Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Ringing and Year List Totals

Following on from this morning's Linacre roundup I thought I should spend some time looking at my ringing and "year listing" attempts.

First the ringing. As mentioned in my previous posting I spent as much time as possible going out with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group this year. In total I managed 45 trips out, handling a total of 447 birds of 38 different species. It's very difficult to pick put any highlights as far as species are concerned, as I'm still very excited to handle any bird, but I must say the Swallow roost at the Avenue back in August was very exciting as were the first pulli (5 Robins) at Linacre.

Robin pullus

As is to be expected in a land-locked county such as Derbyshire all the species I handled this year were passerines, with no sign of any waders or seabirds. In 2013 I need to continue with the "bread and butter" species such as Blue, Great Tit and the common finches and then gain some experience with some new species such as ducks, waders, seabirds etc... Keep reading to see what happens.

The other area I wanted to write about tonight was my attempt at "year listing", where I record all the species seen in a calendar year. At the start of the year I said I wouldn't go twitching for birds and so my total of 162 birds is quite respectable. The first bird of the year was Feral Pigeon, seen at 00.01 on 1st January in Trafalgar Square. My final bird, Waxwing, was seen back in November in Sheffield.


Next year, we're heading off to Menorca for a holiday, so there should be a few different birds in next year's list. Again, keep reading to find out what they will be.

My final words of 2012 are words of thanks. First and foremost to my gorgeous wife and daughter, who have not only accompanied me of several trips around the country, but, perhaps more importantly, have waited patiently for me whilst I've been out ringing and ticking. Thanks go also the Ray, my ringing trainer, and the other members of the group (you know who you are!) who have explained the intricacies of different birds' plumages to me over and over again and who have waited patiently for me to remember them. Thanks alot and here's to a happy, successful and enjoyable 2013 to everyone!

Linacre Roundup 2012

Wind and rain put pay to any ideas of ringing again this weekend, so I popped down to Linacre yesterday for a last walk around. As I was walking around I began thinking about the year's records and so here goes with a short write up.

Over the course of the year I've managed just 25 visits to Linacre, compared to 43 in 2011. This was inevitable, due to my interest and desire to go out ringing. Having said this, between me, several members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group, and records from the Sheffield Bird Study Group and Sorby Breck Ringing Group, we've still recorded a total of 79 species, including 5 new ones (Little Owl, Gadwall, Red Kite, Red-legged Partridge and Meadow Pipit).

The breeding season got off to a good start with the first nests found in boxes on 16th April. Only two species used the boxes this year, Blue and Great Tit, and they successfully fledged a total of 101 and 46 young respectively. Unfortunately there weren't any records of Pied Flycatcher at all this year. The "owl and Kestrel boxes" weren't used by owls or Kestrels this year. Next year perhaps? Other interesting breeding records included my first ever Song Thrush nest, which unfortunately was predated, my first confirmed breeding of Mistle Thrush, 3 large young being fed on 22nd April and confirmed breeding for Carrion Crow and Treecreeper. I also managed to find my first ever Robin nest, which went on to fledge 5 chicks.

Out on the water the breeding season was a somewhat mixed affair. Confirmed breeding came from Mallard (first brood on 1/5), Mandarin Duck (2 broods), Canada Goose (2 goslings), Great-crested Grebe (1 brood of 3 juveniles), Little Grebe (1 brood of 2 juveniles), Grey Wagtail (2 juveniles), Coot (2 juveniles) and Moorhen (3 juveniles), but numbers were quite low and few of the young were seen often, suggesting low levels of overall productivity. There were several records of Kingfisher this year, which included a bird seen flying down the bottom reservoir carrying a fish in August, which seemed to hint at breeding further down the valley.

The monthly WeBSs walks continued every month, and again, were carried out by me or, more often, by members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group. Over the year, numbers of wildfowl were average, however, we did record our highest ever count of Cormorant, 5 in December, and a good count of 17 Goosander in January.

Ringing began at Linacre this year.The first birds ringed were the 5 Robin pulli on 13th May and the Blue and Great Tit pulli from the boxes. A feeding station was set up by the Rangers' hut in May and between June and December, we managed 7 visits to mist net birds, which resulted in a total of 20 species being ringed (Blue, Great, Coal, Willow and Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Robin, Meadow PipitDunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Jay, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch).

All of the above activities will continue in 2013, so many thanks to everyone who has either taken part or read about them on these pages. Have a great New Year and see you all next year.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Quiet Linacre

No ringing this weekend due to a combination of heavy, persistent rain (Saturday) and wind (Sunday). Instead I had a couple of hours walking around the reservoirs, which, to put it nicely, was a very quiet experience.

