Slow birding at Mount Farm Lake

I woke up early in the morning to do some good birding while my girls were sleeping. I arrived to the Mount Farm Lake at dusk and enjoyed the choir of this little pit edged by willow trees and reedbed. A Eurasian Hobby chased a group of early Common Swifts but as they disappeared behind the trees I could not enjoy the aerial acrobatic show.

What was very strange to me that none of the goslings were seen in the area. Could this be possible that  not a single Greylag or Canada Goose goslings survived? There is no alternative wetland around so they should have been around if still alive. As I wrote before the predation by breeding Grey Herons could be one of the reasons of chick mortality.

This is the 2nd Mute Swan family with cute cygnets. Image was taken by an iPhone. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This is the 2nd Mute Swan family with cute cygnets. The image was taken with an iPhone. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One Mute Swan was still incubating while two of the three nesting pairs lead on their cygnets. The songbird activity was quite low but I could add some birds to the map including a food-carrying Dunnock and two territorial Garden Warblers.

Recorded breeding territories at the Mount Farm Lake by using GPS Log.

Recorded breeding territories at the Mount Farm Lake by using GPS Log app for iOS.

Bird list from the Mount Farm Lake:

Greylag Goose 33
Canada Goose 37
Mute Swan 22
Mallard 16
Tufted Duck 8
Great Crested Grebe 5
Grey Heron 3
Common Moorhen 1
Eurasian Coot 24
Eurasian Hobby 1
Common Wood Pigeon 15
Common Swift 8
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Common Magpie 13
Rook 1
Carrion Crow 3
Eurasian Wren 10
Common Chiffchaff 2
Eurasian Reed Warbler 14
European Blackcap 5
Garden Warbler 2
Common Whitethroat 1
European Robin 7
Eurasian Blackbird 4
Song Thrush 4
Dunnock 1
Common Chaffinch 4
European Greenfinch 1

An unidentified bunting

Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today I revisited my local birding path, the Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. I was a little bit late but it was still nice with lovely weather. The Blue Lagoon NR is a good place to enjoy the variety of bird songs at least in spring. Today was not any different. Every bird was singing, the buntings as well…

I always follow the very same routing and always submit my records to eBird still in the field using an iPhone 4s. Today I broke the route for a while when I heard an unknown bird song. Hearing an unfamiliar bird song would not normally surprise me much here, as some bird species are singing slightly differently in England than those in Hungary (e.g. Lesser Yellowthroat, European Robin) and not talking about those which never or rarely sing in Hungary (e.g. Dunnock). The song of local Common Reed Buntings doesn’t seem to be different though. The song I heard was a bunting-like song. First I thought it probably was a kind of rosefinch but when I replayed its song on xeno-canto.org it became obvious that the Common Rosefinch song was way different from what I was hearing. While I tried to identify which bird this could be, the bird was still singing. I was standing opposite the sun and could not see the bird well. All I saw was its colour tone. It’s belly was rather brownish instead of white and the head was similarly duller rather than black. I wasn’t able to identify the exact colours in detail due to bad light angle.

When I tried for other species on xeno-canto the song was almost identical to the replayed song of Ortolan Bunting. I replayed the song of a german and a polish bird at the scene but didn’t play the non-European songs. At home I listened to the Georgian birds which were also nearly the same with the song of “my bird”.

Ortolan Bunting – Germany

Unfortunately the bird was not singing too long as a dog walker let his dog jump into a small pool behind the bird. The massive splash scared the bird and it flitted in the bushes. In flight, in a bit better light, I saw a streaked brown back and the bunting-like whitish/white outer tail feathers. I tried hard to relocate the bird but as it stopped singing I wasn’t able to find it again.

Despite the song identification was close to 100%, I still was not able to say, it was an Ortolan Bunting, without doubt, as I couldn’t see its colours well. I would say it was a very weird bunting. I spent about two hours and 8 minutes in the reserve but never heard the bird singing again. Probably it is worth to revisit the site early in the morning when every bird is singing while dog walkers are still sleeping…

The spectacular Norfolk

After a successful business event on Saturday it was a gift to spend a whole day with my Hungarian friend, Attila Seprényi, around the northern coastline of Norfolk. He’s also a wader fan, living in Sweden, but been on a training here in the UK for a few weeks. I haven’t met him for about 15 years though we have been keeping in touch for a while now. I wish we had more time together but there is no complaint. Today was magical.

