Friday, October 08, 2010


Off the back of yesterday’s session at Halfway House I decided to do an early there again by way of comparison before heading to the main reserve for the first of my October counts. My gut told me that I’d probably caught the tail end of the purple patch on the river as good birds had been dropping in since last Friday and today was Wednesday. I mean, it’s not as if we’re at the height of passage and so the chances of a prolonged bout of patch goodies was beyond slim and closer to anorexic. Ah well, as they say, all good things come to an end. They also say though, he who dares wins and, nothing ventured nothing gained, aha! SO, optimism won the day and I headed straight to the little bend in the river first thing.

More Robins about this morning, or at least more of them making their presence know. Dunnocks too and Wrens. Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush... but otherwise, quiet. At the river it became quickly apparent that things were indeed PPP (post-purple-patch). Just the usual suspects on the mud today; 1150 Lapwing (a little down on yesterday), 16 Golden Plover (about half yesterday’s tally), a single Curlew, a single Little Egret, 2 Cormorants and some wildfowl. Now these, at least were a little more diverse than yesterday. Mallard numbers were up threefold (66 today), Teal had dropped in overnight (30 tucked in the SE corner) and there was a solitary female Wigeon pulling grass from a tussock on the far shore. 2 Shelduck and 6 Canada Geese completed the picture. Today too there were raptors; Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, but alas, no Peregrine. Normality, as usual, had returned to the river.

Not all bad though, the lack of action on the mudflats did mean that I spent more time with an ear and eye on the sky and picked up a smattering of vis mig in the form of a steady small trickle of Skylark over south in ones and twos. I’d not really noticed either, until now, the way the Black-headed Gulls go bananas as the tide rushes in. Lots of frantic flying about and calling and dipping to the water surface before alighting on the still exposed mud further upriver. Even that though was soon covered and off the gulls went again (noisily), this time to the high mudbank to the east, out of the tides reach. This sudden rush of gulls ashore spooked the Teal. They shot off as one to the relative peace and quiet of the Fiddlers Ferry lagoons, quickly followed by the bigger group of Mallard that were feeding near them. That just left the Lapwing and Golden Plover on the last ‘dry land’ midstream, before they too finally gave up the ghost and drifted away calling, the Golden Plover separating out into their own little flock amid the larger Lapwing flock as they usually do. Ah well, time to hit the ponds.

Eastern Reedbed & Millbrook Pond.

Now it has been about a month since I was last at the Eastern Reedbed and my mind turned to Bitterns True, it was a bit early yet, but the place had that 'winter' feel about it and the ERB can be a very nice place to be when it's wintery. It was with some annoyance therefore that I arrived to find a white van and a BTCV minibus parked in my usual spot. That could mean only one thing – no birds. I could hear voices and and the thrashing of vegetation towards the south side of the reedbed. Work was being done. Meh! Even worse, the water levels are the lowest I have ever seen them. So much so that the reed stands in front of the hide are now joined to the shore by mud and the only open water is in the SE corner. Mind you, looks ideal for Spotted Crake, shame it's a month or two too late! Anyway, birdwise there’s just 47 Coot (not a bad count actually, for here), 1 Little Grebe, 2 Gadwall and 7 Wigeon. Millbrook Pond fared hardly any better; 14 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 5 Tufty, 12 Coot and 1 Moorhen. There was, however, a cherry on this otherwise unappetising cake – the pair of Mute Swans that had summered here, still had all nine of their brood. Good stuff.

Pumphouse Pool

The story here today was of thunder and Teal. No sooner had I got in the east hide than it chucked it down and the thunder began. Didn’t last long but it was fun while it did and made counting the Teal a little different. Today there were 167 compared to 73 back at the start of September! There were 11 Cormorants on the rocks too, my biggest count here and more Moorhen were out and about compared to my last visit. Trouble is, the 7 that were pottering about today, were probably the same 2 that were pottering about 4 weeks ago, it’s just that then 5 of them were probably tucked away... if you see what I mean. Hard things to get good counts of I find, Moorhen. What else? Well, Shoveler numbers seem to have settled for the winter at 19-20 birds, so too theTufties at 2-3. Gadwall though have plummeted to 4 (there were 10 times that number here in early September). No idea where they have gone... Mallard are up (14) and Coot... Coot? What?? I forgot to count the Coots! Doh. Just a handful or two though I seem to remember. That just leaves the gulls; 234 BHG, 8 LBBG, 4 HG, 1 CG. Done.

Birchwood Pool

Well, if the eastern end of the reserve was sparse, the western end wasn’t. Lots of stuff on BWP today but a couple of surprises. First off, Coot numbers have continued to fall – just 24 birds today, from 83 in early September and 112 in mid August. The post-breeding moulting flock have clearly dispersed elsewhere. *But where? Canada Geese numbers, conversely, have shot up; 46 mid-Aug to 101 early Sep to 286 today (!) with a few Greylags (10) and white ‘domestics’ (2) with them. Grey Herons numbers too were high; 14 on the **big island. Other counts were as follows; 9 Little Grebe, 16 Tufty, 6 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 6 Teal, 18 Gadwall, 10 Mallard, 6 Moorhen, 2 Mute Swan and a female Ruddy Duck. Tenacious little buggers those... all but vanished from the site and then a male appears at the east end of the reserve in the first winter period and now a female appears in the second. Watch yer back girl ;)

And as I left, there were 2 Little Owls in the gap in the barn roof at Big Hand Ranch, being persistently goaded by 6 Jackdaws. Guess they were just haveing a bit o' fun. They really didn't seem that bothered by the owls and the owls seemed barely to notice the Jackdaws - not even a sneer in their general direction.

* Well, well... 101 Coot now on Lapwing Lake. Could the Birchwood birds have shifted west? Hmmmmmmm.

**turns out, my notebook tells me, there was a high count of 14 Grey Heron on the big island of BWP on Aug 29th too... maybe they’re always there atm...

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