Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sheffield Ringing - 29th October 2011

Spent a few hours at a private site in Sheffield with the ringers from the Sorby Breck Ringing Group this morning. Despite a reasonable forecast, when we got there the wind had already picked up which meant the nets were billowing and the birds were keeping their distance. Having said this we did manage a reasonable total of 24 birds and included a new species for me: Lesser Redpoll.

The redpoll were the last birds in the nets today, and we had 3; 1 adult male, 1 juvenile male and 1 adult female. Here's a picture of the male and female adults. Note the extensive red feathering on the male bird, lovely!

Lesser Redpoll

Other birds ringed this morning were: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Tree Sparrow and House Sparrow.

Other birds seen flying over were: Redwing, Fieldfare, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Crow and Jackdaw.

In addition to the birds I managed to age and sex a Great Tit correctly (juvenile male) and  Ray, my trainer, said he thought it was time for me to apply for my trainee license- hurrah!! When this arrives I'll be able to get even more hands on and begin to ring the birds as well as checking any recaptured birds: recaps. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Bamburgh and Seahouses - 24th October 2011

Our last day in Northumberland was unfortunately very windy, which meant that the birding was quite difficult to put it nicely! Despite the winds, however, we mananged a quick trip to Stag Rocks at Bamburgh and a look around the harbour at Seahouses.

Stag Rocks is one of my favourite places because, during the winter months, views of Purple Sandpiper are almost guaranteed. Today we managed to find a group of approximately 15 feeding with Turnstones and Oystercatchers. There were also a few Common, Black-headed Gulls, an adult Gannet and a late tern species. I managed to get a few photos of the tern, which had a short, black beak. When I checked Collins, it showed adult winter plumaged Common, Arctic and Roseate Tern all with black beaks, so I can't identify it with 100% accuracy. Any ideas?

Tern species

After about half an hour, we drove down to Seahouses, had some chips(!) and then scanned the harbour for anything blown in by the strong winds. Unfortunately nothing extraordinary was present, but we did see a raft of 10 Eider Duck, a Rock Pipit, Starling, several more Turnstones a Shag, 4 fly past Barnacle Geese (real ones most likely from Svalbard!),and Herring, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.

Great Black-backed Gulls and a juvenile Herring Gull.

Alnmouth Harbour - 23rd October 2011

After a lovely afternoon visiting Alnwick and Alnwick Gardens with the family, we dropped into Alnmouth for a quick look at the harbour and estuary area. As the time was getting on (4.00pm) there were several gull species roosting with 100+ Common Gull, 200+ Herring Gull and dozens of Black-headed Gulls loafing about on the sands.

In addition 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 30 Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank and a very close Curlew were feeding. A large, female Sparrowhawk also flew low overhead.


Cresswell Pond - 23rd October 2011

I got up early this morning and drove down to visit Cresswell Pond, a Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve at the south end of Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Two hours later I had notched up a respectable 37 species including a stunning "cream crown" Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbeds, a summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit and a small flock of 14 Red-breasted Mergansers.

Red-breasted Merganser

Bar-tailed Godwit

Other birds of note were: a winter plumaged Spotted Redshank, 2 large skeins of Pink-footed Geese which flew over, half a dozen Tree Sparrows in the hedges by the hide and two Common Snipe feeding in the reeds- lovely!

St Mary's Island - 22nd October 2011

Following a morning visit to Warkworth Beach we had a drive down the coast and popped into St Mary's Island in Whitley Bay for a couple of hours. As always, good numbers of waders were around, as well as another Red-throated Diver and a male Common Scoter heading south.

First up were the 50+ Curlew that were feeding in fields by the entrance. After parking up I walked down to the coast where at least 500 Golden Plover were roosting, along with hundreds of Starlings, dozens of Lapwings, Oystercatchers and several Herring, Common Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.

Golden Plover and Oystercatcher

Walking down onto the causeway we soon spotted several Dunlin, Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone and 2 winter plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Linacre - 25th October 2011 9 Wigeon and 4 playful Wagtails!

After a few days away in Northumberland I returned to Linacre this afternoon for a couple of hours. Despite the warm, settled weather, the reservoirs were pretty quiet and I enjoyed my first Wigeon since November 2008 (9 on the middle reservoir). Hopefully with the water levels much lower at the moment they should hang around for a while. Here's an awful picture of 4 of them!

4 Wigeon

As well as the Wigeon there were also 4 very playful Pied Wagtails flitting around the water tower on the top reservoir, 1 Teal and 2 skeins of approximately 150 Pink-footed Geese which flew over east.

Pied Wagtail

The woods were quite quiet with just Siskin of note, however the water held good numbers of the common waterbirds: Mallard (101), Tufted Duck (25), Grey Wagtail (2), Coot (10), Moorhen (7 adults and 2 juveniles), Cormorant (1), Black-headed Gull (39), Little Grebe (2), Great-crested Grebe (3 - 2 winter plumaged adults and a stripey headed juvenile), Canada Goose (54) and Mandarin (63).

