Thursday, 28 May 2015

Pensthorpe and Baby Birds

What better way to start off half term than with a trip to Pensthorpe? Eighteen wild bird species spotted, my first brimstone butterfly of the year and a multitude of just-hatched and young birds.

Before we even got through the gates of the reserve, we encountered a couple of mallard ducklings, frantically calling and wandering from water to land and back looking for their mother, only the second brood of ducklings I've seen so far this year. As we arrived quite late, we then went straight to the cafe, where, in a corner, there were communal nest boxes for sparrows, of which there were plenty and they were confident too, attempting to steal pieces of my scone from right under my nose!

We started off with a visit to the turtle dove breeding aviary. We both agreed that we could listen to the purring of these tortoiseshell and increasingly rare beauties. The bearded reedlings were also on good form, snuggling together amongst the reeds. There were also young corncrake and very tiny avocet hatchlings.

On entering the reserve proper, we, as we always do, fed their captive collection of wildfowl, then entered wilder territory. But, by their white-naped crane enclosure (who are still incubating a single egg, if you read my blog in April), there were a family of coots, including five youngsters, not long hatched from their size and comparative fuzziness! All were imitating the adult coots by preening and washing in the shallow water.

In the glorious sunshine, we walked under the archway of wisteria, emerging by one of the many lakes on the reserve. Suddenly, we heard a mechanical churring and singing from a waterside tree; a warbler which I could not differentiate by sound alone (I am still learning these magnificent songsters, but am struggling to tell them apart by both song and sight). I craned around different bushes, scanning them with both binoculars and camera to try to spot the bird. Eventually, I came across a reed bunting, but he was not the source of the melody. We had to continue on, but by chance, I stumbled across two of my marks, they turned out to be two reed warblers very low in the reeds by the pathway.

We continued on to head into the woodland and the bird hides, but before we could, we had to walk through gaggles of Canada, barnacle and greylag geese, five of which were greylag goslings. All were relaxing, sprawled out in the shade, apart from mother goose, who stayed very alert, keeping a wary eye on us as we passed. I knelt to photograph them and one gosling stood up and wandered towards us. Watching it walk and peck at the ground as it waddled along, with its tiny wings and oversized feet, really made me realise their similarity to their prehistoric ancestors, reaching back to archeopteryx and beyond.

There was little to be seen from the woodland bird hide, but a stock dove, a great spotted woodpecker and a grey squirrel graced us with their presence. After a five minute stint in the hide, we continued on rather briskly, realising that we didn't have long before we needed to depart the reserve and head home. But, on our return walk, we were rewarded with great views of a great crested grebe preening and apparently 'dancing' next to the wave garden. A fantastic end to our visit!

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