Wednesday, March 19, 2008

a (little) bit of sunshine

Lots to do... but yes there's just a hint of blue and reports of some rarer ducks around so what to do? Both - head out while the sun shines - then work harder to get all the chores done!

So a quick drive to Ditchford where I bumped into Jake who told me (thank you!) I was at the wrong Ditchford and it's the lake by the old Ski jump that I need and bingo.... Red-crested Pochards. Four of them in fact, including this female:












I love the distinct head marking and the pink end to the bill. This drake:













With the lurid coral red bill and red eyes, and then the pair together:












Stand-out water birds for me. Really worth the trip to see them. The location is an interesting one, being the site of an abandoned and demolished motel, and a disused ski jump, unfortunately it has been appropriated by 4x4 users who have converted it, with some effort, to a race circuit, despite some half-hearted attempts to dissuade them. It would clearly make an ideal nature reserve. I heard Cetti's Warblers calling from the mature woodland alongside the lake. A visitor centre and a good clean-up would do wonders for this part of the Nene Valley.

From Ditchford I headed on to Stanwick Lakes (aka Stanwick gravel pits) to try and locate the Green-winged Teal, but to no avail. Plenty of Common Gulls present though:








There were also Chiffchaffs and growing numbers of Sand Martins zooming about chittering away to each other. One thing that is obvious at all of these locations is the extremely high water levels. Some islands are under water. I hope the waters recede in time to ensure a good breeding season for the waders.

From Stanwick I headed toward Northampton and the Summer Leys Nature Reserve at Earls Barton, which has had extensive improvement works since I last visited, unfortunately there's now crowds of joggers running around it, so the habitat has improved but the environment may actually be more off-putting to the wildlife. It seems no-one will fund development just for wildlife, has to accommodate plenty of humans too.

Summer Leys has significant quantities of gulls present. I believe (fingers crossed) these are a 2nd-winter Herring Gull being pursued by a Common Gull, intent on grabbing whatever it is the Herring Gull has grabbed:















This is a 2nd winter Greater Black-backed Gull snoozing alongside a Great Cormorant:











Close to the feeding station a Little Egret, peering around:




















and on the water close to the feeding station, this pair of Redshank, preening (it's worth clicking on to see the effect of the strongish winds on the near birds feathers):














Heading back to the car, to get home for lunch, I finally managed to get a picture of my first Chiffchaff of the year:





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