Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Thursday 30.4.20

A strange thing happened today. I went to check on the singing Nightingale (on Coney Meadows, a dense, bushy part of the Ferry Meadows CP complex), and perhaps to get some more recordings. But the bird appeared to have moved to the extreme south-eastern corned or the Hawthorn stand (whereas it had previously favoured the north-west). I figured that after nearly 10 days, it was shaping up to leave, and having a last hurrah from a slightly different part of the potential breeding habitat.
But as I was trying to get in position to make a recording, I was sure I heard another one singing in the distance. And I did. The original north-western corner bird was still in place; we have two singing Nightingales on the small Coney Meadows area. Having not had any here for years, suddenly… I am trying to resist… like buses… Oh dear.
A flock of 15 Swifts dropped down over Gunwade for a short while. And the other highlight for me, today, was flyby drake Mandarin (112 for Ferry Meadows in 2020).

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Wednesday 29.4.20

Wednesday proved a much better day for ‘exercise birding’ in these here parts. The weather was brooding and drizzly, with low cloud first thing, which brought down a flock of 7 Arctic Terns from the sky ‘like angels’ as one of my friends put it! They stuck together closely, patrolling up and down Gunwade Lake (the largest of the three lakes) for 25 minutes, before disappearing back into the clouds.
Unusually, for Arctic Terns (which are strictly passage birds here in Peterborough), this flock were calling, with sweet clipped contact calls and light, bell-like trills, quite unlike the harsher notes of Common Terns.
Half an hour later, a Whimbrel whizzed by, heading roughly north-north-east. This non-calling bird was a local (Peterborough area) year tick for me as well as a my 110th bird for Ferry Meadows CP in 2020.
My 111th bird was not far behind, with my first Hobby of the season scaring the living daylights out of all the local hirundines (of which their were hundreds feeding over the water, with particularly high numbers of House Martins).
Other highlights of a bit of a vigil looking over Gunwade were a couple of Common Sandpipers, a single Swift, which buzzed right past my head (not obeying social distancing!), and the song of the Nightingale a couple of hundred metres away on Coney Meadow (present since 21st). Ooh, I also had a Cuckoo singing, as I cycled home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Tuesday 28.4.20

Today was a real stinker, with respect to weather, so I hardly poked my head out of the window for most of the day. However, a man has to exercise, and as the rain cleared a bit, I popped down to Ferry Meadows CP on my bike in the early evening. And my reward was a couple of Arctic Terns mixing with half a dozen Common Terns. Arctics look so clean and elegant, and side by side with Commons, the contrasts were obvious.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Sunday 26.4.20

The ouzel appeared to have finally left its field. I gave it a while but it never popped out. So, instead, I went for a bit of a bike tour to see what I could encounter. I was lucky to find three Grey partridges in the local farmland and also bumped into a couple of male Wheatears. But then a friend called me to say he had found some new-in Turtle Doves and a very early Spotted flycatcher at nearby Bainton pits. So, I extended my cycle and went up to see the flycatcher and to bathe in the glorious sound of a putting Turtle Dove. There was a small flock of Fieldfares present in the same area, and I think it is the first time I have ever seen Spotted Flycatcher (a traditionally late summer migrant) on the same day as wintering Fieldfare.

Wheatear, near Peterborough, 26.4.20 (Mike Weedon)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Saturday 25.4.20

‘My’ female Ring Ouzel was still in place at the really ‘ouzely’ field it has been in for the last week. Other than that the highlight for me was adding Reed Warbler to my local year list. This is the last of the regular warblers in, around here, and a welcome year tick. personally, I prefer the haphazard semi-virtuoso rhythmless song of the Sedge Warbler to the rhythmic equivalent of the Reed. But they are both great songs.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Friday 24.4.20

Instead of heading to Ferry Meadows CP, this morning, I cycled back to the north end of the Milton estate, between Bretton, Peterborough, and the village of Marholm. The idea was to check the field which held a Ring Ouzel last weekend, and see if any new ouzels had come along. After a few minutes of staring at this field a Mistle Thrush popped out to feed, then a couple of Blackbirds. And after about ten minutes, out popped a Ring Ouzel. It wasn’t a new one, though, but the same rather dull (for a Ring Ouzel) female that my son Ed and I saw on Sunday!
In other news, back at the office (our kitchen in Peterborough), I have heard both Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing, this morning.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Thursday 23.4.20

I am in that weird time period which only happens every decade or more. It is that time during which I have Cuckoo on my year list but haven’t heard a Cuckoo yet! This morning while walking and pushing my bike down the side of a hedgerow down at Ferry Meadows CP (looking for Redstarts), a Cuckoo flew over, silently. I watched it fly off and never saw it again (nor heard it!). So, that takes my Ferry Meadows CP year list to 109 species. Not too bad.

