12 Apr 16

Priorslee Lake: 07:15 – 09:45

[Woodhouse Lane: 08:15 – 09:10]

Sunrise: 06:16 BST

7°C > 10°C Low cloud clearing just as I arrived and then clear for a while: increasing high cloud later. Light / moderate W wind. Moderate visibility becoming good

In stark contrast to yesterday’s disappointment today had three good species around the lake:
- as I arrived a Grasshopper Warbler sang very briefly at the W end, long enough to positively identify it. Despite several repeat visits to the area I failed to hear the bird again. However on my final attempt ...
- a Sedge Warbler was singing from the main reed beds in the NW area. I even had a brief glimpse of the bird in flight
- 3 Common Sandpipers were on the SW grass in front of the shelter

But, see the PS, the best bird of the day for me was to come

(60th visit of the year)

Other notes
- all 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in a single distant spiral: I assume they were not ‘thermalling’ as it was far too early for thermals to develop
- as the weather cleared at 07:15, two Sand Martins and one House Martin flew out W. Soon afterwards there were (still) 6 Sand Martins and these stayed with numbers gradually increasing until there were more then 60 birds. Just 2 Swallows appeared
- a Willow Tit in song along the N side. This was some 15 minutes after I had heard a bird singing well down the Wesley Brook and, for the first time, I am encouraged enough to think there might just be two males in the area
- a Tree Creeper was heard singing: some weeks since I last heard one of these

Counts of birds flying over the lake (in addition to those on / around lake)
- 2 Greylag Geese (1 group)
- 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
- 10 Wood Pigeons
- 1 Collared Dove
- 2 Jackdaws
- 2 Rooks
- 3 Greenfinches
- 1 Goldfinch

Hirundine totals
- >60 Sand Martins
- 2 Barn Swallows
- 1 House Martin

Singing warblers around the lake
- 1 Cetti’s Warbler again
- 11 Chiffchaffs
- 10 Willow Warbler
- 4 Blackcaps
- 1 Grasshopper Warbler
- 1 Sedge Warbler

The counts from the lake area
- 2 Mute Swans
- 3 (3♂) Mallard yet again
- 43 (26♂) Tufted Ducks
- 1 Cormorant
- 7 Great Crested Grebes
- 10 Moorhens
- 45 Coots
- 3 Common Sandpipers

The early clearance over the lake.

This is one of the three Common Sandpipers at the lake this morning – or at least I think it is. The photo shows some light streaking on the normal all-white area but I don’t think I can claim these are developing ‘spots’ of the closely-related New World species of Spotted Sandpiper. That said I have never noticed such marks before.

Here we see the marks again.

The marks are not evident here: I think they were only present on one of the birds.

And certainly not present on this shot either.

This shows the characteristic ‘tail-wagging’ of this species – the head is sharp; the tail not, despite the bright light.

And here we can see some of the marks on the back feathering.

Not the best angle but we can see this is a Willow Warbler. The pink (or orange – depends on your perception) legs; the rather ‘long’ look – the wings are longer as this is a Trans-Sahara migrant (a Chiffchaff only goes as far as the Mediterranean); the lower mandible is very pink; and the eye-stripe is more pronounced.

And a slightly different angle.

And here singing.

Whereas this is a Chiffchaff. The eye-ring is more prominent but the eye-stripe is less well-defined. The mandible and legs look dark but the angle of the light is not the best to get an accurate comparison.

The charismatic Willow Tit again.

(Ed Wilson)


Woodhouse Lane: 08:15 – 09:10

Another long walk around Woodhouse Lane and some of the fields to try and find some more migrants. In the middle of one of the fields there is a pile of large boulders and I always check it as I once saw a Wheatear atop the stones, and it does look a suitable location. Today’s sighting was at extreme range but a photo showed it was indeed another Wheatear – a female.

Other notes
- 4 Skylarks in song
- 4 Song Thrushes singing
- 5 Chiffchaffs with 4 singing
- 1 Willow Warbler singing
- 1 Blackcap singing
- 1 Willow Tit singing – see notes above
- 1 Pied Wagtail in the field
- 5 Linnets flying over
- 4 Yellowhammers but only one in song and that only briefly.

At Woodhouse Lane it is just about possible to identify the bird on the distant pile of stones as a female Wheatear – something I could not do through binoculars.

Only a silhouette but a Sky Lark in full cry.

(Ed Wilson)


Granville Country Park
As a postscript: after the reports of an Iberian Chiffchaff at Granville Country Park for the last few days I decided to take a look and found the bird (and a gathering of other birders) without a problem. This is almost certainly a new species for me – certainly a newly recognised species. It used to be classified as a race of the (Common) Chiffchaff but it has a very different song. Rather like Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers look very similar but have very different songs. In the Eastern Soviet area and China there are more than a dozen very similar species of ‘leaf warblers’, mainly separable only by song

I did some birding in Spain in 1996 and cannot recall whether we saw any Chiffchaffs and whether we heard them sing.

This was my first decent view of the Iberian Chiffchaff. While I expected it to look pretty much like our Chiffchaff on this view the bill looks slightly thinner and the edges of the wing feathers look slightly edged pale. This latter may have been the angle of the light. But both Iberian Chiffchaff and (Common) Chiffchaff are quite variable in tone from brown, through grey to olive-toned and there seems to be no reliable way to separate them visually. Luckily the song of Iberian Chiffchaff is very different – I was surprised how different. Part of the song includes some almost Wood Warbler-like trills and the ‘chiff-chaff’ part has quite a different rhythm and timbre. There are also odd notes at times that recall Pied Flycatcher. I had been expecting a song part-way between Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler: not at all.

Another view.

Since it is my first-ever let’s not worry too much about the branch! We can see most of the crucial bits.

And more of head here

And again.

Sound track of this Iberian Chiffchaff at Donnington courtesy of Xeno-canto

(Ed Wilson)


Nedge Hill

1 male Ring Ouzel
2 male Common Redstart
1 Wheatear
4 Willow Warbler
5 Chiffchaff
2 male and 2 female Blackcap
1 Green Woodpecker
1 Jay
a pair of Long-tailed tits
5 Skylark

A male Common Redstart (Martin Grant)

A male Ring Ouzel (Martin Grant)

(Martin Grant)


On this day in .....................
Priorslee Lake

Today's News Here

Priorslee Lake

3 Great Crested Grebes
1 Cormorant
2 Grey Herons
1 Greylag Goose
2 Common Sandpipers
c.6 Sand Martins
2 Barn Swallows
1 Grasshopper Warbler
10 Blackcaps
5 Chiffchaffs
1 Willow Warbler
(Ed Wilson)

Priorslee Lake

2 Swallows flew through
2 Meadow Pipits
4 Great Crested Grebes
3 Tufted Duck
9 Blackcaps
4 Willow Warblers
12 Chiffchaffs
(Ed Wilson)

The Flash
1 Swallow
1 Reed Bunting
3 Great Crested Grebes
33 Tufted Duck
5 Blackcaps
6 Willow Warblers
3 Chiffchaffs
(Ed Wilson)

Nedge Hill
5 Lapwings
1 Swallow
1 Green Woodpecker
8 Skylarks
3 Willow Warblers
4 Chiffchaffs
1 Common Redstart
13 Wheatear
1 Raven
(Ed Wilson, John Isherwood)

East Priorslee
2 Wheatear
(John Isherwood)

Priorslee Lake

3 Blackcaps
6 Chiffchaffs
2 Willow Warblers
2 Sand Martins
2 Greylag Geese
3 Stock Doves
1 Lapwing
(Ed Wilson)