Out on the water were just 59 Mallards, 5 Moorhens, 4 Coots, 4 Cormorants, 11 Tufted Duck, 1 Kingfisher (best record by far), 4 Black-headed Gulls and 1 Grey Heron. As you can see there were no records of Mandarin Duck, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and Grebes! A count of 10 Goosander, including 7 males,  was posted on the Sheffield Bird Study Group later on Sunday. Also posted recently was a record of Woodcock, which is the first record this year. I really will have to work harder next year to find this species at Linacre.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sunday morning at The Avenue

I spent four hours on Sunday morning at The Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield with my nephew and other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. A total of 35 birds were caught which include a "ringing tick" for me in the shape of a male Lesser Redpoll - very nice!

Male Lesser Redpoll

Other birds ringed by me were (new/retrap): Yellowhammer - a gorgeous male 1/0, Robin 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0 and Great Tit 1/1.

My nephew and his first Robin

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - December 2012

The last WeBS walk of the year was a pretty low key, but enjoyable event, with just 2 members of the usual team able to get out this weekend. Despite this we enjoyed a lovely walk around all three reservoirs, recording a total of 28 species, both on the water and in the surrounding woodland.

First birds recorded this morning were, as ever, several species of tit, namely Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit. Woodpigeons were numerous in the surrounding woodlands as were Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Chaffinches. A single Jay was noted along with a Great-spotted Woodpecker. More unusual sightings were a hunting Kestrel by the top reservoir and a small group of Redwing which were feeding in the holly bushes.


There was a bit of a breeze on the water today and as a result, many of the waterbirds were a little trickier to find. Between us though, we did manage to find and record the following birds: Mallard (71), Tufted Duck (16), Mandarin Duck (28), Coot (8), Moorhen (5), Cormorant (3), Grey Heron (2), Little Grebe (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1) Black-headed Gull (24) and Kingfisher (1).

I was particularly pleased with the Kingfisher record as this is the 6th sighting this year, by far the most since recording started back in 2006. I don't know if this is down to increased experience in locating this species, or whether there has been an actual increase in the number of birds using the reservoirs. Whatever the reason, its very nice to see and long may it continue! Hopefully next year  we can prove breeding and get a photograph.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Sewage Farm Ringing

Saturday morning saw 4 members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group out at Baslow Sewage Farm with the hope of catching some wagtails. Unfortunately, on arrival there were few birds about and after 4 hours we were limited to just 11 birds, including just 1 Grey Wagtail.

Grey Wagtail

Other birds trapped were: Long-tailed and Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Robin.

My totals were: (new/retraps) Grey Wagtail 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 1/0, Blue Tit 1/0, Robin 1/0 and Blackbird 1/0.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Swallow recovery

Yesterday I heard about my first recovery from the Swallow roost I took part in at the Avenue Washlands nature reserve in Chesterfield back in August (see here).

I was out with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group and over the course of the night we ringed 143 Swallows. One of the juvenile birds I ringed was caught by another ringer in Worsley, Great Manchester, 36 days later. This means it had moved 74km in a WNW direction. Hopefully it turned itself around and headed off south to Sputh Africa before the cold weather set in.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Rain stops play..... nearly!

When we arrived at Linacre this morning the skies were pretty dark and the rain was coming down. We decided to stay put for half an hour and thank goodness we did, because very soon the rain stopped and the birds began to arrive in the nets. Over the next 4 hours we caught 40 birds of 10 different species (Blue, Great, Coal and Willow Tit, Nuthatch, Dunnock, Robin, Chaffinch, Jay, Blackbird and  including my favourite birds of the day; 2 new Jays.

My personal totals were (new/retraps): Nuthatch 0/1, Coal Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 1/1, Great Tit 2/2, Robin 1/1, Chaffinch 2/0.

Other birds noted around the site today included: Long-tailed Tit, Common Buzzard 1 being mobbed by a Crow, Redwing (overhead).

Sorry for the lack of photos recently, but I'm struggling to uplaod at the moment without having to pay for extra storage. Hopefully, I'll get it sorted soon and bring you some more of my lovely photos!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

30 new birds

Just realised I didn't blog about my weekend ringing activities, so here's a brief report of Saturday morning's excursion.

We were out at our site in Sheffield by 7.15am and over the next 4 hours we had a total of 30 birds including several retraps and a few new birds. I carried on extracting birds and ringed the following birds (new/retraps):

Nuthatch 1male, Goldfinch 1/0, Dunnock 0/1, Robin 0/1, Great Tit 0/1, Blackbird 0/1, Long-tailed Tit 2/0, Tree Sparrow 1/0.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Woodland ringing and a lakeside walk.

