Post lockdown commentary

With the latest batch of government directives comes an effective end to the full lockdown and once again opens the doors to birding local drivable sights. How elated I was then to receive a phone call from Will Bowell this evening informing me of a Temminck’s Stint at Deeping Lakes, presumably freshly arrived this afternoon. I grabbed the car keys and was on the road not 5 minutes later. I arrived on the scene promptly and exited the car to a biting wind and glorious early evening sun. The bird was still there, obligingly meandering around the islands, ace! My first record of this wader (that I can remember) in Britain!

Terrible record shot of TS at considerable distance.

Oh… did I forget to mention there were also two Spoonbill on the same pit? Incredible how these birds could be present but not the stars of the show. It was a real joy to watch them feed and preen, views like this are almost mythical in the Peterborough area, and even more awesome that they were on the local reserve. It’s as if nature knew we were released from our cages at last and gave us a blast of adrenaline to kick start the engines we’ve had to subdue for so long.

Spoonbill – Deeping Lakes
Spoonbill – Deeping Lakes

I realise I’ve been offline over the lockdown period, quite intentionally. Didn’t feel quite right blogging about some pretty decent birds I’d seen but had to suppress for the greater good. Highlights of birds from the office window include Mallard, Cormorant and Mute Swan… all of which were new for the house list. The house martins are back in the nest under the eves outside Noah’s bedroom window and the swifts seem to be in good numbers. Same cannot be said for Swallow which appear to be on the light side this year, maybe it’s just me? The real star bird from the house was Peregrine late last week hunting hirundine. I was frustrated to miss out on no less than 3 flyby White-tailed Eagles – one of which came within a mile of the house but just out of view.

Here’s to the survivors of the lockdown birding blues and what remains of the Spring! Let’s hope it’s bountiful.

Pandemonium

Escape was necessary this evening, my head is ringing with COVID19 and the profound effect it’s having on almost every aspect of my daily life.

Despite the crisis affecting humans, it’s comforting to know the birds are still there, going through their daily routines and blissfully unaware of the surrounding chaos. If anything, it’s probably more peaceful for the birds while we’re stuck in isolation and quarantine.

It was a chilly evening tonight, first stop was Deeping Lakes to see if any interesting waders / gulls had appeared. Nothing amazing but was nice to see 14 whoopers on East Pit.

I moved onto the high bank thinking I could maybe snag an early wheatear or a passing sand Martin. It wasn’t until I was parallel with the ‘wash’ that something caught my eye. A raptor, on the deck in an open field. Not an unusual site in these parts as buzzards are ten a penny, this bird showed pale head and upper parts at a glance. Again, not necessarily unusual as we have a few very pale buzzard on the high bank. I decided to scope it anyway, as soon as I did my pulse raced a little. It was almost certainly a rough legged buzzard.

It might just be me but they always appear to have a more elegant face than buzzard appearing almost kite like? I couldn’t be 100% sure until I saw the bird fly and it showed it’s wholly white tail with dark terminal band. My first RLB in the Deepings. I tracked the bird as it hopped from field to field. It looked very lethargic like it had just arrived and wasn’t keen to leave. It flew in a northerly direction and I lost it behind the big haystack between the high bank and deeping St Nick.

Rough-legged Buzzard – Deeping High Bank

Despite search of myself, Danny and josh, couldn’t relocate. Hopefully it turns up tomorrow as I can’t imagine it has got far in the dark, cold evening.

Trio of waders

After I’d finished work today, news appeared on the airwaves of a long-tailed duck at Maxey pits. I reacted quickly and was at Maxey pits some half an hour later. No sign anywhere despite extensive search of Helpston road pits, grebe pits, reservoir, etton road pits.

However, I did manage to add Snipe, Water Rail and Little Ringed Plover to the year list. Not bad for a quick evening out.

Little Ringed Plover – Helpston Road Pits

A pair of snipe in rapidly fading light at Etton Road Pits.

The long and short of it

Apologies for the delay in posting, I have been out and about birding a number of times since my last blog post with frustrating results! A couple of days after my last post, I headed out to Deeping Lakes to pick up the annual Long-eared Owl tick. The bird was showing very obligingly on the usual island opposite the hide. However, it was fairly distant and I didn’t have my scope with me to digiscope it so you’ll have to make do with the below record shot:

LEO

Long-eared Owl snoozing on the island at Deeping Lakes LWT.

In the subsequent weeks, I went out on the Deeping High Bank on maybe 10 different occasions looking specifically for Short-eared Owl. It’s been a very poor winter for these birds in Britain and there’s only a single individual which has been seen as far down as Cradge Bank Road, as far out as Deeping St Nicholas and also on the DHB. That’s a big quadrant to cover and unfortunately I haven’t managed to connect despite being 10 minutes behind Will who had photographed the bird.

Still, I shouldn’t complain, as I have managed to add some new birds to the year list in the process including Grey Partridge, Hen Harrier (!), Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. A strange find for me was a single Muscovy duck which had moored up on the banks of Gull Farm, gave me quite a shock when I first saw it in my peripheral!

