Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ringing and Year Listing 2013

Well 2013 is nearly over (just 8 hours to go), but I've just got back in from a few hours around Linacre and the sun is just setting, so unless something amazing happens I don't think I'll be doing any more ringing or adding any new species to my "Year List". With this is mind I thought I'd write up a quick post to round off the year.

First up the ringing. Over the last twelve months I've been out ringing with my trainer and other ringers from the Sorby Breck Group, 42 times. Linacre was the most frequently visited site (17 visits), followed closely by The Avenue in Chesterfield (10 visits). As well as these traditional sites, we also started visiting some new sites, most notably the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's reserves of Carr Vale Flash near Bolsover, and Ladybower Woods near Bamford. I "processed" a total of 526 birds of 30 species, with 4 new species added this year (Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.)

Year Listing in 2013 was very successful  with an end-of-year total of 197 species, which included 4 new birds or "lifers"; Egyptian Vulture, Thekla's Lark (both in Minorca), Ivory Gull and Two-barred Crossbill. Please click on "Year List 2013" labels for details of all the new birds seen this year.

So that's it for 2013. Thanks go to everyone who has supported me again this year. Happy New Year to everyone reading this blog and Happy Birding in 2014!!

Linacre Roundup 2013

During 2013 I managed a total of 35 full visits to Linacre and 17 ringing visits. Over the course of the year 79 species of bird were recorded either on the reservoirs or flying overhead. Included in these were 5 new species: Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Cuckoo, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. Other groups that provided sightings were Chesterfield RSPB Local Group, Sheffield Bird Study Group and Sorby Breck Ringing Group. Many thanks to everyone who recorded sightings, especially the members of the RSPB Group who attended the monthly WeBS walks. Thanks also to Jackie and Jill, the DCC rangers based at Linacre.

The monthly WeBS walks continued throughout 2013. No new species were recorded this year, but counts of both Mallard and Tufted Duck in the second winter period were the highest on record. Black-headed Gulls were the main species of gull recorded at Linacre, and, for the first time ever, a colour ringed bird from Poland was recorded (see here for details).  Other waterbirds were recorded in average numbers throughout the year, except for Kingfisher, which had its best year yet, being recorded on most visits from August onwards. Surely they must be breeding nearby?

As well as the WeBS information, one of the key things I like to monitor at Linacre is the number of bird species that breed. This year was a much better one, despite the very late spring. Two new species were proven to breed on site this year; Grey Wagtail and Little Owl. In addition I was very lucky to find a Song Thrush nest that survived to fledge 3 chicks, and 166 Blue and Great Tits also fledged from the nest boxes this year. Unfortunately, even though a Pied Flycatcher was recorded singing, he didn't manage to attract a mate. An overview of the breeding season can be found here.

As mentioned above I continued to visit Linacre with other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to ring birds. This year we made 17 visits and ringed 517 birds of 25 species. The vast majority were Blue and Great Tits (226 and 124 respectively), but also included 7 new species, namely; Crossbill, Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Mandarin Duck, Willow Warbler, Magpie and Reed Bunting. Ringing will continue next year, and hopefully we'll be able to add some new species again. Pied Flycatcher and Tawny Owl perhaps?

Last, but by no means least, Insects! I tried to pay a bit more attention to this area of natural history in 2013, and I did manage to add several new species to the "Linacre List". The highlights for me were the two new butterfly species - Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady. Please click on the "Linacre insects" label for details of the species seen this year.

So that's it for 2013. I hope you've enjoyed reading about the wildlife at this superb site over the last twelve months. Hopefully you'll keep reading in 2014. Don't forget I joined Twitter this year as well, so if you don't already follow me, please give it a go on @linacreblogger.

Happy New Year to everyone!!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Garden Birding - a few surprises

Every week I record the wildlife that uses the garden, as part of the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme. The recording runs from Sunday to Saturday, so this morning's session was the first for this week.

It started well with over 20 Goldfinches present feeding on and around the sunflower feeders. 6 Chaffinches and 6 Greenfinches were also recorded along with 3 Blue Tits, 1 Great Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Robin, 3 Dunnocks, 7 Blackbirds, 2 Starlings, 2 Woodpigeons and 6 Collared Doves (including a mating pair).

These species are recorded weekly in varying numbers, but today I recorded another 3 species that are a bit more unusual. The first was a Fieldfare, a species which is recorded once or twice a year in the garden, usually during heavy snow. Today's bird flew into the garden briefly, before flying to feed on the Hawthorn bushes behind the garden.

The second bird was a Lesser Redpoll. This species is more common and is usually present throughout the winter in small numbers. I had a couple last week, and today's bird was feeding along with the Goldfinch on the sunflower hearts.

The final new bird was a very big surprise, a male Blackcap! Over wintering Blackcaps have become an increasingly common sighting in Britain over the last 20 years, but this was my first record in the garden. It spent about 10 minutes feeding in the Mahonia bush. Hopefully, it'll stay around for a while. More information about Blackcaps can be found here.

