Sunday, 10 January 2010
Tracks and trails
It felt a touch milder this morning as I headed into Alexandra Park, meeting up with Andrew Gardener and then Bob Watts and Stuart Harrington for a spot of Woodcock-watching. That was the theory, anyhow. We scoured every patch of suitable habitat on the lower slopes and the east side, but with no joy. The closest we got - if it was close at all - was a distant shape flushing away through the trees near the pitch 'n putt course.
But I also found these tracks (top picture) in snow next to a tiny ice-free stream in the Conservation Area (or Gobblers' Gulch, to use its less savoury local name). The £2 coin I placed next to them measures 29 mm in diameter, making the length of the middle toe some 35-40 mm. This fits closely to the measurements quoted in Birds of the Western Palearctic (Vol III) for a series of Dutch specimens, and the outer toe is also described as "c. 71% of middle, inner c. 68%, hind 28%". These ratios could possibly also fit, though the problem with prints in damp snow is that they don't leave a firm and accurate impression. Even with my present determination to see a Woodcock on one of my patches I don't think I can face a return visit at midnight with a spotlight; I'll keep trying with more conventional means.
The other point of this morning's visit was to erect a feeder near the reservoir - a necessary measure in this prolonged cold spell. Subject to a ceasefire from the local youth, this may become the first contribution to what could eventually be a fully fledged feeding station. On the reservoir itself the Eurasian Wigeon was spending its second day - a good bird around here, and only the second I've seen in the park. A few other bits and pieces gave themselves up today, including a pair of Northern Shoveler back on the ice-hole on the boating lake, but there was just a single Fieldfare and fewer Redwings than last week. The new year-ticks for my Alexandra Park patchlist were:
45. Goldfinch (actually already seen, but omitted from the list).
47. Eurasian Wigeon.
48. Collared Dove.
49. Lesser Redpoll.