Trip reports

Date with Nature Walk, 7th March, 2020

Date with Nature Walk, 7th March, 2020
Steve Day

Thursday, 12 March 2020

On a cool, cloudy, but dry day, a large group of 25 people met at Dinton Pastures Country Park for our monthly birdwalk. March provides an opportunity to hear some of our resident birds singing to set up territories and attract mates, before the influx of summer migrant birds begins in earnest next month. A Dunnock was singing its jangling song in the car park before we set off, Great Tits were constantly calling "teacher, teacher", and Robins were singing their gentle, high pitched notes as we made our way to Black Swan Lake. The changing seasons were also evidenced by the smaller number of ducks on the lake, as several species had already departed for northern breeding grounds. A pair of Great Crested Grebes in striking summer plumage delighted us with their courtship synchronised 'dance'. Just two Common Gulls were identified amongst the many Black-headed Gulls, which were now showing their full breeding 'chocolate brown' hoods.

Access to the bittern hide and other hides was impossible due to flooded paths, so we continued around Black Swan Lake focussing on shrubs and trees for bird activity. Several Goldcrests were seen well, and we could listen to their very high pitched song. The 'raspberry' calls of Long-tailed Tits were also located, and the large numbers of both of these small birds reflects the very mild winter we have had, which has helped survival rates. We noticed some new signs beside the path, in front of recently built fences. The signs explained that work has been carried out to manage habitat to support Nightingales - these birds have regularly bred at Dinton Pastures, but have failed to do so in the past two years. Keeping vegetation at the correct height and density will encourage Nightingales to nest, so lets hope that some will choose to breed here this year.

A Chiffchaff was heard, repeating its name, and some of the group then saw the bird. The sound is a real harbinger of Spring. As we walked towards the River Lodden at least three different Treecreepers were seen climbing up tree trunks mouse-like, and then flying down to begin the ascent of another tree. Useful to see these before the foliage appears, which makes observation of these small, unobtrusive birds more difficult. A couple of Wrens were seen, and many more heard as they produced their remarkedly loud call for such a small bird. We reached the bridge over the Lodden and were taking in the speed of the current of the swollen river when a Sparrowhawk flashed past us quite low, with its usual flap, flap, glide flight pattern.

Despite not being able to access the hides, the group had an interesting morning spending more time in other areas of the country park.

Alan Moore