Blackcap on Mahonia

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Two-barred Crossbill

Back in August the first records of a small flock of Two-barred Crossbills at Broomhead Reservoir near Sheffield started to appear on the Birdguides website. This species is classed as "Rare", and although recorded annually in the UK, it is seldom seen this far south. This year, however, has been a very good year for them, with several birds seen across the country. More info on the BTO website here.

I had a look for the birds back in the summer, without luck, so, with records coming in again, I thought I'd pop across and have a look again. This time I was successful, and managed to watch a small flock of approximately 7 birds feeding high up in Larch trees by the side of the reservoir. A very attractive bird, and also a "lifer" for me and Jayne.

I managed a few photos.

Male bird (note the two bars!)
Male again!
I also managed to get a bit of video footage. The first clip is of a female bird (here), and the second is a male bird (here). The birds have a very distinctive "trumpet call" that we managed to hear today. Listen here.
Year List update:
197: Two-barred Crossbill

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Over the last few weeks there has been a small influx of Ivory Gulls into the UK. They are usually found in the High Arctic, so birds that make it to Britain are highly sort after. More details about Ivory Gulls can be found here.

One bird made it south to Patrington Haven in East Yorkshire, so I drove across to have a look and add it to my "Life and Year Lists".

As I arrived, the bird was flying around the pumping station and I managed to grab a quick in-flight shot.

Ivory Gull
Within minutes it had landed on the floor about 20m away, to feed on some fish that local birders have been providing. I managed to grab this shot, before it had its fill and flew off towards the Humber.

Ivory Gull
Year List update:

196: Ivory Gull

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Linacre- 22nd December 2013

I picked my nephew, Luke, up for this morning's walk around Linacre and we spent a couple of hours walking around all three reservoirs. Luke brought along his camcorder, and we managed to get some footage of some of the special birds that make Linacre such a lovely place.

First up was a very nice looking male Kingfisher, that we found on the middle reservoir. We watched it perched up in the trees by the water for about 15 minutes- very nice! Whilst watching this, we heard the Crossbills, and a small flock of at least 14 fed in the Larches above us. Luke managed to get some video footage of both species, which can be seen on You Tube here. Redwings were also feeding in the Holly bushes around the site.

Waterbirds were still present in good numbers again, with the following recorded: Goosander (11; 6 males and 5 females), Mallard (145), Mandarin Duck (27), Tufted Duck (53), Little Grebe (3), Coot (9), Moorhen (8), Cormorant (3) and Black-headed Gull (10).

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Linacre WeBS- December 2013

I arrived at Linacre at 7.30am yesterday morning, so that I could fill up the feeders around the ringing site before the last WeBS count of 2013. As I did, the sun came up and so I took this lovely photo.

Linacre sunrise
At 8.30am I met up with Mandy from the Chesterfield RSPB Group, and we spent the next two hours walking around all three reservoirs. Duck numbers were high again, especially Mallard (140, the highest this year) Tufted Duck (60) and Mandarin Duck (40). Also present were: Grey Heron (3, the highest count of the year), Coot (12), Moorhen (13, the highest, and only double figure count of the year), Goosander (3; 2 males and 1 redhead), Black-headed Gull (43, all roosting on the water, so no chance to see any colour rings!!), a possible Kingfisher that we heard, but didn't see, and Pied Wagtail (1 over).
The Crossbills were present again (15-20 today), as were Redwing (c30 flew out of a Holly tree, possibly from a roost), Fieldfare, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper and Mistle Thrush.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull Update

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Linacre, my first ever!(see here). I was pretty sure the number was TC30, so I sent the record off to see where it had come from. Since the sighting I kept everything crossed that the bird was a foreign-ringed one, and today I got confirmation that it was Polish ringed bird.

 TC30 is an adult bird, that was ringed on 21st May 2009 in Poland on its nesting grounds. At the time it was aged as at least 2 years old, which means it is now at least 4 years old. Since ringing, it has flown a minimum of 1362km from the ringing site, but the chances are it's flown to Britain and back to Poland every year since it was born. My sighting was the second since it was ringed. The first was at Orgreave Lagoons in South Yorkshire, on 29th August this year. I sent my record to the Polish Ringing Centre (see link here).

Now I just need to see it again and get a photo!! Wish me luck.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Storm damage and duck counting at Linacre

Following the heavy winds last week I was interested to see whether the woods at Linacre had suffered much damage. Luckily, the answer was "no", with just a couple of branches down and this tree by the bottom reservoir.
Storm-damaged tree
New stump!
I walked around all three reservoirs this morning, hoping to see last week's colour-ringed  Black-headed Gull (TC30), but the birds that were there today (just 31), were being fed by some kindly dog walkers, which meant they were flying around and not perching on the walls, so I couldn't see if s/he was there.

