Saturday, 31 December 2011

Linacre Reservoirs - End of the year review.

Over the last 12 months I've visited Linacre on 42 occassions and, together with members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group and Sheffield Bird Study Group, recorded a total of 74 species of birds.

As regular readers of the blog will know, this year has seen quite a few changes around Linacre, as essential engineering works have meant that all three reservoirs have been partially drained since April. I've been very interested to monitor the effects of this on the bird life and, as far as I can see, the effects have been minimal for the vast majority of species and have even lead to a few new records, most notably Little Ringed Plover (see here) and Linnet (see here).

Little Ringed Plover

As far as breeding is concerned the birds to have lost out this year appear to be Coot (no evidence of any young), Moorhen (just 3 juveniles seen ), Great-crested Grebe ( 1 juvenile seen, but no evidence of breeding on site) and Grey Heron (no sign of nesting on the regular nest and no young seen). The first three most likely as a result of the low water levels and the last species most likely because of the very cold weather at the end of last year and the start of this year. In addition, the Pied Flycatchers arrived early this year and laid three eggs in one of the group's nest boxes, but unfortunately the female bird disappeared (presumed dead) and the eggs never developed.

The winners on the other hand included these species that were recorded breeding for the first time this year; Chaffinch (young seen), Jackdaw (in the chimney of the house), Coal and Willow Tit (both seen feeding young), Song Thrush and Blackbird (both seen collecting food) and Pied Wagtail (young seen). Mandarin Duck have been proven to breed every year since our recording began, but this year we actually found a nest with 9 eggs in one of the group's "owl boxes". The eggs hatched and all young fledged successfully.

Mandarin eggs

So, what does 2012 hold for Linacre and our group's recording? As you know, I've recently started bird ringing and obviously this will be taking up most of my free time next year. Hopefully, however I will still be able to get down to Linacre as often as possible in order to keep everyone informed about next year's breeding season. I'm particulary interested in following the progress of the two new owl boxes and, if my ringing trainer is in agreement, ring the juvenile Blue and Great Tits, as well as any other birds we can find. The monthly WeBS walks will also continue, so keep logging on and reading.

Thanks alot for you interest this year, have a wonderful New Year everyone and here's to a prosperous and happy 2012.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Linacre - 30th December 2011 - two Year Ticks

Today I went down to for a last walk before the end of the year and I'm glad I did because I got two year ticks and refound the Goldeneye.

The first year tick was a Kestrel, which was found perched on the top of a bush by the top reservoir. This bird is sometimes seen flying over the reservoirs and hunting in the surrounding fields, but this sighting is my first here this year. Last year a nest box designed specifically for Kestrels was put up on site, but it hasn't been used yet. Fingers crossed for 2012.

The second year tick was a Raven, which was heard "croaking" as it flew over the site. Unfortuntaely I was in the woods at the time, so I didn't see it. Again, just like the Kestrel, Raven is only recorded once or twice a year at Linacre, so today's sighting was very welcome.

As well as these two birds I also managed to refind the immature male Goldeneye on the midle reservoir. When I got home another bird, an immature female, had also been recorded, so two birds is a brilliant record.

Last but not least, today's walk also produce an amazing 145 Mallard - the year's highest count, 7 Coot, 6 Moorhen, 31 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Great-crested Grebe, 25 Mandarin and 1 Grey Heron. Superb!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Return to Scarborough!

In January this year my family and I had a day trip to Scarborough (see here). We managed to see lots of super birds and have a good day out, so in the lull between Christmas and New Year we decided on a return journey.

First stop today was the most exciting place in Scarborough, the Holbeck Car Park! We always try to start a visit here as it is the place to see Mediterranean Gull and today was no change. The key to a good view is to arrive with some bread and throw it in the air. Within seconds the first birds appear, along with Black-headed Gulls, and fly down to take the food. The birds come within 2 metres and, with a little patience, it's possible to get some excellent views and pictures. All these are taken with a small hand held "point and shoot"camera, nothing fancy!

Adult, winter plumaged Med Gull

1st winter (with bread)

Being able to see Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls together (as below) gives us a great opportunity to look at the differences between them. The Med Gull (left bird) has a much heavier bill and the amount of black on the head is much more extensive than on the Black-headed Gull. Also the Med Gull's wings are completely white in an adult bird, whereas the BHG's wings have black in them (not seen in this photo unfortunately). The Med is also slightly larger than the BHG.

Adult winter (on left) with an adult Black-headed Gull

Enough of the lesson now, let's get back to the other birds seen today. After looking at the gulls we headed down to the town centre where we parked on Marine Drive. Looking out to sea we spotted a Harbour Porpoise swimming off shore and a Red-throated Diver fishing. Overhead were a few feral Pigeons and a fly-by Peregrine Falcon! Walking down to the harbour we saw 6 Turnstones feeding among the seaweed, several Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, a Shag, 2 Great-crested Grebes, 2 winter plumaged Guillemots  and another Red-throated Diver.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Linacre - 26th December 2011

Popped down to Linacre for a couple of hours this morning for a very blustery walk around. Birdwise everything was pretty quiet with the usual species seen in average numbers: Mallard (104), Moorhen (7), Grey Heron (2), Black-headed Gull (67- highest count this year), Mandarin (11), Coot (6), Great-crested Grebe (1 adult).

Very few woodland birds were seen, but Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were present along with Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons and a singing Wren.

Most notable was the increase in water levels on the middle reservoir, as the works come to an end. Here are a couple of pictures to show the difference over the last few months.

April 2011

December 2011

Svennson for Christmas!