Morning webs, Castor Mill My Peterborough area year list is at 150, but I am trying not to think of that too much, to avoid feeling ‘The Grip’.
Other highlights this morning, included the continuing presence fo the singing Nightingale on Coney Meadows; the continuing sitting of the Red Kites on their nests; three Cetti’s Warblers singing; and a few more Sedge Warblers, Garden Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats than in recent days.
I still await a Redstart!

Speckled Wood feeding on Garlic Mustard, our garden

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Water Rail from our garden, night of 11.4.20

Moorhen over our garden, 11.4.20

Lockdown Diary, Wednesday 22.4.20

Today, the birds of the park were much the same as usual. That included the Nightingale still being in the dense bushes of the so-called Coney Meadow area; but today singing much more profusely, as if it had settled in nicely!
Here is a link to recording I made. The traffic racket in the background is the A47 (the main east-west highway linking Norfolk with Leicester (etc) via Peterborough), showing little sign of let up in the lockdown! The Nightingale is the dominant, loud singing.
[Note that with Soundcloud, you have to stop playing at the end, or else it goes on to play all sorts of extra stuff you don’t necessarily want to hear. It is a quirk which Soundcloud has never properly resolved!!]

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Tuesday 21.4.20

When we first moved to Peterborough, some 20 years ago, we lived in a different part of town (in the south-west) and Bird Watching magazine was in the centre of the city, just by the river (Nene). But I used to cycle to work along the Nene Valley Railway bordering the Nene. One of the first ‘decent’ birds I found on my way to work was a singing Nightingale at part of the Nene Park called Orton Mere. Since those days, Nightingales have become very sporadic and unusual visitors to the Nene Park area, particularly Ferry Meadows CP. So, it was great to hear a Nightingale in full song at Ferry Meadows this morning, on the dense scrubby and Hawthorn hedgy area called Coney Meadows, my first in the park for several years.
Other highlights (unheard of when I first moved to the city) included seeing two Red Kites sitting on two different nests around the park. Quite remarkable to witness such treasures on a whistlestop cycle before work!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Black Tern, Ferry Meadows CP

Orange-tip and Cuckoo-pint

Lockdown Diary: Monday 20.4.20

The weather was sunny but cooler today. Highlights for me were the continued presence of the ‘reeling’ Grasshopper Warbler by the River Nene, a Kingfisher there, a pair of Red-legged Partridges, the continuing presence of a Red Kite sitting on its nest, and a new influx of a a few more Garden Warblers (what great singers!). Perhaps tomorrow will be the day I finally see a Redstart, Wheatear, Reed Warbler or even a Cuckoo…

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Sunday 19.4.20

Sunday was a different proposition weather-wise than Saturday, an altogether sunnier, warmer day. I decided to take a different route, cycling from home with my son Eddie, and heading towards where the Bird Watching office used to be, in Bretton, Peterborough. We took a track which heads out over the northern part of Milton Park towards the village of Marholm. There is a particular field of very short-cropped grass and plenty of big anthills and large oak trees, which is traditionally great for Green Woodpeckers. I have always fancied it as a Ring Ouzel site, but had never seen one there, despite years of trying!
I scanned the whole field and picked up a brownish looking blackbird-like bird. But with a pale patch on its breast: female Ring Ouzel! It was feeding right at the back of the field, alongside a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a few Black birds and even a late Redwing. Ring Ouzel is a very scarce passage bird through the Peterborough area, and one which I have only seen in the Spring (never in the autumn). So, it was a relief as well as a pleasure to find one. I measured the distance, as the ouzel flies, from out house, and it just gets within a 2-mile radius; like in David Chandler’s My2Mile challenge, the closest one I have ever had to my home.
Other highlights from our cycle ride were hearing my first Nightingales of the year, watching a pair of Peregrines ‘doing battle’ in mid-air, and seeing one of the Ferry Meadows Black Terns still in place. We also saw a hunting Weasel, which Eddie claims is his first ever! And we saw some pretty butterflies including my favourite, the Orange-tip.
Of course, my mood was not exactly lifted by news that one of my friends had had a White-tailed Eagle flying over his house in northern Peterborough. And it was not one of the satellite-tracked introduced birds!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Saturday 18.4.20