We headed early in the morning to north Norfolk to see waders and possibly find some life birds for Sepi. Departing before 3AM on Sunday was a very good idea. The roads were almost empty so by the first lights we arrived the Titchwell RSPB Nature Reserve. It definitely is one of my favorite sites in England, however I haven’t yet been to most of the other British birding sites.

While it is not visible on the image, the light fog was descended on the waters soon after sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

While it is not visible on the image, the light fog was descended on the waters soon after sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The waters were still and peaceful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The waters were still and peaceful. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Muddy islands were occupied by nesting Pied Avocets. They were not worried by our presence at all despite being about 5 meters away from us. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The morning was simply gorgeous. Birds sang everywhere in the misty willow scrubs and reedbeds. I simply wanted to freeze the moment when the sun tried to shine through the light fog. The pictures (taken by iPhone 4s) don’t really give the atmosphere back but yet gives some idea. Nobody was on the trails what was really good. The whole reserve was ours. As we entered the main footpath, I heard a Cetti’s Warbler singing and it soon jumped up to the top of the scrub. We couldn’t spot the scope on it as it moved fast and flitted from scrub to the willow trees. Eurasian Reed Warblers (birders in the UK have already named it Western Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus for some reason), Common Reed Buntings, Eurasian Wren and Sedge Warblers were singing everywhere. Attila spotted a Turtle Dove and we found a Western Marsh Harrier gracefully flying over the reedbeds. As we approached the tidal zone of the North Sea we had some excellent views on Common Redshanks, Common Linnets and Meadow Pipits. A nice number of Pied Avocets have been nesting on the main pool. I saw many birds incubating.

Sand dunes are a unique and beautiful part of the Norfolk coastline. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes are a unique and beautiful part of the Norfolk coastline. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Grassy sand dunes are like natural dams. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Grassy sand dunes are like natural dams. © Gyorgy Szimuly

When we crossed the beautiful sand dune we found ourselves at the beach with starting low tide. The view from the dune towards the sea was exceptional for us. A nice number of Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones and Eurasian Oystercatchers were just in front of us. That was really the moment of the morning birding. As we scanned the sea we found two Northern Fulmars flying away over the sea. Later, over the misty waters, more fulmars were coming but we also saw about 660 Common Scoters flying from east to west. Some were swimming close to us. Distant Northern Gannets were flying over the sea while Little Terns and Sandwich Terns were hunting close to the shoreline. In a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits a Red Knot, in advanced breeding plumage were seen. While watching feeding Sanderlings, a nice flock Brants Goose landed on the shallow pools.

Wide sandy beach at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wide sandy beach at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes from the sea side. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sand dunes from the sea side. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bed of Razor Shells were the favourite feeding site for dozens of Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. Some birds should be on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bed of Razor Shells was the favourite feeding site for dozens of Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. Some birds should be visible on this image. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Attila is scanning the mixed flock of waders. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Attila is scanning the mixed flock of waders. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The 'subject' of my favourite shorebird from my childhood, the Eurasian Oystercacther. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The ‘subject’ of my favourite shorebird from my childhood, the Eurasian Oystercacther. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Footprint of Eurasian Oystercatcher. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Footprint of a Eurasian Oystercatcher. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Marks by the running water. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Marks in the sand by the running water. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Eurasian Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and other songbirds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Eurasian Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and other songbirds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Informative interior of the main hides of Titchwell. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We could enjoy Meadow Pipit 'wall to wall' through our binoculars. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We could enjoy Meadow Pipit ‘wall to wall’ through our binoculars. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Complete list of birds seen at Titchwell:

