Sunday 4th May
A Warbler Walk With Andy Harding
Now I’m sure you avid Birders are well acquainted with 7.30 on a Sunday morning, but for some of us more genteel wildlife enthusiasts, 7.30 on a Sunday, normally means just finishing off the evening meal with a cheeky little Cabernet Sauvignon or similar.
Anyway the sun was up in a clear blue sky and there we all were, raring to learn the songs that distinguish our Willow from our Garden and our Blackcap from our Whitethroat.
We appeared to have chosen a very good day, because after a quick briefing from Andy and within seconds of setting out into the meadow behind the centre, our ears were being tested by a veritable Smörgåsbord of songs and calls.
Sedge in full song
Down by the reeds the scratchy but variable tunes of Sedge Warblers competed with the very similar but more monotonous songs of the Reed Warbles. Chiffchaffs were easy to pick out in the background with their name sake calls and even easier to identify were the explosive calls of a Cetti’s that erupted out of the undergrowth sometimes on our right and sometimes on our left – but one thing remained constant – we could never see it.
The elusive Cetti's (I think)
As we moved on around the reserve we experienced the constant Garden Warblers and enjoyed the rise and fall of Willow Warblers and learnt both the melodic songs and the angry “wheets” of Blackcap.
Not all the birds knew we were warbler orientated that morning, the Cuckoo’s call often punctuated the trees around the lake and Little Grebes whickered in the backwaters of St Peters where we are sure they breed.
Talking of locally breeding birds – the multi-purpose Kingfisher Bank now appears to be the new maternity home for a small group of Sand Martins who were going in and out of all four nest chambers.
Sand Martin entering the KFB (picture by Peter Barnes)
Andy complained that we had built it far too small and needed to extend it another 30 metres along the bund with at least a couple of dozen more breeding chambers to accommodate “a real colony of Martins”. Fortunately for Andy those of us there who had spilt blood sweat and tears in building the KFB were in a very good mood – otherwise he may have had a very soggy walk back to the centre.
The morning finished with coffee and bickies back at the centre before a few of us engaged in some freelance photography. Andy went off to try and snap some Sedge Warblers only to return to excitedly inform us that he had almost (literally) stumbled over a Gadwalls nest – one of very few pairs of these birds to be found breeding locally we were informed.
As we drifted away home I couldn’t help reflecting, it had been yet another of those perfect HESC mornings.