Trip reports

Paxton Pits

Paxton Pits
Ian Parker

Saturday, 11 April 2015

It was spitting with rain as we met in Two Waters Road and light rain fell all the way as we travelled to Little Paxton. A single kestrel was noted on our journey. It was still raining when we arrived but we were not deterred.

On the feeders at the visitor centre we saw a reed bunting and great and blue tits. We set off along the Heron Trail to the north of the Visitor Centre towards the Hayden Hide which overlooks Heronry South Lake. Along the way a chiffchaff sang, a dunnock flew by, and many great tits were active in the bushes. From the large and comfortable Hayden hide we saw gadwall, tufted ducks, great crested grebe, mute swan, greylag and canada geese on the water. Black headed gulls flew all around, whilst many cormorants and grey herons nested in the trees on the far side. On the feeders just outside the hide fed reed bunting, a robin, marsh tit and great tits. A "mystery bird" appeared here later in the day which in retrospect may have been a song thrush, seen in unusual lighting conditions.

As we moved out of the Hayden hide one of our party spotted a tree creeper quite close and low down on a silver birch trunk. As we looked more closely, another tree creeper appeared further back in the trees mostly hidden in the undergrowth. The rain stopped and we saw the trailing edge of the cloud disappear eastwards. The sun came out and it started to warm up. A green woodpecker called in the distance and whilst on the way to the Kingfisher hide the air was filled with the sound of numerous chiffchaffs, the occasional willow warbler and also blackcaps. The blackcaps were quite easy to spot near the track and low down in the trees which were not yet in full leaf.

From the Kingfisher hide there was nothing new to see on either the Heronry North or South Lakes. We continued along the Heron Trail a number of our group stared into a pine tree. A resplendent goldcrest foraged for insects quite low down and was joined by another. Then from some thick bushes just past the pine came the unmistaken song of a nightingale. Over the next 20 minutes a small crowd gathered and were treated to the liquid song of 4 singing males. Although regularly heard the birds themselves remained disappointingly out of sight. Further along the track a solitary male bullfinch flew across our path.

There was a dearth of birds on the river but a kestrel flew over the water meadows on the far bank. We turned left to follow the Heron Trail passed the entrance to the gravel workings and walked back along the road used by the gravel trucks to the visitor centre; we saw nothing new on our way back.

Lunchtime was now declared and we ate our packed lunches on the picnic tables outside the visitor centre with hot drinks provided by the visitor centre volunteers. A lone red kite soared to the south of us and we were able to keep an eye on the house sparrows and reed bunting as they flew to and from the feeders while we ate. When lunch was completed we walked the southern trail past Rudd Lake and around Hayling Lake. It was afternoon siesta time as a muntjac deer grazed unconcernedly in the meadow next to Rudd Lake and there were few birds about but we did add greenfinchs, cetti's warbler (heard only) and a mistle thrush to our day list. On Rudd Lake, a mute swan chased a canada goose for some minutes; the swan didn't want the canada goose anywhere "on my lake".

While having a cuppa at the visitor centre, newts were spotted in the pond. There were one or two common newts plus four great crested newts. The latter got the photographers in our group excited and they proceeded to take many photographs. Enquiries in the visitor centre revealed that great crested newts are quite common in the area.

A few of us headed out again along the Heron Trail where two of our group had seen and heard a nightingale but we were to be disappointed although some of our group did hear it much later in the afternoon. We bumped into members of the St. Alban's RSPB group, also on a day outing, and they alerted us to swallows high above our heads. Just before leaving we counted five swallows, a lone lesser black backed gull and a very distant common(?) buzzard very high in the clear blue sky.

Bird-wise it wasn't a great day out but nevertheless the group had seen 46 species in all and we had a very enjoyable day out. We were perhaps two or three weeks to early to hear large numbers of nightingales. Everywhere around the reserve the blackthorn was in flower and trees and bushes were coming into leaf which was a welcome sign of spring after a long winter. In addition to the muntjac mentioned earlier other mammalian life seen included a lovely fox, rabbit, mink and grey squirrel.

23 members came on this outing which was the largest number of people on a shared car trip this season. Many thanks to the drivers who drove to and from the reserve - we really do appreciate you taking the strain.

Stuart Harrison and Alan Corner (Photograph Ian Parker )


Robert and Kathy Moore, Arthur Whiting, Anthea Lovatt Cliff Parslow, Alan Corner, John Frone, Gavin Hughes, Ian Parker, Patricia Harrison, Jeanette Gosney, Michael Doydge, Viki Ahearn, Mike and Chris Ridley, Dave Jones, Ron and Marion King, John Thompson, Stuart and Sarah Harrison, Jenni Anderson and Marion Osman.