Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fineshade Woods and a quick peek at Rutland Water

Saturday was too unpredictable weather wise so we opted for Sunday, even though this meant more humans at the nice spots, still if we started early...

So we set off to the top-end of Northamptonshire again, this time parking up at the village of Barrowden and setting off on what the book said is a 10-mile walk. (The book being - Walk East Midlands edited by Chris Thompson, published by Sigma Leisure, walk number 41). The walk itself was quite pretty though there was quite a bit of road or near road walking and some of the landowners weren't exactly falling over themselves to keep the rights of way distinct and clear!

At one stage we noticed a Red Kite taking off close by, which enabled me to get a closer snap than before:

Magnificent birds. When we stopped at the new visitor centre and Fineshade woods we met a residential expert/guide chap who told us about their translocation from Scandinavia and Spain to reinstate the breeding population in the UK.

The rest of the walk was pretty enough but unremarkable so we probably wont do that walk again.

Being in the vicinity and it only being mid-afternoon we decided to try Rutland Water again, in search of some waders, a long shot really!

Once there we espied plenty more Common Terns:

While walking the path between lagoon's II and III we heard a strange popping noise so ducked into the hide from behind which they were coming. On it's own was this drake Ruddy Duck, displaying with his head banging, driving forward in the water and the little quack they do at the end of the routine. These Ruddy Duck's have been mercilessly destroyed this year across the UK, because they migrate to Spain and compete with the White-headed Ducks there during mating season, as you can tell with this displaying male here at Rutland Water, in the UK ?!?!

Anyway what do I know?

The Ruddy Duck was shortly joined by this male Great Crested Grebe, which was also feeling very vocal, so we got to match up sight and sounds, knowledge we're going to need more of.

This Lapwing was just about the only wader in lagoon III:

There was a pair of Oystercatchers on Lagoon II with a youngster but they were keeping their distance.

On the path back from the lagoons, we encountered some Tree Sparrows, hopping about feeding:

I just wish I had the time to get up to the Norfolk coast as I really do feel the need to see some more waders soon! Still a good weekend walk, some reasonable birding and were are now the proud owners of a new pair of bins, for improved spotting!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Youngsters in the garden

This morning (around 7:30am) there were eight juvenile starlings being fed by their parents, on or around Shed 1.

We've been topping up the food once or twice a day as it's being eaten so fast. We've lost at least one youngster to a cat, on it's first day out of the nest, which wasn't pleasant. We've tried everything to keep the cats away, but there are so many of them around the neigbourhood. We counted 10 kills in the last year alone, which gets very depressing. Still with all the birds nesting around here we should end up ahead, which is the main thing! Why wont cat owners at least bell them damn things though so they can't sneak up on unsuspecting wildlife?

Anyway this is one of the youngsters, which has spotted a parent and is begging like mad:

Mum or Dad duly obliges before being sent away for more:

There's a Sedge Warbler in the hedge beyond the fence, who is calling regularly, and last night we had both low flying swifts and a bat performing sumersaults over the garden (no idea what species of bat though!).

NB. Got some blurry snaps of a Whitethroat in the hedge beyond the garden too!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rutland Water in Spring

Sunday night was spent in a drunken haze at a party, thrown to celebrate my mate not getting killed in a bike accident a year-ago (it was a close run thing!). Monday therefore needed to start gently so we headed the short distance from the party to the nature reserve at Egleton, Rutland Water, though the morning was overcast and there was rain in the air. We walked out to the farthest hide on Lagoon III first from where we could see, amongst other birds, these Dunlin heading towards full summer plumage:

On the far island were two Little-ringed Plover, which were a first for us :)

They were quite distant but distinctly Little-ringed Plovers! Also gliding about were plenty of Shelduck, I thought this one a very attractive bird, with an especially red beak:

There are now plenty of Common Terns at Rutland, some Arctic Terns were reported but we didn't see any. Luckily (the light being very poor at this point) this Common Tern flew close to the hide so I could get a good photo. Click through for a better view:

Now hovering looking for fish - I think they are very elegant birds:

We'd been at Rutland for a couple of hours now and you could hear Sedge Warblers almost everywhere, but none were showing themselves. That is until we walked back down the path with the hides on between Lagoon III and Lagoon II. This chap was singing in a bush above the fence line and was quite unmoved by our watching him:

By now hunger had set-in (the B&B we stayed in provided a continental breakfast of three bits of bread, a toaster and some pre-packed butter... not impressed!!) so back to the visitor centre which has added a fridge for sandwiches and cold drinks and a coffee machine since we were last there. Munching on lunch upstairs we watched this Common Sandpiper, another first for us in the UK (UK list now 169 species):

We decided to head from the Egleton reserve to the one on the south shore of Rutland Water, to go see the Osprey's. This reserve has had it's visitor centre revamped, with some fancy kit showing live pictures of the Osprey nest and was actually much busier than the larger reserve. We'd been recommended to head to the Waderscrape hide to see the Osprey. As by now it was mid-afternoon and raining the hides were very busy but the osprey wasn't, just hanging about on a post with the occassional glide down to the water and back up to the post. As you can tell from this picture, the nest is some distance even from the closest hide:

While everyone was watching the Osprey, another Sedge Warbler was doing its best to get noticed. Very few folk paid it any attention as they were mostly there to watch the Ospreys:

He really was showing fantastically well, probably 3 metres away, no more. Singing then mooching around, then singing some more. Again click through the pictures for a better view.

From Rutland Water it was time to head home, and back to the real world, sigh!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pitsford double-loop

Bank holiday weekend! We decided to head out early and trek around the nature reserve at Pitsford. We made it there by 9:15 am, parked up by the causeway, left a load of swan and duck food for the locals and then went into the reserve.

There were a few Common Terns about, including this one. I know it's not a great photo for either focus or light but look what the Tern is doing, how do they do that?

A little further around, in one of the arms of the reservoir, we spotted this Ruddy Duck, a survivor of two Defra shoots - which have the objective of exterminating them. This chap was 'head-banging', trying to impress the ladies!

We encountered a number of singing ChiffChaffs and Willow Warblers:

and the fattest looking squirrel we've seen in a long time :)

Further round the reserve we spotted a pair of Gadwalls including this drake:

The last bird of note we saw heading around the reserve was this juvenile Long-tailed Tit, by the look of him this was probably his first trip away from the nest, the noise from the flock of birds suggested they didn't think he should be sat motionless less than a metre from the path:

We got back to the car and decided to do the second half of the reservoir, another 7.5mile loop, to make 15, as we are in rehearsals for Yellowstone... but that's a story for later this year. There are many more humans both on the water and around it so many fewer birds to see. We did get to see our first Whitethroat of the year however, heading from the causeway car-park towards the (in my opinion exhorbitantly priced with woeful quality and service) cafe:

We were home by 4pm so less than seven hours to walk the fifteen miles, whilst birdwatching, stopping for an expensive and greasy lunch and driving to and fro, though the evening was spent mostly dozing...!