Sunday, 31 March 2013

Year List Update

I spent a few hours at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park today and managed to add a new species to the Year List with the "redhead" Smew that was on the Lower Lake. Also here were 14 Goosanders and at least 6 active nests in the Heronry. No summer migrants though!

Heronry on the Lower Lake

Here's a picture of a stunning male Sparrowhawk that landed on the feeders in the garden this morning. Luckily/Unluckily he didn't manage to grab a bite to eat, so the Siskins, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch, Blackbirds, House Sparrows and Blue Tits that had been feeding seconds earlier all lived to see another day! Another good record for the Garden Birdwatch Scheme.

Year List:

97: Smew

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Return to ringing and Patch tick!

As you might have noticed I haven't managed to get out ringing since the 3rd March, mainly as a result of the awful, snowy weather we've been having this month. Thankfully, we managed to get out this morning and a 4 hour session at Linacre ended with 21 birds, including a patch tick!

Throughout the morning we caught a steady stream of birds (Blackbirds, Blue and Great Tits, Robins and Dunnocks) but it was the last bird of the morning that was the biggest surprise when a male Reed Bunting turned up in the nets!! Not only was this the first Reed Bunting ringed at Linacre, but it was also the first record here since we began recording in 2006. Presumably it was a bird that was passing through as there isn't any potential breeding habitat on site.

Reed Bunting

Other birds recorded around the ringing site today were: Canada Goose (2 flying over), Common Buzzard (1 bird over the ringing site), Cormorant (5 flying up the valley - the highest count this year), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 over the ringing site). As well as the birds we also spotted 4 Brown Hares in the nearby fields.

Another interesting sighting this morning was my first flower on the ringing site, when we spotted a few Coltsfoot flowers popping up through the ground. I intend to keep a proper list this year, so you might have a few more "intersting" photos over the next few months.


Still no migrants

I spent a couple of hours at Linacre yesterday morning and, despite much searching, I failed to locate any summer migrants - again!  I wasn't too surprised though given the temperature -2 degrees and the amount of snow that was still present.

The normal waterbirds were present in good numbers: Mallard (35), Tufted Duck (12), Coot (8), Mandarin (3 pairs), Moorhen (5), Cormorant (1), Grey Wagtail (2), and a count of 73 Black-headed Gulls was the second highest so far this winter. A pair of Great-crested Grebes on the middle reservoir, bodes well for breeding again.
Black-headed Gulls
In the woods most of the resident species were singing, despite the cold, and the Little Owl was in its normal tree as I drove out. I also managed to hear Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming and Green Woodpecker "yaffling".

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sheffield Peregrines

Last year, for the first time, a pair of Peregrine Falcons nested on St George's Church in Sheffield. Today, just by chance, I came across their blog and I thought I'd add it to my favourites on the right hand side. This way, if the birds lay eggs and hatch young again we should be able to keep up to date with their development. There is also a webcam up and running, which is well worth keeping an eye on. I had a look today and, unfortunately, there's quite a lot of snow on it. Hopefully this will clear up before the birds lay any eggs.

Here's a photo of one of the birds that was sat preening on the nest site a few weeks ago.

Sheffield Peregrine

Return of the snow!

Last weekend I was walking around Linacre hoping to see my first summer migrants. This weekend I'm sitting at home looking at a very snowy garden! Here's the view from my living room this afternoon.

Snowy garden
The blob in the top left hand corner is the pond that has/had 4 big masses of frogspawn in ealier this week.

Suffice to say I didn't get out ringing or birding today, but instead spent most of the day watching the feeders. In the end, I managed to see some interesting birds including "Mr White"(see here if you haven't read about this bird before), a couple of stunning breeding plumaged Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Goldfinches, 7 Siskins, 10 Blackbirds, 2 Robins, 3 Dunnocks, one each of Blue and Coal Tit, 3 Long-tailed Tits (feeding on the fat block), an enormous female Sparrowhawk, 3 House Sparrows, 3 Collared Doves and a couple of Woodpigeons. Not a bad haul, but I would have preferred to have been out at Linacre ringing my first Chiffchaffs of the year. Next week perhaps?

As always, the results will all be entered into the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Loyalty pays dividends.

On Sunday morning I had a decision to make, should I go "twitching" to see a Lesser Scaup at Ogston or be loyal to the local patch (Linacre) and go on the search for some early summer migrants. In the end I made the right decision and went to Linacre where I didn't record any Chiffchaffs ( far too cold still), but I did manage to find a few " firsts" for the year and gather further evidence of possible breeding of the Little Owls.

Firstly the Little Owls. There has been a bird in the same tree for the last few weeks and yesterday morning there were a pair- hurrah! According to my book on nest monitoring (see here), a pair will often sit in the tree where they intend to nest, at the start of the season, so I'll be keeping an eye on this pair to see how they get on. Hopefully they'll nest and I'll be able to record the outcome of the nest for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme, and ring the young later in the season.

