Sunday, 1 May 2016

Paxton Pits Nature Reserve

Yesterday I went with members of RSPB Havering Local Group and North East London Local Group on a coach trip to Paxton Pits. An overnight frost meant I had to scrape the windscreen before driving off to pick-up the coach in Romford at 07.30. Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky on the way there looked promising for a good day. After a brief pitstop enroute we arrived at 09.30 the sun was still shining, the sky was still blue and with hardly a breath of wind it felt pleasantly warm. 

Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats covering, at present, 78 hectares of lakes, riverside, meadow, reedbed, scrub and woodland, situated in the Great Ouse valley between St Neots and Huntingdon. 

Paxton Pits are renowned for Nightingales and sure enough almost the first bird heard and then seen after stepping off the coach was nightingale. A nightingale titbit - It is unlikely that Vera Lynn ever heard a Nightingale singing in Berkeley Square, it was much more likely to have been a Robin, which also sings at night. Nightingales are a red listed species in the UK and of a conservation concern. I counted six songsters today and amazingly for this species four showed well, although still tricky to photograph.
Nightigale in full song

Nightingale singing his heart out!

The reserve was full of bird song, especially warblers, I counted two Lesser Whitethroats, one Garden Warbler, two Cetti's Warblers and lots of Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Add to this the more common resident species like Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Wren and you have one hell of a natural orchestra playing a stunning soundtrack to my walk around the reserve.

It wasn't just birds, oh no a Dark-edged Bee Fly attracted my attention it looks rather like a bumblebee, with a long, straight proboscis that it uses to feed on nectar from spring flowers.

Dark-edged Bee Fly Bombylius major

A Muntjac Deer fed unconcerned in the open, Muntjac are small stocky deer and were brought from China to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century. They are now widespread and increasing in number and range.

And then there was a litter of at least six Fox cubs, they were huddled together in the open close to a path, but surprisingly difficult to spot. They could only have been a few days old and had the arghhh factor!

In the pond beside the visitor centre we found at least six Smooth Newts and a pair of Great Crested Newts and they kept many people entertained as they disappeared amongst the vegetation before reappearing, for many the Great Crested were a the first they had seen. While on the lawn a female Blackbird and a Robin were hunting for grubs.

Our next trip is Saturday May 21st to RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk, the most popular of our coach trips. If you fancy coming with us you will need to book early!