Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Garden News - 31st May 2011

It's now over 10 years since I started recording the wildlife in my garden for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme. At the beginning birds such as the Starling were a regular feature in my weekly lists, but over the next years this gradually changed, until they became a real rarity!

Imagine my surprise then this morning when I woke up to the sound of a family party feeding in the garden. Looking out of the window I was really pleased to  see a group of approximately 15 birds, a mixture of adults and juveniles, squabbling over the meal worms that I'd put out. I grabbed the camera and managed to get this shot before they disappeared again.


These are the first juvenile Starlings that I've seen this year, but as mentioned previously, the garden has been full of young birds from other species for a couple of weeks. New in this week were Woodpigeon, Magpie (2 from the nest at the bottom of the garden), Dunnock, Goldfinch and Chaffinch (a first for the garden).

Juvenile Dunnock (very streaky)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Linacre - 29th May 2011 - Breeding success!!!

Thankfully I didn't bother to take too much notice of the weather forecast for this morning and got up bright and early and headed down to Linace for a few hours birding. I'm so glad I did, because I managed to some see some good birds, including 2 new species to add to the list of breeding birds, namely Coal Tit and Willow Tit! As well as the birds, the wild flowers on the dam walls haven't been mowed down yet and looked really nice, especially the Ox-eyed Daisies and Birds Foot Trefoil.

Both Coal and Willow Tit are recorded around the reservoirs throughout the year, but up until now, we've never had evidence of actual breeding. This morning, however, I was lucky enough to see 2 family parties of Coal Tit and an adult Willow Tit feeding 2 recently fledged young. Brilliant!!

The Little Grebes on the bottom reservoir are alive and well with a family group of 2 adults and 2 stripey headed juveniles present today. 2 Grey Herons were also seen, including 1 juvenile bird. The traditional site on the middle reservoir hasn't been used this year, so presumably this bird has fledged elsewhere and come to Linacre for the summer. 3 juvenile Magpies were sitting on the edge of their nest and an adult Jackdaw was seen going into the chimney on the house. There were 29 adult Mallards around and 4 different broods of 7, 3, 6 and 5 ducklings. The final piece of news on the breeding front was a juvenile Robin by the middle reservoir, the first of the year.

Several summer migrants were seen and heard around the reservoirs including 8 Swifts, 2 Swallows, 1 House Martin, 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Willow Warbler.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Padley Gorge - 28th May 2011

Had a short walk down the gorge this afternoon with Jayne. Despite the fact that it was quite late in the day we still managed to find some great birds doing what birds do best at this time of the year, that is creating the next generations!

First sighting was a family party of Grey Wagtails around the top of the gorge, followed closely by an adult Dipper (my first of the year!). Crossing over the river and returning back up towards the moor we could hear Pied Flycatchers singing and soon found a pair feeding young in one of the nest boxes. Whilst watching these birds we heard a real commotion and, looking up, we could see a male Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding young in a perfectly circular nesthole. The young really do make a noise, calling constantly, even when the adults birds aren't present! Nearby a Wood Warbler was heard singing and a female Redstart was spotted in the trees. Highlight of the day, however, went to the pair of Spotted Flycatchers that Jayne found nest building in a broken off tree stump -well done!! The nest is easily viewable from the main path, so I'll pop back laer this week and get some photos. Until then, here's an adult bird I saw back in 2007 at Barbrook Plantation.

Spotted Flycatcher

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Message for Jacob and family!

Apologies for this entry, but I wanted to get in touch with some people who came to the Dawn Chorus Walk last week and whose details I forgot to get. I'll delete this post if I'm successful!

Anyway, I'm hoping that Jacob and his parents are reading this. If you are, and you've still got the Tree Sparrows in your boxes I'd love to pop over and see them. Hope you don't mind me doing this. If you want to get in touch my email is stoppardp@hotmail.com.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Linacre - 22nd May 2011

Spent a few hours down at Linacre this morning checking the nest boxes and dodging the rain showers! The nest boxes were really great today with many full to bursting with more or less fully feathered chicks.

