27 April 2008

Putting in the hours...

No work, no rain, plenty of sunshine, 8½ hours of birding and 70 species located. Now that is my kind of Saturday! Days like that don’t come along too often for me at the moment so yesterday I made the most of the alignment of the planets, or whatever it was that happened, and spent much of the day at my second home - Willington Gravel Pits.

The lane, at Willington.

I set my alarm for 6:45AM but, as it happened, I was awake long before then and was actually at Willington by just before 7:00AM. Instead of heading straight for the Canal Scrape, as I tend to do, I decided to take a very steady stroll down the lane to view the main pits, stopping off at each of the viewing platforms along the way. The walk to the first platform - just over half-way down the lane - gave me some very good views of the more common species with many of the birds sat out in the early morning sun. Birds seen included Wren, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Goldfinch and Bullfinch.

Male Bullfinch.

At 7:30AM I caught sight of my first new bird of the day for my "10-Mile List" when a Swift came into view for a few moments high over the trees in the lane. By late morning this single Swift had turned into a group of 10 that spent most of the day racing around over the reserve. It must be close to eight months since I last saw a Swift and then when one comes along so do nine others! It was good to see, and hear, them once again though. The Swifts were flying around in the company of around 30 Sand Martin and a dozen or so Swallow, but no House Martin. I’m hoping that there will be a large "fall" of House Martin soon as they appear to be rather thin on the ground so far this spring.

Once I arrived at the viewing platforms I quickly added another bag full of species to my day list. Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Black-headed Gull and Reed Bunting were all noted from the first platform. Platform two gave me a fly-through Oystercatcher, Skylark, Goldfinch and, much to my delight, a couple of Arctic Terns - another new tick for the year on my "10-Mile List". The terns spent around five minutes flying around over the main pit before landing on the spit. The Black-headed Gulls took exception to this and soon moved the terns on again. After another couple of unsuccessful attempts to find a place on the spit the terns headed off high to the north.

The view from platform three.

The walk to platform three provided me with my third year tick of the day - Lesser Whitethroat. I managed to see two "Lessers" in the lane and also heard at least one other. Once at the end of the lane, and up on the final viewing platform, I quickly added my fourth new bird of the year when a Reed Warbler suddenly burst into song just a few feet from were I stood. Within minutes, a second Reed Warbler appeared and both birds showed well, on and off, for the next couple of hours.

Other birds seen from the end of the lane included Greylag Goose, 7 Buzzard, Kestrel, Common Sandpiper, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 5 Common Tern, Cuckoo (a species that I had previously only heard this year), Sedge Warbler, Long-tailed Tit and a couple more Goldfinch.

Common Sandpiper.

After spending around three hours on the third platform I decided to move around to the Canal Scrape in search of more birds and also to stretch my legs after having stood for so long in one place - I’m getting old and my knees older still! On the walk back up the lane I came across a number of Orange-tip butterfly and also a couple of Peacock butterfly too. The Orange-tips were constantly on the move but I did manage to grab a quick photo of one of the Peacocks.

Peacock butterfly.

Walking back up the lane also gave me my final new bird species of the day for my "10-Mile List", a Garden Warbler. The Garden Warbler would have gone totally unnoticed if it hadn’t started to sing just as I walked by it. The bird was tucked away deep in a bramble bush and it took me some while to finally get a good view of it. When I did get to see it, it promptly came out of hiding and sang from the top of the bush! Typical!

Canal Scrape proved to be rather quiet, compared to the past few weeks, with the only birds of note being a female Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail (I tick it, so I list it!) and a flock of around 60 Linnet.

By now it was getting on for 2:00PM and I chose to abandon the Canal Scrape in favour of one more visit to the first viewing platform. A Kingfisher flew across the path as I headed back onto the main reserve and a Grey Heron and a Shelduck posed for photos on the small pool in front of the platform.

Grey Heron.


At 3:15PM I headed for home. I’d spent 8½ hours on the reserve, I’d seen a total of 70 species and I’d added five new birds to my "10-Mile List" for the year. It was a rather nice day - even though I did get just a little sun burnt!

My "10-Mile List" now stands at 107 species.

1 comment:

  1. Nic, birdnerdblog29 April, 2008 20:18

    Hey, oldie lol what you doing clearing out bushes in Spring... poor Sparrows... stunning shot of the Peacock butterfly by the way!