TUESDAY 18 MARCH
Although largely dry, it was a dreary and grey type of day with an increasingly cold pretty strong WNW wind. Temperatures peaked at around 12 degrees C but it felt much colder in the strong wind.
I reserved today for another crack at LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER, where I concentrated my efforts in BEDFORDSHIRE where at least 1 pair bred successfully in 2013.....
I started my search at FLITWICK MOOR SSSI (TL 0435), arriving on site at 1030 hours. Nothing was doing in the usual area behind the clay shooting range but as I walked between the two bridges, a 'woodpecker commotion' at around TL 047 353, revealed the presence of a pair of LESSER SPOTS having an argument with a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Both birds were aggressively mobbing the Great Spot leading me to suspect that they were perhaps guarding a potential nesting hole, the male having its red crown raised. If you park at TL 046 354, enter the wood and turn left at the reserve sign. Follow this main track down to the first boardwalk and bridge and turn right. Around half way between here and the next bridge and metal railings, the flooded woodland on the left was harbouring the birds - activity continuing for over 15 minutes.
The area of trees where the Lesser Spots were
Turn right at this bridge crossing
What was most amazing about the reserve was its incredible number of WINTER WRENS, with no less than 26 territories, by far the most densest I have ever recorded this species in Britain.
Otherwise, a typical selection of Birch woodland species but with the noticeable absence of Nuthatch - Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker (4), Common Treecreeper (6 singing males), Blue, Great, Coal & Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Common Blackbird (2), Redwing (9), Fieldfare (1), Goldcrest (2), Bullfinch (pair), Chaffinch (6), Jay (2), Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon and Common Buzzard (pair).
Hoping to find yesterday's Little Ringed Plover, I then visited BROOM GP, where GYPSY LANE EAST held just 1 Ringed Plover, a pair of Oystercatchers, pair of Common Redshanks, 18 Black-headed Gull, 6 Common Gull, 2 Mute Swans, 14 Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 87 Greylag Geese, 8 Atlantic Canada Geese, a single EGYPTIAN GOOSE (resting on the far bank - see image), 4 Mallard, 28 Gadwall and 8 Coot (plus Skylark and Robin), while GYPSY LANE WEST yielded an additional 5 Ringed Plover, pair of Common Shelduck, 18 further Black-headed Gulls, Common Magpie, Carrion Crow and 4 more Skylark. No LRP though........
Gypsy Lane East in full flood
and the Egyptian Goose
Driving the OLD WARDEN TO CARDINGTON ROAD, first off a pair of Red Kite were feeding on a dead Brown Hare and then a pair of COMMON RAVEN feeding on a dead female Common Pheasant. There was no sign of the Peregrine that I had seen at the nest site a few days ago.
The Raven pair flying away after being disturbed from the dead Pheasant
Further north, at RADWELL PITS, the adult WHOOPER SWAN was still to be found in the cereal crop with 134 Mute Swans (visible distantly from the Sewage Works), along with 56 Wigeon, 270 Woodpigeon and 68 Fieldfare (Grey Wagtail on the sludge beds).
In the THURLEIGH AIRFIELD AREA (TL 0660), highlight was a tight-knit flock of 336 sheltering EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER, along with 2 Red Kite, 12 Lapwing, 280 Fieldfare and 330 Common Starling. I could not find the pair of Eurasian Curlew on the airfield and I am guessing the Short-eared Owls are more likely to be at the former site at Knotting Green (no suitable habitat at Thurleigh). The hamlet of KEYSOE ROW WEST held a population of 14 House Sparrows, with 6 singing Skylark in the area.
Over at HARROLD-ODELL COUNTRY PARK, the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE with the drooping wing was showing very well on Kingfisher Water (pictures below), with 23 active Sinensis Cormorant nests on the island, 4 Grey Heron, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 30 Greylag Geese, 5 Mute Swan, 56 Tufted Duck, 18 Mallard, the resident pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 6 remaining Common Goldeneye (1 drake) and 32 Coot; 4 Pied Wagtail in the area also.
The Rookery in the village held 28 active nests (note Roger) whilst the fields to the south of the village added a further 430 grazing geese (314 Greylag and 116 Atlantic Canada) as well as 8 Mute Swans.
CARLTON VILLAGE (SP 9595) produced Dunnock, 2 Common Blackbird, 2 Collared Dove and 24 Jackdaw, with a further 24 active Rook nests in OAKLEY VILLAGE (TL 0153).
By now (early evening), the wind was getting pretty strong, and in a quick search of KEMPSTON HARDWICK SOUTH PITS, I could not locate the recent first-winter female Greater Scaup - just 40 Tufted Duck, 4 Wigeon, 86 Greylag Geese, 24 Mute Swan and 6 Great Crested Grebe.
The SAWPIT SPRING Rookery near CHANDLER'S CROSS (HERTS) (TQ 0598) now held 16 active nests