Hello everyone, hope you've all a great few days and got everything you wished for. This year, as always, I've gone for "practical" presents, because I'm not that excited by "things". Having said that I do love a new bird book and winter hat for birding!

As you know I've just started ringing and one of most important things to be able to do is age and sex birds correctly. In order to do this with a degree of confidence you need a copy of "the ringers' bible" - Identification Guide to European Passerines by Lars Svennson.


I know it doesn't look much, but this book has details of all european passerines or perching birds which includes over 200 species! Obviously I won't be able to learn them all at once, but then I don't expect to catch many Cretzschmar's Buntings or Bimaculated Larks in Chesterfield. Perhaps I'll concentrate on species such as Blue and Great Tit to start with!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pre Christmas birding.

Having finished school on Tuesday I thought I'd have a bit of birding before the festivities begin, so I set off to RSPB Old Moor and Pugney's Country Park with my daughter and nephew in tow.

We started the day "twitching" a Great Northern  Diver on the main lake at Pugney's. Also present here were Black-headed Gulls, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Geese and Mute Swans, including one colour ringed juvenile.

On arrival at Old Moor we headed straight to the hide overlooking the feeding station where a group of half a dozen Long-tailed Tits were feeding on the fat balls. Also seen from this hide were Blue and Great Tits as well as Blackbird and a very tame looking "homing pigeon".

Next stop was the Wath Ings hide where we were treated to dozens of Teal and whistling Wigeon, 6 Shelduck (my first here), several Gadwall and Shoveler and a sleeping Grey Heron.

Headless Grey Heron!

Moving onto the Wader Scrape and Family Hide we added Cormorant, Goosander, Lapwing, 1 Redshank, a Kingfisher,Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen to the day's tally.

Bittern Hide didn't produce a Bittern today, but we did manage a Water Rail skipping along the edge of the reedbed, along with a small flock of Reed Buntings and a few Mallards.

Water Rail

Last stop of the day was the Tree Sparrow farm where we saw Tree Sparrows (surprisingly!), Reed Buntings, Greenfinch, Chaffinch male and female Bullfinch and Yellowhammer.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Happy Birthday dear Blog!!

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Blog, Happy Birthday to you.....!

Well it's now exactly one year to the day since I started this blog. Thanks alot to anyone who is reading this or to anyone who has popped in at any time during the last year. I hope you've enjoyed reading about Linacre reservoirs and, more recently, about my introduction into the world of ringing.

Hopefully you'll stick with me over the next year, when I will continue to keep you informed about developments in both areas of my "birding life".

Anyway, thanks again, and here are a selection of my favourite photos from my first year of "blogging".

Kittiwake (Farne Islands)

Citrine Wagtail (Lesvos)

Fieldfare (Clay Cross!)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Linacre WeBS Walk - 17th December 2011

This month's WeBS walk took place this morning with 5 members of the Chesterfield RSPB group present. The weather wasn't too bad, with just a few rain showers, but the bottom car park was interesting to say the least, being covered in a thin layer of ice, which made parking fun!

Birdwise we did well with last week's Goldeneye still present along with 97 Mallard, 36 Black-headed Gull, 7 Moorhen, 10 Coot, 2 Grey Herons, 1 Great-crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe (doing battle with a fish), 22 Tufted Duck, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 15 Mandarins and best of all 6 Teal.

Birds seen in the woods included a lovely male Bullfinch and then, on the way out, a flock of 14 Lapwing were found feeding in the fields.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Linacre Year Tick - 11th December 2011

Even at this late stage of the year it's still possible to see new birds and so it was this morning when, during a short walk, I found a male Goldeneye swimming around on the middle reservoir. To be fair this bird had been reported on Birdguides on Thursday, so I didn't really discover it, but nonetheless, it was a great bird to see. The last report we have was way back in November 2009 when a redhead (female or juvenile bird) was present for a short while. Hopefully he'll hang around for a while. He's a crummy picture of him.


As well as the Goldeneye there were excellent numbers of Mallard around (118- the highest count this year!), 4 Pied Wagtails were feeding on the bottom reservoir, 1 Grey Heron flew down the valley and  32 Mandarins, 29 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Moorhens, 19 Tufted Duck, 5 Coots, 1 Great-cretsed Grebe and 1 Little Grebe were also present.

The best was saved for last, however, when I spotted this gorgeous, pale Common Buzzard feeding in the "sheep fields" by the top most carpark. Quite often these magnificent birds of prey are seen feeding on the ground, presumably collecting earthworms and other insects. Today's bird was very confiding and I even managed to get a few photos. Enjoy. How anyone can want to harm these creatures is beyond me!

Common Buzzard

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Linacre - 4th December 2011

Another weekend of wind and rain put pay to any ringing again (drat!), so I had another walk around Linacre to see how the works were coming on and to see if anything exciting had dropped in. The works are coming on fine, but unfortuntaely nothing unusual was spotted. Last week's amazing Pied Wagtail count wasn't repeated with just 2 birds seen and heard.

Other waterbirds recorded on the reservoirs were: Mallard (110), Coot (7), Moorhen (9), Tufted Duck (22), Mandarin (16), Grey Heron (1 fishing on the bottom reservoir), Great-crested Grebe (1 adult), Little Grebe (2 on middle reservoir), Grey Wagtail (1) and Black-headed Gull (40).

The woods were quite quiet this morning, but there were 2 Common Buzzards feeding in the fields by the main entrance, Bullfinch were heard, but not seen, a Willow Tit was heard briefly and a Great-spotted Woodpecker was seen.