The article I wrote for the March 2018 edition of Birdwatch about my recent visit to Hokkaido, Japan, has now been published on the BirdGuides website. You can read it here.
I had a really enjoyable fews days' birding around the Peterborough area over the weekend. It was clear from a check of the BirdGuides news page that things were on the move, and so it proved locally.
Though I was working on Friday, I was able to sneak out early and late to find that the Long-tailed Duck was still present on my old patch, Baston & Langtoft Pits, while 10 Whooper Swans, three Pink-footed Geese and a couple of Barn Owls were also pleasing. At Bainton Pits, I had a couple of redhead Smew, while my first Little Ringed Plover of the year was on excavations east of West Deeping.
I did a complete sweep of BLGP on the Saturday morning, finding a Little Ringed Plover new in among the Ringed Plovers, as well as singles of Dunlin and Green Sandpiper. It almost goes without saying that the Long-tailed Duck was still present. Later in the afternoon, I popped over to Tallington Lakes. Unfortunately, development work here involving the installation of dozens of mobile homes seems to be making a pig's ear of the main site. I fear that it's best days might be behind it. Fortunately, though, a couple of smaller pits remain undisturbed and held good numbers of Tufted Ducks and 11 Red-crested Pochards. Highlight, though, were a pair of sleepy 2cy female Greater Scaup - nice!
I started Sunday at BLGP, and was immediately greeted by the delightful sight and sound of 32 Whooper Swans on the wader pit. Brilliant! Groups of 12 and two Dunlins moved through and the Long-tailed Duck remained. A little later, on the south side of the complex, I was thrilled to come across an adult Kittiwake sat among the Black-headed Gull colony - what a start to the day! This is a genuinely rare bird locally, and also hard to catch up with. I had a couple of records at the pits in the 2000s, but they were always fly-through, so to see one on the deck was a real treat. It also generated a mini local twitch, with four carloads in attendance only 30 minutes after discovery.
Checking news, it was clear that Common Scoter were on the move, so at lunch I headed over to Peterborough to check some of the old brick pits. First port of call was Fletton Brick Pit, which had next to nothing on it. But it was a case of second time lucky, as a scan of Beeby's A15 Brick Pit produced four distant, dark blobs with rather long, stiff tails. No doubt Common Scoters, and rather sleepy ones at that. These were duly twitched by Mike Weedon and John Saunders, before I headed over to the nearby CEGB Reservoir and came across ... another drake Common Scoter!
I finished the day at Deeping High Bank (Marsh Harrier) and Deeping Lakes (Yellow-legged Gull and the resident drake Greater Scaup), before becoming victim of a hit-and-run with a motorbike - the less said about that, the better.
It was bitterly cold again over the weekend. Although temperatures didn't quite plummet as low as they did a fortnight ago, nor did the snow return, the brisk easterly wind was absolutely awful to be out in.
Nevertheless, it did produce a nice adult Little Gull over the wader pit at BLGP. I say wader pit, as things stand there won't be many waders on here this spring as water levels are probably a good two feet above what they were at this time last year. Hopefully it's not the end of this site but things are presently not looking too good.
The Long-tailed Duck has also returned to BLGP for a second spring. At least, we presume it's the same bird, first seen on Deeping High Bank in January 2017, then at Deeping Lakes before moving to BLGP in May of last year. It was back on the High Bank this January, before turning up at BLGP on 16th of this month. It's been favouring the same corner of the (ex-)wader pit ever since.
Other recent birds have included two adult Whooper Swans, Dunlin, Peregrine, up to three Ravens, several Red Kites and a male Marsh Harrier.
In other, sadder news, I found several Mute Swan corpses under wires just north-east of the wader pit. The birds have been commuting between the pit and a rape field, where they are feeding. Unfortunately the wires were not fitted with deflectors and it's made a mess of at least five swans. I reported this to Western Power Distribution on Monday and, within hours, they'd sent a team down to fit reflectors. A hugely impressive response for which the swans (50+ still in the area) will no doubt be grateful! Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and the corpses have been attracting a variety of scavengers, including both Raven and Red Kite.
The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.