Greylag Goose 16
Brent Goose (bernicla ssp.) 72
Mute Swan 4
Common Shelduck 21
Gadwall 6
Mallard  20
Northern Shoveler 4
Red-crested Pochard 1
Common Pochard 4
Tufted Duck 18
Common Eider (mollissima ssp.) 2
Common Scoter 660
Red-legged Partridge 2
Little Grebe 1
Great Crested Grebe 4
Northern Fulmar (glacialis ssp.) 6
Northern Gannet 3
Great Cormorant 8
Little Egret 2
Eurasian Spoonbill 1
Eurasian Marsh Harrier 2
Common Moorhen 4
Eurasian Coot 13
Northern Lapwing 3
Grey Plover 26
Common Ringed Plover (hiaticula ssp.) 14, (tundrae ssp.) 3
Eurasian Oystercatcher 155
Pied Avocet 46
Common Sandpiper 1
Common Redshank 12
Eurasian Curlew 5
Black-tailed Godwit 31
Bar-tailed Godwit 66
Ruddy Turnstone 105
Red Knot (canutus ssp.) 11
Sanderling 150
Dunlin 17
Black-legged Kittiwake 1
Black-headed Gull 130
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.) 220
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Little Tern 17
Common Tern 10
Sandwich Tern 6
Common Wood Pigeon 38
Common Cuckoo 1
Common Swift 7
Common Magpie 3
Eurasian Jackdaw 4
Eurasian Skylark 6
Barn Swallow 26
Great Tit 3
European Blue Tit 1
Eurasian Wren 9
Cetti’s Warbler 1
Willow Warbler 2
Common Chiffchaff 2
Sedge Warbler X
Eurasian Reed Warbler X
European Blackcap 3
Garden Warbler 2
European Robin 4
Eurasian Blackbird 4
Song Thrush 1
Dunnock 1
Meadow Pipit 9
Common Reed Bunting 9
Common Chaffinch 5
European Goldfinch 5
Common Linnet 8

We have been hesitating whether to stay on the Titchwell bach or try for another famous site, the Snettisham RSPB reserve. We we were not advised to go there as the high tide wasn’t good enough to enjoy the wader spectacle. More about it later…

Higher and wider sand dunes of Holme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Higher and wider sand dunes of Holme. © Gyorgy Szimuly

We then stopped at another nature reserve, the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve near Holme-next-the-Sea. That is a beautiful site with a mix of different habitats such as salt marshes, sand dunes, small pools and sandy beach. Is is edged by a golf course where Eurasian Oystercatchers were feeding.

As we approached the beach I found a Eurasian Oystercatcher nest with four eggs. Soon after a large family arrived and started to unpack for a picnic just 10 m away from the nest. I was worried about the nest so asked them kindly to consider moving a bit further on the beach to save that nest. Surprisingly they were cooperative and understood the situation. Within the restricted area we found several territories/nests of Eurasian Oystercatcher and Common Ringed Plover. At the western edge of this area a Common Redshank was guarding, possibly over its nest.

Nice variety of different coastal habitats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice variety of different coastal habitats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Warning sign for beach nesting birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Warning sign for beach nesting birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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‘Nest’ of Eurasian Oystercatcher outside the restricted area. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Eurasian Oystercatcher nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A bit closer view of the Eurasian Oystercatcher nest. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Black-legged Kittiwake, flying close to the shore, was a nice addition to the daily bird list. We sat on the beach where Sanderlings were feeding. The water pushed them towards us. They were mainly in transition plumages but many of them were in advanced stages of moulting. I loved to watch every feather detail through the scope. While Sepi tried to digiscope the Sandperlings, I spotted a Common Dolphin and a Common Seal.

The checklist of the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve:

Common Shelduck 6
Mallard 6
Great Crested Grebe 1
Northern Fulmar (glacialis ssp.) 1
Northern Gannet 13
Great Cormorant 3
Little Egret 2
Common Ringed Plover (hiaticula ssp.) 12
Eurasian Oystercatcher 44
Common Redshank 3
Black-tailed Godwit 25
Sanderling 130
Black-legged Kittiwake (tridactyla ssp.)  1
Common Gull 2
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.)  11
Sandwich Tern 12
Common Wood Pigeon 2
Common Swift 3
Common Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jackdaw 5
Eurasian Skylark 4
Barn Swallow 13
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Dunnock 2
Meadow Pipit 6
Common Linnet 4

Despite the high tide was just over we made another leg of the already successful trip in north Norfolk. Snettisham is the place for huge wader flocks and what else two wader lovers need than such an experience. I was happy to visit Snettisham even though we had been told the site wasn’t really worth to visit due to the lack of really high tide.

After a long walk towards the hides, where I have never been to, we saw the a large flock of waders flying over the sea wall. Slow walk turned into a hurried run to get a better view on the mudflat as soon as possible. The majority of the flock were Red Knots. I estimated about 1,500 birds in that flock. Reaching the top of the sea wall was a real WOW factor for both of us. Not only by the view of the vast area of the Wash but the huge number of shorebirds whirling over the fresh mud. That was one spectacular view we wanted to see. Conditions weren’t good indeed, yet it was amazing to see that high number of waders.