Out and about again this morning with the guys from the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. This week we were back in the woodland garden in Chesterfield, where we were kept very busy with 77 birds, of which only 4 were retraps.

As well as carrying out the identification, ageing and ringing of over 20 birds,  I got more practice extracting birds again this week,including new species such as Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Birds ringed by me today were as follows (new/retraps): Great Tit 9/0, Blue Tit 5/1, Dunnock 1/0, Coal Tit 4/0, Goldfinch 1/0 and Goldcrest 1/0 ( a lovely male bird).

After the ringing I went out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Jayne where we had a walk around the newly re-opened Upper Lake. The trees were looking super with their autumnal colours and there were lots of woodland birds flitting about. The highlight of the walk, however, were the 2 Kingfishers we spotted perched up and fishing from the lakeside reedbeds. Gorgrous birds!

Here are a couple of pictures of the lake and heronry.

Weir and Lower Lake
Heronry and Kingfisher perch?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - November 2012

This month's WeBS walk was carried out by 7 members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group and my nephew, Luke (many thanks to everyone who attended and especially to Mandy for writing everything down). Waterbird numbers were average for the time of year, but another Kingfisher sighting was very nice. All the usual woodland birds were recorded.

 Numbers as follows: Mallard (55), Mandarin Duck (c.30), Coot (6), Moorhen (4), Tufted Duck (12), Great-crested Grebe (1), Grey Wagtail (1), Pied Wagtail (1), Cormorant (2) Kingfisher (1) and Black-headed Gull (15).

As well as the WeBS walk, we also checked and cleaned out the last few nestboxes in time for next year's breeding season. A lovely surprise find of a hibernating bat in one of the boxes was very good. I can't identify the species, but I've sent this photo off to the Derbyshire Mammal Group, so hopefully they'll be able to let me know what it is.

Brown Long-eared Bat
UPDATE: I've just received an email from Steve at the Derbyshire Bat Conservation Trust who identified the bat as a Brown Long-eared Bat - a first for me and possibly Linacre too!!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

BTO Bird Identification Videos

For me one of the most interesting and enjoyable things about watching birds is the chance to learn something new. Getting to grips with similar species can sometimes be really difficult, so finding out that the BTO have created a range of online videos to help with certain birds has been great.

The most recent video helps sort out winter plumaged grebes, but other species covered in previous videos include "grey geese", "white-winged" gulls and warblers. Well worth having a look at. Click here to go straight to the website.

Here are a few pictures of winter plumaged grebes I've been lucky enough to see and photograph. I won't put names on today, so if you can't identify them, you'll have to go to the BTO website to see if you can work them out.




Sorry, not a good photo!!


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Return of the Waxwings

Some years Britain sees a big influx of  Waxwings from Northern Europe, usually when the berry crop has been poor. This winter seems to be a "Waxwing winter", with many hundreds, if not thousands, being reported across the country. See here for the many sightings on the Birdguides website.

I decided to pop across to Cemetery Avenue in Sheffield to catch up with these superb birds and I'm so glad I did as there were at least 100 and possibly up to 200 there this afternoon. Amazing!!!!! I managed to get some decent pictures too.


Also present in the area were half a dozen Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Magpies.

Waxwing and Fieldfare
The Year List moves on one more bird:
162 : Waxwing

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Goldcrests aplenty

This weekend's ringing session took place at Linacre with 3 members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. In a four hour session we managed a very respectable total of 43 birds, the highlight being the above mentioned Goldcrests, with 4 new birds ringed. Other birds caught this week were: Great, Blue and Coal Tit, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Goldcrest and Nuthatch.

Birds ringed by me were (new/retraps): Great Tit 1/6, Coal Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 4/0, Robin 0/1, Dunnock 2/0, Wren 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0 and Goldcrest 2/0.

No pictures of birds today, but here's a view of the Linacre beech woods in Autumn.

Beech woodlands
There were few other birds moving about the site, but I did manage my first Fieldfares for Linacre this autumn, a few Mandarin Ducks flying over and several Siskins heard calling.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Colour-ringed Mute Swans

Whilst we were away in Scotland we visited a small town called Haddington. The River Tyne runs through the town and whilst walking along the riverside we noticed a family party of Mute Swans, all of whom were wearing colour rings.

