Winter 2003/2004 in the Cotswold Water Park has so far produced some surprising and spectacular bird sightings. Lake 31 at Keynes Country Park produced two of these; a Yellow-browed Warbler, first seen on the 29/12 and showing well through to the 5/1/04 by many who twitched this bird; and the Red-throated Diver, first sighted on the 14/12, producing many records for the rest of the month. In the New Year, 7/01/04, a Kumlien’s Gull (North American race of Iceland Gull) was sighted at a pre-roost gathering on Lake 68b by Kim Milsom.
The ever-popular influx of Smew has also yielded many records from around the CWP, including Lake 74, Lake 75 and Lake 57 (including KC, NA, SE), throughout December. As in previous years there are many records of Little Egret through October to December as well as for Goosander. The Goosander roost (location withheld) was counted on 24/12 (GH, NA) yielding 21 males and 14 females. More recent counts in January (PC) have yielded counts of 46 birds (21 males, 25 females). Additional Goosander records include Lake 41 (20/11 GH), Lake 32 (9/12 CW and 24/12 TA and JH) and Lake 34 (many sightings throughout November and December).
Several sightings of Bittern have been surprising, e.g. flying over L32 29/12 (NA). Two Bittern were seen together (location undisclosed due to sensitivity of site). Several Woodcock have been seen including the one at Lake 6 18/12 (AS) and debate continues on the Pochard/Scaup hybrid at Lower Mill Estate first seen at Lake 57 7/12 (GH and NA) but seen by many observers.
Records from the Hide Log Books are as follows:
Cokes Pit Local Nature Reserve (Lake L34)
Great Crested Grebes were frequently sighted in October and November (DW, DC, LM) and in December Goldeneye (KW) and Red Crested Pochard (PC, KW) were regularly recorded. Goosanders were seen on Lake 32/34 in December (many records) with a peak count of six spotted on 9/12 (CW). Reed Buntings were also seen by many observers throughout this time.
Shorncote Reed Bed (Lakes 84/85)
Apart from the usual several hundred waterfowl including Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard, regulars to Shorncote from October-December were Fieldfare, Green Sandpipers and a pair of Stonechats (Many Records). There were also high counts of Golden Plover in November (JM and Unknown). A Barn Owl showed regularly at Lake 84/85 with sightings throughout October-December (including PG and LG 11/10, GD 21/11 and LH, SW and JR 30/12). There have also been records of Buzzards (JM, RS, KC) in October and early November, a Peregrine Falcon on 06/11 (JM) and a Sparrrowhawk in late December (LH, SW and JR 30/12). Yellowhammers have also been sighted on several occasions on Lake 84/85 in November (KM and AW). CW gained a spectacular sighting of a Peregrine Falcon hunting Snipe over the reed bed, failing to catch the bird before flying higher to join two other Peregrine Falcons (5/12). Two days later, a pair of Peregrines were seen talon grappling over Lake 68c 7/12, (NA).
Waterhay Hide (Lakes 68c and 68d)
Frequent sightings at the Waterhay include numerous records of 1-2 Cetti’s Warbler and 300-1000 Lapwing from October-December; 200-300 Golden Plover in October and November; and up to five Water Rail in November and December inc 5 heard and seen 7/12 (MP, NA, GH). There are frequent records of 2-300 Teal. In October Fieldfare were regularly recorded (Many records) and Meadow Pipits (Walton, SE LM) and Redshank (Walton, RT, LM, RG) in November. In December there were many records of Reed Buntings (SE, GD, and JB) and Smew (KC, NA, SE, GH) on Lake 68a and Lake 74. There were also three sightings of Goosander around the Waterhay on the 7th and 8th December (SE). Special guests to the Waterhay include Hen Harrier, recorded on 13/10 on Lake 68c/d (Walton) and Sparrowhawk around Lake 68c/d throughout October and November (Walton, CM). Peregrine Falcons have been seen throughout November and December around Lake 68c (PC, NA, JB) as have Treecreepers (JB, SE, GD). Also, three Buzzards were recorded on Lake 68a 09/12 (GH, NA).
WEBS Counts at Cleveland Lakes (Lakes 74, 68a, 68b, 68c and 68d), (15/12 GH & MM) yielded 2 Whooper Swans and 2 male Smew, 86 Ruddy duck, 114 Tufted Duck and 32 Goldeneye, 125 Wigeon and 106 Pochard and 42 Gadwall and many others, including 814 Coot!
Continued efforts to ring at the Reed Bunting roosts throughout the winter have yielded many new birds and several re-traps, including a bird caught & ringed at Lake 68d in December 2002 by Matt Prior returning to winter in December 2003. A Water Rail was ringed in the Eastern CWP by John Wells. The cannon-netting of the Wigeon met with some success in December. Several hundred Starlings have been ringed at the Lake 6 roost site, producing some invaluable research data and also yielding a Snipe and several Reed Buntings too.