The vast mudflat of the Wash at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The vast mudflat of the Wash at low tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The large colonies of Black-headed Gulls are easy to watch from the hides. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The large colonies of Black-headed Gulls are easy to watch from the hides. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A pair of European Herring Gull attacked the Black-headed Gull colony without success. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A pair of European Herring Gull attacked the Black-headed Gull colony without success. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Non incubating Pied Avocets were feeding on the little pools of the mudflat of the Wash. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Non incubating Pied Avocets were feeding on the little pools of the mudflat of the Wash. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The water was running away from the shoreline so fast and birds moved accordingly to feed on the fresh mud. Another challenge was the haze over the area which limited the visibility. Anyway we estimated the numbers and tried to determine species composition. The most abundant species was the Red Knot, with about 4,500 birds, followed by nearly 2,500 Bar-tailed Godwits. Other birds included Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin a few Eurasian Curlew and Common Redshank. Interestingly here we saw more Bar-tailed Godwits and Black-tailed Godwits in full colourful breeding plumage than in Titchwell (None was in Titchwell!).

In the pits, behind the sea wall we watched the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls nesting on the islands. I was amazed by the large Pied Avocet colony. In the larger colony 64 birds were sitting on the ground. They were most probably incubating. On the western side of the pit another 10-20 birds were possibly nesting. In front of the first hide Black-headed Gulls were feeding in the ditch of the mudflat with 5 beautiful adult Mediterranean Gulls among them. Along the sea wall I mapped nesting Eurasian Oystercatchers and Common Ringed Plovers.

List of birds seen in the Snettisham RSPB Reserve:

Greylag Goose 8
Brent Goose 25
Canada Goose 2
Mute Swan 1
Common Shelduck 50
Gadwall 2
Mallard 8
Tufted Duck 2
Common Scoter 1
Grey Partridge 1
Great Cormorant 8
Little Egret 3
Eurasian Marsh Harrier 1
Common Moorhen 3
Eurasian Coot 4
Northern Lapwing 3
Grey Plover 65
Common Ringed Plover 25
Eurasian Oystercatcher 420
Pied Avocet 140
Common Redshank 20
Eurasian Curlew 10
Black-tailed Godwit 800
Bar-tailed Godwit 2,400
Red Knot 4,500
Dunlin 300
Black-headed Gull 650
Mediterranean Gull 5
European Herring Gull (argentatus ssp.)  60
Common Tern 8
Sandwich Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 12
Eurasian Collared Dove 1
Common Swift 7
Common Magpie 2
Eurasian Jackdaw 9
Barn Swallow 13
European Blue Tit 1
Sedge Warbler 5
Common Whitethroat 3
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 2
Dunnock 2
Pied Wagtail (yarellii ssp.)  2
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 2
European Goldfinch 3
Common Linnet 2

What a fantastic day we had. Today, again, verified that I have lived on a wrong part of the country and I have to find a home close, if not next to the Wash. Attila had two and half (non-native Red-legged Partridge) lifers today what he has been happy with (just like with the wader spectacle what amazed both of us).

A tribute to the Hungarian spring

This is my first spring in the United Kingdom. This is the first time I am witnessing the spring migration of British birds and experiencing the challenging Atlantic weather. Like every change this one was not any different in terms of losses. While I have still been feeling as a tourist in England, which normally excites me, I am a bit sad about this move – at least from a birding point of view. I have been missing quite a few bird species and songs what I should have already seen or hear if I was in Hungary.

The British birdlife is not much different than the Hungarian one if we just talk about the inland birds. The coastal birdlife is way different and for me that is one of the exciting parts of the British birding in the near future. However, from here I see Hungary a rather exotic Europen birding kingdom. Hungary is an awesome birding destination where the Western European fauna mixes with the Eastern European/Western Siberian avifauna.

I have been waiting for hearing the beautiful song of the European Golden Orioles, the powerful song of the Common Nightingale, the cracking song of a male Black Redstart from the chimney of the neighbour’s house or watching the diversity of breeding raptors in the nearby mountains. They neither will be heard nor seen this year – at least not in England.