I sent the details off to to the BTO  and yesterday I received a reply from the Lothian and Fife Swan and Goose Study Group. The juvenile birds had been ringed on the river in August this year along with the adult male bird . The adult female bird was a little more interesting, as she had been ringed on the same river as a cygnet,  in 1999. She had previously bred/held territory with another bird on the same river in nearby Hailes and East Linton, before moving back to Haddington to breed in 2009.

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any photos of the swans, but there was a pair of very confiding Goosanders who were obviously used to coming for bread along with the local Mallards and wintering Black-headed Gulls, so I'll include a photo of one of these birds instead.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Linacre - 4th November 2012

Made my first visit of November to Linacre on Sunday and spent a chilly couple of hours walking around all three reservoirs. Overall pretty quiet, but I was very lucky to stumble upon a Kingfisher that was fishing on the middle reservoir. I even managed to see it catch a fish, which was very nice!

Other birds noted were: Mallard (75), Tufted Duck (32), Coot (5), Moorhen (6), Grey Heron (1), Grey Wagtail (1), Pied Wagtail (2), Mandarin Duck (30), Black-headed Gull (40) and Great-crested Grebe (1 adult and 1 juvenile).

I filled up the feeders again, so hopefully we should be able to get down to do some ringing this weekend.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sheffield ringing - 3rd November 2012

Back home again now and out ringing with the Sorby Breck group. This weekend we went to the private site in Sheffield where we managed 23 birds of 8 different species: Robin, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Blackbird and Blue, Great and Coal Tit.

The Goldcrest, a male, was a new bird for me and looked absolutely lovely with the orange colour coming through its crest.

Male Goldcrest

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Barns Ness again

Our last day in Scotland saw me heading off to Barns Ness again to look for the Water Pipit. Again, no luck!!!!!! I did, however, have a very nice walk and added two new species to the year list; Twite and Merlin.

First sightings this morning were a few Rock and Meadow Pipits. A pair of Stonechats were in the dunes as was a flock of approximately 20 Linnets. The Twite, again a flock of about 20 birds, were feeding in the same area. The Merlin was spotted flying fast and low over the beach before landing briefly on a rock. Unfortunately, it flew off again within seconds after being mobbed by a Crow.

On the waters edge there were several Curlew, Oystercatcher, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls, as well as two new species for this site: Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Year List:
160 - Twite
161 - Merlin

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


I spent two hours at Musselburgh Lagoons on the outskirts of Edinburgh this afternoon, where I had the most amazing views of both male and female Velvet Scoters.

Although I've seen them before flying along the coast, this was the first time I've managed to get them in the 'scope and watch them swimming and fishing. At one point the birds were about 20m away from the seawall - amazing!! Here's a photo and my first You Tibe video.

Velvet Scoter (male)
Male and female Velvet Scoter

As well as the scoters I also managed to see another 2 adult male Long-tailed Ducks (that's 4 in one day!!), a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Slavonian Grebes, Eider Duck  and another Red-throated Diver.

On the lagoons themselves there were 200+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 40+ Grey Plover, 30+ Golden Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallards and my first Goldeneye of the winter.

Bar-tailed Godwits and Golden Plover

Year List addition:

159 - Velvet Scoter

Aberlady Bay and Gullane Bay

I've made a couple of visits to Aberlady Bay over the last few days to look at the flock of approximately 20,000 roosting Pink-footed Geese that gather here every winter.

Bridge at Aberlady Bay

This morning I arrived at 06.30am and waited for it to become light. I could hear the geese out on the mudflats and, after scanning the area with the scope, I began to pick up the birds. I not great at estimating large flocks of birds, but there were "many thousands" present. Quite a sight!

Distant Pink-footed Geese
As it became light, small skeins started to fly out of the roost and I managed to get a few shots of these birds.
Pink-footed Geese
Other birds seen yesterday evening and today were: Shelduck (200+), Wigeon, Teal, Eider Duck, Mute Swan (2, including a colour ringed individual), Redshank, Curlew, Great-crested Grebe, Goosander, Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls, Linnets, Wren and a Redpoll sp, which could have been a Mealy Redpoll, as it looked larger than a Lesser and was very pale on the breast. Unfortunately I didn't get very good views before it flew off!!
Next stop was Gullane Bay, a few miles nearer North Berwick. I made my way down through the sand dunes out onto the bay.
Gullane Bay/Bents
On arrival I scanned the water's edge and found a few Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls and one Great Black-backed Gull. Shags were flying out on the water and, after about half an hour's searching I spotted a lone male Common Scoter. A Red-throated Diver was fishing just behind the scoter and then a male Long-tailed Duck flew past. Another male Long-tailed Duck was soon found feeding nearby and a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe was also spotted in the same area!! A very productive time!!!
Year List additions:
156- Common Scoter
157 -  Long-tailed Duck
158 - Slavonian Grebe

Monday, 29 October 2012

Barns Ness

This morning's walk saw me heading down the coast to a beach south of Dunbar called Barns Ness. I was hoping to catch up with a Water Pipit that had been reported yesterday, but the tide was out and I couldn't find it anywhere!