Today was a return to cold, rainy weather, with nasty north-easterly winds. However, good birds can come down in bad weather. And so it proved. The first ‘good’ bird of the day, at Ferry Meadows CP, was a Swift, which was my equal earliest ever in the Peterborough area. But this just passed over.
The second good bird was my earliest ever (by a day) local Black Tern, which came down in a shower, followed about 15 minute later by another, both immaculate breeding-plumaged individuals. Such great birds to watch and a very welcome treat in the cold!
Other ‘good birds’ of the morning included a Common Sand piper and a Green Sandpiper, both passage waders, here.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Friday 17.4.20

Another day passes with no Redstarts or Ring Ouzels in my neck of the woods. They are surely around, but not within my zone of exercise, despite giving the whole Ferry Meadows CP area what (to me) seems a thorough working over, in the limited time before work.
In fact, I recorded no new species, fresh in, today; instead, this morning was a day for enjoying some of the singing spring migrants which have already dropped in. Lesser Whitethroats were the most prominent, with a few more rattling away with their dry songs in dense hedges. But probably the bird of the day was the same Grasshopper Warbler I heard yesterday in the distance. Today, I pinned down its location to a ‘green lane’ called Landy Green Way, where it was ‘reeling’ unseen from within the dense hedge.

Yellowhammer, Landy Green Way (the Grasshopper Warbler was singing just underneath!)

Grasshopper Warbler is a bird I never used to encounter until I moved to Peterborough 20 years ago. Around here, they are not difficult to hear (if not see), if you check certain sites each year.
What will this weekend bring? Redstart and Ring Ouzel, I hope!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Common Sandpiper, Gunwade Lake, Ferry Meadows

Lockdown Diary: Thursday 16.4.20

Spring is back! After a brief rest, yesterday, birds are arriving in numbers again, it seems. This lovely, clear morning I encountered four new birds for my Ferry Meadows CP year list: Common Sandpiper, Lesser Whitethroat (at least three singing birds), Grasshopper Warbler and Garden Warbler. Of this list, the Grasshopper Warbler is the scarcest in the park, being not quite annual. It was a heard only job, as the amazingly insect-like rattling ‘reel’ of the the Grasshopper Warbler usually takes place from a well hidden perch in the middle of a dense bramble, rose or the like.
The Garden Warbler (a singing bird) was a day earlier than any I have previously recorded locally (with my records going back to 2003). We do particularly well for these plain yet lovely birds, around Ferry Meadows and they seem to live alongside the abundant Blackcaps without too much conflict, although Blackcaps are supposed to dominate them in general.

Common Sandpiper, Gunwade Lake shore, Ferry Meadows CP

The Common Sandpiper was feeding along the same little beach on Gunwade Lake where the Little Ringed Plovers popped in a few days ago. It was taking advantage of the fact that the dog walkers had not arrived there yet, to chuck sticks in the water for their dogs to chase (and hence flush any wader for miles!) While I was trying to photograph it, a Green Sandpiper called and nearly landed. Presumably this same bird was later feeding on the scraped ditches of the area known as Heron Meadows, which were created a year or two ago and have been drawing a few good birds down to this nice, rough field.
If you are interested, my Ferry Meadows CP area year list has now risen to 105 species (and my Peterborough area list to 144).