'Insecting' White Stork on a field in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Insecting‘ White Stork on a field in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I won’t hear the bubbling calls of the European Bee-eaters as I won’t see frog-hunting White Storks on the fields neither.  Having a chance to watch a European Roller or Lesser Grey Shrike in England would be an exceptional momentum. But I don’t whine about it! I rather remember the good old days of my early birding times in Hungary and getting ready for exploring the British or Western European birds. I know it holds a couple of lifers for me. It is always a pleasure to have some!

First contribution to WeBS

Despite being a little bit exhausted by guarding over my Sweetheart with her battle of illness, I forced myself to wake up and go out birding. It was a kind of brainwashing to me. The other reason I wanted to go out to make my very first contribution to the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) what has been running by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). I used to participate in such programs in Hungary and I always enjoyed it. It is good to see my bird records used for bird conservation purposes. By the way, today is the World Migratory Bird Day (see the trailer here)!

I did not want to leave Andi all alone with Kea for the whole day so I changed the plan and covered ‘only’ two wetlands of Milton Keynes. Oh yes, the other reason was the Barcelona Formula 1 Grand Prix which I didn’t want to miss. Anyway it was a nice and productive morning in beautifully sunny, partly cloudy weather.

I started at the Mount Farm Lake which is the closest wetland to me holding a relatively good number of wildfowl. There was nothing significant found, but it was still nice to walk around the lake early in the morning and enjoying the bird songs. One of the benefits of going birding very early on Sunday morning is the lack of traffic noise. Brits are still sleeping at 5:30AM.

Sunrise behind the Mount Farn Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sunrise behind the Mount Farm Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Canada Goose goslings. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Freshly hatched Canada Goose goslings. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

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One of the Canada Goose families. Goslings hatched last week. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The first 10 days of these goslings will be critical as nearby nesting Grey Herons are their potential predators but Red Foxes are patrolling around as well. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

At my arrival two Common Terns stopped by at the lake but they soon disappeared. On the side pond Mute Swan cygnets have hatched. 9 cute little cotton skeins were swimming with the adults. At the Mount Farm Lake at least 3 pairs of Mute Swan are nesting at the moment. The number of Canada Goose goslings has dramatically decreased despite I found new families today. Probably there is a predation pressure by the local Grey Herons.

I found quite territorial Garden Warblers which I mapped them. I will map the songbirds in the coming days around the Mount Farm.

Complete list of birds counted:

Greylag Goose 28 (5 goslings)
Canada Goose 68 (6+5+11+1 goslings)
Mute Swan 14 (9 cygnets)
Mallard 12 (2+8 ducklings)
Tufted Duck 6
Great Crested Grebe 5
Grey Heron 4
Common Moorhen 5
Eurasian Coot 31 (2+4+4 chicks)
Common Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 39
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Common Magpie 9
Carrion Crow 8
Great Tit 1
European Blue Tit 5
Long-tailed Tit 3
Eurasian Wren 8
Willow Warbler 1
Common Chiffchaff 4
Sedge Warbler 2
Eurasian Reed Warbler 14
European Blackcap 4
Garden Warbler 4
Common Whitethroat 1
European Robin 6
Eurasian Blackbird 9
Song Thrush 2
European Starling 1
Dunnock 2
Common Reed Bunting 2
Common Chaffinch 2
European Goldfinch 2

Greylag Goose family. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Greylag Goose family. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

The next unallocated WeBS site, I offered BTO to cover, was the Willen Lake. I walked all around the north lake then the northern and western part of the south lake. It was quite productive though the waterbird numbers were not so impressive. Besides of the regular species I found a drake Mandarin Duck and a pair of Red-crested Pochard. The latter was new to my British list.

My entrance point to the north lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

My entrance point to the north lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

South corner of the north Willen Lake is home for the reed warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

South corner of the north Willen Lake is home for the reed warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the muddy-rocky island a Dunlin was together with Little Ringed Plovers. The Dunlin and one of the Little Ringed Plovers then left the area. They were actively flying together most of the time. While sitting in the hide the number of Common Swifts have increased from 6 to 25. On the other side of the island 2 Eurasian Oystercatchers showed defending behaviour towards the roosting Canada Geese (sign of nesting?).

