Dec 2016/Jan 2017 birding update from Steve Waite

In an unprecedented move, Steve has delivered us a double whammy of birdwatching updates spanning December and January 🙂

As always, his input is much appreciated and do make sure to check out his site at — not only is Steve an expert birder, he’s also a fantastic photographer and it’s well worth a visit!

December 2016 & January 2017 Update

The Tufted Duck from November remained throughout this whole period, and can be seen daily among the Mallard flock on the top pond. The other scarcity from November, the Yellow-browed Warbler, remained until 12th December but hasn’t been seen since. This fits it with other Yellow-browed Warblers in the south west in December, many moved on mid-month in what was probably a weather related movement. There’s also been a Cetti’s Warbler wintering on site, though it is more often heard than seen.

New arrivals during this period include these three Gadwall (two drake and a female) that were briefly alongside the Tufted Duck on 19th January.


Gadwall with Tufted Duck © Steve Waite


There’s been excellent numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares this winter too, with several hundred roosting at the Ponds some nights. Whilst watching these on occasions a Barn Owl could be seen hunting around the Ponds at dusk, with the occasional call of Little Owl from nearby farms.

What’s striking to see is how the family group of Mute Swans has begun to break up, although the female still seems happy to have last year’s babies around, the male is much happier on his own!

MuteSwansLBPsplitup MuteSwanbumLBP

Mute Swans © Steve Waite

October Birding Update: Redwing, Goldcrest, Siskin

Thanks to Steve Waite for the following!


Although the month remained unseasonable mild throughout, there were the first signs of winter by the end of the first week of the month.  A couple of Cetti’s Warbler could be heard calling from the reeds (with one remaining all month), the first Water Rail was seen to run from cover to cover, and the first few Redwing flew low overhead.  Redwing are a thrush that breed in Scandinavia and only winter in the UK – so this really was a sign of winter!

Mute Swan with autumn colours in the water
Mute Swan with autumn colours in the water © Steve Waite

Goldcrest numbers have also increased, and last year’s wintering flock of Siskin have returned, although far fewer at the moment with no more than 20 birds present.

The highlight of the month came late on, with (as predicted in last months post) a lovely Yellow-browed Warbler around the top pond for a few days from the 30th. This ‘striped-up Chiffchaff’ breeds around the Urals and east, but every year seems to be increasingly using the UK as a regular migration route. They tend to arrive on the east coast of the UK from mid September, then filter down through the country and we see them here in the south west from a week or so later.  The willows and water at Lower Bruckland Ponds provide ideal insect feeding conditions.

September Birding Update: Mute Swans, Yellow-Browed Warblers

As ever, thanks to Steve Waite for the birding round up!


September is always the month when autumn moves on, and it is all change in the bird world. In the first half of the month birds that have spent the summer in the UK leave for their winter haunts, South Africa in most cases. But from mid-month most of these birds have left, and now autumn migration is about birds that arrive in to or pass through the UK from other countries. A lot of our autumn and winter birds come from Scandinavia or further east (i.e. Russia), or from the true north – the Arctic.

mute swan in the mist
Mute Swan in the mist © Steve Waite

This has been reflected at the Ponds, the Willow Warblers that were present at the start of the month have all gone and been replaced by Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests.  Only the occasional Swallow and House Martin can now be seen over the Ponds, far from the large flocks present at the start of September. It won’t be long until the sky is full of the calls of Fieldfare and Redwing too.

Sadly we have one less juvenile Mute Swan, but if they manage to get the remaining six off then it will still be a good year for them. That’s six more Mute Swans in the world!

Hopefully increased mist netting efforts at the Ponds over the next few months will reveal the presence of a scarce bird or two. A record number of Yellow-browed Warblers have already been reported on the east coast of the UK and these will filter down through the country of the next month, one of these would be much appreciated by the author of these posts!

A sunny autumn morning at Lower Bruckland Ponds
A sunny autumn morning at Lower Bruckland Ponds © Steve Waite

July Birding Update: Mute Swan family & Tufted Ducks

Thanks to Steve for another great update, do check out his blog for more of his expertise and excellent photos!

First of all, last month’s three Tufted Ducks remained for the first week of the month. This specie of duck is usually seen here during the winter months, so to see them surrounded by young Moorhen, Coot and Little Grebe was quite unusual!  Really pleased to also report the seven cygnets continue to grow well, and are now past their most venerable phase.

Mute Swan family
Mute Swan family © Steve Waite

Towards the end of the month the first evidence of south bound passerine migration could be seen, with a couple of young Willow Warblers in with the local Long-tailed Tit flock. This is very exciting news as it means the flood gates will soon open as the warblers and other summer migrants head off back to South Africa for the winter, and you never quite know what is going to pass through next.

With the arrival of some proper summer weather during this month, it was refreshing to see excellent numbers of butterflies and dragonflies around, including the first Small Red-eyed Damselflies of the year and the last Scarce Chasers of the summer – both rare species that can be found at the Ponds.

image02 image01Small Red-eyed Damselfly and Scarce Chaser © Steve Waite

June Birding Update: Tufted Ducks and Coot

June Update

The highlight of what is often the quietest month for birds were three Tufted Ducks (two drakes and a female). They were first seen on the Axe Estuary on Monday 13th June, but soon relocated to the Ponds where they remained beyond the end of the month. Tufted Ducks are unlike any other of the regular ducks species that reside in the Axe Valley as they are diving ducks. The Ponds provide the largest body of deep fresh water around so any diving ducks that do pay us a visit usually wind up here.


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Male and female Tufted Duck © Tim White


The seven cygnets seem to be growing well, with both parents always nearby. And it looks as though there are four pairs of Coot spread across the network of lakes, it is great to see this formally locally rare breeding species increasing in numbers.

Thanks as always to Steve for the update; thanks to Tim White for the photos.