Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tinuviel, that is Nightingale in the Language of Old

I awoke at 4.30 on Monday, and by 6.45 I was on the road to our destination in deepest Lincolnshire even though we weren't due to meet until 10 am. Any journey on the A15 always feels interminable, but I arrived at 8 am precisely. I went looking for the Nightingales and found one almost straight away. He was a very obliging individual singing from a prominent song post at the top of a Hawthorn bush, where he would sing a few phrases, have a good preen sing some more, and then fly a short distance to another song post, where he would repeat the procedure with a bit of foraging on the ground in between his bouts of song. While he was singing a pair of Treecreepers tried to divert my attention, but I steadfastly watched the virtusoso singing performance instead. Then I spotted a second bird carrying leaves, which she carried as she flew down towards the ground, and she repeated this a few times.
Singing Male Nightingale
I did a complete circuit of Coot Lake, noting other sites of singing males, and although I saw a couple of individuals, none was as clear as the first bird. In all I heard at least 6 singing birds, although 9 have been reported. On this recce I heard and saw my first Garden Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats of the year. Also present were Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, and all the usual resident species. 
Singing Male Nightingale
I returned to the car park to rendezvous with the attendees of this one off special event. At 10 we set off for the point where I had the best view of the Nightingale, although we stopped off first for an attempt to see a Garden Warbler, and a dead cert view of a particularly yellow Willow Warbler. We didn't have long to wait at the Nightingale site. The male flew out of a Hawthorn bush, sang a few phrases and then landed just above a bramble patch where he had a scratch & then a really good preen. Even those who were slowest with their binoculars managed prolonged views. Usually these birds are almost totally concealed, or partially concealed by vegetation, but we all had a clear uninterrupted view of this bird. 
Male Nightingale

I had warned the participants that many bird books dismiss the Nightingale as relatively drab, but they marvelled at its rusty tail, its warm brown back, we were even close enough to see the pale eye-ring which surrounded the large dark eye. This male moved to another area of its territory, and while he was singing the female was spotted again with a leaf in her bill. We watched as she flew with it to the base of an elder bush, and a few minutes later she repeated her actions, so we may have inadvertently discovered her nest site. When the male had stopped singing we moved further along the path. And only a few yards away another Nightingale could be heard. Maggie, Eric,  and a couple of others could see him, and as we stood trying to locate the singer we saw Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff, and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the oak tree we were standing under. 

 Male Nightingale
We heard another singing male as we approached a bench overlooking the lake. This one's song seemed to be emanating from bushes on the very edge of the opposite bank, but we couldn't spot the bird. We were on the return leg when a Lesser Whitethroat rattled from some thick vegetation. Although we gained some brief views we weren't able to obtain decent prolonged views of this bird. The strong winds probably didn't help many hedgerow birds singing from the front or top of the hedges. We had been lucky with the first Nightingale, which sang from an area, which seemed sheltered from the wind.  
Female Nightingale
 Record Shot of Garden Warbler
 Garden Warbler
 Great Spotted Woodpecker (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce

When we reached Coot Lake again it wasn't long before we heard an incredibly loud Nightingale. At times this one made a particularly loud call which it repeated so rapidly that it sounded like a CD, which had got stuck. This bird could just be discerned by some of the participants as it sang from the middle of a Blackthorn just coming into flower. Near here was another mainly hidden Garden Warbler, although Eric & one other got a decent view before it scuttled into cover. As we approached the bridge I could hear the calls of some Bullfinches, and when we looked towards some blossom near a private area, we could glimpse a female Bullfinch.  However, it looked quite unusual and seemed almost as grey underneath, as it was above.  Could it have been a female Northern Bullfinch?

 Wren (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Aberrant Female Bullfinch (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Peacock (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Female Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) 
[ID by Barry Warrington]
 We then tried across the railway line where we saw a pair of Common Whitethroats, a bee-fly, a Kestrel, heard a another Lesser Whitethroat. However, the best sighting here was a pair of Jays spotted by Eric. One bold individual continued probing the ground even though he had an audience of 14, and 2 photographers edging closer and closer. In twitter parlance we failed to 'nail' a Garden Warbler, but the superb views of the Nightingales and the other summer migrants ensured everyone went home happy until they got on the A15 again!
 [Blue] Turkey Tails

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