Sunday, 27 March 2011

New Binoculars and 6 Year Ticks - what a day!!!!

I haven't had any new binoculars for the last 14 years, so, with a big birthday coming up in April this year, Jayne offered to get me some as a special treat. Thank you darling!!

We decided to go to RSPB Old Moor to have a look and take advantage of my volunteer card that gets me a 20% discount off their own brand optics. I'd already read a few reviews of their HD bins and so decided to give them a go. It was only when I looked through the new bins that I realised just how old and filthy mine were!!! Anyway, to cut a long story short we decided to go with the 8x42 bins and set off around the reserve to put them to good use.

Me and my new bins!!!

First stop was Wath Ings Hide where a stunning male Pintail (1st year tick) was busy feeding just in front of the hide. This type of duck is known as a dabbling duck and feeds by "upending" and sieving small insects and plant material from the water. Just like this!

Pintail "upending"

Other waterbirds present on the reserve were Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Goosander (3 females), Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Moorhen, Coot, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull, Gadwall and Pochard. 

Small birds (passerines) feeding in the garden and on the "Tree Sparrow Farm" included a male Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Collared Dove. A Green Woodpecker (2nd year tick) was seen from Wader Scrape Hide.

After a spot of lunch in the cafe (stuffed pepper and all the Sunday lunch vegetables, lovely!) we headed over to nearby Wombwell Ings (also an RSPB site and part of the whole Dearne Valley project) where a pair of Garganey (3rd year tick) and several Little Ringed Plover (4th year tick) had been reported. Both species were seen, although the Garganey were quite distant and fast asleep! Here's my best effort, photowise.

Garganey (male)

Also present here were a pair of Shelduck (5th year tick), 2 Dunlin and the usual waterbirds.

Back at home I decided to drive up to Leash Fen again in search of a Great Grey Shrike (6th year tick) that has been present for several weeks. The luck of the new binoculars was still with me, and thanks to a couple from Dronfield (thank you very much if you're reading this) we managed to locate the bird on Ramsley Moor. Although pretty distant, it was sat on the top of a tree in unmistakable Shrike-like fashion and I just about managed to get this shot. Pretty awful I know, but better than nothing!

A very distant Great Grey Shrike

A super day and to misquote a famous TV cookery judge "Birding doesn't get any better than this!!!" see you again soon.

Linacre Year Tick x 2 - 27th March 2011

Walking around Linacre this morning one of the first birds I heard was a Tawny Owl, twitting from the woods (the first year tick).The Chiffchaffs were in good voice with 7 different birds noted and Great -spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, with at least 4 individuals seen and heard. The Common Buzzards (2), were feeding by the main entrance again and the usual woodland species were singing all around the reservoirs. On arrival at the top reservoir the second year tick of the morning put in an appearance when 2 Canada Geese (including a hybrid bird that's been seen every spring for the last 5 years)  were spotted swimming around. Some years these birds stay on and breed on the raft here, other times they don't. Let's wait and seen what happens this year.

Hybrid goose- any guesses anyone?

In addition to the Canada Geese I also noticed that the water level in the top reservoir had fallen by about 3 metres. This is part of essential maintenance work that is to be carried out later this spring. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera with me this morning, so I haven't got any photos to show you what it looks like, but I will try and get some next time I'm down there. Hopefully it won't have a too detrimental effect on the breeding season and who knows perhaps the exposed mud might attract a passing wader or two? Keep watching to find out! 

Other waterbirds present today: Mallard (46), Tufted Duck (23), Mandarin (7), Coot (16), Moorhen (13), Great-crested Grebe (2 pairs), Little Grebe (heard).

Also noted this lovely little flower, which is Wood Sorrel I think.