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Habitat of Cetti’s Warblers. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

At the SE corner of the north lake I wanted to get a better view on the Cetti’s Warblers so I crossed the dense vegetation along the footpath and found myself in a nice floodplain-like habitat with scrub and mainly willow trees. I love these kind of habitats. A Cetti’s Warbler sang shortly after I entered the territory. The whole area was very noisy by different bird songs. After about 20 minutes scanning the bushes and trees I spotted two Cetti’s Warblers chased each other. While I watched the chasing birds another (different) bird was singing right to me. Also Garden Warbler was very active.

The south lake produced the regular species. Common Terns hunted over the water but a courtship behaviour was also seen. The most exciting sighting was a female duck species overflying the area towards the north lake. Based on the characteristics it probably was a female Mandarin Duck. I was happy by seeing an increasing number of swallows and Common Swifts. This increase was reported from other part of the county as well. Flocks are worth to scan for rarities! An Alpine Swift and some Red-rumped Swallows have been reported today from other parts of England.

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This Mute Swan was incubating just next to the footpath at the south lake. iPhone 4s. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Complete list of counted birds:

Greylag Goose 22/20 (8 goslings)
Canada Goose 39/6
Mute Swan 4/98
Mandarin Duck 1/1
Mallard 35/27
Red-crested Pochard 2/0
Tufted Duck 17/0
Great Crested Grebe 5/16
Great Cormorant 2/1
Grey Heron 6/0
Little Egret 1/0
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1/0
Common Moorhen 5/2
Eurasian Coot 33/14
Little Ringed Plover 3/0
Eurasian Oystercatcher 2/0
Dunlin 1/0
Black-headed Gull 6/0
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5/0
European Herring Gull 0/2
Common Tern 0/9
Common Wood Pigeon 22/1
Eurasian Collared Dove 3/0
Common Cuckoo 1/0
Common Swift 25/45
Eurasian Jay 1/0
Common Magpie 21/1
Eurasian Jackdaw 1/0
Carrion Crow 36/3
Skylark 1/0
Barn Swallow 6/30
Common House Martin 4/35
Great Tit 4/2
European Blue Tit 4/0
Long-tailed Tit 0/2
Eurasian Wren 2/3
Cetti’s Warbler 3/0
Sedge Warbler 6/2
Eurasian Reed Warbler 26/5
European Blackcap 6/1
Garden Warbler 9/1
Common Whitethroat 4/0
European Robin 4/10
Eurasian Blackbird 12/1
Song Thrush 4/0
European Starling 6/2
Dunnock 2/0
Common Reed Bunting 5/1
Common Chaffinch 5/3
European Goldfinch 8/3
House Sparrow 4/3

It would have been better to learn more about the BTO Common House Martin Survey and to place a few artificial nests to improve the local breeding population. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

It would have been better to learn more about the 2013 House Martin Survey, running by BTO, and to place a few artificial nests to improve the local breeding population. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Common House Martins are breeding in the Premier Inn next to the South Lake. iPhone 4s © Gyorgy Szimuly

Blue Lagoon NR family walk

After an all day idling we all packed up for a nice evening walk to the nearby Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve. The weather turned beautiful by the evening hours. I love those faint lights what paints the nature golden.

I haven’t seen any exciting species and numbers seemed to decrease as migrants passed further north yet it was nice to bird and listen the territorial song of different birds. Amazingly Kea was able to walk with us along the whole 4 km route.

This is the Mediterranean part of the blue lagoon. Warblers prefers this part of the reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This is the Mediterranean part of the blue lagoon. Warblers prefers this part of the reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today the Blue Lagoon was blue indeed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today the Blue Lagoon was blue indeed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Kea and Andi photographing the blooming Common Cowslip by their iPhones. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Kea and Andi photographing the blooming Common Cowslip by their iPhones. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Common Reed Buntngs and Common Whitethroats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Home of Common Reed Buntngs and Common Whitethroats. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Growing reedbed vegetation. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Growing reedbed vegetation. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Small pools are good for breeding Common Moorhens. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Small pools are good for breeding Common Moorhens. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The sign at the entrance suggests the Blue Lagoon NR a  good site for butterflies. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The sign at the entrance suggests the Blue Lagoon NR a good site for butterflies. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sedge Warbler was singing at one of the internal pools. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sedge Warbler was singing at one of the internal pools. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The best moment was to find a nest of Long-tailed Tits which I haven’t found for many many years. I mapped it by using the GPS Log app for iOS. I was a bit disappointed that no Common Cuckoo was heard or seen. This time of the year they should call loudly. I missed it a lot.

