Sunday, 27 February 2011

Salcey morning

I made my annual spring visit to Salcey Forest in a quest to find Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers.
Unfortunately it was not to be as there was no sight or sound.
 The usual suspects were around, Great-Spots,Nuthatch, Great, Marsh, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits and Treecreepers.
Lots of birds were sensing spring and were in full song, especially Song Thrushes, Chaffinches, Robins and Wrens.

Long-tailed Tit

Marsh Tit feeding on seed

Great Tit also on the seed

These Hazel Catkins are a good sign Spring is almost here

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Shrike Hunt

A trip down to the middle of the county this afternoon. A Great Grey Shrike is always a great bird to see and one in Bucks all the more special.
 So if was off to Hillesden, just south of Buckingham where the said bird had been found yesterday.
I parked by the Church and set off over the muddy fields in pursuit of my quarry. These birds are renowned for roaming over a large area and I didn't really know where I was looking. Neither it seems did several other birders, who were spread out over several fields, all failing to find the Shrike. In my wanderings around I did however see a bird that would have been ample consolation, a male Merlin that flew across the fields and shot off over the farm buildings. It was hardly surprising as there several flocks of small birds around including Linnets, Chaffinches, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings.
 Thinking that I had dipped out, I started to make my way back to the car when I met Mike and Rose Collard and another couple who had some information from Warren Claydon who had seen the bird very recently.
 I decided to tag along with them and give it another go. I had just told Mike about my Merlin sighting, when amazingly I spotted another one across the field. This one swept around us and Mike and the other chap had  brief views of it , but unfortunately the girls missed it.
Mike had been told that there were some Mute Swans in a field and to look in their general direction for the Shrike. We eventually found the Swans, 24 of them feeding in a Kale field and scanned the hedgerows, hoping to see a distant dot on a faraway bush. Then Mike suddenly shouts I've got it, but he was looking behind us. There not a hundred yards away, was a splendid Great Grey Shrike posing on the side of the hedge. We enjoyed views of this superb bird sunning itself for probably 15 minutes or more before it decided to move off. I took this as my cue to leave and set off on the yomp back up the hill to the car. This was extremely tiring as my boots were twice the size with all the mud, by the time I got back to the top of the hill.

 As I was in the area I decided there was just time to nip up to nearby Calvert sailing Lake, to see if the Black-necked Grebe was still around. I parked up at the Charndon End, where I knew I could get good views over all the lake and easily located the Grebe on the far side where it kept the company of 5 Coots.
Not much else was on view here other than a few Wigeon ,Tufteds and Great-crested Grebes.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Back to proper birding

It was back to birding as it should be today. No hassle getting to where I wanted to be, no entrance fee and proper birds.
 O.K Gayhurst Quarry doesn't sound as glamorous as the London Wetland Centre, but I know where I'd rather go.

 The Swan flock has diminished somewhat, but the Whooper is still part of the 40 or so that remain, and even these had relocated to a field near Quarryhall Farm.. The Goose flock has also shrunk, with only about a hundred  Greylags and Canadas.
 Wigeon and Mallard are the most numerous duck, with a couple of hundred of each. Tufteds came in at about a hundred but Pochard, Teal and Gadwall only reached single figures.
 Five Little Egrets were seen, also a flock of around 90 Lapwings.
Spring is certainly on the way, as a new arrival in the form of an Oystercatcher on the main island of motorway pit was a nice surprise.

Up at Quarryhall there were very few small birds to be seen , but 2 or 3 Tree Sparrows mingled with the small Chaffinch flock.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Visit to Barnes WWT

 Despite the efforts of David Lindo and Bill Oddie, I have to say my idea of Birding and the 'Big Smoke' just don't go together.
 Our latest Bedford RSPB group trip was to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Barnes in South London.
 O.K. it's an oasis in a the middle of a sh**hole, but you've got to travel through the sh**hole to get there.
Then you have to fork out £10.55 to get in. Fair enough we managed a 20% discount - Big Deal.
There is a collection of captive birds on site which probably accounts for the high entry fee, but this wasn't really what we were there for.
 The biggest Bug-bear though was the army of families with young children, not content to look around the 'zoo area', but running, screaming and chasing anything they could see around the reserve areas.
 It says a lot about the reserve that of the three year ticks I gained from this trip, 2 of them were Egyptian Goose and Ring-necked Parakeet, both naturalised species that established from escaped birds.
Ring-necked Parakeet
 Ring-necked Parakeets were everywhere,and were quite exciting to see, although I could see their shrill calls could get on your nerves after a while.

 Wildfowl were the main birds on site with Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard all seen. Smaller numbers of Coot, Moorhens,Great-crested  and Little Grebes were scattered around the site.

