Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Spring fun at Paxton Pits

Very tardy posting this due to work and study commitments, unfortunately I have had to put on my big prioritising hat and blogging went right to the bottom of the pile! Anyway, on the last Sunday in April it was the West Midland Bird Club's monthly jaunt, this time to Paxton Pits nature reserve in Cambridgeshire. I'd only been once before and was looking forward to hopefully seeing some Nightingales again.

When we arrived the weather was somewhat dank and gloomy; however we had a nice start with Great Crested Newts in the pond by the visitor Centre. We set off with the intention of tracking down a Ring Ouzel that had been reported on the reserve. On our way to the spot we picked up plenty, including a Willow Warbler collecting nesting material right next to the path, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Song Thrush, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit. We heard but didn't see Nightingale. Upon reaching the Ring Ouzel spot, it wasn't long before the Ouzel was located! Luckily it was not far off, hopping through some weedy grass, and I could get a good view of its markings (it was a female). This was only my second ever sighting of this species, my first having been only the previous day in the Quantocks! Ring Ouzel has been my bogey bird for years but no more.... guess I'll have to pick a new one now! 

The Ring Ouzel spot.
As if the Ouzel mayhem wasn't enough, while we were watching it a Hobby flew over too - pow! As the weather picked up,  we continued over to the river where we saw several Swallows, then a few Gadwall on one of the lakes, before looking out over the fields to find a pair of Stock Doves, a Jay flying over, and a Wheatear. I heard a snippet of distant Lesser Whitethroat song so we set out across the fields to investigate! We soon found the bird's territory, it was singing away with gusto, however it proved even more elusive than usual. I managed to get a fairly good look at it as it flew between bushes and perched briefly in clear view before disappearing deep into the undergrowth, it was a while before everyone got a view they were satisfied with though! 

Eventually we continued on, seeing a pair now of Wheatears, several roving Linnets, a Green Woodpecker and a superb Sedge Warbler, my first of the year. Now that spring is well and truly upon us, I was looking out for plants and flowers again to try and improve my ID skills. Here are a few - some I already knew, others that were new to me.

Couldn't remember whether or not I'd seen this before - if so I'd obviously forgotten it. I think it is Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium).

Lovely Cuckoo Pint (Arum maculatum).

Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).
This was another new one, I think it is Changing Forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor).

We stopped briefly at the centre for a quick drink and snack, before making another attempt for Nightingales. Again we heard but didn't see them.... then Mike P phoned to say he'd found a Yellow Wagtail, so we thought we'd give that a go! Alas it had departed already by the time we arrived, but we did see a Fox enjoying the sun at the edge of a field, and a Muntjac slipping through the long grass, so it was worth the diversion. Sadly we were by now pretty much out of time so we set off back to the coach, keeping our eyes and ears peeled for Nightingale. We were unsuccessful, but did see a pair of Common Terns resting on a branch over the lake. Although we hadn't managed to set eyes on a Nightingale, it had nonetheless been a great day with both unexpected species and some good year ticks!

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