Here is the total list of birds seen:

Greylag Goose 1
Canada Goose 4
Mute Swan 2
Mallard 3
Common Moorhen 3
Eurasian Coot 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 6
Stock Dove 5
Common Wood Pigeon 10
European Green Woodpecker 2
Common Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 2
Rook 3
Carrion Crow 26
Sand Martin 1
Barn Swallow 5
Great Tit 9
European Blue Tit 9
Long-tailed Tit 4
Eurasian Wren 6
Willow Warbler 3
Common Chiffchaff 5
Sedge Warbler 1
Eurasian Reed Warbler 6
European Blackcap 10
Garden Warbler 2
Common Whitethroat 3
Lesser Whitethroat 1
European Robin 18
Eurasian Blackbird 17
Song Thrush 4
Dunnock 2
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 1
Common Reed Bunting 4
Common Chaffinch 2
Eurasian Bullfinch 6
European Greenfinch 3
European Goldfinch 2
Common Linnet 3

From Manor Farm to Willen Lake

I have never walked as much for the last 5 years as today but today was a really good birding day. Not only by the several wader species I saw but it was also nice to meet two of the local birders for the first time. First I spent some time with Simon Nichols, the local hot-news distributor, then the rest of the morning I was with Martyn Hopper, who later, kindly offered to lift me to Willen.

One of the recently opened quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

One of the recently opened quarry. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I arrived to Wolverton early in the morning shortly after 5AM. As there was no other option available I walked to the Manor Farm from the center of the village. It wasn’t that much fun as long as I reached the viaduct where birding has begun. First was a singing Grey Wagtail. OK, I could not immediately say, it was a Grey Wagtail. Not only because a Eurasian Wren tried to outsing the wagtail, and actually it did, but because I was not really familiar with the song of Grey Wagtail. Anyway I saw it singing and tried to remember it. This wasn’t the only head-scratching moment of today…

Some Northern Lapwings were already incubating. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Some Northern Lapwings were already incubating. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cloudless morning and the warm lights made Manor Farm magical. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Cloudless morning and the warm lights made Manor Farm magical. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Manor Farm itself. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Manor Farm itself. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the chilling morning I turned right to the northern path which directed me to the new quarry. The calls I heard there was I had been missing for a long time. Northern Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers were chasing each other what rather looked to be a joyful game than a real territorial behaviour. At least one bird was sitting on a nest and another was scraping a nest hollow quite close to the footpath. Here I saw 5 Little Ringed Plovers and 7 Northern Lapwings. Besides of two fishing Great Crested Grebes there were no other bird species present in the quarry.

When I turned back towards the farm about 40 Sand Martins were flying over another quarry under development. The most frequent bird was the Common Whitethroat which sang in many part of the area. Its song always brings some Mediterranean feelings into the birding. At the Manor Farm birding checkpoint I met a birder with a scope, so it was obvious to me to stop by. We started to look for birds together and had some chat. When he was picking up a Common Greenshank, what I missed to spot, he started texting it to someone. In the next seconds I got it and I realized I am with Simon, who has kindly been offering this service to the local birders. We found a Lesser Whitethroat what, again, was quite differently sang than our birds in Hungary. The Common Greenshank didn’t show again. Just before Simon had to leave but just after Martyn arrived I spotted the bird which was flying from the very far corner of the pit. It flew again but sadly Martyn could not see it so we decided to move away and try it from the other side. After a long walk we found ourselves on the northern footpath where I could spot the Common Greenshank again. It offered a relatively good view through the scope.

Common Greenshank seemed to be uncommon here. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Greenshank seemed to be uncommon here. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I estimated about 4 nesting pairs of Northern Lapwing, at least one incubating Little Ringed Plovers (several showed territorial behaviour) and one incubating Eurasian Oystercatcher. Common Redshank and Common Tern were seen mating.