Luckily for me, however, the reservoirs were very busy with other birds today and I managed to count 135 Mallards and 60 Mandarins, which were both the highest counts of the year so far. Also present were: 12 Coots, 8 Moorhens, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Wagtail, 55 Tufted Ducks, 1 Kingfisher (on the middle reservoir), 1 Grey Heron, 3 Cormorants and a great flock of c60 Lapwings, that were flying over the top reservoir for about fifteen minutes (only the second record of 2013).

Lapwings (63 I think. Please feel free to count)

 Other sightings were Starling (7 flew over the top reservoir), a hunting Kestrel over fields by the top reservoir, Redwings and Fieldfares, Siskins and a small group of Crossbills (c12), which were feeding in the larches by the middle reservoir.

Monday, 2 December 2013

December Ringing

Sunday's ringing outing was the first of December, and saw me reach the 500 mark for birds that I've "processed" i.e. ringed or retrapped, in 2013. Yesterday's trip with Sorby Breck, took us up to a private garden site in Chesterfield, where we had a very busy morning, with 50+ birds caught.

The majority of birds today were tits (Blue, Great, Willow and Coal). One of the Coal Tits was leusistic, i.e. it had lost pigment in its feathers and showed more white than usual. The owners of the house said that they had seen the bird visiting their feeders before, but this was the first time we'd caught it.

Leusistic Coal Tit
As well as the tits we also caught one Nuthatch, that I was lucky enough to ring, several Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Robins.
Tawny Owls, Mistle Thrush and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were also seen and heard today.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Linacre

Every winter Linacre Reservoirs are visited by between 80 and 100 Black-headed Gulls, which normally stay until April, and every year I scan through them in the hope of finding a ringed bird. Well today, all that patience paid off when I found an adult bird which was ringed with a metal ring on its left leg and a coloured darvic ring on its right leg (black lettering on a white background).

I don't carry my 'scope around usually, so I had to try and get close enough to the bird to read the ring with my binoculars. I eventually managed to get close enough to see that it was either LC30 or TC30. I sent the record into the BTO, and will hopefully get an answer back soon. I also checked another really good website, The Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study, which, as its name suggests, is a website about a group in Northern Ireland that colour rings Black-headed Gulls, and also has recorded several "foreign ringed" Black-headed Gulls on their patch. I don't think today's gull was from their scheme, as they tend to use red darvic rings, but they have had some white ringed gulls from Poland and Norway, so who knows?? An update will appear as soon as I hear anything.

As well as this gull there were also another 77 Black-headed Gulls present, along with my first Goosander of the winter (1 male), Mallard (110), Tufted Duck (61), Coot (8), Moorhen (7), Grey Heron (2 perched together in trees on the bottom reservoir) and Mandarin Duck (19). A small flock of 15 Crossbills were seen and heard around the middle reservoir, along with a small number of Redwings and Fieldfares and a singing Mistle Thrush.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Barn Owl Box Adoption

Back in 2005 Jayne adopted a nest box for me through the Adopt a Box scheme run by the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Yesterday I got my update for 2013, which showed that my box had been used by roosting Barn Owls, but that they hadn't managed to breed this year.

Here are the details for the previous years:

2005 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2006 and 2007 - lost details - sorry!
2008 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2009 - 6 Barn Owls fledged
2010 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2011 - used by roosting Barn Owls
2012 - 2 Barn Owls fledged

According to the newsletter, which came with my update this year, 2013 was the worst year since 1958 for breeding Barn Owls, with a drop of 75% in the number of nests occupied and birds ringed.

So, if you're stuck for an Christmas present idea this year, why not think about adopting a box, and let's see if we have a better year in 2014?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Weekend Ringing

I managed to get out ringing twice this weekend with the guys from Sorby Breck; Saturday we were at Linacre and today we spent four hours at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve.

Saturday's session at Linacre started off very well with a flock of approximately 25 Crossbills flying around the site. Unfortunately, we couldn't entice any of them into the nets, but we did manage to catch an impressive 50 birds of 8 species, including 22 Great Tits and several Goldfinch. Here are a couple of pictures showing a male and a female Goldfinch.

Male bird with red extending behind the eye and black nasal hairs above the beak

Female bird with less extensive red and paler nasal hairs
Have a look at this link to see lots more Goldfinch photos from a ringer in the North West, who has ringed over 300 different birds in his garden this winter!!
Other birds seen during the session included 45 Pink-footed Geese flying over, a couple of Cormorants and a female Sparrowhawk that we disturbed from its breakfast.
1 less Woodpigeon at Linacre!
This morning's session at The Avenue was also pretty productive, with 47 birds ringed.  The Trust have created a "Living Bird Table" at the reserve by planting an area with crops such as Sunflowers and Kale. The plants are left to go to seed and the seed is then left for the birds to eat. We set up some nets an the edge of the field and managed to catch about a dozen Reed Buntings and Goldfinches. Linnets and Yellowhammers have also been feeding here, so hopefully we'll be able to catch these too during the winter. Other notable catches this morning were 2 Willow Tits and a retrap Great-spotted Woodpecker, along with the usual Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Blue and  Great Tits.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Starling Murmaration

For several years now, Jayne and I have been talking about visiting a Starling roost/murmaration. There are several to be found around the country, but we've never managed to find one close by. This year, however, we heard about one containing around 20,000 birds at Middleton Moor, near Stoney Middleton, which is about half an hour's drive from our house.