On the way out I stopped to scan the fields by the main entrance and spotted 3 Stock Doves feeding along with approximately 50 Carrion Crows and 30 Starlings.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Warkworth Beach - 22nd October 2011

With the start of half term holidays I travelled up to Northumberland with my wife and daughter to catch up with our son and do abit of birding. We stopped in a lovely little house in the village of Warkworth just by the River Coquet.

The first day we were there we spent the morning on Warkworth Beach.

Warkworth Beach

 As we walked from the village along the river we recorded our first birds with Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wren, Robin, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Rook and Crows seen. A Grey Heron, several Redshank and a single Greenshank were also seen from the bridge feeding on the banks of the river.

Walking up to the beach we passed through an area of marsh where several more Redshank and another Greenshank were recorded, as were 1 Grey Plover, 3 Curlew, a Meadow Pipit, Starling and a Pheasant.

The beach itself was gorgeous and as we walked along towards Amble we saw half a dozen Sanderling feeding along the sea edge. Scanning the sea we also spotted a couple of winter plumaged Red-throated Diver and 4 Common Scoter.

Red-throated Diver

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ringing at the Avenue - 16th October 2011

The weather was just right this morning, so I went out with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to ring at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Wetlands in Chesterfield. We opened up four nest and although the birds were quite slow at first, by the end of the session at 12pm, 34 birds had been caught and ringed.

New birds for me were Willow Tit (1), Goldcrest (4) and a beautiful female Yellowhammer. 


The most exciting element of the morning's ringing however, was the fact that I was able to correctly age a Blue Tit for the first time and that I actually got the wing length on one of the retrapped birds correct as well. Practise makes perfect as they say!

In between net rounds we had plenty of time to listen out for the other birds on site and recorded 18 species including dozens of fly over Redwings, my first Fieldfares of the winter, a yaffling Green Woodpecker, 1 Kestrel, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Jays, 4 Skylarks and Pied Wagtail.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Linacre - 15th October 2011

Today's visit was very busy with three jobs to get done: the WeBS walk, clearing out of the tit boxes and the installation of 2 new owl boxes. Luckily we had a super bunch of regulars along and extra help in the form of not one, but two DCC rangers, Jim and Jackie. Thanks alot to everyone.

First up were the new owl boxes. We already have 1 on site, but this was used by Mandarin Ducks this year (see here), so we decided another 2, located in other areas of woods might be used by the Tawny Owls we know are on site. Jim, who has much more knowledge about owl boxes than me, came along and put them up for us. Hopefully in February or March next year I'll be able to report our first eggs and young. Just as we were walking away from the first box we actually saw a Tawny Owl perched in a tree being mobbed!

Owl box

Next up was the annual tit box cleaning session. We do this at this time of the year because the resident birds have all finished breding, so there's no fear of disturbance. Removing the left over nesting materials and any dead chicks or eggs also means that the boxes will be in the best condition for the new season next year. Evidence that this year had been a good one for Blue and Great Tits came with the discovery of just 3 unhatched eggs and no dead young. Our only nesting attempt by the Pied Flycatchers ended in disaster when the female bird disappeared, presumably dead, after laying 3 eggs. These obviously did not hatch and they were removed and destroyed today.

Nestbox maintenance

Last up today was the monthly WeBS walk. Given all the other activities this month's walk wasn't quite as thorough as previous month's, however, we did still manage a new site record with an amazing 80 Canda Geese (plus the hybrid) on the top reservoir!! I must admit to having mixed feelings about this record. Although it's great to have such high numbers, I do fear they could take over as they have done in so many other sites. Let's keep watching and see what happens.

Apart from the geese we had another excellent sighting with 3 Great-crested Grebes present and our highest ever count of Teal with 6 (2 males and 4 females). Given the low water levels at the moment, they may stay around for the winter? Again, let's wait and see.

26 Black-headed Gulls were also on site along with 31 Tufted Ducks, 6 Moorhens, 3 Coots, 8 Mandarins (a massive under estimate I'm sure!), 60+ Mallards, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron which was heard, 1 Grey Wagtail and 2 Pied Wagtails.

Whilst checking the boxes we recorded the usual woodland birds (Tits, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Crow) as well as 4 Common Buzzards over the top reservoir, the first Redwings of the winter a single Red Admiral and one Speckled Wood buttefly. All in all an amazing morning!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Linacre - 9th October 2011

Another week and another visit to Linacre. This time, however, I got up early and arrived on site at 7.30am. Much better- very few people and the birds were a lot more active. To add to the joy I managed a good mixture of summer and winter visitors, including a very nice wader!

