Sunday, 26 June 2011

Linacre -26th June 2011 Patch tick!!

This time of year can sometimes be a little dull bird wise at Linacre, so when I set off for a walk this morning I wasn't really expecting anything exciting to report. How wrong I was! As well as a lovely pair of Bullfinch feeding on some "weeds" sticking out of the dam wall and a Moorhen with a pair of chicks (first of the year) on the middle reservoir I also found a new bird for the site - a juvenile Little Ringed Plover!!!!

Little Ringed Plover

The bird was first spotted feeding along the muddy edge of the top reservoir and watched for a good fifteen minutes. At first I wasn't 100% sure which plover species it was, but looking in Collins, (the best field guide ever!) it was soon obviously a LRP, with its narrow,black beak, yellowy legs and small, yellow orbital ring around the eye. Brilliant record! Perhaps with so much mud exposed we might get a few more passage waders dropping in this year- fingers crossed.

Other birds spotted this morning were Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Mandarin (3 broods), Mallard (2 broods), Coot (2!), Swallow (10),Swift (1), House Martin (2), Great Crested Grebe (2), and Tufted Duck (15).

Other sightings of note were 5 Meadow Brown butterflies and a beautiful group of 100+ orchids, which, after a quick google search, appear to be Common spotted Orchid. Let me know if that's not right please.

Common spotted Orchid

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Blackcap at Linacre- breeding confirmed!!

Just been on the website of the Sheffield Bird Study Group where there's a report of a male Blackcap visiting a nest with food. This is our first actual evidence of breeding, although its been presumed every year. Good record.

Also of note was a record of a juvenile Kingfisher, the first of this species this year. Kingfisher are usually reported in the summer months and I presume this individual will be a newly fledged bird from further down the valley. Again, great to see.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Black-necked Grebes - beautiful birds!!!

Spent a few hours over at RSPB Old Moor in Barnsley as my Father's Day treat on Sunday. Unfortunately the weather wasn't playing, with grey clouds and a strongish wind. Despite this however, I managed to get some good birds (as always) and a new tick for me in the shape of a Tree Bumblebee!!

First up, birdwise, were the hundreds of Black-headed Gull chicks. They were everywhere!! Most were pretty well developed and spent most of the time sat around preening.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull

The next birds I saw were two stunning adult summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes swimming on The Mere from the Family Hide.These birds have been present for over a week now and can, at times, show really well. No photos of these birds, but here's one I took a few years ago in West Yorkshire.

Black-necked Grebe

As well as the young Black-headed Gulls, lots of other species were also in full breeding mode with juveniles of the following species seen: Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Little Grebe, Coot, MoorhenMallard, Gadwall and Pochard (my first ever!!). Other species still on eggs or feeding young included Lapwing and Sedge Warbler. Three species of wader were seen: Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Redshank, but no young were spotted. Avocets have bred successfully for the first time this year, but we didn't see them today! Don't know where they were! Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were all feeding over the water. The latter species was using the high tech Sand Martin nesting bank, bought with donations from many groups including our very own Chesterfield RSPB Group.

Sand Martin bank
On the way back to the car the sun had come out so I stopped off to look at some bees. I spotted one that I thought might be a Tree Bumblebee, so took a few shots, before it flew off. I uploaded the pictures to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's website and they very kindly emailed me back to confirm the identification.

Tree Bumblebee

This bee is a relative newcomer to the UK having only arrived here for the first time in 2001, but has been spreading north ever since. It's quite easy to identify, so if you want to find one for yourself this summer have a look on the above link.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

RSPB Farm Walk - 18th June 2011

This morning I carried out my third and final walk as part of  the RSPB's Volunteer and Farmer Alliance programme at the farm in Blyth, Nottinghamshire.The weather stayed dry, the poppies looked amazing and several new species were added to the list including evidence of breeding for the BTO's Bird Atlas.


First up this morning were singing Chaffinch and a family party of Blue Tit. Walking around through the waist-high grass I also found several Whitethroat, which were alarm calling and probably had nests nearby. A pair of Reed Buntings was a new bird for this site, but the highlight of the morning,was the 3 Yellow Wagtails, which included one male complete with a beak full of food -  evidence of breeding!! Here's an awful shot of him perched up on a tree.

Yellow Wagtail

The Skylarks were still in good voice and on the way back at the end of the walk I was lucky enough to come across this beautiful young Roe Deer who had got split up from his mum and brother/sister, who were standing some distance away in the woods. I stood still on the path and he/she walked straight towards me until he was just 5m away!! I managed to get a decent shot before he realised I wasn't mum and hopped off into the woods!

