of the tern fence posts and behind it is a small family of Crows (2ad + 2juv – one of them wing-shivering towards one of the grown-ups). There’s another Little Grebe on its own in the SE corner and the pair of Oystercatchers have finally made an appearance on the south shore where now there are also another 2 Lapwing. 2 of the Grey Herons are scrapping over something and have just put up the other 2 Lapwings from the spit. Sun is out. Blackcap singing, Wren and Robin calling and there’s now 16 Swifts over the pool. 2 more Lapwing along the east shore brings the final tally to 6. Peacock calling and I’m off to...
Birch Wood (en route to BWP)
Woodpigeon singing... Wren singing... another Wren singing... another Woodpigeon singing... Common Buzzard low through the trees... Blackbird singing... in flight. Hmmmm. I don’t recall seeing that before. Dunnock calling... yet another Wren singing... Magpie, Robin, Great Tit and Jay calling... Goldfinch singing... Blackbird alarm call... Long-tailed Tit contact calls... nearly at the hide when... family of Blue Tits, family of Great Tits, family of Long-tailed Tits all in the space of about 20 metres. Something in the oak... Nuthatch! Don’t remember seeing one in Birch Wood before... and there’s a Treecreeper singing too...
Not bothering with any of the other hides today. Just sticking to this one - the east hide. As good a place as any to have breakfast methinks. 2 Pochard (males) in front of the hide as I unpack the munchies, and then... ‘cronk’ – Raven! Crane my neck and get my bins up... 2 Ravens – look a bit tatty... 3 Ravens (!)... that one looks cleaner... 4... 5 Ravens (!!). Bloody Hell - that’s the most I’ve seen together on the patch. Happy Days!!! Looks to me like a family party of 2ads + 3juvs... wonder where THEY bred? They waft effortlessly south, calling gently as they go. You know, that is my favourite bird sound in the world – the ‘cronk’ and ‘pruuk’ of the Raven. Have I said that before?? Ah well... bloody marvellous!
I settle down to take stock of this morning’s... stock. Along with the Pochard in front of the hide are; 2 Little Grebe, 4 Gadwall, a male Tufty and 2 Coots with 2 young. Scoping the north shore and north west corner yields 10 Coots (4ad+2j and 1ad+3j), 24 Lesser Black-backs, 1 Herring Gull and 1 Great Black-backed Gull. The shore of the Big Island looks like it has a fair bit on today: 25 Mallard and 7 Tufty strung out along its south shore (all roosting), 27 Canada Geese doing the same at the far end (SW corner), another family of Coots (2ad+2j), a female Mallard with a single half-grown duckling and a female Gadwall with a brood of 10 half-grown young. Something pale at this end of the island by the old Coot nest... oh... very neat, gingery looking juvenile Black-headed Gull. Think that’s the first new juvvy BHG I’ve seen this year. In the SW corner of the pool there are 2 more male Pochard, 4 more Gadwall, 25 more Canadas and another family of Coots (2ad+4j) making the final tally (with other odds and ends added in) 16ads + 12j which probably translates into 5 or 6 pairs that bred here. Blackbird, Stock Dove, Wren and Song Thrush singing now and a male Reed Bunting just zipped past. And now I have that feeling in my gut that something good is gonna drop in :-)
Food. Dr.Karg’s Emmental & Pumpkin Seed Crispbreads, Dates and a Banana. More coffee and I add to BWP’s tally; Moorhen, 3 Mute Swans (one ringed), Great Spotted Woodpecker calling behind me and a Little Grebe tucked away on a nest. It’s just yawned – bless. Oystercatcher calling down the far end now and Nuthatch in the trees to my left. Third Kingfisher of the day zips from the north shore of the Big island to a tree on the north bank. Lost it! Grey Heron has just literally splashed in. What’s it...? Got something... duckling... Mallard duckling... and it’s flown of to the island with it. Scope up... down in one... actually two... down in two... gulps that is. Doh! Now that’s a little odd, because I’ve only seen ONE Mallard duckling that size this morning and it’s still with its mum working the shore to my right, so no idea where that poor little bugger came from! Calling from one of the male Pochard.
Jay over left. Stock Dove perched nearby. 4 Blackbirds (incl. Juv) working the south shore. Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Willow Warbler singing. Hello... new brood! Female Tufty with 4 third-grown ducklings among the weed. More of the same gloopy stuff that seems to be coating everything at the moment. Thick stuff too... the Tuftlets seem to be having some difficulty resurfacing in it after their short dives with mum. 5 Sand Martins, 3 Swifts and another Jay over. One of the Canadas at the far end of the island is preening and showing its newly growing primaries off – pale blue shafts still encasing most of the feather. The juv BHG is now in the water soliciting food from 2 passing adults and a female Shelduck has materialised from somewhere. Tufty calling nearby.
Somethings afoot... (yeah, I know... twelve inches... right... NEXT!) about 200 Jackdaws have just exploded out of the trees at the far end of the pool. Can’t see what’s put them up. Gulls up too now. Damn. Nope... no idea. Male Pied Wagtail in front of hide with a bill full of Craneflies. Wonder if he’s going to... yes... he is... feed one of the juvs, I was about to say. Woodpigeon drinking right and Crow anting among the sandy soil on the Big Island. Juv Robin has just landed and now a Reed Bunting has flown by with a bill full of craneflies. The female Gadwall with the brood of 10 has now settled on the old Coot’s nest at the tip of the island and the Crow that was anting is now washing beside them. Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Sedge Warbler, Peacock.
Another scan of the far end picks up another Gadwall brood (f+4 full grown young) and a pair of Oystercatchers. Whilst at this end a Grey Heron has just taken a pop at the lone Mallard duckling. Mum’s not having any of it – quuck off! Meanwhile the mother Tufty, seems to have mislaid one of her brood which is now down to three. Search the whole pool for it and I can see no sign. Drowned in the weed??? Nuthatch calling again and Cormorant over brings this morning’s sesh to an end. Quick check of PHP en route to the car picks up nothing new except Brian hanging up what looks like an orange lifebelt by the east hide... which is kind of ironic given that with the water levels the way they are at the mo you could comfortably paddle across it! Water only came up to a Coots ‘ankle’ at Lapwing Lake earlier! Didn’t realise how shallow things have become. Anyway... headed off, driving past Big Hand Ranch when... Little Owl! On the barn roof where the metal panel has come away. Now they were here last year but I had rather assumed that they had relocated and were the Balloon Hut Field pair. Obviously not! Smashing bird. And to ‘cap’ off the visit (you’ll see where I’m going with this in a minute) was a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding on the ground in the horse paddock... its bright red cap (see...) gleaming in the sunshine. Superduper, but all good things must, as they say....