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Wednesday 15.4.20

Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful sunny day out there. There is a crispness in the air and a circular rainbow around the sun, because of the high hazy , very thin clouds. But the birding is static. It is like spring has come to an end! On my cycle through Ferry Meadows CP this morning I felt as if I was a farmer doing the rounds checking that all his livestock and crops were doing OK, everything in the right place. The Red Kite was still sitting on its nest, the Dunnocks were still lined up pretending to be Redstarts on one of my favourite fencelines for scanning for the latter. The Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were all singing from exactly the same spot as on previous days this week.
The grebes were still displaying and the Common Terns and Sand Martins still appear to be settling in nicely. Perhaps the most interesting birds of the day (from a ‘different’ point of view) were a couple of noisy, squawking Jays.
Most of our summer visitors have made an appearance, but I still anticipate that by the end of the month I will have heard/seen my first Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cuckoo and Swift. Just not today!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Tuesday 14.4.20

It was still cold in the country park this morning. Apart from the Arctic Terns moving on (as expected, with these strictly passage birds in these here parts), there was very little change since Monday. I did stumble across a small flock of Fieldfares in an area I don’t normally check. These winter thrushes will be heading north and east soon, but we often getting them hanging on through the middle and even later parts of April.
Sky Lark numbers are, if you pardon me saying it, sky high at the moment. They are singing their hearts out everywhere. There continue to be seemingly exceptional numbers of Green Woodpeckers and I am hearing plenty of drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, too.
Incidentally, yesterday’s Arctic Terns have pushed my Ferry Meadows CP 2020 list up to the 100 mark. This is, of course, a place I cycle through every day on the way to work (in normal working times), and where in the autumn a few friends and I would do a daily ‘vis mig’ (visible migration) watch in the autumn. Last year my total for the park was 127 bird species. This year, with earlier and more thorough exercise sessions, I am hoping to at least get into the 130s. I may not be able to do a full #My200BirdYear challenge, but at least I can have a go at a Ferry Meadows CP #My139BirdYear.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Monday 13.4.20

Easter Bank Holiday Monday saw a dramatic change in the weather, We had the heating on at home, and we needed it. Outside, the north-easterly was perishing. At Ferry Meadows its main effect was forcing the hirundines (martins and Swallows) down to skimming over the water for newly hatched insects. These included my first House Martins of the year. A Green Sandpiper by one of the scraped ditches on Heron Meadows in the park was also a park year tick, as was a drop in Great Black-backed Gull.
More exciting though were the two Little Ringed Plovers which called briefly and dropped out of the cold wind onto the gravelly Gunwade beach for a rest for about three minutes, before heading north-west. This small beach has drawn in several interesting waders over the years, but as it is one of the main places where people swim their dogs, they very rarely stay for any length of time. The cold wind was keeping the dog-walkers at bay, today, so the LRPs at least had a short, disturbance-free window for a quick preen.

Arctic Terns, Gunwade Lake, Ferry Meadows CP
Finally, there was an arrival of up to five Arctic Terns, which danced over the water providing a wonderful ID lesson in side by side comparison with the up to seven Common Terns on Gunwade Lake. The passing through of the Arctic Terns at Ferry Meadows is one of the great highlights of the spring, here!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Sunday 12.4.20

Easter Sunday was yet another, warm, sunny day. Things were very much as usual in the country park though a second pair of Common Terns had arrived. The only new bird which I managed to record for the year was a Sedge Warbler, singing from the reeds by a small ditch. This is spot on for the average arrival date for Sedge Warbler around here.
Has anyone else noticed quite how many Green Woodpeckers there are this year? I have been hearing them everywhere recently. The Blackcaps are also ubiquitous and seem to have modified their songs since arrival. They now seem a bit more fancy and varied in their singing, throwing in more pace changes and mimicry, presumably at a critical time for impressing females.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Saturday 11.4.20

Another lovely, warm, sunny day at Ferry Meadows CP, and so strange to not see the whole park heaving with partying, playing friends and families, barbecues and ball games. Instead it was dog walkers, joggers, walkers and cyclists. And birds, lots of birds. For the first time there were two Common Terns, clearly a pair (one ringed and one unringed). The male would go off an catch a fish to impress his mate and do a bit of classic wings down, tail raised, head up display on its chosen marker buoy.
A park year tick for me was a Yellow Wagtail which briefly dropped in to the small, gravelly beach of Gunwade Lake, by the Lakeside café. Other highlights included a fly-over Siskin and some wonderful displaying Great Crested Grebes.

