Heron watch 14th
April 2013 – Dick Beeden
The weather was ok
this year but still pretty cold. There were reasonable numbers of people
about. As last year the herons
had decided to nest out of sight of the causeway although there are still
plenty nesting around the lake with several flying past just a few yards
away. Anna and I decided to set up telescopes in Shoveler
hide from where some 9 nests could be seen across the lake. We posted
notices from the causeway in the hope that some of those walking the Aquadrome might extend their walk to our hide but
no-one said that they had. None the less we were kept busy most of the
time with people having a look with a good few “ooh”’s
and “ah”s as they saw herons up
close for the first time. Most were surprised that they were looking at
the far side of the lake. Despite the cold spring most of the birds had
mated and laid in January and February and the chicks were nearly as big
as their parents. A few had already fledged. (You can tell them apart by
their grey crown rather than the black crown with a white centre on adult
birds). We managed to hand out some 20 or so recruitment leaflets. It
will be interesting to see if any bring us new members.
The small birds, tits, chaffinches
chiffchaff and dunnock, kept us entertained as they flitted in
and out of the trees and bushes to either side of us. In fact there is a
pair of chaffinches nesting in the ivy of the tree that has fallen over
just at the entrance of the hide. A blackcap
sang strongly for a while. Terns,
house martins and swallows
were seen over the lake as well as a kingfisher.
There were quite a few ducks out on the lake (tufted, mallard and shoveler) as well as coots, mute swans and Canada
geese, two of whom had a battle royal for over 5 minutes holding each
other’s necks and clearly trying to drown each other. They
eventually drifted out of sight. Surprisingly there were still goldeneye (2 males, and half a
dozen females). One would have expected them to have migrated by now. We
saw a red kite out over by the
motorway. So there were some interesting things to see apart from the
Wildfowl walk 17th
February 2013 – Dick Beeden
What a contrast to the walk this time
last year when the lake was frozen solid. Last year there were just four
people on the walk; this year there were six or seven times that many.
The weather was ok, a bit dull but not too cold. However as in January
there were not great numbers of birds on the lake. I am grateful to Anna Marett and Ian West for their assistance again and
Christine Crowther for keeping the list.
So what did we see? On the lake, not
a lot. The dabbling ducks were represented by some Mallard and Shoveler and a few
Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon and Pochard. The diving duck representatives
were Tufted Duck and Goldeneye both male and female.
We saw some interesting mating behaviour with one male goldeneye
surrounded by four females all displaying to him! The only sawbill (duck with teeth) this time was a male Smew.
(There may have been two birds on the lake given where and when we saw
it/them) and some saw a female. No goosander this time. The lake also
produced Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan,
Cormorant, Lapwing, Grey Heron (some on nests in the trees), numerous
Black Headed Gull (some
gaining their black heads as they come into breading plumage) and a
couple of cCommon Gull.
So much for the lake what about in
the trees? A couple of Siskin
were flitting about the alders near the causeway along with Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits
further along. Woodpigeon, Carrion
Crows and Jackdaws
(flying) were seen in the trees along with Ring-necked Parakeets, Magpie and Jay. We also saw and heard Blackbirds and Song
Thrushes, Goldfinch and Goldcrest,
Robin seen and Chaffinch
heard. Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker were also seen.
All in all not a bad morning given
how quiet it was ornithologically with a tally
of 40 species.
Wildfowl walk 13th
January 2013 – Dick Beeden
We got this walk in this year before
the ice and snow. The weather had been relatively mild over the previous
week or so and consequently wildfowl were in short supply and probably
some of the more northerly species had not migrated this far south. None the
less we had a good walk and saw a good range of birds. About 30 people
met us on the causeway so it was a fairly large group. My thanks to the
several people who helped with the spotting and identifications and to
Christine for keeping the tally; some 36 species in all.
Wildfowl numbers were a bit thin
although most species one might expect to see at this time of year were
present. There were good numbers of Tufted
Duck and Coot. There were
respectable numbers of Pochard and Shoveler (many
displaying). There were small numbers of Mallard, male and female Goldeneye
dotted around the lake, Moorhens,
Great Crested Grebe and Wigeon. Oddly no Gadwall. The sawbills
(they look like large ducks but have teeth and eat fish) were absent this
year except for one hard to see goosander
tucked up under the bank in the area nearest to Stocker’s House
that a few of us spotted on our way back to the car park after the walk
had finished. Such is birdwatching. We also saw
Canada Geese and Mute Swan.
There were large numbers of Black Headed Gulls (though none
had yet got their black heads) plus a few Common, Lesser Black-backed and at least one Great Black-backed Gull. There
were plenty of Cormorant and
fair numbers of Grey Herons
with a few in the trees looking as though mating was on their minds.
There were several sightings of Lapwings.
No Reed Bunting though.
The woodland birds were a bit sparse
too. However there was a pretty wide variety. We saw Nuthatch near to Tern hide, Great, Blue and Long tailed Tits all around the lake, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, Wren,
Woodpigeon, Starling, Fieldfare and Redwing all put in an appearance
at some point. Carrion Crows
and Magpie were around in
reasonable numbers. We managed a few Siskins
but no sizable flock this year. A Great
Spotted Woodpecker was seen and heard and the Ring-necked Parakeets put in a brief appearance.