Roe Deer

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Gamekeeper found guilty.

Following on from my recent blog about the destruction of the Hen Harrier nest in Derbyshire earlier this year, it was interesting to see that not everyone who targets birds of prey in Derbyshire is geting off scot free. Follow this link to read about the prosecution of a Derbyshire gamekeeper following undercover work in the Upper Derwent Valley by the RSPB.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Linacre WeBS Walk - 11th and 12th June 2011

This month's WeBS walk results are a combination of  two walks, the first by Mandy and Vicky on Saturday and the second by me on Sunday 12th. Waterbird numbers were about right for this time of year, but there was a lovely surprise was a new breeding species for Linacre - Pied Wagtail. 2 juvenile birds were found being fed by an adult on the middle reservoir. Until now we have only recorded recorded Pied Wagtail during the winter months, so this record is really good!

Juvenile Pied Wagtail

As well as this we also confirmed breeding for Grey Wagtail again with a family party and two broods of Mandarin Duck were also present. A Common Buzzard was seen flying low over the bottom car park, being mobbed by 2 Crows and a male Bullfinch was also seen in this area. Mandy found an adult Spotted Flycatcher on Saturday, our first of the year. Brilliant sighting!!

Female Mandarin with 7 ducklings

This month's results are: Mallard 44, including 5 broods of 3,7,5,5 and 6, Mandarin Duck 14, including 2 broods of 4 and 7, Moorhen 3, including a pair trying to build a nest, Coot 8, Pied Wagtail (3), Grey Wagtail (4, 1 adult and 3 juveniles), the hybrid Canada Goose and Little Grebe 3, 1 adult and 2 juveniles).

Little Grebe and 1 of 2 chicks

As well as the birds I also spotted my first Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown butterflies of the year, as well as several bumblebee species and a Drone Fly!

Small Tortoiseshell

Drone Fly

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Clumber Park - 10th June 2011

As a birdwatcher, there are certain events that I look forward to every year, such as the first returning summer migrants or winter thrushes. Another event that I always enjoy is this early summer evening visit to Clumber Park, in Nottinghamshire, to look for the Nightjars and Woodcock.

Clumber lake with Greylag Geese

Tonight's visit, run as part of the Chesterfield RSPB's programme of events, began at 7pm in the chapel car park where the first birds, a beautiful pair of Stock Doves were seen in one of the nearby trees. Walking down to the lake we soon spotted Swift (dozens feeding low over the water), Swallow, House and Sand Martin. Waterbirds were present on the lake itself and included Gadwall, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Canada and Greylag Goose, all with young in tow.

Coot's nest and young

Other waterbirds seen, but which didn't have young were Moorhen, Tufted Duck and a pair of Shoveler, the male of which was going into eclipse plumage.

The walk continued down the side of the water where we managed to locate a few more summer migrants with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a Blackcap/Garden Warbler all singing. An Oystercatcher found feeding on the grass, was an unusual sight and was my first at this site. The highlight, however, of this part of the walk was a pair of Spotted Flycatcher that we managed to find and watch "flycatching" on the far side of the lake.

At about 9.15pm we headed back to the car park and drove to another area of the park where we had seen both Nightjar and Woodcock in previous years. We got in position next to an area of cleared plantation and waited for the light to fade.

Nightjar habitat in Clumber Park

Whilst waiting for the first Nightjars, we heard a distinctive call and saw a couple of Woodcock"roding" overhead. A Cuckoo was also calling, but wasn't seen. After about half an hour (about 9.40pm before the I think!) we heard the first "churring" and its wasn't long before Nightjars appeared flying low overhead. At one point we had 2 birds singing at the same time and saw at least 3 birds, including a female that flew up from the floor, presumably from a hidden nest. If you've never herard a Nightjar "churring", follow this link, it's an amazing sound!!

The evening ended at about 10.30pm and we all left the area leaving the birds churring away. Many thanks to all that attended.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Hen Harrier Persecution in Derbyshire

Yet again unbelievable news of the lengths some people will go to to rid this world of raptors.

Follow this link for the full story of another example of wanton destruction here in our own county! What do we have to do to protect these birds?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Amazing Photographs

Pied Flycatcher chicks

A mixed nest of Pied Flycatcher and Great Tit eggs!