Great Crested Grebes, Gunwade Lake, Ferry Meadows CP

A night listening session in our garden was superb, once the neighbours had quietened down. Highlights were my third Water Rail over in the week or so, plus a Moorhen flying directly south-west over the garden (which I managed to record, and will post a sound file of when I work out how!).

Friday, April 10, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Friday 10.4.20

It being Good Friday (and so a holiday), I had a bit of a longer ride today. Highlights included my first good view of a singing Willow Warbler this spring. It was a lovely yellow-breasted individual, which could even fool the unwary into thinking it was a Wood Warbler, if it wren’t singing the sweet descending whistled song. I also came across the nest of a Red Kite pair, high up in a stand of poplars (in what is presumably an old crows’ nest). One bird was sitting, presumably on eggs, while its mate perched in another poplar nearby.
The best migrant, though was a neat male White Wagtail, picking for flies among the horse manure in a nice short-cropped paddock.

Male White Wagtail, Castor Mill upper horse paddock

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Thursday 9.4.20

Last night (8th) I did one of my nightly listening vigils in our garden (between 9.30 and 11pm). I was rewarded with a calling Moorhen flying by and a repeated calling Tawny Owl (kewick call and a bit of a hoot), the first I have heard in my garden for many years. I also heard a weird high double call which sounds mammalian (and I have heard on three nights, now); I got a brief recording, so may be able to get some analysis.
Back at Ferry Meadows CP, things were pretty stable this morning. The Common Tern was still hanging around. I noticed for the first time today that it has a BTO ring on its right leg. But apart from telling this bird from any new unringed individual, this won’t give much information… Yellow Wagtails were reported yesterday afternoon, but I didn’t bump into any today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Wednesday 8.4.20

I have been keeping local bird records on a spreadsheet since 2003, mainly recording the earliest sighting of each species and a running total of my year lists, patch year lists big day totals and so on. So, I can quickly check when I usually see my first, eg Whitethroat. For that species, most of the first records are just after the mid-pont in April. The earliest ever was on 9 April 2011.
However, [drum roll] this morning on my cycle through Ferry Meadows CP, I had at least one singing Whitethroat (and possibly another, but it may have been the same bird moving a couple of hundred metres along a hedge). So this is my earliest ever Whitethroat by one day. (If you take into account the extra day for the leap year, this date becomes even less impressive!).
Otherwise, more of the same at FMCP, with the Common Tern still hanging around on its favourite buoy on Gunwade Lake, plenty of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, oodles of Green Woodpeckers, a single Swallow and a whole colony full of Sand Martins. I fancy a Yellow Wagtail, or a Wheatear next…

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Tuesday 7.4.20

Last night’s garden night sound session was disappointing (noisy partying neighbours, would you believe?), with only gulls heard (plus a single Fox bark). So on this morning’s exercise cycle through Ferry Meadows CP I felt I needed some birdy compensation. I saw/heard about 50 species as usual, with the undoubted highlight being my first singing Willow Warbler of the year. The sweet, descending whistled warble is a favourite song of former BW editor Kevin Wilmot (remember him?) and you can understand why: it is a delight on the ears! What a shame, the population of Willow Warblers has declined so much in recent years.
The weather was a bit too clear, sunny and still (with a morning frost) to be good for delivering passage birds, today. But there was still plenty of lovely bird song. The best sound for me was a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. And the visual highlight was a Long-tailed Tit gathering feathers bigger than its head to line its nest!

Orange-tip, our Peterborough garden (7.4.20)

Working at home post script: I just looked out of my office [kitchen] window and saw a pale butterfly flying past. It didn’t look like a Brimstone (the adults of which hibernate, so are early on the wing), so I grabbed my bins and dashed out. It turned out to be my favourite of all British butterflies, a male Orange-tip (my first of the year). And best of all, it stopped to sunbathe, wings open. So, I ran indoors, grabbed the camera and got this shot, with which I am pleased.
Then a Speckled Wood also arrived.