First up this morning were the waterbirds. Mallard numbers were very good with 106 present around all threee reservoirs, Tufted Duck numbers were down with just 16 and there were also 8 Coots, 3 Moorhen, 1 winter plumaged Great crested Grebe, 1 Grey Heron fishing in the middle reservoir, 2 Grey Wagtail, 3 fly-over Canada Geese, 3 Cormorants, 43 Mandarin Ducks, 11 Black-headed Gulls (the first of the winter), and best of all a Common Sandpiper!! The sandpiper, which may also have been here last week, was present on the middle reservoir and fed right in front of me on the rocks of the dam wall. Unfortunately I only had my small camera with me, but I managed to get this awful shot showing the white "shoulder straps" diagnostic for this species.

Common Sandpiper

Small birds were more active this week, the highlight being two small warblers feeding in the willows around the boardwalk by the top reservoir. Last year we had a Chiffchaff singing in this area in October and, although I only got a few brief sightings, I think these two could have been Chiffchaffs too. Also present were Bullfinch (heard),  singing Wren and Robin, Blackbird, several very vocal Jays and Nuthatch.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Lesvos - 21st April 2011

Way back in April I travelled to the Greek island of Lesvos with my wife and daughter to celebrate my 40th birthday. I wrote up a report about the trip, but, not being  very technically minded I've never actually managed to upload it to "the web". I thought, therefore, that I'd put a series of posts on the blog highlighting the most exciting parts of the trip. Here goes....

Day 1 - We arrived in Lesvos in the afternoon and drove across the island to our resort of Skalla Kalloni. We'd chosen to stay here as it is located quite centrally for many of the birding sites and, as we found out on the way across, it is also very popular with English birders.

Our hotel

As soon as we arrived I went out onto the balcony where I had my first lifer of the trip, a Thrush Nightingale singing in the garden! This was followed quickly by the second lifer, when a Black Stork flew over the hotel. Also here were the first of many Crested Larks, House Sparrows and a Hooded Crow.

Walking into town for a spot of tea, we stopped off at the Kalloni Pool just outside the hotel where we met up with a lot of birders. The air was filled with Swallows, House Martins and Swifts, whilst Yellow Wagtails of the Blue headed and Black headed races were feeding with 2 adult male Red throated Pipits.

Red throated Pipit

In the nearby fields there were dozens more Yellow Wagtails and another "trip tick", a Nightingale. This bird sat out in the open singing away, very unlike british birds which are usually very difficult to see.


Walking along the beach on the Gulf of Kalloni into town we spotted a beautiful adult Mediterranean Gull, several Whiskered Terns and the Greek race of Jay which, unlike the british race, has a lovely black crown.

We ended our first night in a lovely taverna - very nice!

Linacre - 2nd October 2011

Birdwatching in the afternoon is never the best idea, due to birds' relative inactivity and the desire by many other human beings and their dogs to get out and about to walk off their lunch! Added to this was the fact that today's temperature topped 24 degrees which meant even more people than normal were out. Despite all the negatives however, my hour long walk did manage to include a few nice sightings and a new record for one particular species. More on that later....

The woods were, as expected, pretty quiet, with just a few of the usual suspects seen and heard, namely Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit.

Out on the water things were more interesting with 2 Cormorants present on the lower reservoir, 67 Mallard, 14 Mandarins, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails,15 Tufted Duck, 6 Moorhen, 1 Little Grebe, 9 Coot and an amazing 13 Canada Geese (my highest ever count!!)

13 Canada Geese on the top reservoir

The warm weather meant that there were a few insects around including a "white butterfly" and this bee, which is some kind of carder bee.

Carder Bee

Sunday, 2 October 2011

First ringing trip

After several years of reading other people's blogs I've eventually taken the plunge and gone out with a local ringing group, the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, to have a go myself.

My introduction to this fascinating hobby started well with a 6am start and a trip to a farm down near Belper. Along with 4 other qualified ringers, we soon had 3 nets put up around the farm buildings and feeding station and the birds started to arrive. The first "net round" brought a good count of 16 birds which were brought back to the ringing table to be "processed" i.e. identified, aged, sexed and rung.

What struck me straight away as the birds were removed from the nets was the great respect and professionalism of the ringers. Each one has been ringing for many years and it was very obvious that the bird's welfare was their main priority. Well done chaps!

Back at the table each bird was removed from the bag and processed as quickly as possible. As this was my first time out I didn't ring any birds, but I did get to watch the process, read the rings of any "retraps" i.e. those birds that had been rung before, measure the wing length and then release them.

Great Tit ready for release

Three more net rounds followed and by the end of the session at approximately 11.30am, a total of 69 birds of 11 species including DunnockGoldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin,  Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Wren, House and Tree Sparrow had been through the hands of the group. I really enjoyed my first time out and will definitely be back for more!