We decided to pop across this afternoon and we were very pleased that we did. We arrived at 3.30pm, and the first few birds began to arrive straight away. Over the next hour literally thousands and thousands flew in over out heads before dropping down into the reedbeds. We estimated tens, if not hundreds of thousands, but I can't be sure. Most birds flew straight in to the reeds, but several thousand did a bit of a murmaration before dropping in to roost. Amazing sight, and I even managed to get splattered, if you know what I mean- what an honour!

Here are a few photos. Please count the birds and let me know how many you get! Here's a link to a short video from tonight as well.

Starlings at Middleton Moor

Such high numbers of  Starlings always attract the attention of predators, and we saw 1 Sparrowhawk flying through the birds. A Peregrine Falcon was seen to take one bird on the other side of the roost by other observers, and a Buzzard also flew past.

Unusually, a Curlew was also heard and then seen flying around the site. Quite late in the season I would have thought?

Derbyshire Bird Report 2012

Hot on the heals of the BTO Atlas came another superb publication through the post this week: The Derbyshire Bird Report 2012.

As always, the DOS do a brilliant job in publishing the Bird Report in the following year i.e. 2013 for the 2012 report, and again, as always, its a great read. I particularly like looking through to see which reports I sent in and, of course, to see all the records relating to Linacre Reservoirs.

Reading the section on the Mandarin Duck, it's interesting to see that Linacre was the best site in Derbyshire in 2012 for this species, in that we had the highest count of the year (70 in October, in case you were wondering).

At the back of the book there's a short section on some of the key ringing recoveries for the year, including a Coal Tit that Alan from our group ringed at Ramsley Reservoir on 13th September, and that I re trapped at Linacre 16 days later, a movement of 6km.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, you can usually find them in local bookshops, including The Bakewell Bookshop or by following this link to the DOS website for details. Well worth the £8.65, or better still become a member and you'll get next year's free!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

BTO Atlas arrives!!

Over the last few days I read a lot of tweets from people around the country telling everyone that the new BTO Bird Atlas 2007 -2011 has arrived. Today I got home from work to find my copy waiting for me on the table.

Bird Atlas (and my legs)

As the name suggest, this amazing book of over 700 pages and weighing in at over 3kg (according to one tweet I read, I haven't weighed it, honestly), is the result of 4 years of fieldwork by over 40,000 volunteers (myself included, see posts here), throughout the UK and Ireland, and provides an overview of the breeding and wintering status of all British birds. There are some good news stories, but unfortunately, also several worrying statistics, charting severe declines for many species.

I've just had a quick flick through, but I'm very pleased to see that my patch, Linacre Reservoirs, gets a special mention on p.190, in the section about Mandarin Ducks.

To take a look for yourself and to order a copy, follow this link.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Garden Moths and Spider Update

I had the moth trap out in the garden for a few hours on Saturday night. I only caught 4 moths, but 2 of them were new to me. The first had the amazing name of Little Brown Apple  and the second one was a very worn individual and the people on Ispot couldn't identify it with 100% certainty, but they felt it was either a Brick or a Yellow-line Quaker. Here's some photos.

Little Brown Apple

Brick or Yellow-line Quaker
The other two moths were a Silver Y and a Twenty-plume Moth. The new additions take my Garden Moth List to an amazing 11 species (8 macro moths and 3 micro moths)!!
On Sunday I noticed a spider in my bath. I managed to get it out and took this photo.
Again, the people at Ispot identified it for me as Textrix denticulata, which is a common spider often found in houses. This one is a male. More details here.

UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers Website

Just a short post tonight to let any readers out there know about the UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers Website.

Its a website where bloggers from around the country can post links to their blogs. I've signed up to this and its well worth a look http://uknhb.blogspot.co.uk/

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hybrid Duck at Linacre

I set off to walk around Linacre this morning, but only got as far as the middle reservoir, when I spotted an odd looking duck swimming with a small group of Tufted Duck. My initial thought was Scaup (!!!), but then I remembered a similar looking bird that was seen in April 2010 and was identified as a hybrid between a Tufted Duck and a Pochard.

I hadn't taken my 'scope with me, so I popped home to get it, hoping that I'd get some shots. Unfortunately, the weather was very grey and overcast and the bird kept a long way away, so no photos were possible. I did, however, manage to get a bit of video footage, which does seem to show that the bird in question was a hybrid. (link here)

If you stop the video at about 25 seconds you can see a large black nail on the end of the bill. Scaup have a much smaller nail. Also, the plumage isn't right for a Scaup. The Linacre bird's feathers on the back don't show the fine vermiculation present on a male Scaup. It also has a slight tuft on the head too, which Scaup doesn't have. The Collins Bird Guide has a few pages on hybrid waterfowl, and shows a very similar bird to the one I saw today on p.35.