Speckled Wood, our Peterborough garden (7.4.20)

Monday, April 06, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Monday 6.4.20

A change in the weather, with a bit of a front, a bit of rain and wind brought the hoped for drop in today in the park, with a lovely adult Little Gull seemingly appearing out of thin air on Gunwade Lake. We get them just about every year in the spring at Ferry Meadows, but it seemed extra special this morning. Presumably the same Common Tern as yesterday also appeared about the same time, as did a flurry of Sand Martins and Swallows.

Adult Little Gull, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (6.4.20)

Also, a pair of Shelduck passed through (the second record of this scarce bird in the park in the last few days, and following a similar path to the last one, cutting off the corner of the meander of the Nene which contains the lakes. The other highlight for me was a flock of about 300 Golden Plovers whizzing through overhead, heading south. I saw 50 species this morning during my daily cycle.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Sunday 5.4.20

The undoubted highlight of my daily exercise cycle down through Ferry Meadows CP was the first Common Tern if the year. It looked pretty tired, sitting on a buoy for ages (presumably after a long migration from the south), but also did several circuits of the largest lake (called Gunwade Lake) and caught a few tiddlers, as terns do. It was one of those Common Terns which looks very dark billed (almost like a Roseate Tern in bill colour, from certain angles), which i think is a bit of a spring thing. We don’t tend to see them looking like that later into the summer.

Common Tern, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

Elsewhere in the park, it was business as usual, with Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Swallow the only other summer migrants. Ring-necked Parakeets have seemingly established a bit of a mini-colony in this part of Peterborough, and I am seeing and hearing them every day now. Whether I tick them though, is another matter…
Great Crested Grebe, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

Grey Heron, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

Oystercatcher, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

Red Kite, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

Song Thrush, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough (5.4.20)

I have resolved to have a garden night vigil every day (night), weather permitting. In the night of Sunday into Monday, I managed to hear fly-over Golden Plover, Moorhen, and best of all, Water Rail, calling a rapid squealing piglet call as it flew over. A garden tick for me, taking my Peterborough garden list to 89 birds.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Saturday 4.4.20

I had a bit of an extended cycle today, as it is the weekend! During the night, a couple of friends of mine who live just north of Peterborough (in houses about five miles apart) had both heard flocks of Curlews and flocks of Common Scoters flying over! So, naturally I was feeling ‘gripped’ to have missed out on this nocturnal action. So, to compensate I did a bit of photo-therapy and snapped a few birds on my travels through Ferry Meadows CP (like one of the showy herons there).
In all I recorded about 60 species, which is pretty good for a relaxing cycle birding session close to home. It was gloriously sunny which brought up a lot of raptors, particularly Red Kites and Buzzards, but also lots of Kestrels and best of all a sky-dancing pair of displaying Sparrowhawks. Talking of ‘sky-dancing’, I saw a strange thing, today, which I don’t remember seeing before: a Chiffchaff breaking off from singing to do a ‘butterfly’ display flight, flying slowly on quivering wings. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows are still the only summer migrants in the park, but it won’t be long now before birds like Common Tern and Willow Warbler arrive.
One other highlight today was a flyby Oystercatcher, which is quite a scarce bird in the park.
My final photographic treat was an obliging Great Crested Grebe: such handsome birds.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Friday 3.4.20

Some friends who are into ‘noc-migging’ [sound recording birds flying over at night, so on nocturnal migration, hence noc-mig] tell me last night saw decent movements of ducks over their gardens, including sea ducks, like Common Scoters. At Ferry Meadows CP, this morning, I had no such fancy stuff (at least on record), but I did record a fly-through Shelduck. That was a piece of wildfowl ‘patch silver’, you could say, as these are pretty scarce birds in the country park.
The lakes of Ferry Meadows CP are clustered on the inside of a meander of the River Nene, and many birds using the river’s flyway cut across the meander, and so the lakes on the journey inland or to the sea. This Shelduck, was heading up river and cut right across Gunwade Lake, where I saw it and ticked it as my 87th species for the park, this year.
This was ‘technically’ the ‘best bird’ of what turned to be a busy and excellent couple of early morning hours’ action in the park. Other highlights, though, included a notable increase in the number of singing Blackcaps, including some real virtuoso singers. I even saw a male carrying straw-like nesting material, black cap erect , as if to impress a nearby female.
Other flirtatious behaviour included a noisy pair of Water Rails, following each other closely and calling a loud, Great Spotted Woodpecker-like ‘pick pick’ call. I am not sure if I have seen two Water Rails quite so close together before, even appearing to feed on tadpoles. While enjoying the Water Rails, I heard a Cetti’s Warbler call, my first in the park in 2020 (88th species, not that I am counting… ). There were drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, lots of singing Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Chiffchaffs (but no singing Chaffinches, which have become decidedly scarce).
And as I was cycling back home past the woods, I glanced towards where a friend of mine had shown me a Red Kite nest a few weeks back. Not a foot away from the nest, a kite was perched, in the open, hiding in plain sight. I kept riding, not wanting to disturb it. A good morning.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Lockdown Diary: Thursday 2.4.20

Today was a bit of a change in exercise routine for me. I turned the other way out of my house and within ten minutes I was on the tarmac path between the Nene Valley Railway and the River Nene, in the Woodston area of Peterborough. The previous evening, someone had reported a singing Firecrest down there, so it was worth a quick change in my usual cycling route. Needless to say, there was no Firecrest, but the Chiffchaffs were singing there hearts out along the scrubby tree-fringed banks of the river.
A few Blackcaps have also appeared recently and it is great to hear their fluty songs. Lots of other birds were singing their little hearts out, including Wrens and Goldfinches. Other highlights included a few singing Cetti’s Warblers, at the little Woodston Ponds Wildlife Trust reserve, which is looking quite splendid (a mix of reed-fringed pools, scrub and taller trees). A Kingfisher whizzed by as well. I expect later this week to hear my first Willow Warblers singing. For now, the first signs of spring are putting some hope in my heart.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

End of March 2020

Last week in March, 2008, I was on 125 (inc 17 'elites'). Year total: 189
Last week in March, 2009, I was on 131 (inc 22 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2010, I was on 126 (inc 15 'elites'). Year total: 177
Last week in March, 2011, I was on 130 (inc 18 'elites'). Year total: 182
Last week in March, 2012, I was on 134 (inc 21*(22) 'elites'). Year total: 183
Last week in March, 2013, I was on 128 (inc 20*(21) 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2014, I was on 124 (inc 17*(18) 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2015, I was on 114 (inc 11*(12) 'elites'). Year total: 172
Last week in March, 2016, I was on 127 (inc 13*(14) 'elites'). Year total: 188
Last week in March, 2017, I was on 134 (inc 23*(24) 'elites'). Year total: 186
Last week in March, 2018, I was on 124 (inc 14**(15) 'elites'). Year total: 195 (NEW record)
Last week in March, 2019, I was on 136 (inc 22**(23) 'elites'). Year total: 192
Last week in March, 2020, I was on 131 (inc 19**(20) 'elites'). Year total: 190
 * () Modern counting with Smew as an 'elite'
 ** () Modern counting with Smew as an 'elite'; plus (starting 2018) following changes:
Demoted from 'elite' to 'core': Crane, Cetti's Warbler, Bittern & Egyptian Goose
Promoted from 'core' to 'elite': Jack Snipe, Avocet, Turtle Dove, Barnacle Goose

Here, once again, is the traditional state of my personal PBC (Peterborough Bird Club area) year list summary, as of the end March (2020).
This year, the first three months lacked a few old stagers, such as the regular adult Rough-legged Buzzard in the Thorney Toll area (Wryde Croft Windfarm), 'Lottie' the Long-tailed Duck and so on. However, the Roughleg dearth was overcome with the discovery by Jacob Williams of a nice juvenile in March. On New Year's Day, a flock of Scaup (four females, one drake) were found at March Farmers, which stayed on the flooded fields for months. There was also a Red-necked Grebe there, found around Christmas time and the Cattle Egret just north of Whittlesey was lingering. The first few months have been good for 'elite' waders, with Jack Snipe, Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit already bagged. A nice flock of 10 Tundra Bean Geese at Thorney Toll was highly unusual. Finally, I have already seen two Great White Egrets, including one found on a late March 'lockdown' morning at Heron Meadows, Ferry Meadows CP (the day after a couple of adult breeding-plumage Med Gulls dropped in during a snow storm onto Gunwade Lake, Ferry Meadows.