Monday, 27 February 2012

Linacre - 26th February 2012

After a lovely walk and a spot of lunch out in Sheffield I decided to pop to down to Linacre for a few hours this afternoon. The temperature was around 10 degrees when I arrived and the sun was out. The first thing I saw was a Pipistrelle Bat flying around the bottom carpark! The mild weather had obviously brought it out of hibernation.

Birdwise it was quite quiet with only a few of the woodland species still singing. The highlight, however, was the 4 Song Thrushes, which included 2 singing birds. Siskins were heard later on and a magnificent Common Buzzard was gliding and flying low over the trees by the bottom reservoir.

On the reservoirs there were 7 Goosanders (3 males and 4 females), 1 Goldeneye, 16 Coots, 8 Moorhens, 38 Mandarin Ducks, 1 Grey Heron, 17 Tufted Ducks, 44 Black-headed Gulls, 54 Mallards, 1 Little Grebe and 1 Great crested Grebe, which was now in full summer plumage.


Whilst walking through the woods this afternoon I spotted this tree carving and thought I'd share it with you. It's the best picture I've got of a Tawny Owl!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Scaup at Thrybergh.

I'm sorry but I just can't help myself. This morning instead of going for a walk around Linacre I drove back to Thrybergh CP to see the male Scaup, that I missed yesterday. Luckily it was very easy to see and I managed to get a few decent picture as it fed about 10m away. Note the gorgeous grey vermiculations on his back, the greenish tinge to the head and the small black nail on the end of the beak.


As well as this bird there were dozens of Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gulls, Coot, Moorhen, a few Pochards, Mute Swans  and Canada and Greylag Geese. One of the Mute Swans was colour ringed (Y326- orange writing on a yellow ring) and is apparantly "one of ours" i.e. ringed by Sorby Breck Ringing Group, according to a local bird watcher. He also said that the bird was an adult male who is resident on the reservoir. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo - d'oh!!

Last sighting of the morning was a winter plumaged Dunlin seen feeding just in front of the Visitors' Centre - nice.

Year list moves on again:

101 - Scaup

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Thrybergh Country Park - 25th February 2012

My first ringing trip in two weeks was a return visit to Thrybergh Country Park in Rotherham. We had three nets up and, after a quiet start, managed a total of 23 birds of 10 species (Blackbird, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Wren, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and House Sparrow) . As well as ringing we also held a demonstration which is always good fun. The Yellowhammer was a cracking male and the House Sparrow was aged as a 5 ( born last year) by the greyness of the lores (feathers between the beak and eye).


House Sparrow

The juvenile male Scaup that has spent the winter on the reservoir was still present, but I didn't have time to go across and look at it today. A singing Skylark was a year tick (my 100th of the year!) and the other usual suspects (Mallard, Tufties, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull) were all present on the water. A small flock of Lesser Redpoll was feeding in the surrounding Alders.

Year List update:

100 - Skylark

Monday, 20 February 2012

Waders, waders and yet more waders!

After yesterday's excitement at North Shields I had a drive up to one of my favourite birding spots, St Mary's Island in Whitley Bay.I love this place because it is one of the best places I know to get super views of a wide range of different waders at very close quarters. As we arrived, the tide was coming in which meant that the birds were even closer than usual and we managed to see a total of 10 species (Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Knot, Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit) along with a Rock Pipt and a Peregrine Falcon that flew through the area on the search for a spot of lunch.

Redshank, Dunlin and Purple Sandpiper

One of the best birds I saw today was a colour ringed Dunlin. It was wearing a white ring with the letters E16 on it. I'll send off the details to the BTO and let you know where it was ringed when I find out.

Today's trip also added 11 new species to the Year List:

89 – Redshank
90 - Bar-tailed Godwit
91 – Sanderling
92 – Knot      
93 – Purple Sandpiper
94 – Ringed Plover
95 – Oystercatcher
96 - Turnstone
97 – Rock pipit
98 – Peregrine Falcon
99 - Song Thrush

One last photo of a feeding frenzy of Black-headed Gulls by the lighthouse.

Black-headed Gulls

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Iceland Gull success!!

Following Friday's failed attempt at finding a "white winger" at Poolsbrook CP I was very lucky to get a second chance, this time at North Shields Fish Quay near Newcastle. This trip was a lot more successful and I managed to see 2 birds, an adult and a juvenile!

The adult bird, my first, was a very easy find as it flew past the car before we'd even got out! I managed to follow the bird to the top of the fish quay where I got a quick record shot, before it flew off again!

Iceland Gull (adult) Note the white wings.

Unfortunately it didn't sit still so I didn't manage to get any more shots. I did, however, find and photograph the juvenile bird, which was also sat on the roof of the Fish Quay.

Iceland Gull (juvenile)

Other birds present were: Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Eider Duck (year tick), Cormorant and Shag (year tick).

The Year List moves on by 3 more species:

86 – Iceland Gull
87 – Shag
88 – Eider Duck

Friday, 17 February 2012

Poolsbrook Country Park and Apperknowle- 17th February 2012

After an exciting visit to Tesco this afternoon I thought I'd try my luck with the gull roost at Poolsbrook Country Park following recent reports of both Iceland and Mediterranean Gulls. On arrival there were approximately 300 gulls of the main lake, the vast majority being Black-headed Gulls. Mixed in amongst them were Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, but unfortunately no "white winged gulls" today.

Great Black-backed Gull with Herring Gull (left)
and Black-headed Gull (behind)

Great Black-backed (left hand bird)
and Lesser Black-backed Gull

Herring Gull

On the drive back I stopped off at Apperknowle after spotting a few shapes huddled in the middle of the field. These turned out to be Golden Plover, 10 in total. Also here were 2 Grey Partridges (year tick), see here for a picture taken in the same field last year, and a Brown Hare.