No problem, still an interesting sighting!

Not much else was about this morning, but I did spot 2 Wigeon and about 25 Mandarin Ducks.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Woody and Creeper

Out ringing again this morning with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. This week we were at our garden site in Sheffield, where we managed a very respectable 39 birds, including a stunning female Great-spotted Woodpecker, a beautiful Treecreeper and a charm of 5 Goldfinch.

The Great-spotted Woodpecker was my first of the year, and also the first that I've extracted from the nets. Thankfully, she (it was a female bird born this year) was quite gentle with me and only drew blood on one finger! Thanks for the help David.

Great-spotted Woodpecker
Here's a picture of the Treecreeper, what a stunning bird. You never get to see the white feathers on the front when they're creeping up a tree, and look at that beak. Amazing!


My ringing totals for today were (new/retraps):
Great Tit 2/1, Blue Tit 2/4, Goldfinch 2/0, Great-spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Blackbird 0/1 and Wren 1/0.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Tit and Swallow Recoveries

One of the many joys of ringing is when I receive an email from fellow ringer, David, outlining details of recoveries of birds ringed by ourselves or other members of the BTO's Ringing Scheme. I receive two such emails this week and here are the details.

The first email was a record of two tits that we had ringed earlier this year as juvenile birds (pulli), in the nest boxes at Linacre Reservoirs. One was a Blue Tit, that was ringed on 4th June in box 5a and was one of a brood of 9 birds. This bird was retrapped last Saturday (see here), by us (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), at our feeding station at Linacre, an amazing movement of approximately 1/2km!!

The second bird was a Great Tit. This bird, too, was ringed by us at Linacre in box 14 on 12th June, one of a brood of 5, and was retrapped again at the feeding station as well. Great to see these two birds doing so well. Hopefully, they'll turn up breeding in the nestboxes in 2014.

The second email I received told me about two Swallows that we "controlled" at The Avenue Washlands back in August (see here). Controls are birds that we catch that have been ringed by other ringers. The first bird, a bird born this year, had been ringed at Middleton Moor, 21km away on 26th July and we caught it again on 30th July. The second bird, another of this year's birds, had travelled a little further (47km), from Wintersett Reservoir in West Yorkshire. It had been originally ringed on 14th August and we caught it again on 26th August (see here). Hopefully these two birds carried on south and are now enjoying the sun in South Africa!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Linacre WeBS - November 2013

This month's WeBS walk took place this morning in dry,sunny conditions with temperatures of just 3 degrees. Waterbirds were present in good numbers with some of the highest counts of the year and I also managed to add a new species of moth to the Linacre List!

First up the birds. Mallard numbers were excellent today with a record count of 116 over the three reservoirs. Tufted Ducks were also present in high numbers; 60 today, which is the highest count of the year so far. Mandarin Ducks came in at 39, which is pretty good and a count of 14 Coot was very good. 9 Moorhens were present (highest count of the year), and included a juvenile bird on the bottom reservoir. The Kingfisher was heard again on the middle reservoir along with 1 adult Great-crested Grebe and 2 Little Grebes. Black-headed Gull numbers are starting to increase and today's count of 78 was the highest count of the year. Also present were: 1 Cormorant, 2 Grey Herons and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The Crossbills were still around and c.20 were seen and heard, along with the first Siskins of the winter (3).

When I got back to the car park I spotted a moth on my window. It looked quite tatty and was very sluggish, but I managed to get a photo and identify it as a Red-green Carpet, a first for the Linacre List.

Red-green Carpet

Linacre Ringing - 9th November

After four weeks off due to the weather I managed to get out ringing again this morning. I went out with Sorby Breck to Linacre and together we managed to catch 28 birds of 7 species (Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Great, Blue and Coal Tit).

My personal totals were (new/retrap): Blue Tit 3/2, Great Tit 1/1,  Coal Tit 1/0, Robin 0/2 and Dunnock 1/0.

One of the re trapped Great Tits was wearing a B ring, which means that it was ringed as a chick (pullus), hopefully in one of our boxes. I'll let you know when I get the details.

Other birds seen on sight were: Crossbill (20 flew over the ringing site),  Redwing (5+), Fieldfare (c40 over),  Starling ( 3 groups of approx. 40 birds flew over), Sparrowhawk (1 female being mobbed by a Crow), Grey Heron (2 flew over), Skylark (1 was heard flying over).

Sunday, 3 November 2013

One bird - three ticks

I'm not a twitcher (honestly!!), but when I switched Birdguides on today and saw news of a Glossy Ibis in Bakewell I just had to go over and have a look. Not only was it a Year tick, but also a British Tick and a Derbyshire Tick- wow!

The bird had been seen late yesterday and had then spent this morning flying up and down the River Wye. It was reported on the Bakewell Showground at 1.00pm, so I drove across with Jayne, just in time to see the bird heading off "high to the west". Phew, just made it. We had a look around the area for a while, but couldn't relocate it, so no photos unfortunately. Instead here are a couple of a flock we saw in Lesvos in 2011.

Glossy Ibis, Kalloni Saltpans, Lesvos, April 2011
Year List update:
195 – Glossy Ibis
UPDATE: follow this link for a photo of the Bakewell's Glossy Ibis.
The Brambling is still in the garden today as well.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Year List Update

I've just been going through my Year List notes, and I noticed that there were a few species missing. As a result, my Year List has just increased by 8 species!! Here they are:

187 – Great Black-backed Gull
188 – Grey Heron
189 – Knot
190 – Curlew
191 – Jay
192 – Jackdaw
193 - Canada Goose
194 - Raven

The 200 mark looks achievable!!!!

Garden Brambling

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is an uncommon visitor to the garden, with my only other sightings usually in March/April, or during bad weather, so I was very surprised and pleased to find this lovely male bird hopping around in the Whitebeam tree this afternoon. Click on the RSPB's website here for some more information about this bird.

He was feeding on the berries along with a male Chaffinch for a good half an hour. Lovely record for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, along with the 2 Redwing that popped in yesterday for a couple of minutes.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Linacre - first November visit

Had a couple of hours down at Linacre this morning (7am - 9am). The sun was out for the first hour and I managed to get a nice shot of the sunrise.

Bottom reservoir
 I also took this one of the top reservoir in the sunshine.

Top reservoir

This last photo is a panoramic shot of the top reservoir. Click on the picture to make  it bigger.

Top reservoir

Waterbirds seen today were: Mallard (107, the highest count this year), Tufted Duck (50, still a very good number following the 58 last weekend), Mandarin Duck (31), Coot (6), Moorhen (9, highest count of the year), Grey Wagtail (1), Little Grebe (1 adult), Great-crested Grebe (1 adult), Kingfisher (1 on the north side of the middle reservoir and perched on a branch by the overflow), Grey Heron 1, possibly 2 birds, both being mobbed by the gulls), and Black-headed Gull (62 - the highest count this winter).

The Crossbills were present again today, and I managed to count 16 as they flew around the south side of the top reservoir. Redwing and Fieldfare (c.6 flew over) were also flying about, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes were in trees by the bottom car park.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

North Berwick and Bamburgh

Last day in Scotland today, so I got up early (again) and had a couple of hours on the beaches at North Berwick. The sun was just rising as I arrived and I got this shot of the beach and Bass Rock in the background.

North Berwick beach

Birdwise it was quite quiet, but I did record my first Turnstones of the trip (20+), feeding with at least 3 Purple Sandpipers (year tick) on the rocks below the Scottish Seabird Centre. Other waders present on the beach were Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew and a couple of Ringed Plovers. Both Grey and Pied Wagtails were feeding on the seaweed, whilst Starlings and House Sparrows were present on the nearby houses. Out on the sea were a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, dozens of Eider Ducks, including several males trying to attract the attention of the females with their amazing "oooh,oooh" calls (listen here), a stunning 43 Shags feeding in the bay, along with Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls.

On the drive back home, we stopped off at Bamburgh and had half an hour on the beach by Stag Rocks. I was hoping to catch up with some grebes or divers, and a Bonaparte's Gull that was reported yesterday, but no such luck. I did, however, see 5 juvenile Gannets "plunge diving" into the sea, 20+ Eider Ducks, 40+ Turnstones, 5 Purple Sandpipers and Common and Black-headed Gulls.

Year List update:
186 - Purple Sandpiper

Update: the Bonaparte's Gull was spotted about an hour after I'd left!!!!!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

East Lothian Tour and 3 Year Ticks

Got up and out again this morning. First stop was Musselburgh Lagoons on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I visited this site for the first time last October, where I managed some video footage of Velvet Scoter (see here).  Scoters were present again this morning with at least a dozen male bird swimming close to the seawall. Also present were 1 Slavonian Grebe, a female Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Eider Duck and Black-headed and Common Gull.

Driving back to North Berwick I stopped off at Gosford Bay in search of Red-necked Grebe, without luck!! I did however add Golden Plover to the trip list, along with more Dunlin, a Great-crested Grebe and a dozen Bar-tailed Godwit.

A quick visit to Aberlady Bay brought me 3 Barnacle Geese, which was very nice as these are presumably wild ones, as opposed to the feral ones seen in Derbyshire. Two Little Egrets were present again and feeding around the bridge and, of course, a couple of hundred Pink-footed Geese flew out to feed in the farmland.

Last stop was Gullane Bents. No Long-tailed Ducks today, but I did pick up a single winter plumaged Red-throated Diver, several Eider Ducks and a group of 10+ Common Scoter.

Gullane Bay (and my thumb!!)

