On Tuesday we went to RSPB Blacktoft Sands, where we were promised Bearded Tits in abundance. We set off for Marshland hide first where 3 smart Spotted Redshank were the best birds on offer. Also present were a single bog standard Redshank, and many Avocets, sat on nests, and plenty of Black-headed Gulls and their chicks in various stages of immaturity. There was a Stock Dove in the doorway of the Barn Owl box, and another on the doorstep. The drake Gadwall here were just starting to go into their summer eclipse plumage. Leaving the hide a Reed Bunting we had heard and seen the top half of on the way, was now easier to see, as it perched in the open.
Marsh Harrier - The Eyes Have It
Avocets - Changing Over at the Nest (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Spotted Redshank (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Redshank v. Spotted Redshank (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Record Shot of Bearded Tits
On to Xerox, where there were several species already in eclipse, especially the Shoveler. The Tufted Duck and Teal seemed a bit tardy in comparison. At first there didn't seem to be much at this hide, just a few Gadwall, Herons, but Sedge and Reed Warblers and their chicks became apparent. A decent flock of young Tree Sparrows kept emerging from the reeds, flying into e reedbed, and back again.
Then Steve reported a small bird in a distant reedbed on the left hand side. This turned out to be a Bearded Tit, and during our stay there many flew from left to right against the head wind. Several times the Beardie got halfway across when it seemed to lose confidence and scuttled back to its starting point. In all we probably saw double figures of Bearded Tits. This was repeated in the afternoon with more than 20 seen in total!
Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
We leap-frogged First hide to get to Townend, as this was supposed to hold the most Bearded Tits. On the way a Willow Warbler was singing nicely, and made itself look bigger to a rival. There were more frequent and better views of Marsh Harriers from here, including a male trailing a Black-headed Gull chick in its talons caught at Singleton. It's mate flew up from her nesting site & a food pass took place. A Little Gull and its single chick also scuttled from left to right.
Mute Swan & Cygnets (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
We ploughed on to Singleton watching a female Whitethroat collecting insects on the way. From here we saw Mute Swans with 4 cygnets, more Herons, Gadwall in eclipse and various wildfowl. One new bird was a Common Tern, which quartered the edge of the water looking for food. It seemed to be skimming insects from the surface of the water. Swifts were observed high in the sky, but there didn't appear to be many hirundines about.
Immature Heron (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Heron (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Immature Black-Headed Gull
Marsh Harrier (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Marsh Harrier Calling
Marsh Harrier Carrying Gull Chick (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Marsh Harrier (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Record Shot of Reed Warbler (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
We went to First Hide on our way back, but slough we saw young Reed Buntings and young Sedge and Reed Warblers it wasn't exactly replete with variety. Some sort of pondweed seemed to have taken over the area.
In the afternoon at least 3 bright orange tiny birds were seen at the bottom of the reeds from Marshland hide. these were Bearded Tits. They were a first for many participants, and the best ones Ellen had ever seen after over 5 years n the course. then for a short time at Singleton a Bittern was seen flying left before disappearing into the middle of a reedbed - not a bad final afternoon for the Tuesday Spring Course. I wonder what September will bring?
Avocets Attacking Black-headed Gull Chick (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce