Peterborough Bird Club Trip Reports

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Rutland Trip Report

Rutland Water, 20 March 2005
A large group of PBC members assembled in the Egleton car park on a cold and damp Sunday morning. After being greeted by trip leaders Trevor Williams and Will Bowell (and the strange sight of a pair of Egyptian Geese sat in a tree), we then ambled down the lane towards the imposing Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre. A number of us were distracted by the hide in front of the centre and had a quick glimpse of the Tree Sparrows on the feeders and a good showing of more familiar garden feeder species.

Once in sight of the Centre we were greeted by Tim Appleton, the Reserve Manager, and ushered towards the desk where permits were purchased (its worth noting that groups and those of a certain age do get a slight discount). After buying our permits we headed off through the woods surrounding the Centre, having more views of the Tree Sparrows as they “chirped”, noisily around the many nest boxes placed around the site.

Whilst walking towards the hides the group passed a few dead trees in the middle of a field. Will happened to comment on the fact that they look good for Little Owl and with that he promptly found one. A few members weren’t convinced of course that the leaders hadn’t had this bird staked out on their pre-trip recce-ing in the early hours, but they assured us it was pure fluke!

At Tern Hide many people had their first Sand Martins of the year, as a group of five birds flew up high against the grey, cold sky; no doubt wondering why on earth they had bothered leaving Africa in the first place! A small flock Golden Plovers wielded over the islands of Lagoon 1, including some sporting the first signs of summer plumage; the black belly. Other birds present included Curlew, Dunlin, Pintail, Goldeneye and Ruddy Duck.

Surprising to some, but Oystercatchers are actually summer visitors to inland sites so to see these and Sand Martins contrasted nicely to the many winter visitors still present such as the Goldeneye and Wigeon.

After returning to the Birdwatching Centre we had lunch and a welcome hot drink. After lunch we visited the northern hides. We saw some Goldeneye displaying in Lagoon 2 together with Little Grebes in breeding plumage. The head bopping motion of the Goldeneye is always a delight to see, and at this time of year is always done with new vigour for the oncoming breeding season.

A Kingfisher was a nice find in the opposite bank; it sat preening for all to see and was a nice change to the usual flash of blue view most people get, as the bird flies away!

On our return to the car park we learned of a female Scaup on the Fishponds from Tim Appleton. Whereupon we all decamped to the Fishponds part of the reservoir, north of the village of Egleton. After quizzing some birders already there we eventually found the Scaup.

Eventually, when the bird awoke the group could examine the main identification features which made this a female Scaup. The bigger build, rounder head (no tufts of course), extensive white round the bill and the different shade of brown all stood out. Surprisingly, the Scaup blended in quite well when roosting.

After returning to the car park, details of a long-staying Great Grey Shrike in nearby Oakham were discussed and a number of the group decided to head off and try and re-locate the bird. Unfortunately, despite much scanning of the railway land it had been inhabiting in previous sightings, no views were to be had.

Despite the gloomy weather the final trip list totalled 70 species.

Peterborough Bird Club's March 2005 Rutland Trip Report
by Chris Monk

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Winter Wildfowl and Wind

Thrampston Gravel Pits, 19 February 2005

The Thrapston and Titchmarsh Gravel Pits form the northern end of a chain of gravel pits stretching from Northampton; this chain of gravel pits is nationally important for its wintering waterfowl and regularly holds in excess of 20,000 wintering water birds.

Both complexes allow for circular walks of 2-3 miles or a longer figure of 8 walks of 5-6 miles. The walking is easy although muddy in places and some parts are impassable if the River Nene has flooded its banks. In winter the site is good for common water birds and occasionally turns up something good. In summer the scrubby habitats surrounding the pits are good for warblers and I have seen Nightingales there during spring passage.

The winter of 2003/04 saw 3 Bitterns over-winter at Titchmarsh and it was these and Goosander that were the original target species for the PBC trip. The relatively mild winter of 2004/05 meant that no Bitterns had been seen regularly at Titchmarsh so the walk focused on the water birds of the lake.

Following a late change of meeting place to Thrapston, half a dozen or so keen members braved the biting cold wind to explore the Thrapston/Titchmarsh Gravel Pit complex.

We walked along the edge of Thrapston Town Lake which gave us a chance to look at Pochard, Great-crested Grebes and Goldeneye. The Goldeneye were already engaging in their distinctive “head bobbing” display and proving challenging to try and point out to people. “It’s behind that Pochard… nope, it’s just dived…”; eventually I think the whole group managed to catch up with some.

Town Lake also gave us the first chance to see Goosander, with two females and a male clustered near the bank. Whilst the males are very distinctive we took the opportunity to have a discussion about how to pick out birds in flight (flying cigars) and the difference between female/immature goosander and Red-breasted Merganser.

A Green Woodpecker gave good views in flight to everybody and a lucky few managed to pick it up again as it sat in a nearby willow. At this point we were joined by a flock of Long-tailed Tits and everybody enjoyed watching these attractive balls of feathers as they foraged and twittered nearby.

The walk continued into Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve, which is managed by the local Wildlife Trust. A Stock Dove was sat on top of one of the owl nest-boxes trying not to get blown off and eventually gave up. We also decided that we had had enough of the biting wind and retreated to the nearby hide to have a closer look at the birds on the main lake. Sharp eyed watchers managed to pick out Gadwall and Tufted duck amongst the flocks of Canada geese, Coots and Mallards. Another 8-10 Goosanders were also seen. Grey Herons were a common sight and were often seen flying in and out of the nearby heronry.