A 'raft' of Shoveler seen from the Tower Hide

An army of over a hundred Cormorants crowded out some of the islands, along with more than a dozen Grey Herons. Greylag and Canada Geese were represented in small numbers along with a pair of mobile Egyptian Geese.
 Waders were notable for their absence with only a few Lapwings noted all day.
 A Water Rail that stood on a small platform was probably my best bird of the day as I missed out on two Bitterns and a female Peregrine that were seen by other members of the group. 

I couldn't resist adding this picture of a cheeky Black Brant that kept trying to escape everytime someone opened the gate of it's enclosure.

 As a closing remark all I would say about this reserve is ' Been there done that - never again'

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Scaly Leg

 At the moment there are about 5 Dunnocks visiting my garden, both taking seed from the bird table and flicking around  in the promiscuous way that Dunnocks are renowned for.
 It was while looking at these these morning I noticed one seemed to be finding it hard to walk.
On looking closer I could see one of its legs seemed to be swollen and extremely scaly.
A bit of research showed this to be what I believe is known as scaly leg, an infection caused by mites that get under the scales of the birds leg.

Dunnock with scaly leg infection

Sunday, 13 February 2011

On the Track

I took my regular Sunday morning visit to Gayhurst Quarry today.
Bird wise it was very much as you were last week and probably the last couple of months.
 The Whooper Swan is still enjoying the delights of Fishing Pit, the Wigeon flock is still 4 or 5 hundred strong, 4 Little Egrets were spread around the site and the Greylags and Canadas continue to repel any chance of Wild Geese interlopers.

 Small birds were plentiful with many starting to bash out their claims on individual territories. Marsh Tit, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers and Skylarks being the pick of the bunch.

I took a route along the main river today and under the motorway bridge, where last year I spotted the Mink.
Here there was a very wet patch of mud and it was interesting to see all the tracks of various animals that had  followed the course of the river and had been channelled under the bridge.

 I think this first set are Brown Rat.

This one I'm sure is Fox.

Badger ?

Not sure on this one

Or this one.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A Goose with a bad leg and a Wol

As I was in Bedford today I decided to take a look at Hundred Acre Pit, near Priory Park, as a few interesting Geese had been seen there recently.
 A reasonable sized flock of Canadas and Greylags was spread around the site and on scanning through I soon picked out the juvenile Whitefront that has been around since Saturday. It was reported to have a bad leg and it became obvious whenever it tried to move that it just pitched  forward, so I'm guessing that it's broken. However other than that it seemed in perfect health and was feeding contentedly.
 I couldn't find any Pinkfeet or Egyptians, but other wildfowl included Mallard, Tufteds, Pochard, Gadwall and Wigeon. Also a couple of Great-crested and 7 Little Grebes.

 On the way home I decided to drive around the back road to the village. I thought it was probably too early for Owls, but as I drove past one roadside tree, a Little Owl sat brazenly out on a branch.
 Expecting it to fly off, I reversed back and stopped alongside, even managing to take a photo before it departed.

Little Owl

Monday, 7 February 2011

Gusty Gayhurst

Still very windy today, but I decided to brave Gayhurst Quarry to see if the gales had blown in anything new. Unfortunately this was not the case. There was lots of stuff around with good numbers of Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Gadwall and Teal. The large Greylag/Canada flock is still around, but other than a couple of hybrids, there's still no 'strangers' within the group. Only 71 Mute Swans today, but the Whooper remains.
Whooper Swan (click twice to enlarge)

 Small birds were hard to find today, but a small flock of Siskins, just coming in to summer plumage, in the hedgerow at the end of Lakes Lane seemed to be feeding on Blackberry seeds.
Siskin (click to enlarge)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Windy Emberton

This wind really isn't good for birding.
Trying to think of somewhere that was perhaps a little sheltered, I opted for a walk around Emberton Park today.
 The sailing lake seems to have become quite a popular winter hangout for Goosanders in the last couple of years and today's total of 22 birds was the most I have seen there, although there has been a recent report of 33 ! A small flock of Tufted Duck and a few Mallard were about the only other birds on this water.
 The local Canada Geese were seen over the river on Olney Meadows and numbered about 100. The Todd's Canada was with them as well as a couple of domestic/farmyard types, also 4 Greylags and one attractive bird that in every aspect is a Greylag, but is a beautiful buff-white colour.
 On the main lake a small group of Pochard and a pair of Wigeon consorted with the bread dependant Mallard flock.
 Spring was definitely in the air, as Canada Geese occupied every available island spit with a view to nesting, and pairs of Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tits and Mallards were getting very friendly.
 A Kingfisher was a good spot in the branches of a tree over the small lake closest to Olney.