Blue Tit chicks

Great Tit chicks

As well as these well developed chicks a few of the boxes still had very young chicks in such as these below.

Blue or Great Tits (not sure yet!)

It's very interesting to see how the birds react differently when the lid is removed. As you can see from the photos, the older the birds are, the the more likely they are to crouch down low in the nest. The younger birds still react to any movement by opening up their gapes and begging for food, presumably because they are still blind and unaware of the potential danger! I'll be back next week to check on these later broods.

As well as checking the nest boxes I also noted the singing Pied Flycatcher, which unfortuntaely means he hasn't managed to attract a new mate, yet. The Coot's nest from last week is still in place, but was unattended and appeared to have been predated, possisbly by the many Carrion Crows that feed around the reservoirs. The Little Grebe nest was also empty, so hopefully the young have hatched and have been carried off by the adult birds. One Grey Wagtail was spotted, as was the hybrid Canada Goose, 2 Swallows and 3 adult Great-crested Grebes. 2 broods of Mallard ducklings (6 in each), were being fed on the middle reservoir.

The water level in the bottom reservoir had fallen again this week in prepearation for the work, which I beleive will begin next week. More news then.

Bottom Reservoir

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Garden News - 21st May 2011

It's been quite a while since I blogged about the birds in my garden, so I thought I'd better update you, especially as there have been some interesting developments this week.

First up is the increase in finch numbers in the garden over the last few weeks. We're very lucky to have good numbers of Goldfinch regularly visiting the feeders to  feast on the sunflower hearts, but this week they've been joined by at least three Chaffinches, a pair of Bullfinches and some absolutely stunning male Greenfinches.These birds all look really bright at the moment and will hopefully be bringing their young in the near future.

Goldfinch and male Greenfinch

Male Bullfinch

Talking of youngsters, this week has also brought the first juvenile birds of the year into the garden. The first was a young Blackbird which appeared today, followed this afternoon by a young Dunnock.

Juvenile Blackbird

The Magpie nest which was featured earlier this year appears to have young in it. I haven't actually seen them as the nest is now completely covered by the leaves, but whilst out in the garden this afternoon one of the adults flew in and chicks could be heard calling.

Finally, "Mr White" a leusistic (partially white) Blackbird that has been living in the garden since September 2010 is still alive and well. I've recently been putting meal worms out to help adult birds feed their young and Mr White has been a regular visitor as the awful photo below shows! Sorry about the photo quality but I had to take it  through  the window!

Mr White

Hopefully it won't be long before the first Goldfinch chicks appear. I'll let you know as soon as it happens.

Bird Atlas Walk - 21st May 2011

I popped out for a few hours this morning to carry out the 3rd walk for my Bird Atlas square, which is in Ashgate, Chesterfield. This was the first walk for this year's breeding season and the weather was perfect with nice sunshine and clear skies. 32 species of birds were seen including 7 new species for this square (Linnet, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Swallow, House Martin, Feral Pigeon and Chiffchaff).
As usual, one of the best parts of doing these surveys is the lovely countryside that I get to walk through, so here is a photo of one of the footpaths I walked down this morning.

Being quite late on in the breding season I was able to confirm breeding for some species with Jackdaw, Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit and Magpie all seen carrying food. As well as this I also found recently fledged Great Tits and a family party of Long-tailed Tits. House Sparrows were "chirruping" from the eaves of several houses, both House Martins and Swallows were in potential breeding habitat and there was no sign of breeding Starlings this time, so there's still lots of good reasons me to come back for my next and final visit in June.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Linacre 15th May 2011 - First Coots' nest of the year, another Year Tick and two new breeding records!

