Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Grebe City - 6th March 2015

Big news on the bird front from the weekend was the sudden arrival of a bunch of Great Crested Grebes - seven to be precise.

Myself and Samuel had turned up on the Friday 6th March on the way back from carrying out the WeBS count at a few sites on the Lizard to finally meet one of the regulars (Farleigh Rice - nice to meet you), and news that there were a pair showing outside the Stuart Hutchings hide. Being the non-twitcher that I am though, went to the Southern Hide first to check and fill the feeders, of course ...

The usual suspects were on show here of course, although a Raven in flight and the large white Muscovy Duck (readily confusable for a Mute Swan or even a Snow Gooses, with enough imagination?) were more unusual perhaps.

Raven in flight

Coot, Snipe, a bunch of Wigeon, and two Little Grebes - one of the latter appearing to be in full breeding dress were on show outside. I also managed to see my second newt of the year (presumably the commoner Palmate Newt) - as the one of the grebes swimming across the water was carrying one - a little sadly perhaps (for me; the grebe was quite a bit happier, and the newt probably really rather upset with the whole situation.)

Crossing over to the other side and it soon became apparent an influx of Great Crested Grebes had occurred - 3 pairs, two of which were showing varying degrees of amorous display and a further single. Along with at least another ten Little Grebes and the Slavonian also showing well at times it was a veritable grebe-fest! Interesting to wonder were they had all come from - the WeBS count on the Lizard had revealed there were still 11 on Loe Pool. Not checked Argal Reservoir yet where 7 or so have been hanging out all winter, but will get back on that one. Certainly they seem to be on the slight increase in the county of late.

Great Crested Grebes engaging in varying degrees of their iconic pair bonding ritual

 And a relatively dowdy Little Grebe 'scurrying' past

Ten distant Tufted Ducks, a quartet of closer Goldeneye (including the first smart male in quite a while), plus one other distant bird, and a handful of Wigeon, Mallard and Teal helped complete the lineup.

Goldeneye - smart birds those drakes

Enjoying the grebes and their displaying in the shifting waters we were also treated to a brief flight and sortie into the scrape (now wholly integrated into the waters of the reservoir, but you can still just about make out the outline of the bank from the ripples/wavelets/vegetation) from the long-staying Slavonian Grebe - nice. Still pretty much in winter plumage though, unfortunately.

Slavonian Grebe showing a nice bit of underwing

At least one Little Egret was still present (perhaps one day we'll suddenly notice they've gone for the season, and then be a little sad?), and our grebe-induced reverie was interrupted by a distant raptor over the far side - a Peregrine which landed on one of the distant fence posts bordering the lakeside footway. Excitingly, it then took off and headed our way, before repositioning into one of the scrubby windswept trees on our side.

Peregrine Falcon in flight. Rubbish shots of course, but just too exciting not to.
They always get the pulse racing a little ...

I returned the following day as a meeting had been arranged to discuss the proposed scrape from the Southern Hide. Tony B plus two offspring, and Greg were also present - it was good to get more of a handle on the score and meet on site. Unfortunately the morning's sun had disappeared long since.

The feeders were of course still dripping - 3 Blackbirds a new maximum, but 3 each of Long-tailed Tit, Reed Bunting, and wholesome numbers of the other regulars too of course. Three House Sparrow too! A Kingfisher on the far side was good (hadn't been reported for a while now). The Boring Old Water Rail present of course.

GSW - still playing hard to get

Checking out possible digger access, I inadvertently flushed two Woodcock from the woodland near the waters edge, exploding up from the ground near my feet, heavy chunky birds, rusty rump and tail and a side glimpse of the stout wooden bill ... they are always great birds to see. And if only I'd seen them before they'd seen me ...

As with any wooded site in Cornwall, it may be possible to catch up with these beasties around or after dusk as they move between daytime roosts in the more sheltered woods and feeding areas in damp fields for the night - a stakeout another time may well be in order.

Checking out the hide with Greg after, we picked up slightly lower numbers of  Great Cresteds and Goldeneye - down to 5 and 3 (no male) respectively. What we did spot distantly in the fields beyond, however, was a group of feeding Canada Geese (ultimately c.40) with what appeared to be 2 Greylag in amongst them. Hot-footing it over there before the light completely failed I was able to confirm they were indeed Greylag Geese and not obviously escaped farmyard geese - although one did have some odd paler feathers where it perhaps shouldn't have - bah! (Admittedly the whiteness of the feathers may be accentuated in post-processing, in the gloomy light this was not readily apparent at the time).

Greylags - the odd white feathers perhaps indicating some untoward influences at least ...

I also encountered my first Stithians Common Toad of the season along the way on the pathway itself ...

Bufo bufo, probably a male

Highlights from previous visits - still 7 Long-tailed Tits together back on the 27th Feb, 3 Fieldfare also over on the workparty monday (as I was carrying the tea tray back up t' track), and a few other bits and bobs.

No Weasels yet (see here if you have managed to as yet remain immune from this nationally breaking and very important story, are now a little intrigued and wish to be just a little amazed (with more on the internet at large of course, including various slightly funny/unfunny/hilarious memes (spoofs) on the subject)).

Looking forward to the first spring migrants of the year - the first Wheatears, Sand Martins and others have now been hitting the UK for a while now. Of course it will take a while before the main arrivals and the floodgates open, but eyes to the skies (and the bushes, waterways and other random scrubby habitats wherever a stray migrant may possibly be lurking ... )

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