For some weeks now, visitors have heard calls from the ‘scarlet pimpernel’ that is the water rail around the eastern reedbed. Its repertoire called ‘sharming’ is varied and includes a piglet-in-pain squeal and a weary-I-am-totally-past-it choking moan. So, charming it isn’t.
On Monday several were heard calling from the path that dissects the reedbeds and are probably declaring their territories to each other. The one pictured below came out when a magpie landed nearby and seemed to think about challenging it but then just hung around for a while – perhaps to keep kept an eye on it.
We also get the phrase ‘as thin as a rail’ from them because of their ability to squeeze between dense and thick stems. Must be more agile than they look.
More heard than seen; water rail and its reflection
Sounds from the reedbeds have also produced sightings of other shy birds; the metallic ping of the bearded tit and the very high pitched ‘shreeee’ of a kingfisher. The bearded tit was in the western reedbed and travelling along the edge of the dissecting path from the Astley lake end. The kingfisher seen favours the ‘no fishing’ signs at the hillside end of the eastern reedbed. At the dissecting path there are also some sticks for them to use as fishing perches.
Female (lower bill is red) kingfisher captured last winter
In the western reedbed, a bittern took a short flight across a patch of open water, visible from the crossroads near the causeway.
In the lakes duck diversity continues; goosander on Lemonroyd, goldeneye on the Main lake and in various locations, pintail, shoveler, widgeon, teal, pochard, tufted duck, gadwall, mallard with roving little egrets, cormorants, grey herons and occasionally, great white egret, one of which stayed all winter last year at Fairburn.
Usual suspects? A coot, preening pintail, 2 male shoveler and a female scratching her head
About a dozen stonechats, whose call sounds like pebbles being rubbed or hit together have colonised the pastures below the hillside, ridge & furrow ditch and now, the reedbed edges. Showing well are the twittering flocks of goldfinch, linnet, and redwing. In addition there are siskin, fieldfare, pipits (meadow, rock, water), song thrush and starlings.
Waders continue to be seen about the site and include redshank, snipe, ruff, dunlin, little stint, sanderling, ringed plover, 30 plus curlew, the ubiquitous lapwing and golden plover circling the site.
Part of a golden plover flock; known as a congregation or wing
Watch for the lapwings going up into the air calling ‘peewit’, usually with the screeching black-headed gulls as it may be because a hunter is among them because birds of prey are frequent and include kestrel, marsh harrier, peregrine, buzzard, sparrowhawk and a single short-eared owl was seen on the ridge and furrow.
“Ready for your close up Mr Kestrel?”
The tree-lined Lowther lake hosts a variety of birds including jay, great-spotted woodpecker, goldcrest, bullfinch, chiffchaff and a cetti’s warbler. Still seen regularly are marsh & willow tit, great spotted and green woodpecker in the warren area (at the back of the Causeway and to the left of Shan House bridge) and little owls in the dragline compound.
Skeins of pink-footed geese continue to fly over the site, whose calls include ‘wink-wink’. However, do check the noisy flocks of canada and greylags for any interlopers among them.
To finish; a composite shot to convey the atmosphere on Monday 16th October:
The day it looked like Mars was on a collision course
Yours, K Sp-8 (17/10/26)
For information: Bowers lake path is closed as the predator fence work continues, and the Ridge and Furrow is dug for more habitat creation/exposed muddy edges.
Our Hallowe'en Treasure Hunt continues (despite disappearance of Mrs Crackle's eight-legged friend) until the 5th November.
We'll see you there!