Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring has sprung!

Sunshine! Warmth! What will they think of next? Finally Spring proper so we decided on an early (for us) start and were out by 8am. Ravensthorpe looked very quiet so having fed the feral ducks and Mallards there, we headed over to Thrapston and Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve. We got there just as the conservation volunteers were meeting up for their monthly work. They do a fantastic job in maintaining and improving the habitat at Titchmarsh, which is a lovely spot, one we really enjoy visiting.

First up was a Cetti's Warbler 'singing' loudly from a bramble bush. No sign of the bird but an unmistakable song (see last April for a photo of a Cetti's taken in France - Garden Birds and other sightings...: France Holiday - Day 1). We heard six Cetti's singing around Titchmarsh. On the water's edge a few Greylag Geese were about, I like the way the light caught this one:

















We walked clockwise around the reserve and into the woodland. The air was full of bird song, with singing birds seemingly all around us. This Willow Warbler was posing high in a Willow tree:

















As well as Willow Warblers, there were large numbers of very similar looking Chiffchaffs:


















Can you tell the difference? I rely on their song. A little further along still and this male Bullfinch sat still long enough for me to take a picture:
















I have wanted a decent Bullfinch photo for some time, and am delighted with this one! Would have been ever better had it been facing toward the camera rather than away...

The other bird present in abundance was the Sedge Warbler. Males were singing from all around, and seemed in particular to like the Hawthorn trees. We must have seen 30 or 40 Sedge Warblers, many doing their song flight. The songs themselves included mimicry of Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes that we heard.















As with bird song, blossom was everywhere, including this Apple tree:














Heading back to the car park and completing the circuit of Titchmarsh, we spotted this Barnacle Goose - I thought they were supposed to migrate North to breed?














Off the path, toward the lake, there was much Cowslip, a now uncommon wild flower:














Another row of Hawthorns, and more Sedge Warblers (click on the pic, this is a handsome bird):

















From Titchmarsh we headed to Stanwick Lakes for a cuppa and some lunch. It was unsurprisingly busy with people so we didn't get to see much bird life. A couple of Common Terns were swooping over the water and we saw a lone Swift, our first of the year, but nothing much else stood out. We departed Stanwick quite quickly and headed to Summer Leys LNR. From the main hides all you could really see were Black-headed Gulls, so we decided on a clockwise walk around the nature reserve.

On the old railway line we spotted this Peacock butterfly, settled in ground ivy:













We saw at least three other species of Butterfly during the afternoon, but they're not really my speciality...

Walking along the path, we flushed a blue-backed bird, which as it took off immediately brought to mind a Sparrowhawk. We were quickly disabused when said bird, now some 50-100 yards ahead and behind some bushes made a loud 'cuckoo' noise which it repeated. Something Sparrowhawks aren't famous for...

We've had a Cuckoo in our garden, calling from a tree but, since we started watching birds we've not actually seen one, so this is an addition to our list :)

The Cuckoo flew from the bush and alighted on the ground, looking for food I presume. I didn't know Cuckoos spent any time on the ground, I do now!














Then it settled in a bush about 40 yards away. At this point I was really kicking myself for having changed lenses from the 600x + 1.4x (840x) to the 100x-400x, as the image was never going to be as sharp as it might have been. Still, not only have we now seen a Cuckoo, we've seen one really clearly and watched it for a good five minutes too :)

















The next stop was the feeding station at Summer Leys. This Tree Sparrow was watching proceedings, consisting mostly of two Woodpigeons doing an impression of a vacuum cleaner on the seed trays:

















The day had more surprises in store for us, a female Brambling popped out to feed, you can see her here alongside this Greenfinch:













I was sure the Bramblings should have headed north to breed by now? The Siskins in our garden have been gone for over a fortnight. Maybe this one decided it was worth hanging around for the easy meals?

Heading back towards the car park, and around the scrapes we were watching a pair of Common Terns performing pair bonding behaviours, when this very leggy wader landed beside them and then wandered along the water's edge. I though based on the size of the bird and the up-curved bill that it might have been a Bar-tailed Godwit, but expert opinion suggests a Greenshank (thanks to Bob and Simon for the ID):













It's a poor quality picture because of the distance involved, but I've posted it because the bird looks 'different'.

The last bird of the day was this Little Ringed Plover, a summer migrant wader, and a very small bird:














And now for that trip to India I've been trying not to think about...

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