Muscovy

Muscovy Duck – Gull Farm, Deeping High Bank

Skip forward to today (07/03/2020) and I slipped out at 7am this morning to BLGP to see if anything was about, not much of note though a pair of Oystercatchers were new for the year. I headed over to Deeping St. Nicholas from there and then diverted over to the Deeping High Bank. Not much of note until I reached the Crowland ‘Wash’ which is the flooded area East of the river and just North of the gun club. There were a number of waders present including c.50 Lapwing, a single Golden Plover and a pair of Redshank (new for the year). Also on the fringes of the flooded land were a pair of Shellduck which I really don’t see often at all in the Deepings.

Goosander are still present on the Welland though in much lower numbers than usual, only 6 birds were present today. I then head over to Deeping Lakes to see if the Pink feet reported by Will B were still around, alas, no success. Luckily I’d picked this species up earlier in the year at Eldernell.

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Little Egret – Deeping Lakes LWT.

The only other interesting event was a huge mixed flock on the tilled field adjacent to Exotic Pet Refuge. The flock contained c.100 Pied wag, a pair of Grey Wag, 50 or so Meadow Pipit, a number of Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and House Sparrow.

Mipit

Meadow Pipit 

That’s all for now folks, I’ve given up hope of connecting with the SEO and it had disrupted my blogging schedule as I chased it around! Also… the blog post where I could show pictures of Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl was too much of a draw, wishful thinking as it turns out.

 

The shot that never was

Having dipped on Short-eared Owl last weekend and again during the week, I set off early this morning down the Deeping High Bank to try my luck again. With better info on exactly where the bird was, I felt like I was in with a better shot though SEO are usually easier to see in the evenings. On the way down to 4 mile bar I saw 3 separate Barn Owl and 14 Goosander. At the SEO site, I saw nothing. Not even a sniff of an owl. Annoying to dip again but should be plenty more chances, I hope, to get a SEO this year.

On the way back towards Deeping Lakes, I had a very obliging Barn Owl on a post just off the road. I started snapping off photos but was very conscious there was a car approaching from the rear which I would need to move for to allow it to pass. This meant I didn’t have much chance to set the photo up or check the results, however, I was confident I must have got the shot as it was so close.

On returning to the house, I reviewed the photos to find not a crisp, well structured image of an owl but more of an artistic blur, identifiable as a Barn Owl. Alas, this is the pain of a birding photographer, as I’m sure many have experienced before.

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The shot that never was. 

Nothing much else of note this morning other than 5 little egret on the river and 9 whoopers on the Crowland Wash. I did notice that Greylag numbers appear to have increased at Deeping Lakes with the best part of 200 birds present this morning. Scanned in hope of a grey goose but it wasn’t to be. The morning light was nice however and lit up certain birds in a lovely hue.

Shoveler

Shoveler

BHG

Black-headed Gull, Winter plumage on the right and Winter > Summer plumage on the left.

Starting Fresh

As you can probably tell, I decided on starting a new blog rather than adapting the old one. Feels cleaner cut this way and the old one will always still be available as an archive.

As stated in my last post, the goal for this weekend was to tick off two target species – Scaup and Red-necked Grebe. I set of yesterday to March Farmers via Thorney, stopped in on my way through to confirm the long staying Tundra Beans were still in situ, though now considerably further from the road. While here, I managed to pick out 3 crane in the fields to the East, this meant I didn’t need to stop off at Eldernell later, bonus!

Common Crane

Common Crane – Photo taken from Google.

Not the best views I’ve ever had of what is definitely a top 3 British bird for me, but in the bag all the same.

Arriving at March Farmers 20 minutes later, I picked up the Scaup within a quick 5 minute scan. They were toward the North bank, 4 birds all female. There has been a drake reported but I couldn’t find it, despite rigorous scanning. I continued 500 meters East of the car park scanning every inch of the flood but couldn’t find the RNG. To be expected, considering it hadn’t been reported since the 20th. Annoying as it means I’ll likely have to rely on picking one up in the Spring which is less likely.

I’m always amazed at the sheer volume of birds at March Farmers, the latest WEBs count showed over 8,000 wigeon, 700 Pintail and much more. It’s a cracking site and it’s scary to think how many birds wind up here and never get picked out!

Greater Scaup

Female Greater Scaup – Image taken from Google

There is some great flooded agricultural land E/SE of the car park which yesterday had c.200 Whooper Swan, 90 ruff, 2 Dunlin and thousands of both Lapwing and Golden Plover. I also had a group of 15 Black-tailed Godwit overhead heading West. There was a good supporting cast on show too including Merlin, Cetti’s and Pintail. I bumped into a chap on the way back to the car park who said he’d just had two Pink-footed Geese down at Eldernell… looks like I did need to go there after all.

I pulled up to the Eldernell car park to find a group of birders already on the geese in question, debating their identity, Pinkies or Beans. Luckily I had my zoom lens on the scope so I could hone straight in, no Orange on the legs or the bill confirmed their identity as Pink-footed. Nice to get another goose in the bag. Managed a terrible grab shot through the scope with my iphone, poor, but you get the gist.

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Pink-footed Geese – Eldernell.

Peterborough area list is now up to 86 with some real easy birds to pick up. Plan for one evening this weekend is to head to Baston Fen in the hopes of picking up Water Pipit, Hen Harrier and Corn Bunting. Fingers crossed! My strategy currently is to pick off the hard to come by birds first before cleaning up on the common stuff. Stay Tuned!