Year List update:
182- Slavonian Grebe
183 – Red-breasted Merganser
184 – Red-throated Diver
185 - Rock pipit (1 in North Berwick)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Aberlady Bay and Gullane Bents

I'm up in North Berwick for a few days, so this morning I got up early and drove across to Aberlady Bay in search of a Snow Goose that's been found with the thousands of Pink-footed Geese that overwinter here. I hung around for about 3 hours and watched as the "pinkies" flew out of their roost to feed on the surrounding farmland, but unfortunately, no sign of the "snowie" today.

Pinkies leaving the roost

No worries though, because whilst looking for the goose I did manage to watch all the waders and waterfowl. The first wader I saw today was a Grey Plover (year tick), followed closely by a Bar-tailed Godwit, dozens of Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Redshanks and Curlew, along with hundreds of Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck and Greylag Goose. 2 Little Egrets were also present feeding in the channels, a bird that is still relatively uncommon in Scotland. A couple of Tawny Owls were heard in the woodlands behind the estuary and a Kestrel was being annoyed by the local Crows.

On the drive back to North Berwick I dropped in to Gullane Bents and scanned the bay in search of Long-tailed Duck (link here) I managed a couple of stunning drakes, along with several Shags, Eider Ducks and a small group of about 10 Common Scoters (year tick).

Year List update:
180 - Grey Plover
181 - Common Scoter

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Abnormal plumages

Way back in December 2010 I blogged about a Blackbird that was spending time in my garden. Nothing unusual, except that Mr White, as I christened him, was a Blackbird with abnormal plumage in that he had more white in than normal (see link here).

The BTO run the very successful Garden Birdwatch Scheme, of which I am a member, and in 2011 they also started a survey to try and get an idea about how widespread these abnormalities are. Today I received an update, which I thought I'd share with you.

Here's the link.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Soggy Linacre

Rain and wind put an end to any ringing again this week, so I braved the weather and had a few hours around Linacre. There wasn't too much happening, but waterbirds were present in good numbers and I heard a Willow Tit calling, which was my first here since the summer.

On the reservoirs there were 58 Tufted Ducks, which I'm sure is my highest ever count here, 92 Mallards (again a very good count) just 18 Mandarins, 2 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 7 Coots, 8 Moorhens (7 adults and 1 brown juvenile), 1 Great-crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebes (1 adult and 1 juvenile), 1 Kingfisher (on the middle reservoir again), 4 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Pied Wagtail that flew over, and 1 Grey Wagtail.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of the female Wigeon today, nor the 2 Gadwall that were reported earlier in the week.

The Crossbills were still present around the middle reservoir, along with the Willow Tit and Skylark and Redwings that were heard flying over again.

A moth was disturbed from the ground around the middle reservoir, which I think was a carpet species. I couldn't find it again though, so it'll have to go down as a possible.

Lots of lovely fungi around today, including this bracket fungi.

Bracket fungi

Monday, 21 October 2013

Moths and a Sparrowhawk

Sorry, but it had to happen. Linacre blogger has started to look at moths. My darling wife agreed to get me a moth trap for Christmas. It arrived last week, and, after a few days of rain and wind, I managed to get it out in the garden at the weekend. I only had it out for an hour, but I managed to catch 2 species of moth, both of which were new for the garden (obviously!).

The first species was a Common Marbled Carpet. Here's a link to the UKMoths website. I know "my" moth doesn't look anything like the examples in the link, but they are apparently very variable!!

Common Marble Carpet
The second moth was another carpet species, this time a Red-green Carpet. Link here.

Red-green Carpet
Both species are classed as common in my moth book, so it'll be interesting to see how often they turn up in the trap.

These two species take my "garden list" (sorry, you knew it had to happen, another list!!) to 4 species when added to the Large Yellow Underwing and Silver Y that I saw during the summer. Two links again; LWU and Silver Y.

Large Yellow Underwing

Silver Y on the Buddleia

Finally, before everyone nods off, here's a picture of a Sparrowhawk that's taken to eating the Goldfinch in the garden.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

RSPB Frampton Marsh and 3 Year Ticks

A couple of times a year I help lead a walk for the Chesterfield RSPB Group. Today's walk took us to the RSPB's reserve of Frampton Marsh in search of waders and winter visitors. In total we recorded 48 species of birds, including a year tick for me; Pectoral Sandpiper. Here's a heavily cropped photo showing all the relevant identification features (the sharp cut off between the dark breast feathers and the white belly, yellowish legs and the white supercilium.)

Pectoral Sandpiper

First up the waders. In total we spotted 13 species of wader on the reserve today. The highlights for me were 2 Little Stints and the Pectoral Sandpiper, but the sight of a few hundred Black-tailed Godwit, 30+ Snipe, Golden Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Avocet (c.15), Redshank,
Ringed Plover, Ruff and Curlew were all very as well.