Barns Ness lighthouse and beach

First bird of the morning was a Common Buzzard that flew up from a tree as I drove down to the beach. Next up were Meadow Pipits, followed by several Rock Pipits and at least a dozen Pied Wagtails that were feeding on the seaweed on the beach. Redshanks, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Curlews were all feeding along the edge of the sea. A couple of Stonechats (1 male and 1 female) were seen in the sand dunes and Linnet and Goldfinch flew overhead.

Out on the sea there were several Eider Ducks, 1 Red-throated Diver, Great Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls along with 2 new species for the trip: Gannets and Red-breasted Merganser (also a Year Tick).

Just behind Barns Ness there is a large, active quarry with a large lake. I had a quick look at it on the way back and added Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Lapwing and Shoveler to the morning's list.

Back in North Berwick a short walk along the beach produced the same birds as yesterday, plus a late Swallow that flew south overhead.

Year List:

155 - Red-breasted Merganser

Sunday, 28 October 2012

North Berwick birding

I'm away in North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland, for a few days and had my first bird watching walk this morning. I was out for a couple of hours from 7.30am and managed a fair few birds including my first "year tick" for quite a while, in the form of 3 winter plumaged Red-throated Divers.

North Berwick beach (with Bass Rock in the background)

My walk this morning started off in the harbour area where the first birds recorded were Starlings, Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A couple of Pied Wagtails were flying around and the first of at least a dozen Shags were fishing in the sea. Two Grey Herons flew up from the rocks below and a party of about 8 Eider Ducks were spotted out on the water. There were a couple of winter plumaged Guillemot out on the sea, along with the Red-throated Divers.

Back on the beach there were several waders: Turnstone (c30), Purple Sandpiper (at least 6), Oystercatcher (c10) and 1 Redshank. Several Rock Pipits were also around on the beach, along with more Starlings and House Sparrows. A great start.

154 - Red-throated Diver

Saturday, 27 October 2012

First Fieldfares arrive

Following a big arrival on the esat coast last week, I managed to catch up with my first Fieldfares of the winter on Friday morning when a couple flew over my school. I know it's nothing out of the ordinary, but it's a good excuse to put a photo on the blog that I took a few years ago. Hopefully you'll like it.

In the afternoon I also popped in to Linacre to top up the feeders. Whilst driving up the main drive I spotted the farmer ploughing the field on the right. Following the plough were approximately 100 Black-headed Gulls and at least 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Both these records are noetworthy, the BH Gulls because of the number, my highest this winter, and the LBB Gulls because this was my first record of this species "on the ground" at Linacre instead of flying over. Lovely!!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Interesting bill

This morning I spent four hours out ringing in Wingerworth, Chesterfield with 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We were at the new site where, a few weeks ago, we'd ringed 91 birds in one session. This morning's session wasn't quite as busy, but we still managed 45 birds of 8 species (Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Goldcrest).

The most numerous species were the tits, which included this Coal Tit with an overgrown upper mandible. It was already ringed, so it will be interesting to see if it gets recaught again and to see how we'll it's coping.

Coal Tit
Another interesting bird was this Blue Tit which had several brown tail feathers and primaries. I've never seen that before.

The last bird of the morning was a nice surprise; a Goldcrest. This bird was turned up in a new net, which, until then hadn't caught anything all morning. Just goes to show the power of  a tape lure!


My totals for today were (new/retrap): Coal Tit 1/1, Blue Tit 4/0, Great Tit 5/1, Dunnock 1/0 and Nuthatch 0/1.

Other birds seen or heard this morning were: Tawny Owl (1 heard), Jay (1 heard), Raven (1 over), Great-spotted Woodpecker (1 heard), Goldfinch (overhead) and  Bullfinch ( 2 over).

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Winter visitor arrives

I had a lovely walk around Linacre this morning with Jayne, my wife. We went around the middle and top reservoirs in gorgeous, still, sunny weather. Although it was generally quite quiet we did manage 4 Canada Geese, including the hybrid goose (the first sighting since 19th May) and the first "redhead" Goosander of the winter.