Also saw this, which again I think is Dog Violet.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Garden News - 26th March 2011

When I arrived back from the moors this morning I was watching the Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Woodpigeons in the garden when I spotted these two lovely Bullfinch in the trees. They are annual visitors to the garden, usually in early spring and then again in late summer, so these birds' timimg was spot on. They flew down onto the patio to feed on some spilt sunflower hearts, but only stayed for a minute or two, before flying off over the trees. More records for the BTO's Garden Birdwatching Scheme.

Bullfinch (female on left)

Other news form the garden includes an update on the white Blackbird, first spotted at the end of last year.

"Mr White"

He is alive and well and was spotted mating with a "normal" female Blackbird last Wednesday. Let's see what happens if they manage to raise young this year.

Leash Fen and Burbage Moor - 26th March 2011

Just returned from a couple of hours up on the moors looking for early returning migrants - without any luck!!! I did, however, get a few "year ticks" and some new information for the BTO's Bird Atlas.

I started off at Leash Fen where I found my first singing Yellowhammer of the year. This was joined by several Meadow Pipits, also singing and displaying. Shilitoe Wood held the usual Chaffinches and a Song Thrush.

Next stop was Burbage Moor, which was also very quiet, but I did hear Red Grouse, Wren, Stonechat (year tick) and several Siskin, which were flying over.

Stonechat (male)

Driving home I decided to go via Barlow. Just as I was heading up towards Dronfield I noticed a pair of Mandarin Duck flying around and landing in a tree. I pulled over and whilst watching them, 3 Stock Dove also flew in and landed in a nearby tree. All the birds seemed very interested in a potential nest site - great records for the Atlas. I stayed and watched for about 10 minutes, during which time a pair of Nuthatch also flew in and looked at the same hole, as did a male Great-spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Jackdaw!!!

It's interesting to speculate where the Mandarins came from, but with Linacre just a few miles away as the Mandarin flies, it seems very likely that they came from here, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Linacre Reservoir - 20th March 2011

Sunday's walk around Linacre was a quick affair, but included my first singing Chiffchaffs of the year, 3 in total. Lots of other resident birds were also singing (Goldcrest and  Song Thrush being the best)  and a Great-spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming again. 1 Common Buzzard was seen in the field by the main entrance again and a Grey Wagtail on the overflow of the middle reservoir was a great sight.

Signs of winter however, were still in evidence with several Siskin heard around the Larch woodlands and a single Black-headed Gull which was on the middle reservoir and may well be the last until late August when the first birds start to return. 

Other birds of note were: Great-crested Grebe (3 summer plumaged birds), Mallard (51), Coot (15, including a lot of display and aggressive behaviour), Moorhen (16), Mandarin (11), Little Grebe (2), Tufted Duck (21),

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Raptor Fest - Upper Derwent Valley- 19th March 2011

The last time I blogged about the Upper Derwent Valley back in January the news wasn't good. I was reporting about raptor persecution during the 2010 breeding season. Thankfully today's post is a lot more pleasant and hopefully enjoyable.

Today's walk was organised by the Derbyshire Ornithological Society and involved a morning watching raptors dispalying above the skies of Howden and Derwent Water. Unfirtunately no pictures of the birds as they were too far away and too high up!

We met at Fairholmes Car Park at 9am and the first raptors soon put in an appearance, when an enormous female Goshawk was identified flying high over the moors. This wasn't to be our only sighting of this iconic species, however, and several more were spotted throughout the morning. Common Buzzards lived up to their name,with numbers in double figures. A pair of Kestrels were also recorded and several Sparrowhawks were noted high up in display. One Peregrine Falcon was seen in the company of two Buzzards amd the honourary raptors, Ravens, were also recdorded, when four birds were seen together at the top of the valley. The final raptor of the day was a "ringtail" Hen Harrier, which was found from Windy Corner, high over the moors.

Other birds present included a beautiful male Red-breasted Merganser preening and feeding on Howden Water, my first Meadow Pipit of the year, Siskin, Red Grouse and a pair of Pied Wagtail.

