Sunday, 18 March 2018

Bluethroats and Harriers!

Spent a snowy weekend in Dunstable during which time we checked out Willen Lake in Milton Keynes for a forthcoming article. Much has changed since my last visit about fifteen years ago and it now has established patches of woodland and trees bordering north lake. There is also a viewing hide in place overlooking the island. All the usual winter wildfowl were present including Goldeneye and Goosander. Red Kites and Common Buzzards were noted just about everywhere we went this weekend, particularly along the downs at Dunstable.
Lade - Arrived home early afternoon to a cold easterly wind and snow flurries just in time to do the monthly WeBS count where two Long-tailed Ducks and Black-necked Grebe were the highlights.
Dengemarsh Gully - En-route to Walland, together with CP, we called in at the gully where a male White-spotted Bluethroat had been located earlier in the day. With a biting east wind blowing across the gully the bird was sensibly feeding deep within the sewer along the muddy margins and showed quite well despite the gloomy weather conditions. Whilst watching it from the sluice, pottering about feeding amongst sprouting rushes, we were surprised to see another male Bluethroat fly out from the bank and attack it, after which it then disappeared into the gorse near a couple of Firecrests! Bluethroats are rare enough here in the spring and in my time there have only been two previous records, so to see two together is quite unusual.

                               White-spotted Bluethroat, Dengemarsh Gully

Walland Marsh - We then moved onto the Marsh to carry out the final harrier count of the winter at our usual spot. Eventually, 19 Marsh Harriers came to roost at three different locations in the reed bed, all of which were females; two males did fly over the site but roosted elsewhere. Also noted hereabouts, three Buzzards, several Snipes and Reed Buntings, 20 Fieldfares, a Sparrowhawk and 25 Corn Buntings to roost.

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