Sunday, 13 May 2012

Open Day Plus One

Kingfisher - Bird of the Day (Old Photograph)
All other photos were taken today
Yesterday was unusual in being a working day, but what was even more unusual was that Sunday was a working day too.  Of course, there are many people who would argue that what I do can’t really be called working!  Yesterday was the occasion of the first official opening of Hull’s first nature reserve, and today I was involved in a Birdwatching Walk for Beginners round the Noddle Hill Nature Reserve. 
As I walked from one car park to the other I heard a grating squawk on the playing fields, and there were my first juvenile Starlings of the year.  The only other birds in this area were some grazing Greylag Geese.  Most of the rest of the participants were waiting in the Anglers Car Park where we were serenaded by a Chaffinch.  From here it was also possible to hear a Reed Warbler singing from the lake and someone spotted a Greenfinch wheezing from some bare twigs.  At least 12 people had booked, but plenty of children also attended.  Steve from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust made a short introduction and we began.  I tried to spot the birds at the front of the group, while Steve concentrated on keeping those at the back of the group informed of what we were seeing. 
 Willow Warbler (can't see its pink legs)
We squeezed into Red Admiral Alley where we immediately heard a Chiffchaff, soon followed by a Blackcap and a Robin.  We didn’t see a Red Admiral, but we did observe an Orange-tip nectaring on a dandelion, swiftly followed by a pair of fighting Speckled Wood butterflies.  Towards the end of the alley we were treated to the wonderful cascading song of a Willow Warbler, as it sang from of all things, a Willow tree.  This provided a welcome contrast to the previous bird, which had been the monotonous ‘song’ of a Collared Dove.  As we were about to emerge from the alley a few Swifts and House Martins flew about, but by the time we were back in the open they had all moved on.  
Carrion Crow
 Reverend Reed Bunting
We struck out into more open country and this is where we encountered the biggest problem of the day: the very strong winds.  Despite the wind we spotted more Greenfinches on the wires, a few Linnets, and a single Skylark flew over the crowd of cattle.  Shortly afterwards a Magpie quickly flew away when it saw us coming.  It was about this moment that we flushed a pair of Red-legged Partridge.  We traversed the full length of the site towards Foredyke Drain & on the way saw plenty of Linnets flying around, and several Whitethroats performing their ‘puppet on a string song flight’ before diving into thick bramble cover again.   Carrions Crows perched on the hawthorn bushes & a few were feeding in the flooded meadow, which in the late afternoon, evening and night is transformed into the hunting ground of the Short-eared Owl.  When the drain was in sight I could hear the simple repetitive song of a male Reed Bunting, so we were able to inch our way towards it until everyone in the group had seen it.  Once everyone had taken a look I crept a bit nearer to take a picture.
We followed Foredyke Drain towards the pumping station.  On the way we had some great views of singing Skylarks and I spotted some owl pellets on the ground in the middle of nowhere which can only have come from Short-eared Owls.  We reached the junction with Holderness Drain, but the strong winds meant that there were much fewer birds around than our previous visit:
Everyone was able to catch up & we had a breather from the walk and the wind.  Unfortunately, even the Tree Sparrows didn’t appear to be hanging around their nest holes.  Steve and I were just having a short chat when I heard the tell-tale high-pitched squeak of a Kingfisher.  I was in time to let everyone know it was flying past & everyone swung round to gaze towards the drain.  Luckily, most people saw the bird, but the force of 15 faces swinging round to look at it, meant that the Kingfisher quickly let its DNA fall into the water before lifting into the air and flying over the lock.

 Chiffchaff (black legs)
 Bottoms Up! (Greylag Goslings)

On the return journey we saw a Kestrel being mobbed by a crow, and the front section of the crowd had a brief glimpse of a Sedge Warbler, but it went to ground in a bramble bush and refused to come out.   On the way back a Linnet actually posed near enough to snatch a photograph.  As we walked round the lake I heard the mournful piping of a Bullfinch, which then flew over our heads & straight above the island without perching in the open for everyone to have a good look.  However, a Chiffchaff was more obliging as it sang much lower down than normal. Then we were back in the car park.  Despite the strong winds, I’m sure everyone learned something, and I hope they will return on a less windy day.
On the way back across the playing field to my car I saw a final new bird of the day: a Pied Wagtail.  This took the final tally of birds to exactly 40, which is quite respectable considering the lousy wind!

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