A pretty good morning.
Dragonfly Walk 19st August 2012 – Wendy Wilson
Six of us set off on a scorching hot day in search of
dragonflies and butterflies. As it was so hot, we decided not to attempt
a circuit of the lake but just to concentrate on the meadows between the
river and the
lake. Numerous blue damselflies, including two mating pairs,
were very active in the heat but zoomed about too fast for us to identify
which species they were. Brown
hawker dragonflies made some rapid passes along the river but,
disappointingly, we did not spot any other dragonfly
species. Butterflies were also rather thin on the ground; perhaps
they had fed earlier before it got so hot and were lying low. However we
had a nice sighting of a small
copper basking near the causeway. Other butterflies included several small whites, 2 holly blues, 2 small tortoiseshells, a meadow brown and a speckled wood. We also saw a butterburr moth in the water meadow. Nearby
were some orange and black striped cinnabar
moth larvae feeding on ragwort. They imbibe
poisons from the ragwort which they retain to adulthood to protect them
from predation by birds.
I enjoyed the walk and meeting other members in spite of
dearth of species. When I got back to my car in the car-park,
the nearby buddleia bush had several red admirals,
and peacocks on it!
Wild Flower Walk Sunday
10th June 2012 - Christine Crowther
Nine of us met on the causeway at 2pm
with the heartfelt hope it wouldn't actually rain. It didn't but there were a few
spots at the end of the walk!
Libby Gower from The Friends of Cassiobury
Park very kindly offered to be our "expert" as we had drawn a
blank the whole year.
Libby talked a bit about flower
families and that most of what we could see around us was a flower even
if it didn't look like one.
On the Causeway we looked at buttercup
and daisy, bramble in flower
and a glorious dog rose bush.
There were lots of germander
speedwells, purple vetch
and yellow iris by the water's
edge. Greater and ribwort Plantain, lacey cow
parsley and white campion completed our first bit of floral
A tramp through the meadow gave us
lots more flowers and grasses like yorkshire fog, wall barley and ryegrass and cock's foot. On
the flower side a lovely clump of Oxeye
Daisies and red and white
clover was to be seen.
Also lesser stitchwort, potentilla with their bright yellow flowers and
silvery leaves, hawkbit and sticky cleavers and a nice
clump of water mint smelling
just like their more domestic counterpart. A field rose white counterpart to the pinker dog rose was our
One or two sightings back on the main
path of herb bennet
and herb robert,
hedge mustard and garlic
mustard. As the clouds
were suddenly gathering overhead we walked on briskly round to the canal
side of the reserve where less trees gave us a glorious display of
wildflowers. Some new, some
seen already. Plenty of red campion
and more unusual hybrid pink
variety. White dead nettle which doesn't sting and beautiful creamy common comfrey and cranesbill. Bittersweet looks like deadly nightshade but isn't, woundwort and plenty of prickly thistles to finish
with. About 40 different
flowers in all. Not bad for a
Thanks once again to Libby and to
Peter who told us which warblers we were hearing as light relief from
Warbler walk 6th
May 2012 – Christine Crowther
Twelve people met at half past eight
on the Causeway on Dawn Chorus Day.
The weather was a bit dull and chillier by the time we finished
but enjoyable for all that.
Some trees in leaf but others not fully out which might help with
spotting birds hiding in trees!
A good start to the walk with a Cetti’s warbler‘s sudden song in a
bush on the causeway. A pair
had been spotted nest building the previous week - then a flash of yellow
nearby and a good view on the ground – a yellow wagtail, a first for several of us. Swallows, swifts and martins
hunted for flies low over the lake and a grey heron stood patiently
waiting for breakfast in shallow water. Reed bunting gave us a good view perched on some reeds before
we set off along the side of the meadow into the reserve. Garden warbler was heard then a chiffchaff and several blackcap
at shoveler hide and throughout our walk. The many-faceted song of a song thrush sang from a thicket
and greenfinch, chaffinch and robin followed us on our
way. Not to be outdone a lone
carrion crow sat on a treetop
and those ubiquitous ring necked
parakeets flew over bickering and green woodpecker chuckled nearby. We stopped quietly by the reeds at
the side of Stockers for a rest and to see reed and sedge warbler
displaying and a whitethroat
flew across to complete our list of warblers,
Not so much on the water today. We
saw just Coot, mallard, cormorant and
tufted duck and a lone pochard. Two great crested grebes sat cosily on nests with their bright
summer heads tucked behind them.
A greylag goose glided
in the distance as did the mute
swans and those Canada geese,
seeming always to be arguing; a lone common
tern and black headed gulls
on the rafts squabbling as usual.
We quickened up on the homeward side of the lake with less to
see. Quiet trees then call of
blue and great tits, small wren and tiny goldcrest near the last hide. Someone saw a jay flash by and cooing wood
pigeons and staccato voice of a magpie
from a treetop.
Raptors we saw two! A sparrowhawk flew out of a tree
near the bridge to Springfield Lake and a buzzard was seen cruising over the canal. A final scan from the bridge by
Stocker’s House only gave us a house
sparrow for the list. We saw about 42 different bird species seen in
all. A warm thank must go to
Peter Jenkins for leading our interesting walk, and increasing our
knowledge of bird song.