Sunday is usually a quiet day off avoiding crowded birding sites, but today I was leading a rambling group around a gem of a local wildlife site. 12 people were booked, but only 9 were able to make it on the actual morning. It’s a shame the single afternoon participant wasn’t offered one of the available spaces, as I could have gone home for my Sunday roast!
We began at the top of the site – the usual car park Meadow Pipits were only present in the afternoon, and neither session had the previously standard Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat or Linnets. We made our way down the tarmac road past the first lake. Here everyone managed to see a Wren belting out its strident song from the top of a Hawthorn bush. There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on the lake itself with some Mallard, and a singing Blackcap and a purring Turtle Dove could be heard in the distance.
We walked up the first hill surrounded by silence – the normal singing Reed Warblers were absent – probably because the reedbeds have completely dried out – the first time this has happened since I’ve been visiting the site. At the top of the hill the purring Turtle Doves became louder and we had occasional glimpses of them flying past us. Also around the peak were a family of Long-tailed Tits, a Blackcap, a Whitethroat, & a Chiffchaff. The first Orange-tips were also flittering past us, never seeming to come to rest. However, the best sighting was something really unexpected first spotted by Dave and something I’d never seen before – a Cockchafer. It seemed very clumsy in flight, and the enormous fan-like antennae made it look extraordinary as it bumbled among the hawthorn sprays.
At the bottom of the hill Pauline spotted a Kestrel, and this time the bushes were not completely silent because a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away. It did perch in the open briefly, but not everyone was able to get their binoculars on it in time. However, they did manage to see it with their naked eyes as it circled us, flying swiftly from bush-to-bush. We made our way along the main path separating different kinds of habitat where we saw a Sedge Warbler perching briefly in the open, before it began to hide at the bottom of a hawthorn bush in a reedbed. We climbed a small mound and from here a Sparrowhawk was seen carrying its prey to the next-door site. We also saw a Meadow Pipit performing its parachuting song-flight much to the delight of the attendees.
Distant shot of Heron Chicks in Nest
On the climb up to the next hill a pair of Bullfinches were semi-concealed in a willow tree covered in fluffy seed heads, but most people got to see them. In an open area a Willow Warbler impressed everyone with its silvery cadences, and another Turtle Dove purred loudly before flying around us & fanning out its tail as it performed a showy display flight. On our way down to the water’s edge we came across a family of Long-tailed Tits, whilst in the afternoon a Reed Warbler was singing concealed in a hawthorn, rather than in the fringe of reeds. A warbler landed in the reeds briefly. I assumed it would be a Reed Warbler but didn’t have time to raise my binoculars, so was surprised to see it was a Blackcap when I checked the photos. A Stock Dove was calling in this area in the afternoon, but the Turtle Doves were generally quieter than during the morning. From the lake we could see at least 2 Heron chicks in the nest, but one participant was able to see at least 3 – they seemed unperturbed when another Kestrel flew over the nest. Directly under the Herons, 2 Great Crested Grebes appeared to be in the area of their nest. A Chiffchaff sang nearby, but it remained hidden from view.
Record Shot of Red Kite
Rudd [left] with Perch to the left
Climbing back up to the open area the Willow Warbler was still singing, then Jo spotted a large bird of prey soaring in the direction of Keyingham. I was expecting it to be a Buzzard, so was rather surprised to discover a Red Kite. It then drifted to the North West. At this point the morning session finished at the catering ‘truck’, but the 1-2-1 afternoon group had bypassed the first lake, so had some time in hand. We therefore walked along the second lake where a Whitethroat showed very well. At the drain we saw a pair of Grey Partridges fly into a field of oilseed rape, heard a Reed Warbler near the drain, but a highlight here was a hunting Barn Owl over the land-fill area. After enjoying this afternoon white phantom we walked along the old railway line, but this area was very quiet, but we saw our third Holy Blue, a few orange-tips and our first Small Copper & Speckled Wood butterflies. A few minutes later I observed a Turtle Dove on the wires. We were able to sidle along quietly on the grassy verges until we were almost underneath it. This was the best view I’ve enjoyed for quite some time, whilst it was a ‘lifer’ for Pam. It knew we were there, and was a little nervous, but it even preened its rear quarters before flying away into dense cover. It was a fitting finale to a scorching afternoon.