Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Wizard Day

Before the class started I stopped at a new glade on the way to the car park, and in the sole tree left in the middle of the new heath area was a Buzzard - always nice to see.

Winter Merlin - taken in Scotland
Photo courtesy (c) 2014 Marcus Conway
In order to try and rendezvous with Lulu before she knocked off early for the day, we went a different way round the site. We didn't see an awful lot on the way apart from an exhibitionist dog runner who showed off all over the woodland until she found the pefect spot to exhibit her flexibility. She was genuflecting, jumping up and down on the seats and table, & stretching & pulling herself at the picnic table, so there was no chance of settling my group there to show them the abundance of Yellowhammers. She was so intent on carrying out her exertions without interruption that she wasn't put off by the approach of 12 middle-aged spectators, or a stray dog trying to interfere with her and showing a lot of interest in her dog. However, there were a few Yellowhammers nearby, which we could see, but we didn't enjoy the excellent views I would have expected at the picnic table. All this period we were being teased by a laughing Green Woodpecker. Later, one flew across and was speedily identified without any assistance by David. 
 We walked on the northern edge of the wood when I suddenly heard a few notes from Lulu's song, so we walked to the area where the sniper had been the previous week. When we arrived there were 2 birds flying just over the Silver Birches, and then one fluttered over the field we were standing next to & then lost height almost in slow motion until it landed in the stubble. It never moved from where it landed, the whole time we remained, but we never managed to pick it out again.
Lulu - taken a few years ago
We retraced our steps and then headed along the central section. A Siskin flew over then I heard what sounded like a Tree Pipit. This would have been an amazingly early date for such a summer visitor, but on investigation it was tracked down as a male Reed Bunting. I have never heard one make such a strange sound before, but we were able to watch it for a whole 10 minutes, and it never varied from making this particularly tuneful and untypical song. Perhaps its own father died and the closest song whilst it was in the egg was a Tree Pipit? 
Lulu - the typical view
We carried on to the reserve entrance where we heard a much closer Green Woodpecker. However, our attention was diverted by two small birds landing at the top of conifer directly in front of us. They were Crossbills - the first we had seen for nearly 2 years. We returned to the car park without adding many more birds to our tally apart from a Treecreeper and a Marsh Tit on the feeders. 
Lulu - near the ground on an earlier occasion 
In the afternoon we watched the Marsh Tit in the bird table area, and we also heard the buzzing call of a Willow Tit. We travelled in the opposite direction from the morning. We reached the area of the pig farm, and were watching some Fieldfare and a couple of Yellowhammers when a crow suddenly gave an odd growl. The Fieldfare and Yellowhammers flew off in alarm. Swinging round to look at the crow we noticed it was having an encounter with a small, very speedy falcon. It was too small to be a Kestrel, and it was blue-grey rather than brown - our first ever male Merlin. It dashed off before landing in a distant oak tree. It was too far and quick to be photographed, so I am very grateful to Marcus Conway for allowing me to use his photo of a Merlin from Scotland. It was perched in the Oak for a couple of minutes before zipping off in an easterly direction, sending up another flock of Fieldfare as it did so. Ken saw it last as it changed direction towards the north. 
Record Shot of Male Crossbill
Last week at this venue the afternoon was very quiet, but today was quite different. As we reached the fenced off area we saw 3 Jays. Also in this area was a Goldcrest, and Liz spotted a Treecreeper. Eventually, we saw 2 on adjacent trees, only about 4 feet from the ground. There were plenty of Coal Tits under the leaf litter of a small oak, but it wasn't clear what they were feeding on. Suddenly, very faintly I could hear the lulu song of a Woodlark, this must be one of the first times we'd ever heard it during an afternoon session. Unfortunately, by the time we reached an open area the song had stopped and there was no sign of the singer. 
Marsh Tit - note white mark at base of bill
 Collecting Several Seeds & Throwing Others into the Air
 Retrieving a cached seed, hidden earlier
 Record Shot of Reed Bunting with the beautiful song

We then walked to where the morning bird had been, and it came over the top of the woods, then across some pylon wires before plunging towards some Silver Birches, where it was joined by a second bird. Unfortunately, we never heard or saw it again. A pair of Buzzards flew up from near where the Woodlarks disappeared, but the only sound in the area was a very distant Song Thrush. We returned to the car park without adding any significant to the tally. Overall, a very satisfying day with some unusual species at what used to be a very dull venue, until some of the conifers were cleared a few years ago.

1 comment:

Andy Kiz said...

'Bird' watching indeed! Where were you Michael? The larks have returned to my local spot already