Waterbirds were much in evidence today with 100s of Brent Geese flying between the saltmarsh and the lagoons, 100s of Teal and Wigeon on the scrapes, along with Mallards, Pintail, Gadwall, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Canada and Greylag Geese across the site.

Finally, several gull species were seen (Great and Lesser Black-backed, Common, Black-headed and Herring), along with a couple of Marsh Harriers, a Kestrel and several smaller bird species (Starling, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Skylark, Redwing, Crow, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Magpie and Pheasant).

Year List update:
177 - Bar-tailed Godwit
178 -Pectoral Sandpiper
179 - Brent Goose

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Winter visitors arrive and patch tick

No ringing today because of the wet and windy weather early on, so instead I went off to Linacre for 3 hours walking around all 3 reservoirs.

Most notable of all was the number of  Redwings that were flying over. They were heard all morning and several were feeding on the Rowan berries around the reservoirs. Also present today were Fieldfare (18 flying over were the first of the winter), the single Wigeon on the middle reservoir (here for the winter?), 6 Lapwing that flew over the top reservoir, 1 Pied Wagtail, at least 10 Crossbills (over the Rangers' Base and then over the top and middle reservoirs) 1 Sparrowhawk over the top reservoir and fly-over Meadow Pipits and Skylark.

Out on the water itself were Mallard (92), Tufted Duck (39), Mandarin Duck (27), Grey Wagtail (1), Kingfisher (flew from the willows by the boardwalk on the top reservoir), Great-crested Grebes (2), Little Grebe (6 on the bottom reservoir), Cormorant (1) and Black-headed Gull (15).

The patch tick mentioned in the title was a record of a Shelduck from the Sheffield Bird Study Group, that was seen on Friday (17th). I've never seen one at Linacre, but, according to David, who keeps the records for the group, there have been records back in 1998 and 2004. As these dates are before I started recording I've included it here as a patch tick. Hope that's make sense!!

No bird photos today, instead I've got a slug and some fungi for you.

slug sp


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Linacre Blogger joins Twitter

I got an upgrade on my phone last week, so I decided to join Twitter at the same time. The idea is that I can now "tweet" whilst on site with any updates and/or interesting sightings.

The address is @linacreblogger . Just click on the link and follow me!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Lonesome WeBS counting

The weather forecast for today was wet and windy, and unfortunately they got it right! No ringing, so instead I headed down to Linacre to carry out the monthly WeBS count. I was on my own this month, presumably because of the weather and holidays for some lucky people, and again, because of the weather, I only spent one and a half hours going around all 3 reservoirs.

The first birds I spotted through the drizzle and wind, were a flock of Carrion Crows in the field by the main entrance. No Pied Wagtails today, though. A flock of approximately 30 Redwings that flew over the bottom car park, were my first of the winter period, and were quite expected, as there have been several thousand arriving in the country this week. (see here). Here's a picture from last February, when the weather was a bit better.


Down on the bottom reservoir the Little Grebes were very active, with 2 juveniles and an adult seen, a Kingfisher flew the length of the water and the first of 40 Tufted Ducks were seen. Mallards and Mandarin Ducks were also in good numbers today, with 67 and 58 respectively seen. The biggest surprise, however, was the flock of 6 Teal that were found on the bottom reservoir. This species isn't recorded every year, so any record is very well received. The Wigeon was also still present on the middle reservoir, along with 1 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant, 2 Great-crested Grebe, 11 Coot, 1 Canada Goose, 7 Moorhen (5 adults and 2 brown juveniles on the bottom reservoir) and 4 Black-headed Gulls.

The usual woodland birds were about, and the Crossbill flock was heard, but not seen.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Pied Wagtails and Peregrine Falcon

Pied Wagtails are not a common bird at Linacre, and apart from one breeding record back in 2011 when the reservoirs were partially drained, they have only really been reported on a few occasions. Most of these sightings were during the winter months and included single birds. When I got to Linacre on Sunday morning, however, I was amazed to see a flock of 24 birds feeding in the ploughed field by the main entrance. I managed a few photos, which showed a mixture of adult and juvenile birds.

juvenile Pied Wagtails

Adult male Pied Wagtail

Whilst scanning through the flock I also picked up 3 Meadow Pipits ( first record this year) along the fence, which made me think this was a migrating flock of birds. Seconds later a Peregrine Falcon came flying across the field right through the flock and disappeared down the valley- a Linacre lifer!!

After all that excitement I popped down to the reservoirs and walked around all three. The Wigeon and a Kingfisher were still present on the middle reservoirs, Skylark were heard passing overhead, the Little Grebe family was very vocal on the bottom reservoir and 5 Crossbills were seen and heard by the top reservoir. Best of all, however, were 5 low-flying Pink-footed Geese. We'd heard them on Saturday, but couldn't see them through the clouds, so this sighting was my first at Linacre this year.

There were also quite a few fungi on show at the weekend. Here are a couple of photos of Fly Agaric and a Shaggy Inkcap.
Fly Agaric

Shaggy Inkcap