Golden Plover

Brown Hare

The Year List has moved on 1 more species:

85 – Grey Partridge

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Year Listing Hell!!!!!!!

I knew when I started this "year listing madness" that I would end up being very frustrated and yes, it's happened already!!

Being off school and having a reasonable day weather wise, Jayne and I decided to go for a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This site is just off Junction 38 of the M1 and, knowing that a Ring-billed Gull has been wintering at Sands Lane Gravel Pits just off junction 40, I managed to convince Jayne that it would be a quick 5 minutes and worth driving that bit further to go and see it. We duly arrived to an empty set of gravel pits and the usual "it was here about 20 minutes ago!!!!!!" from one of the local birders. To cut a long story short, we waited about 1 hour, saw 100+ Black-headed Gulls, half a dozen Common Gulls, a couple of Goosander and a Kingfisher (year tick!). Aaaargh!!!!! Here's a picture of one, probably the same bird, that I saw here back in 2010.

Ring-billed Gull
(note the pale iris - dark in the very similar Common Gull)

To make up for this disappointment we went down the the Sculpture Park and had a lovely walk by the main lake. There is a heronry here and there were about a dozen nests, complete with returning adults- very nice.

The year list has move on 2 species:

83 - Kingfisher
84  - Lesser Redpoll (in garden last week)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - 11th February 2012

Brrrrrrrrrr, what a cold morning, again. The temperature at the start of this month' s WeBS walk was minus 7 degrees! Despite the cold weather, however, the sky was clear with beautiful blue skies and the 3 members had a lovely 2 hour walk around all three reservoirs.

Despite the fact that there was 98% ice cover with only the top reservoir having any open water, we still managed some decent counts: Mallard (78), Coot (14, the highest count of the year so far), Black-headed Gull (31), Goldeneye (1 male), Mandarin (20), Tufted Duck (19) Pochard (3 males) and Moorhen (3).

As well as these waterbirds we also saw a couple of Redwing, several Siskin and heard a pair of calling Tawny Owls.

Driving back through Cutthorpe I stopped off to look at a berry bush that was covered in a large flock of 50+ Fieldfare and half a dozen Redwings.

Redwing and Fieldfare


The Year List moved on today with the following species:

82 - Tawny Owl

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snowy Linacre, a Year tick and a Patch tick!

Today's visit to Linacre was slightly later than usual thanks to last night's snow and, after some help from a very kind 4x4 driver and a length of rope, Jayne and I arrived in the top car park at 12 noon. The bottom reservoir was 100% frozen over, the middle was approximately 90% frozen over and the top reservoir was just 5% frozen over. We spent a lovely 2 hours walking around all three reservoirs in the sun and managed to add a new species to the Linacre list, Gadwall,(1 pair on the top reservoir), as well as our first Mute Swan since December 2010. I didn't manage to get any photos of the Gadwall, but the swan was very confiding and swam over to me for some tasty sunflower hearts. I presume it's one of the birds from nearby Holmebrook Valley Park.

Mute Swan

As well as the above two species there were three male Pochard on the top reservoir, my highest count ever, 2 Goldeneyes, 65 Mallard, 14 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Great-crested Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 12 Coot, 3 Moorhen,  and 13 Mandarin Ducks. The usual woodland birds were around with Coal, Blue and Great Tit all singing in the sunshine.

Here are a few snowy shots:

Bottom reservoir

Middle Reservoir

Top reservoir

The Year List moved on one more species today:

81 - Pochard


It started snowing yesterday afternoon and carried on for about 6 hours, so this morning the garden looked like this.

I got up early to clear the snow and put out some new food and clean water and I'm so glad I did because within half an hour I'd had 14 Blackbirds (including "Mr White"), 2 Mistle Thrushes, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Redwing, 2 Robins, 10 Goldfinch, 5 Greenfinch, 8 Chaffinches, 2 Dunnocks, 6 House Sparrows, 2 Blue Tits, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Lesser Redpolls (1 male and 1 female), 1 Collared Dove, 2 Starlings and 1 Woodpigeon. Phew! All excellent records for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, especially the Redpolls and Long-tailed Tit, which are very uncommon winter visitors.

I managed a few photos:

Collared Dove

Starling (male, note the blue base to the beak)

Spot the Long-tailed Tit!

The Starlings have been roosting in the "Starling box" all winter and have recently started to sing. Fingers crossed for a successful breeding attempt this year.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Blackburn Meadows - 4th February 2012

Wow, was it cold this morning! I was up and out at 6.45am this morning to join up with several other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group for a ringing demonstration at Blackburn Meadows in Sheffield. On arrival the car's thermometer read minus 5degress and by the end of the session it had only risen to 0 degrees.

The reedbed at Blackburn Meadows

This site, is a new one for me  and, after a week of freezing conditions the open water was frozen solid. This meant there weren't any waterbirds seen on site, but a couple of Mallards flew over, as did 2 male Goosander and a Grey Heron.

Despite the cold conditions we put out 3 nets within the reedbeds and very soon starting catching birds. Because there were ten ringers present, we kept doing almost continous "net rounds" which meant the birds were very soon proccessed and released so they could get back to the feeding sations.

By the end of the morning we'd had an amazing 74 birds, of which I had handled 14. My totals for today were, new(retraps):

Long-tailed Tit (1), Reed Bunting 5, Wren (1), Great Tit 3 (1), Blue Tit (3), Greenfinch 1

Long-tailed Tit