Hybrid goose and Canada Goose
Other birds present on the reservoirs today were: Mallard (52), Mandarin Duck (17), Moorhen (6), Coot (7), Tufted Duck (9), Great-crested Grebe (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile - where's the other juvenile gone?), Little Grebe (1), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1), Grey Heron (1) and Black-headed Gull (30, numbers are building up again, now all I want is a colour ringed bird!).
All the usual woodland birds were seen and a Sparrowhawk was spotted over the woods doing battle with a couple of Carrion Crows. No sign of any Red Kites, despite one being reported over the nearby village of Cutthorpe on the 16th. Surely its only a matter of time isn't it????

Monday, 15 October 2012

Redwings and a Treecreeper

I spent four hours down at The Avenue on Sunday with members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We started off with quite a heavy frost on the ground, but ended up in bright sunshine with 35 birds ringed including a ringing tick for me; a Treecreeper.


When we arrived on site there were a lot of Redwings around, unfortunately though, none ended up in the nets! We did, however, manage to catch several Blackbirds and one Song Thrush. Tit numbers were good with Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed all ringed.

Long-tailed Tit

My totals for today were (new/retraps): Blackbird 2, Great Tit 1/2, Goldfinch 1, Long-tailed Tit 1/1 and Dunnock 1.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - 13th October 2012

This month there were 6 members of the Chesterfield RSPB group  for the WeBS walk at Linacre. 3 of us did the rounds whilst the other 3 took some time to empty the nest boxes and do some running repairs.Thanks to everyone who gave their time this morning.

Linacre nestboxes

The counts were about average this month with the following water birds recorded: Mallard (55), Tufted Duck (11), Moorhen (2), Coot (9), Black-headed Gull (25), Great-crested Grebe (3; 1 adult and 2 juveniles), Little Grebe (1), Cormorant (2), Grey Wagtail (2), Pied Wagtail (1) and Mandarin Duck (70; the highest count this autumn). The first Redwing of the autumn was also seen this morning and there were many vocal Jays around the site. A Kestrel was seen hunting around the main entrance and a Buzzard was heard overhead, as was a skein of Pink-footed Geese.

Ever year at this time we like to clean out the nest boxes to ensure they are in good shape for next year's breeding season. This morning we managed to get around about 50 and also added an extra bit of protection in the form of these hinges.

Hopefully they will mean that we don't lose any lids next year.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

October Chiffchaff

Yesterday I blogged about a Blackcap that was ringed by the group. Well this morning's walk around Linacre produced not one, but two and maybe three Chiffchaffs. Although we usually record singing Chiffchaffs into October this mornings sighting was extraordinary because of the number included. The first bird was seen by the middle reservoir, feeding and quietly "wheeting" it's way through the trees. This bird, or more likely another, was then seen with a second bird, feeding in an elderberry bush around the top reservoir. Hopefully they will hang around and there will be some more sightings later this year.

When I arrived at Linacre at 7am today it was just 3 degrees and the whole valley was covered in mist.

By the time I left at 9.30am the sun had come out and it was a glorious morning.

Waterbirds seen today were: Mallard (53), Tufted Duck (20), Mandarin Duck (33), Coot (8), Moorhen (6), Grey Heron (2),  Grey Wagtail (3), and my first Pied Wagtail and Black-headed Gull of the winter. The 3 Great-crested Grebes ( 2 juveniles and 1 adult), were still present on the middle reservoir.

The woods were quite quiet this morning, but a few Jays were heard along with the usual suspects and Skylark was heard calling as it flew overhead. This latter species was again my first record of the winter. Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush were all seen, but no "winter thrushes" were recorded. Next week perhaps?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

October Blackcap

This weekend's ringing took place in the private site in Sheffield where 18 birds of 11 species were caught. Birds caught today were: House and Tree Sparrow, Blackcap, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Robin.

Amongst the birds was the juvenile Blackcap with a weight of just over 20g. He was also covered in what looked like Elderberry juice, so had presumably been feeding up to begin/continue with his migration down to Southern Europe or North Africa. Blackcaps from Central Europe do overwinter in Britain though so, who knows, perhaps he'll stay here and we'll see him again over the coming months.

I extracted another new species today, Robin, which is one of the longest legged small birds I've ever seen. I had 2 birds today, 1 new and 1 retrap. Other birds processed by me were (new/retrap): Dunnock 0/1, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Goldfinch 1/0 and Chaffinch 1/0.