Yesterday's visit to Linacre was so busy that when I came to blog about it I completely forgot to mention that, as well as checking all the nest boxes, we also found our first Coot's nest of the year. Normally the birds build a nest in amongst the waterside vegetation, but obviously with the water levels so low this year, this has not been possible. Instead this pair have decided to build their nest on the stones by the edge of the water on the dam wall of the middle reservoir.


I popped back this afternoon and during my visit, the birds swopped places on the nest with the right hand bird swimming off to collect more sticks, which the left hand bird then added to the nest.

Whilst there I also walked around the bottom reservoir, which is in the process of being drained, and took a few photos of the water levels.

As you can see, small spits of land are appearing and the water is already about 5m below it's normal level. Luckily the Little Grebe's nest is attached to the bales of hay in the water and they've gone down with the water so the nest is still safe. An adult was sitting on the nest and the other adult was again nearby. Hopefully by next week the eggs should have hatched.

Also flying about today were 6 Swifts and another first for the year, 6 House Martins. The male Pied Flycatcher was also singing around the picnic area by the middle reservoir and 2 Grey Wagtails were feeding on the water's edge. Both Magpie and Jackdaw were seen carrying food to their respective nests, which adds these 2 species to the ever-increasing list of Linacre's breeding birds.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Linacre - 14th May 2011 - Dawn Chorus Walk, WeBS Walk, a Year Tick and Nestbox checking!!

Wow, what a busy morning!! The day started at 5.30am when I arrived at Linacre to take part in the annual Dawn Chorus Walk, together with Gillian, the DCC Ranger. Many thanks to the 15+ people who turned up. I'm always really pleased to see that people care enough about our natural world to give up a few hours sleep and enjoy what it has to offer.

Unfortunately, today's weather wasn't the best for listening to the birds as it was pretty windy! Despite this we did manage to hear Wren, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Jay and Robin. As well as this we also saw Mallard with 2 broods of ducklings, 3 Great-crested Grebes, 1 Pied Wagtail (the first record for this year and our first summer record!), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, the hybrid goose, Moorhen, Coot (first nest of the year) and the Little Grebe, that was still sitting on its nest.

Pied Wagtail

Following on from the Dawn Chorus Walk I was joined by several members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group and we set off to do the WeBS walk and check the group's nestboxes. Unfortunately, due to the low water levels in the reservoirs, we didn't count large numbers of birds. The highest count was Mallard (29), with 3 broods of 6, 6 and 7 and approximately 10 adults being recorded. Moorhen and Coot were around in small numbers, and we managed to find our first Coot nest of the year on the middle reservoir. 6 Tufted Ducks were also present, as were 1 Grey Heron, the hybrid goose and the Little Grebe.

The nest boxes were a lot more successful, but tinged with some sadness. We found 34 active nests and 1 brood of 7 Great Tits that had already fledged! No news on the "owl box" because the ladders we took today were too short to reach !! Unfortunately the Pied Flycatcher nest that was found last week still only had 3 eggs in it and they were cold. Added to this, the female bird was nowhere to be seen and the male bird was singing in a different part of the woods and so we can assume that this nest has now failed. We will never know what happened to the female bird, but she was never seen on the nest and is now presumably dead, through natural causes or killed by a predator. Hopefully the male bird will manage to find a new mate and start a new family this year- fingers crossed!!

To end on a happy note, here's a picture of some of today's Great Tit chicks that are also very close to fledging.

Great Tit chicks

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Nestbox checking and first Swift of the year- 8th May 2011

After a few hours of "retail therapy" at Meadowhall with my mum, wife and daughter this morning and with no sign of the forecast thunder storms I decided to have a couple of hours at Linacre this afternoon checking the nest boxes. I'm so glad I did, as I managed to find 34 active nests, including our first Pied Flycatcher nest of the year!!! As well as this I also noted the first Linacre Swift of 2011and a new brood of 6 Mallard ducklings.