I received these two photos from the leader of the Chesterfield RSPB Group, who in turn had received them from a friend who runs a nest box scheme in the Froggat area of Derbyshire. The top photo shows a box complete with 9 Pied Flycatcher chicks!! The second photo shows a box which has both Pied Flycatcher and Great Tit eggs in it. At the moment I don't know what the outcome for the second nest was, but I'll try and find out and let you know.

Many thanks to Brian who took the photos and for allowing me to use them on my blog.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Linacre 5th June 2011 - Empty nestboxes and a new breeding record.

I popped down to Linacre this afternoon to check the nestboxes for a last time. All the boxes, bar 2, were empty meaning all of this year's young have now successfully fledged!! The 2 remaining boxes, 1 Blue Tit and 1 Great Tit, had fully feathered young in them and they should fledge within the next few days. I'll post a full break down of the facts and figures of this year's breeding season later in the week.

As well as these birds I also managed to see 3 recently fledged Nuthatches- our first actual proof of breeding and another record for the Bird Atlas.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Linacre - 3rd June 2011 - Butterflies, Bees and Damselflies!!

When I first started visiting Linacre on a regular basis it was primarily to enjoy and record the bird life around the reservoirs. Very quickly, however, I realised that there was a lot more to this area than just the birds. At the this time of the year the birds around the site tend to be be pretty quiet and it is at these time that I turn my attention to the much smaller inhabitants, namely the invertebrates.

With the temperatures hitting an amazing 24 degrees Celsius for two consecutive days I thought today was the day to start this year's "bug hunt" and I was to be rewarded  with some lovely sightings and a new species for me and for Linacre.

The first species I want to show you is the new one for me and is called a Red-and-Black Froghopper.

Red-and Black Froghopper

Froghoppers or "spittle bugs" are species that lay their eggs on a grass stem. When the young hatch they blows bubbles out of their bottoms to create a froth which is also known as "cuckoo spit" and acts as a defence against predators. As I said before this is a new species for me and, as far as I know, for Linacre. I saw a total of 6 individuals around the top reservoir today.

There are lots of different bee and hoverfly species around Linacre, most of which I can't correctly identify(!), but here are a couple of pictures of some that I think I've identified correctly.

White-tailed Bumblebee

Common Carder Bee

Also seen today was a Mayfly, which I think is a Drake Mackerel ...

Mayfly "Drake Mackerel"

6 Small Copper buterflies and my first damselfly of the year, a teneral or newly emerged Common Blue Damselfly. As you can see from the photograph the damselfly isn't blue yet, which tells me it is newly emerged. The blue colour should develop over the next day or so.

Small Copper

Common Blue Damselfly

Other species of butterfly seen today included a single Speckled Wood, 2 Peacocks and 1 Small White. A butterfly larvae was found feeding on a nettle and is either a Peacock or a Small Tortoiseshell.

Butterfly larvae

All in all, a great start to the season, with hopefully lots more to tell you about as the summer progresses.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Farne Islands - 1st June 2011

If you've never visited the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast then can I suggest you go as quickly as possible? I've just been for a day's visit there and they are unbelievable. Birds are everywhere and, as far as I know, there's nowhere in Britain that you can get as close to such amazing birds as Arctic Terns, Sandwich Terns, Puffins, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Eider Ducks and Fulmars. They are literally within touching distance, or in the case of the terns, within pecking distance!

Our journey began in the seaside town of Seahouses travelling out to the islands courtesy of Billy Shiels' boats. On the trip out we had wonderful views of Gannets flying low over the water. As we approached the islands we began to see our first Guillemots and Puffins feeding on the surface of the sea. After about one hour travelling around the many different islands we eventually landed on Inner Farne, where we spent another hour looking at and photographing all the birds - amazing!

First up were the Arctic Terns. When you arrive on the island you have to walk up through the main tern colony and although the wardens have roped off a path the birds don't recognise this. As you walk past many of the adult birds fly up to scare you away from the eggs. Not content with screaming at you, they then begin to dive bomb you and peck at your head.

When terns attack!!!

Not all the terns fly up as you walk past and so it's possible to get some absolutely stunning photographs, even with a simple hand held, "point and shoot" camera like mine.

Arctic Tern

If you survive the terns, the next part of the island is where you find the Shags, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins. Again, the birds are right next to the paths, but appear very relaxed and not at all concerned by the dozens of human visitors. Here are a few photos of some of these species:




Kittiwakes (with chicks)


The islands remain open to visitors for several months yet and the birds will still be around until about the end of July, start of August, so if you haven't been yet, why not give them a visit?