Spring Ringing at Bedfont Lakes

It’s all go at Bedfont Lakes as we start this years CES (Constant Effort Sight Scheme). At the main site (the nature reserve on the north side) the reed warblers have returned and are still settling in whilst breeding is in already in full swing for some of the other species. We had our first fledglings of the year over the last two weeks, a species which also happen to be one of the cutest; long-tailed tits in their juvenile plumage, complete with their dark chocolate brown (super hero style) face masks. Fighting against injustice towards all thing small and fluffy 😉

Juvenile long-tailed tit with dark face mask

Juvenile long-tailed tit with dark face mask

IMG_1715Surprisingly we have yet to catch any robin or blue tit fledglings which are usually one of the earliest species to breed. I suspect the blue tits are out there somewhere considering the stage of the brood patches on some of the adult females we have caught. There are a few sedge warblers around (my personal favourite) as well as the resident Cetti’s from last year (let’s hope for another year of breeding success!), blackcaps, chiffchaffs and a couple of garden warblers ringed a few weeks ago. A nice surprise was this lovely male whitethroat, a species usually only caught at the South Side of the park.

Whitethroat

Whitethroat

IMG_4781Another rare catch was this treecreeper from 3 weeks ago, only the third we have caught since I started in January 2014. They are just exquisite up close! Such beautiful markings.

Treecreeper

Treecreeper

We’ve also managed a couple of visits to the South Side of the park this month and last which produced one exciting and one very very exciting (a first for this site) species. Both I’ll admit are prone to being described at ‘dull’ looking birds, however I tend to disagree especially in relation to the former; this very smart looking lesser whitethroat.

Lesser whitethroat

Lesser whitethroat

The latter species? Last, but certainly not least, after my trainer suddenly stopped in the middle of putting the nets up and swore he heard a nightingale singing (despite being the ripe old age of 75 he still puts my bird song ID skills to shame)…. Guess what our very first bird of the day was??? A species I’ve only ever heard in the lovely surroundings of Blean Woods and would never dream of seeing just a few miles away from my house! I’ll confess I really did know what it was at first, somehow I expected them to be bigger, amazing the perspective you get from having the opportunity to get up close to these birds. The rufous tale is a good indication, although it was a lot subtler than I was expecting. Yes a ‘little brown job’ but still a beautiful one and certainly a rare treat!

Nightingale!

Nightingale!

IMG_4749Other none bird related sightings include a lovely little micro moth Ptycholoma lecheana whose beautiful metallic markings caught my eye last week, at least 2 grass snakes seen sunning themselves on the board walk and a brief glimpse of a green hairstreak that I got rather excited about at South Side two weeks ago – just one individual as far as I could tell so I’m not sure if this was an anomaly or if their is a colony of them, either way the sighting was certainly an nice unexpected surprise (the best kind!). We’re back there next week so I will have a good search around.

Ptycholoma lecheana

Ptycholoma lecheana

So really it’s been a very exciting couple of months! I have only one more to go before I leave to spend the rest of my summer on Skokholm Island. As excited as I am I will miss this lovely little unassuming place and the way it never ceases to excite and amaze me; a haven for birds (and for me) in the middle of all this concrete and noise.

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Golden Crested Birds and Mysterious Red Capped Mushrooms

As the warbler activity has died down at Bedfont Lakes – aside from our resident Cetti’s warbler, a few chiffchaffs (one a retrap that was ringed back in April so thought to be a resident rather than a wintering visitor) and a male blackcap, tit activity seems to have increased. This is a great opportunity for me to get familiar with ageing great tits and blue tits and of course the chance for an adorable long-tailed tit group photo that is sure to brighten up anyone’s day!

Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus

Two Sundays ago I was also delighted to have the opportunity to ring my first ever goldcrest!

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

This individual was shortly followed by two more….

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Gorgeous! Considering the autumnal colours all around I thought the beautiful golden yellow crest of this tiny bird went nicely with the red, orange and brown hues of several species of fungi I discovered growing close by; my favourite of which being this lovely Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes

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Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes

IMG_3560 IMG_3564More of a mystery, however is this red capped mushroom growing in large numbers on woodchip, thought to be a Russula sp possibly beechwood sickener; the trouble is there are no beech trees around, however I think the spores are likely to have come in on the woodchip which may contain beech. I’m informed that the woodchip is made up of willow from the park itself but also from wood that is brought in from all over the borough, so who knows what could be in it! IMG_3538 IMG_3534IMG_3745IMG_3742IMG_3738Any suggestions would be welcome!

Another nice find was what I believe to be Turkeytail fungus Trametes versicolor

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Turkeytail fungus, Trametes versicolor

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And the prize for the cutest fledgling goes to….

This chocolate coloured ball of fluffy joy!IMG_1715A Long-tailed tit fledgling, ringed today at Bedfont Lakes. Gorgeous!

We we’re also joined by clouds of damselflies this morning in the sunshine, a group I am currently getting to grips with (luckily my ringing trainer is also a dragonfly and damselfly enthusiast!) and we noted common blue, azure blue and blue-tailed damselflies. The common and azure blues are difficult to tell apart from a distance but if you manage to get close (or take a photo before you camera battery dies because you forgot to charge it, which is what happened to me this morning….) look at the start of the abdomen just behind the thorax, the common blue has a mushroom shaped black marking whereas as the azure is ‘U’shaped. I will try to get good comparison photos over the next week, and one of a blue-tailed.

Also, the first of my two Lesser Yellow Underwings emerged yesterday! Lovely to see a freshly emerged specimen when the markings are so clear. IMG_1665