With crystal clear blue skies above as I performed the school run this morning, I was eager to get out on the patch today, but sadly I had to wait in for a delivery, so my time was limited, in fact I didn't get out till around 10:30am, but it was still a pleasant couple of hours on the patch today.
A Couple of Hours on the Patch
With Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing all around me as I walked it felt like today would be a good day, and I wasn't far wrong, strolling along the river I spotted a lone tern hawking the camp site lake, and on closer inspection, rather than the common tern I was expecting it turned out to be the very similar Arctic Tern (presumably the same bird seen by another local yesterday), a great passage bird, especially when you consider this bird will have flown up from Antarctica just to stop by here, before heading further north to breed and then will return south later in the year.
I hoped there would be more, but this was the only identified tern I saw (there was a second bird, or possibly this bird at, at the far end of the reserve, but only seen distantly and not identified down to species).
Chiffchaff against blue skies
Nature Reserve Work
As always seems to be the case when I visit the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve, there was work going on, scrub clearance (not sure this is the best time of year for that, our resident birds will already be nesting!) and fences being put in. This work meant there was little to see in the western end of the reserve, I didn't even bother stopping by the Aqueduct hide.
A brief stop in the farm hide held little interest as well, presumably the birds still being disturbed by the ongoing work, but a Sedge Warbler sang from deep within the scrub in front, another new arrival, the warbler did not show itself, but there will be plenty more to see and hear in the coming weeks.
For all the day's great light and beautiful blue skies, the photography opportunities were few and far between (evidence in the lack of images on this post), the stiff, icy wind that was whipping out over the declining waters of the reserve, and it seemed to be keeping many of the birds hunkered down, out of site.
A lone Redshank, walked the banks of the multitude of tiny islands, in the area between the Farm hide and the Stilt pits, picking its way passed the pairing up Canada Geese and Gadwall, but again the area was very quiet.
Even the stilt pits were quiet, very few ducks swam the cold, muddy waters, another Redshank, it's long orange legs gracefully kicking through the mud of one of the tiny islands, walked passed a much smaller wader, a plover of some kind. Close scrutiny showed this small, brown wader to be a Little Ringed Plover, but unlike I would have expected the bird was still in winter plumage! No obvious yellow eyering (although it could be seen just about), no thick black breast band, a very interesting bird.
At the far end of the middle path a Common Whitethroat sang from various locations, all deep within scrub, or nettle patches, although he did show in flight a few times. Another early migrant, and one that took my warbler count up to 5 for the day. Overhead a few House Martin and Swallow flew effortlessly on the wind, chasing flies and other winged insects.
Heading back along the River Ouse, her waters running fast and clear, my first ducklings of the year swam, four small yellow and brown balls of fluff accompanied by there cryptically coloured mother, while dad watched over them from the banks.
Mallard and Ducklings
An unremarkable journey through passed the aqueduct and up through the old lock area, the only highlights being: Close views of a couple of nesting Long-tailed Tit, hopping up onto dead sticks while constantly communicating with one another; A moments excitement as the pair, joined together and chased off an interloper; A mobile Blackcap, singing deep within bushes, popping out into the open for a brief moment.
Long-tailed Tit looking for nesting material
Long-tailed Tit looking for nesting material 2
Long-tailed Tit looking for nesting material 3
My couple of hours on the patch came to a close, the blue skies that had started my day, were beginning to cloud over with fluffy white clouds, as I said goodbye to the patch for teh day and headed home for lunch and the second school run of the day.
Ouse Valley Park, Milton Keynes
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