Other birds/wildlife seen this morning were a Kestrel, a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a few over-flying Skylarks, Blackbirds, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow and a single Comma and Red Admiral butterfly.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Nice recovery

Over the weekend we were ringing at Linacre when we caught 4 Coal Tits, including one that had already been ringed. When the records were checked it turned out that this was the third time it had been caught by the group, twice on Ramsley Moor where it was caught and ringed as a juvenile bird on 13th September this year and then retrapped on 15th September. When we caught it on Saturday 29th at Linacre it had moved approximately 5km as the Coal Tit flies.

According to the BTO's Migration Atlas Coal Tits tend not to move too far from their place of birth, so this bird could well have come from a nest in the local area and then dispersed away to spend the winter in a new area. Perhaps we will retrap it again over the winter or even as a breeding bird next year.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Linacre Weekend

No I haven't just spent a weekend at Linacre, but I have managed two visits over the last two days; one for ringing yesterday and one for general birding today.

Saturday's ringing session was very good with grey, overcast, still conditions first thing. Five members of the group were present and between us we managed to catch 52 birds, including several retraps, and a "ringing tick" for me in the shape of a lovely juvenile Song Thrush. Whether this bird was a "home grown" one or had moved in from elsewhere is unknown, but who knows, hopefully it will be retrapped later, either here or abroad.

Song Thrush

Seven species of bird were caught today ( Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and the Song Thrush). I personally got to "process" the following birds (new/retraps); Blue Tit 3/1, Great Tit 2, Coal Tit 1/1, Chaffinch 1, Bullfinch 1 and Song Thrush 1. Other birds/wildlife recorded on site during the ringing session were 4 Swallows (my last record of the year?),  2 Cormorants, several Jays, the first Siskins of the winter, 2 Common Buzzards and a Speckled Wood butterfly.

This morning the weather was again grey and overcast, but much windier than yesterday, so no good for ringing. Instead I had a couple of hours walking around the reservoirs where the highlight was a group of 5 Common Buzzards that we're flying/soaring together over the woods. This is my highest count ever, so perhaps they bred here successfully this year? Other good sightings were a Raven, which is only the second record this year, a Chiffchaff that was feeding with a mixed Tit flock (including Willow Tit), 35 Mandarin Ducks, 91 Mallards (my highest count this winter), 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying west and the 2 juvenile Great-crested Grebes.

Monday, 24 September 2012

New site and lots of birds.

This morning's ringing session with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group took place at a new site, a private garden in Wingerworth in Chesterfield. 3 nets were put up and in the vicinity of a very well stocked feeding station that is fed throughout the year. By the end of the morning we had ringed a total of 91 birds of 10 species, (Blackbird, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Robin, Great-spotted Woodpecker,  Blue, Great and Coal Tit). What an amazing start!

As there were so many birds today I was able to handle a good number of birds, retraps in brackets ( Nuthatch (1), Great Tit 10, Blue Tit 10, Goldfinch 2, Coal Tit 3, Dunnock 1, Chaffinch 2, and Blackbird 1). It also gave me a great opportunity to practise ageing and sexing techniques on the commoner species. The Great-spotted Woodpecker in particular was interesting, as it was only the third I've seen "in the hand". See here for my last encounter with this species. Here's a picture of one of the bird's feet, showing the two claws facing backwards and two facing forwards, so called zygodactyl feet! We also got a great chance to see the amazing tongue and the stiff tail feathers used when climbing trees. A super bird.

Great-spotted Woodpecker foot complete with shiny new ring

Other birds seen or heard this morning  were: Common Buzzard (3 overhead), Pink-footed Goose (c.100 overhead, my first of the winter), Jay, Woodpigeon, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk, one singing Chiffchaff and Willow Tit. Hopefully we'll be able to catch and ring these species next time.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Linacre 22nd September 2012

With no ringing this morning due to family commitments I decided to head down to Linacre for a few hours first thing.

The light this morning was superb and, without a breath of wind, the water on all 3 reservoirs was as still and flat as I think I've ever seen it. There was a slight chill in the air and a little mist was hanging over the bottom reservoir. With the temperature down to just 4 degrees, shaded areas of the sight had the first frost of the winter.

Bottom reservoir

I started my walk on the bottom reservoir where the first waterbirds of the day were Mallards. Throughout the walk I counted a total 69, which was a significant increase on last week's count of just 43. Also present here were the first of 22 Tufted Ducks ( 1 more than last week!) and 27 of the 35 Mandarin Ducks seen throughout the morning. Coots and Moorhens were also added to the list and, by the end of the two hours I'd recorded 8 and 6 respectively (similar numbers to last week). A single adult Little Grebe was also seen on the bottom reservoirs, but no sign of the juvenile bird today.