Complete eBird list:

Greylag Goose 6
Canada Goose 14
Mute Swan 5
Gadwall 2
Mallard 8
Tufted Duck 7
Great Crested Grebe 5
Great Cormorant 1
Grey Heron 2
Little Egret 1
Common Buzzard 1
Common Moorhen 6
Eurasian Coot 9
Northern Lapwing 15
Common Ringed Plover 1
Little Ringed Plover 16
Eurasian Oystercatcher 2
Common Sandpiper 1
Common Greenshank 1
Common Redshank 2
Black-headed Gull 4
European Herring Gull 2
Common Tern 17
Common Wood Pigeon 9
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Green Woodpecker 5
Common Magpie 18
Eurasian Jackdaw 13
Carrion Crow 42
Eurasian Skylark 1
Sand Martin 40
Barn Swallow 3
Common House Martin 4
Great Tit 5
European Blue Tit 12
Eurasian Treecreeper 1
Eurasian Wren 5
Common Chiffchaff 1
Sedge Warbler 1
Eurasian Reed Warbler 1
European Blackcap 3
Common Whitethroat 10
Lesser Whitethroat 1
European Robin 3
Eurasian Blackbird 6
Song Thrush 2
European Starling 5
Dunnock 2
Western Yellow Wagtail (Yellow) (Motacilla flava flavissima) 4
Grey Wagtail 1
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarellii) 2
Reed Bunting 1
Common Chaffinch 1
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
European Greenfinch 4
European Goldfinch 6
Common Linnet 1

Compared to the Manor Farm, the Willen Lake was rather boring. There were just a few notable birds there. I heard the first Common Cuckoo, saw the first Eurasian Hobby and finally had a glimpse on a singing Cetti’s Warbler which song I wasn’t familiar either. Thanks to xeno-canto I found out quickly what that powerful song was. On the north lake island several pair of Grey Herons and possibly Little Egrets started to breed. No waders have been found despite water level was low.

Just hatched

I love reaction and admiration on kids face when looking at baby birds. I loved to see Kea’s happiness this afternoon while looking at the adorable goslings. After having some shopping fun in CMK we walked on the south side of Mount Farm Lake in Bletchley. Birding wasn’t a primary target but I promised Kea to show her the newly born goslings at the lake. I shortly found them right where I had seen the first family a few days ago. Several families of Canada and Greylag Goose were present along the footpath. She was so cute and excited to see them and started to explain to Andi (The Mom) that they were just born. It was such a heartwarming moment for me. I iPhoned some moments what I share here.

Another nice moment was to listen a very long beautiful song of a Garden Warbler. I just loved to stay next to the bush and listen it.

Geese1

Kea and the Greylag Goose. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Geese2

The footpath with geese and goslings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Geese3

One of the Greylag Goose families. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Geese4

Grouped Canada Goose families with cute goslings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Geese5

Protecting behaviour of adult Canada Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

 

The ‘From Billions to none’ story: not a fairy tale

Discover the incredible story of the end of the passenger pigeon and why, 100 years later, it is important to remember and act. This film by David Mrazek is in the works and our Indiegogo crowdfunding site has gone live.

Discover the incredible story of the end of the passenger pigeon and why, 100 years later, it is important to remember and act.
This film by David Mrazek is in the works and our Indiegogo crowdfunding site has gone live.

Today I came across a unique and touching conservation initiative what stopped me for a while. A film on the story of the extinction of the famous and once abundant bird species of North America, the Passenger Pigeon, is really heart-breaking. The project is aimed to raise public awareness of the responsible living in our natural world through the loss of the Passenger Pigeon. The film is under production which summarizes the life history of this species and alerts us humans to live with other creatures in the world in harmony.

Joel Greenberg, kids and David Mrazek filming the proceedings. Image courtesy of the 'From Billions to None' Project

Joel Greenberg, kids and David Mrazek filming the proceedings. Image courtesy of the ‘From Billions to None’ Project

The film is far beyond a documentary of the population decline of a bird species from a billion to zero. It is going to be a beautiful case study what every person has to see. It talks about conservation issues and raise public awareness to keep biodiversity on a healthy level. The author of the Project Passenger Pigeon, Joel Greenberg said  in the movie trailer:

“We think it is a really important story because we don’t want to repeat it. We’d like people to consider current issues and how they can lead more sustainable lives.”

In the 10 minute trailer Joel interviews a young boy about the importance of preserving nature and animals. The meaningful response of the young boy is the essence of the message of the film:

“…if there is no nature, there is no us!”

Like many other good conservation projects, this one also lacks appropriate funds to complete the film. However we all can change it by donating on their fundraising page.

http://igg.me/at/billions-to-none/x/3169565

Watch the trailer of the film

Watch From Billions to None Promo Video from David Mrazek on Vimeo.