I know the site quite well and know that the Little Grebes are generally only seen on one part of one pit. I’d said this to the group and bet that we’d find some Little Grebes there. Initial looks revealed a flock of Wigeon feeding on the grass banks, their whistling calls immediately transporting us back to the north Norfolk coast; but no Little Grebes… Eventually two were found in a sheltered bay and my reputation was intact!

Whilst people were speculating about the origin of the white Aylesbury duck on the lake, Peter Beesley picked out what for many was the bird of the trip. A superb male pintail! Just as it swam out of view, the “rest of the group” (those people that I hadn’t managed to find at the original meeting point to divert them to Thrapston) arrived. We compared notes, they had seen a Shoveler on a lake that we hadn’t looked at, gave them directions as to the location of the Pintail and went our separate ways. Our walk back to the cars in Thrapston was fairly quiet, with a few Lapwing seen flying over.

In all a total of 40 species were seen, and members were introduced to a new site that holds promise at most times of the year.

A chance phone call in the week told me that a group of travellers had taken up residence at the original meeting point. The car park there is small anyway and would not have fitted both travellers and members’ cars. The decision was taken to move the meeting point to Thrapston. I managed to put this out on Peterbirder but unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to make the changes on PBC website. Despite sitting at the original meeting point until after the start time to re-direct people we still managed to miss a group of people.

I’d like to apologise to those members that I didn’t manage to find and hope that the “self guided” walk made up for it.

Peterborough Bird Club's February 2005 Northamptonshire Trip Report
by Nicola Orchard

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Very Happy New Year

North Norfolk, 9 January 2005
New Year’s birding in Norfolk has become something of a tradition for the club, with a well rehearsed itinerary and a good track record of 100 plus birds on most previous occasions. This year’s event was as popular as ever; and close on thirty club members assembled at the traditional meeting point of the wet weather shelters on Hunstanton Cliffs, with various car loads eagerly exchanging their early morning lists.

Fulmar at Hunstanton Cliffs, Norfolk, 09.01.05. © William Bowell

Despite some eager beavers being in position at the Golden Pheasant site for dawn neither they,
nor other groups were successful in seeing this increasingly elusive species. One group of early birds found time for an excursion into Sandringham Woods to achieve a pre-meet list of 40 species!

Other cars had secured difficult-to-get species including Short-eared Owl and Grey Partridge. Those who had taken the detour to the boat ramp were generally ill-rewarded with no interesting grebes or sea ducks present and no sign of any Purple Sandpipers which you would usually expect to find here, at this supposedly loyal spot. For one individual (the trip leader) this proved to be a bad omen indeed, as his scope blew over in the strong wind and received a fatal ‘injury’!

After a rather slow sea watch (or rather watching the sea!) the party split into two groups. Those taking the more leisurely itinerary, ably led by Gordon Hamlett - the beginner’s friend - went on to Holkham Woods and Lady Anne’s Drive. The razzabouts, less-than-ably led by yours truly went first to the Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe in search of the much declined, Willow Tit. They failed in this mission, but did make contact with its more common cousin, Marsh Tit, and a variety of other woodland species. Common Buzzard- never an easy bird in Norfolk- brought up 60 for his group. Their four car convey, sped off to Stiffkey Fen where Lesser Yellowlegs, a lifer for a number of the party, was quickly ‘in the bag’.
Lesser Yellowlegs at Stifkey Fen, Norfolk, 09.01.05. © Josh Jones

On to Lady Anne’s Drive where, seconds after parking the cars this group were lucky enough to observe a male Peregrine perform a low level fly past – much to the consternation of the local Lapwing flock.

A brisk yomp across the salt flats at Holkham was rewarding with the spectacle of 29 Shorelarks and close on 200 Snow Buntings seen at close range. A flock of Fieldfare prior to a hurried lunch brought up the 80. A brief encounter with Gordon’s group confirmed that there was little of particular interest in Holkham Woods despite their thorough thrashing- the most exciting species being several Brambling close to the main gate.

With time on our hands- well about 20 minutes! – the razzabouts went to collect the Bramblings. A brief dash into the surrounding parkland to obtain Green Woodpecker yielded the amazing bonus of a male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker- much to the delight of the whole group. This elusive species was seen well and even photographed!

On to Choseley Drying Barns for more farmland species and for most, but not all (Gnash!), a thirty strong Waxwing flock fly over! Titchwell was our last stop and before reaching the shop we had added the three Redpoll species to the day list, taking us over 90. A brisk walk to the sea added more expected species but, on this occasion, no sign of Sammy the Stilt. Activity on the sea had quietened down according to a break away group of PBC birders, but Red-throated Diver at 105 brought the day to a close… but not quite!

A pager message indicated that the previously reported White-tailed Sea Eagle had been relocated ten miles inland. A twilight dash saw members of the group watching the sun go down over a damp wood near Great Bircham- but alas no sign of the ‘flying barn door’ on this occasion. A small set-back in an otherwise perfectly executed New Year birding century.

Peterborough Bird Club's January 2005 Norfolk Trip Report
by Trevor Williams