A fantastic weekend of passage waders - up to 10 species present on monday - was topped by the appearance of a wryneck on tuesday. A truly fantastic bird. Described by my colleague Paul as "like a squashed bittern", this small camoflagued migrant woodpecker is now a very rare visitor to the UK in spring and has attracted quite a few local birders. It has spent most of its time eating ants in the edge of one of the fields nr little hanger hide.
Back to those waders - usual residents/breeding birds such as lapwing, redshank and little ringed plover were joined by 3 spotted redshank, several greenshank, common sandpiper, dunlin, 2 or 3 wood sandpiper, several whimbrel, bar-tailed godwit and ringed plover. A particularly obliging pair of lapwings have brought their brood of 4 tiny chicks onto the pool in front of west mead hide. See the photo - believe it or not, the female is brooding all 4 chicks.
What a week! We got off to a good start with the osprey, garganey and selection of waders, were distracted mid-week by the arrival of a wryneck and today have been graced with the brief (but very welcome) presence of 2 spoonbill. Thanks to the lovely Clive Hope, Toby and I rapidly deserted the visitor centre and headed down to Hanger View. Just in time ...... a brief view of them feeding in the far pools on the North Brooks, before they took off and flew northwards. Now Toby is pretty new to this bird-watching lark and has had a week of 'firsts' - garganey, spotted redshank, hobby, spoonbills - not a bad start at all.
Down at West Mead, there are now two broods of lapwing chicks and we've just spotted our first moorhen chick (up to 5 now!) in the pond just outside the centre window. The nightingales continue to perform magnificently - I think all 500+ people who came to our nightinagle festival last weekend heard them. Hobby are being seen daily, mainly on the South Brooks above the river bank.
On the way back from seeing the spoonbills (when we were taking it a little more slowly) we saw common blue and small copper butterflies and a broad-bodied chaser.
If you haven't had chance to visit , if it helps at all, I missed out on the wryneck too!
Now some of you may admire my determination (others may just call me stubborn) but I tried, yet again, this morning to find and admire the spotted flycatchers which seem to be nesting above Jupp's View. Needless to say, I failed! But I found and enjoyed plenty of other wildlife in compensation...all 9 little fluffy humbugs (the shelducklings) are still doing well and were pursuing 2 ringed plovers who were competing with them for the best muddy spot on the North Brooks. In Nettley's picnic area, there was plenty of warbler action with a family of common whitethroat hopping about the bramble bushes, a garden warbler in song, and a pair of blackcaps at either end; the males happily singing away and the females with their lovely conker-brown heads searching for food. A bit of sunshine had woken up some of the insects with speckled wood butterflies, a broad bodied chaser dragonfly, and my first large skipper butterfly of the year, making the most of the early morning warmth. Back along Green Lane for a fabulous plump, pink, male bullfinch and, on the very last day of May, a nightingale still performing beautifully in Fattengates Courtyard. So, flycatchers or not, I've still got a smile on my face.
Well the birds definately won out against the bugs this morning. A pre-work stroll to see if the garganey were still on the North Brooks proved to be successful, although I only found 1 of the males out from Hanger View today. A smattering of waders were also present; common sandpiper, a couple of little ringed plover, 3 redshank and, unusually for here, a bar-tailed godwit. Around to West Mead Hide I was enjoying great views of a greenshank, when 2 more greenshank, 3 beautiful sooty-coloured spotted redshank and a further male garganey flew in - lovely! If you're popping into West Mead Hide keep a look out for our first (known) brood of lapwing chicks for the year. I'm not just being sentimental; lapwings are one of the key bird species that we are trying to help with our habitat management work here. So they are not just cute, they are really rather important too. Almost forgot to listen to the nightingales!
Hobbies - at least 2, possibly more, were putting on a fantastic show hunting dragonflies over the north brooks yesterday (best seen from Nettley's hide or Jupp's view). A marsh harrier was also seen hunting the brooks. Spotted flycatchers can be found nr Jupp's view and on the edge of the heath (nr the black pond). Lots of young birds are emerging from various sites around the trail - mostly blue and great tits, but there was a brood of flightless, clumsy and comical magpies nr the centre this morning. Judging by the noise coming from various nest sites, house sparrow fledglings will also be all around the visitor centre very soon. Young lapwings are present nr west mead hide and on the north brooks, and a pair of shelducks have 9 tiny ducklings in tow. A couple of male wigeon are still present. Nightingales (at least 3) were still singing well nr the visitor centre, along with garden warbler, blackcap and lesser whitethroat - I got a picture of one of the nightingales (see gallery).