The middle reservoir was relatively quiet this morning, but I did still manage to find the 3 Great-crested Grebes (1 adult and 2 juveniles), 1 Grey Heron enjoying the early morning sun, 2 Grey Wagtails and 3 Cormorants.

Away from the water the usual woodland birds (Blue, Great, Long-tailed, Coal and Willow Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Jay, Woodpigeon, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper) were all seen. Other bird seen today which aren't seen on every trip included a pair of Bullfinch, 2 Mistle Thrushes, which were defending a Rowan tree full of berries, and perhaps the best of all, a Chiffchaff, which was singing half heartedly. Chiffchaffs are heard every year into at least October, especially on sunny days, and we have at least one record of a warbler species seen on a fat ball in the woods in January, which was presumably a Chiffchaff.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - 15th and 16th September 2012

As in previous months I couldn't get to Linacre on the Saturday for the monthly WeBS walk because of ringing activities. Therefore many thanks again to the members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group who turned up to carry out the walk. I did manage to get down today though, and the following details are a combination of both visits.

First up were the Mandarin Ducks of which 30 were seen. This month and October are the best time to catch up with the Mandarins at Linacre because all the young birds and adult males have moulted into their new feathers and therefore look really good. As well as this, these months see the highest counts of Mandarins and they are therefore easier to see. Where they go afterwards is not yet known, but numbers fall throughout the winter, until only a few breeding pairs remain in the spring and summer. They are present on all three reservoirs, but can most easily be seen on the bottom reservoir perched on the branches of the over-hanging trees.
Male Mandarin
Mallard numbers this month were average for the time of year at 43. Most juveniles are now more or less fully grown and difficult to tell from the moulting adults. It doesn't seem to have been a particularly good year for this species at Linacre with only a handful of broods seen.

Tufted Duck were also present today with a  count of 21. No young were counted and, as far as I am aware, they have only ever bred once at Linacre in 2010.

Tufted Duck

Both Little and Great-crested Grebes have bred this year. Today there were 2 Little Grebes (1 adult and 1 juvenile) and 3 Great-crested Grebes (1 adult and 2 juveniles). Both these species are year-round residents and breed in most years. Little Grebes tend to be seen on the bottom reservoir, whereas the Great-crested Grebes seem to prefer the middle reservoir.

Little Grebe

Great-crested Grebe

Moorhen and Coot are another two of Linacre's resident water bird. Both species were recorded this month; Moorhen 4 (3 juveniles and 1 adult) and Coot (9, all adults). Both species seem to have suffered a poor breeding season this year and were present in smaller numbers than normal. Both these species can be seen on all three reservoirs.

Gulls were represented by 12 over-flying Lesser Black-backed Gulls. This was the first record of the year and represents a very good record. The only over gulls normally recorded at Linacre are Black-headed Gulls which are winter visitors and normally return in October or November. They are then recorded on every visit until the end of March. I'd love to see a colour ringed bird, so that I could find out where they come from!

Adult Black-headed Gull in winter plumage

Other water birds recorded this month were Grey Heron (1), Grey Wagtail (1), Cormorant (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile) and Kingfisher (1). Grey Herons have become less frequent in the last few years and haven't bred since 2010. They are now recorded sporatically throughout the year. Grey Wagtails are present throughout the year and breed every year. Cormorant records have increased in the last few years. They are still primarily a winter visitor, but they appear to be returning ealier every summer with records in July this year. Kingfisher is usually recorded in the summer months and may breed on the river below the reservoirs, but this has not yet been proven. Next year perhaps?

Away from the water a single Chiffchaff was recorded on Saturday and both Swallows (10) and House Martins (c.30) were also seen. The woodlands contained all the usual tit species, Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks, Woodpigeon, Crows and Wrens, but no winter visitors were seen.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Meadow pipt extravaganza

Following on from my first ever Meadow Pipits at Linacre last week I spent 5 hours out ringing this morning with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group high up on the moors above Sheffield.

We arrived on site for a 5.30am start and after setting up several nets around a disused quarry we settled back for a morning of ringing. Despite a stiff breeze, the birds began arriving soon after the nets had been set and there was a steady stream throughout the morning, ending with a total of 69 birds (all Meadow Pipits).

Happy ringers

The identification of Meadow Pipits was relatively straight forward after the first few (thanks for all the pointers Michael!) but I must admit it took me quite a while to get my head around aging them. Hopefully I'll get some more practice before the end of the passage season!

There were only a few other birds around today; Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Red Grouse, but, amazingly, the Red Grouse was a Year Tick, so the Year List has increased by 1.

153 - Red Grouse