Lacklustre Lodge and Car Park Capers

Summer-time (when it finally arrives) tends to be a quiet time for birding. The spring migrants have reached their traditional northerly habitats and most breeding pairs have seen their young fledge.

The longer winter and late arrival of spring and summer has meant that there have been plenty anomalies reported with regards to traditional breeding patterns.

Overall though the quiet, lazy days of summer have arrived and last weeks birding attempts have been seasonally compliant.

Monday began with a trip to the home of the RSPB, The Lodge at Sandy in Bedfordshire. The real reason for the visit being that the smart half of Team Sausage was interviewing RSPB staff as part of her PhD. It was too good an opportunity to turn down the chance to go too and try to get some birding done at the same time.

It was blisteringly hot and activity was down to a real minimum with few photo opportunities. This Goldfinch on the entrance feeders was one of very few I managed to take:

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At times I was wandering the reserve and there was total silence, no calls or sounds at all. It was as if everything was sheltering from the heat. To be honest, at 31 degrees I wanted to join them!

Sightings overall were as follows; Buzzard (2), Green Woodpeckers (at least one family of 2 juveniles and 2 adults), Coal Tits (heard but not seen), lots of insect catching House Martins and Swifts, Kestrel (2), and plenty of Wood Pigeon.

The reserve at The Lodge was extensive and quite sprawling and I think well worth another visit either in the autumn or next spring when passage movement will be at a peak.

Most disappointing was the info I gleaned from a local birder that the nest box for the Spotted Flycatchers had been removed from the main building in order to re-point their chimney! At this time of year?

Bird action took a surprising turn on Wednesday however as our development had a visit from two Harris Hawks.  Flo and Oscar along with their handler Andy were carrying out pest control in the car park.

Thank to my ever friendly wife and her charming ways, Andy was more than happy to spend a little time with us and as you can see Oscar was very amenable to some photographs and personal attention.

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Andy told us that Flo was the more aggressive of the birds, Oscar being younger and a little more relaxed. They had been called in to help clear the car park of the pigeons that reside among the pipework.

Flo was perched above us nonchalantly surveying the scene:

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The aim isn’t to send the hawks off to catch and kill the pigeons, more to scare them away as they see there are serious predators around the area. In order to do this Andy and the hawks will be making some weekly visits to the car park, hoping to build up some fear among the pigeons and humanely persuade them to vacate the area.

Andy was more than happy to let us both take Oscar on our arms with his glove:

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Harris Hawks are not an indigenous bird to Western Europe or the UK, but are common across the southwestern USA down to Chile and Argentina. They are very popular with falconers due to their receptiveness to training and sociability.

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Although we have had close encounters with Harris Hawks before, there was something quite exciting to have them under your own home. Massive thanks to Andy the handler for taking time out of his work to talk to us.

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Also on the local front, our family of Kestrels have now moved on. The intensive life skills training across our rooftops trailed off last week and the gulls and crows have returned to claim their spaces.

Following our close encounter with Andy’s Harris Hawks, we had a late night appointment at the Wetlands Centre at Barnes. We were booked in for that evening’s BIg Bat Walk.

IMG_2994a The Wetlands Centre looked fantastic, lit by the evening dusk and with the party of bat-watchers being fairly small, it was almost as if we had broken in after closing for a private visit. Bird action at this late part of the day was dominated by hundreds of Swifts, swooping across the azure skies as they took insects on the wing.

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Bat sightings were at somewhat of a premium, the darkness being one factor and a full moon another. However, our hand-held bat detection machines did eventually register some bat sonar as we slowly made our way around Barnes.

Glimpses were few but you can determine the bat your detector is picking up by the range of the frequency. From this and the help of our guides we could confirm “sightings or hearings” of Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule, Daubentens, Leisler and Common Pipistrelles.

The loudest thing heard all evening though were the many Marsh Frogs among the ponds and reeds. Their croaking calls were a constant from the moment the sun went down.

We would definitely recommend the Bat Walk to anyone looking to experience and learn a little about a much misunderstood and rarely experienced part of British wildlife.

My friends Wendy and Sue have also had some excellent sightings of the Little Owls at Cranford Park so I decided to spend a short time there on Sunday morning.

As per previous visits the rasping call of a hungry young Little Owl greeted me as I entered and I just managed to catch a glimpse of a plump, furry brown ball before it went back into it’s nest box.

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As I patiently waited for further sightings two more friends of Wendy’s appeared, Corrinna and Pat. Despite all three of us hoping for further sightings our juvenile remained tucked away.

I think I saw the adult break cover momentarily and head into the edge of the wooded area. All manner of alarm calls began to emanate from the trees for some time afterwards but not further sightings were had.

Another short burst of rasping and a quick glance out of the box was all I was lucky to have.

Other sightings at Cranford Park on Sunday included half a dozen Linnets, Blackcap, Whitethroat, the below three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a young and very shy weasel.

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All in all a sparse blog this time for pics but some new and different experiences for Team Sausage.

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