As I said above, I found 34 active nests today. This is slightly lower than last time (see here) because I was on my own and I didn't have the ladders with me, so several boxes weren't checked. Despite this however, I'm really pleased, especially as one of the nests was that of a Pied Flycatcher. There were just 3 eggs present today, so obviously the female bird hasn't finished laying this clutch yet. We had 7 eggs last year, all of which, the birds managed to fledge!

Pied Flycatcher nest

All the other nests found today belonged to either Blue or Great Tit. They ranged from one brood that was just hatching and contained a mixture of naked, blind chicks and eggs to another in which the chicks were "in pin" which means their feathers are just coming through.

6 newly hatched young and 4 as-yet-to-hatch eggs
(most likely Blue Tits)

Great Tit chicks "in pin"

Sometimes when the nest boxes are opened the adult birds sit tight. In these cases I leave the bird on the nest and count the contents on the next visit. As I said last time, the welfare of the bird must come first whatever you're doing.

Blue Tit sitting on newly hatched chicks.

The "kestrel box" was checked, but the back had been removed or had fallen off and there weren't any eggs in the nest. No news on the "owl box" this time as it was too high to check without the ladders, but hopefully it'll get checked next week when the RSPB group do a full check. More news then!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

RSPB Farm Walk 7th May 2011

Spent a few hours this morning carrying out my second survey walk for the RSPB's Volunteer and Farmer Alliance at  a farm near Blyth, Nottinghamshire.

Last month's walk (see here) was quite quiet, but this month things had livened up a little with the arrival of a few summer migrants and more breeding activity from the resident species. First birds heard and seen were the Skylarks with at least half a dozen individual birds singing and displaying around the site. Chiffchaffs were also singing, and the first new summer migrants were Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler.

Sedge Warbler

Walking along by the river I came across several Mute Swans, Mallards, a pair of Gadwall and a pair of Tufted Duck. Canada and Greylag Geese were present on the nearby lake and half a dozen Sand Martins were also flying around.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Linacre - 2nd May 2011 Little Grebe's nest

After our walk around the reservoirs yesterday I thought I'd spotted a Little Grebe's nest on the bottom reservoir, but without my scope, I couldn't be sure. For this reason, therefore, I popped back this morning for a quick look and then lo and behold there it was, slap bang in the middle of the bottom reservoir on top of the green barley rafts put in the water to stop the growth of blue green algae!

When I arrived, the nest was empty and had been covered over by the adult bird, as she had left to feed.

A short while later, however, the adult bird returned and began to uncover the eggs...

before settling down to continue the incubation!

Another adult bird, part of this pair presumably, was spotted close by so good luck to them both and I'll keep you informed of any developments.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Linacre 1st May 2011 - sunshine, wind, butterflies and a year tick.

Every year it's the same and it never fails to amaze me just how quickly the trees come into leaf and everything turns green! So it was this afternoon when Jayne and I popped down to Linacre for a few hours in the sunshine. I've only been away for a week, but in that short space of time everything has changed. Most noticeable today were the "May blossom" or Hawthorn trees around the site, which were all out  in full flower and looking beautiful.

Hawthorn flowers

As well as this, the Wild Garlic flowers had also opened up and had peppered the green carpets with dozens of lovely white flowers.

Wild Garlic in flower

As well as the flowers this afternoon's visit, despite the very strong winds, was very good for butterfly sightings with 6 species being seen, namely Speckled Wood (1), Large White (7), Peacock (2), Orange Tip (2 males), Comma (1) and a beautifully coloured Small Copper (1).

Small Copper

Birdwise, the reservoirs were pretty quiet, although 2 singing Garden Warblers were a good year tick. A Common Sandpiper was present on the middle reservoirs, dodging all the dogs and people playing on the lovely mud (!) and 2 broods of Mallard, 7 and 8, were swimming around as well. The hybrid goose (see here) was still present on the top reservoir and 4 Great-crested Grebes (2 pairs) were still looking forlornly for somewhere to build a nest!