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.

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