Heslington East evening walk Sept 3rd

Despite the rain and black clouds overhead, 17 of us joined John Lawton on the Club’s evening walk round Heslington East last night. It was great to be joined by new members of the club too.  Apart from one notable exception it was relatively light on the bird species count (and all the insect life was firmly out of sight in the cool damp conditions).

John showed us how he ‘works’ the site to best advantage, at each stage describing how the site has been developed and what the University has done and is intending to do to preserve and encourage the widest range of flora and fauna possible. The only wader of the night was one Green Sandpiper (which was only picked up because it flew past the ‘scope’ as Jane was  scanning the far end for grebes!) which landed on the furthest part of the main lake from us and was sadly not picked up again when we got closer.

The real surprise of the night was the size of the Greylag flock – not only was it a great spectacle seeing several hundred fly in to join the flock already on the lake – when counted there proved to be an astonishing 870 there; to put this into perspective, the previous highest count was around 450 last week and before that, 420 in 2013. 169 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose, 2 Mute Swans and their Black Swan companion were also swimming about with them, as were 11 of the feral flock of Barnacle Geese (the latter more often seen at Hes West).
The University’s  Snow Goose flock (32) flew over the lake too (not seen often at Hes East, they usually stay on Hes West), heading off in the direction of the playing fields/golf course.
30+ House Martins were feeding over the fields bordering Low Lane and School Lane, Heslington (near the upper end of the lake)
1 Teal was with c. 90 roosting Black-headed Gulls on Top Lagoon
8 Little Grebes (including 1 well grown juvenile) were counted on the upper and main lake.
1 Cormorant, 5 Grey Herons, 11 Tufted Duck, a handful of Goldfinches, Coot, Moorhen, Woodpigeon, Mallard, a couple of Skylarks, and Sand Martin (still visiting row 5, hole 2 to feed young) were also seen.

Rain and rapidly fading light brought the walk to a close earlier than hoped, but everyone appeared to enjoy the walk and the opportunity for many to find out more about a site they have not birded at regularly before.
Many thanks to John for taking us around and for giving us all the background information.