Pied Wagtail

These sightings prove that the area is still a very popular one for many different birds of prey. Let's hope this year's breeding season is a lot more productive than last year's!!!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Linacre WeBS Walk - 12th March 2011

This month's WeBS walk took place on a mild, dry morning with an excellent turn out of 10 participants. As "predicted" last week we were very lucky and managed to find our first summer migrant, when a Chiffchaff was located feeding in the willows by the top reservoir. This record is two weeks earlier than last year and, who knows, perhaps it refers to an over wintering individual or just an early returning migrant? Other signs of spring were drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, singing Dunnock, Wren, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and Great Tit, as well as our first frogspawn in the top reservoir, by the bridge.

Frogspawn (Can you see it?)

Following on from last week's summer plumaged Cormorant the group managed to find 4 individuals on the bottom reservoir this morning, including 2 summer plumaged birds. This constitutes our highest ever record, and although it's most likely too late to set up a breeding colony this year, perhaps it bodes well for next year?

Other water birds recorded this month were: Black-headed Gull (54), Goosander (1 male), Coot (9),Moorhen (12), Tufted Duck (18), Mallard (46), Grey Heron (1), Mandarin Duck (9), Little Grebe (1), Great-crested Grebe (2).

Sunday, 6 March 2011

RSPB Old Moor - 6th March 2011

As those of you who know me will most likely know I do like to look at gulls- especially those that are still relatively uncommon and tricky to see such as Mediterranean Gull!! As such, I managed to persuade my family to have a drive over to RSPB Old Moor near Barnsley in South Yorkshire to see if we could catch up with an adult summer-plumaged bird that has been present for a few days. Lady luck was on our side, and as soon as we sat down in the hide we managed to pick up the bird sat approximately 300m away in amongst the large and very noisy Black-headed Gull colony.

Mediterranean (left) and Black-headed Gull

Many people feel intimidated with gull identification, but if you look at this picture, it soon becomes clear that the Med Gull is slightly larger than the Black-headed and has a much blacker hood (unlike the chocolate-brown one shown here on the BH Gulls) which also extends much further down the bird's neck. In addition it has a thicker, much redder beak, and , as an adult, the wings of a Med Gull are completely white, whereas the BH Gull has black in them (the primaries I think, but don't quote me!!) All in all a beautiful bird and one well worth a visit if you get time.

Other waterbirds present on the reserve this afternoon included 100+ Wigeon, about half a dozen Goosander, Lapwing, 1 Redshank, a few pairs of Oystercatcher, which were settling down to breed,Little and Great-crested Grebe and several pairs of Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Teal.

Male and female Gadwall

We didn't spend much time looking at the smaller birds today (the cafe was calling!), however we did manage to see Tree Sparrow, a real Old Moor speciality, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and the usual Tit species.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Linacre Reservoir - 5th March 2011

Despite some very murky, overcast conditions I decided to have a couple of hours around Linacre this morning, just in case any summer migrants had come in. Unfortunately non had, but I did manage to get the first wildfowl counts of the month and hear drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers and my first Grey Wagtail of the year.

Great-spotted Woodpecker

Waterfowl numbers were average for this time of the year with the following recorded: Mallard (43), Coot (14), Moorhen (14), Tufted Duck (20), Black-headed Gull (30), Great-crested Grebe (2), Little Grebe (2), Mandarin (12), Grey Heron (1), Cormorant (1) and Grey Wagtail (1).

The Great-crested Grebes were together on the middle reservoir, so hopefully they should breed here again. Other signs of breeding activity included singing by the Grey Wagtail, the Cormorant being in full summer plumage and the Mandarin flying around and disappearing into the woods west of the reservoirs where people tell me they nest.


The usual woodland birds were recorded again with singing from Great Tit, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Dunnock and Chaffinch. At least 4 Great-spotted Woodpeckers were chasing each other through the trees and at least 2 were drumming in the same area.

This month's WeBS walk takes place next Saturday (12th) at 8.30am in the lower car park, so here's hoping we can record our first Chiffchaffs!