Today we went around an area of a familiar reserve we’d never visited before. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the weather was quite nice – sunny and warm at times! We set off around the wall of a reservoir where the best bird was a very confiding Common Sandpiper which allowed us some great views. Opposite the new scrape area we had Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. On the new area we saw Moorhen, Mallard, Greylag and on the return journey we had a pair of Grey Partridge in the same area.
We crossed a rickety bridge to circumnavigate an area of scrub and new growth which has been earmarked for a shooting estate. We heard many Whitethroats, including 3 individuals involved in a chase and a fight. A drake Gadwall flew over us several times calling, and seemed to be lost. There were also several Sedge Warblers, and everyone was able to discern the white supercilium (eyebrow). A male Kestrel hovered in the distance at various times and a Buzzard was seen soaring on a thermal. We saw hundreds of Swifts in the air once we focused on the distant Buzzard, meanwhile Swallows flew along the drain banks and the fields through which we walked.
On one drain we saw several Tufted Duck and one pair of Pochard, but all these took to the air well before we got anywhere near them. A little further along the drain I could just make out the song of a Grasshopper Warbler. We retraced our steps a little to try & hear it a little more clearly, but we never came close to seeing it. It was singing from an area of bramble well within the shooting estate. However, after lunch it appeared in the open a few times, but so briefly the camera wasn’t quick enough to catch it. All the images show a partially concealed bird. The Grasshopper Warbler (or Gropper as many lazy birders call it) was a ‘lifer’ for the vast majority of the participants. I’ve never heard the alarm call of a Grasshopper Warbler before but this one, as well as singing normally, suddenly made a harsher, deeper-pitched call, in the same manner of its standard song, almost as harsh as a Savi’s Warbler’s reeling. In the afternoon I saw a quick blue flash of a Kingfisher flying away from us, but unfortunately no one else spotted it
As we got nearer to the end of our circuit I pointed out the well-worn track of an Otter, and we saw a male Barn Owl hunting for food at 11.30. It probably has a growing family to support, and last night was very wet, so the better weather brought it out early. Although we watched it for some time, we didn’t spot it making a kill. It also had to contend with a male Kestrel, which mobbed it once & would probably have attempted to steal any vole the Barn Owl caught. A few Linnets near the pumping station enlivened the final few minutes of the session.
On the way back we called in at a new hide. I heard a Treecreeper singing near here, but the bird itself remained concealed. On the return journey the Common Sandpiper posed for the pics accompanying this post. In the afternoon I heard the distinctive pathetic song of a stunning Yellow Wagtail, but the light was in an awkward position, so these were the best pics I was able to obtain. This very popular bird provided a very fitting end to a bright and sunny day.
Grasshopper Warbler - in Reeling
Yellow Wagtail - 'singing' not eating!
Yellow Wagtail - Rear View