Other birds of note this morning were my first Green Woodpecker at Linacre this year, as well as my first Stock Dove (also a year tick) and a very rare bird in Linacre terms, a male Wigeon that was found on the top reservoir. I have only ever recorded Wigeon on 2 previous occassions the last back in 2011, so I was very pleased to see this bird.


The hybrid goose recorded last week was still around, as were another 6 Canada Geese and the usual water birds: Mallard (33), Cormorant (3; 1 juvenile and 2 adults), Coot (12- highest count this year), Moorhen (5), Goosander (7; 5 males and 2 females), Tufted Duck (13), Grey Wagtail (3), Mandarin Duck (1 female flying up the valley), Great-crested Grebe (1 breeding plumaged bird) and Black-headed Gulls (18).

If you're still reading and wondering what happened with the Lesser Scaup at Ogston, luckily it wasn't reported today, so I didn't waste time looking for it.

Year List update:
96 - Stock Dove

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Like London Buses...

Books that is, not birds.

Back in October last year I spotted two new books that I thought would make lovely Christmas presents for yours truly. I ordered both and waited for their arrival. 5 months later and both arrived within two days of each other. Happy Christmas.

The first to arrive was a super book describing the story behind the reintroduction of Ospreys to Rutland Water in Leicestershire.

The book is full of amazing photographs, sketches and information from a range of different people who have been, or are still, involved in the project and is well worth a read.

The second book is another excellent, if not somewhat different book, in that this one is a field guide, which will, hopefully, help me identify all those pesky hoverflies I've got photos of.

The book, imaginatively called British Hoverflies, is the newest in a series of field guides from an excellent company called Wild Guides. It has over 500 colour photographs and covers 165 of the most easily identifiable hoverfly species found in Britain. Now all I've got to do is trawl through my photographs and identify them all. Who knows, I might even blog about some, if and when I've put names to them- lucky you!!

Both books are definately worth a look. The Osprey one can be ordered via the Rutland Osprey Project website and the hoverfly book can be bought directly from the Wild Guides website (see link above) or via this link.

Please have a look at the Osprey website especially, as it will keep you up to date with their work and there is also information about the birds that breed there, what they're doing at the moment (migrating north as we speak) and live web cams that will allow you to see the young birds as they grow later in the year.

No ringing today because of the rain this morning, so I thought you might like to see an awful picture that I took out of my kitchen window this morning of a Lesser Redpoll, a Siskin and a Goldfinch, having breakfast on my feeders.

Lesser Redpoll (bottom left), Siskin (male at the back) and Goldfinch (top right)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Linacre WeBS Walk - March 2013

Wet and windy conditions meant there wasn't any ringing this weekend, so I went down to Linacre to carry out the monthly WeBS walk with 2 other members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group. I had hoped for some early summer migrants, such as Chiffchaff, but with the temperature a chilly 3 degrees and drizzle in the air  this will have to wait til next week I think.

The first sighting this morning was the Little Owl that was sat in his(?) favourite tree by the entrance. I had my little camera to hand today and managed to get a quick, not-very-well-focused picture through the car windscreen. A good example of a "record shot".

Little Owl

Other birds of note included my first singing Mistle Thrush of the year, a pair of "twit-twooing" Tawny Owls and several Siskin.

On the water the waterbird numbers were better than last week with 4 Mandarin Ducks, the summer plumaged Great-crested Grebe, 1 Grey Wagtail, 5 Goosanders (2 males and 3 females), 37 Mallards, 16 Tufted Ducks, just 5 Black-headed Gulls, 8 Coots, 6 Canada Geese, 3 Moorhens and 4 Cormorants.

The Cormorants were interesting in that 3 were adults in breeding plumage and these 2 of below appeared to be displaying to each other, something I've never seen at Linacre before. Also the bird on the right in the picture was wearing a BTO ring, but unfortunately, I couldn't see it well enough to read the numbers.

Finally, the last new arrival for the year was the hybrid goose which has been seen at Linacre every year since at least 2006. It appears every year with a Canada Goose in tow and hangs around for  the summer, without attempting to breed, Let's see what happens this year.
Hybrid goose and Canada Goose

Monday, 4 March 2013

Ringing Demo at Thrybergh CP -3rd March 2013

I spent 4 hours out with Sorby Breck Ringing Group on Sunday morning doing a ringing demonstration at Thrybergh CP in Rotherham. We managed a very respectable 43 birds with a very good selection of species including Chaffinch, Dunnock, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Yellowhammer and Blue and Great Tits.


My personal totals were (new/retrap): Chaffinch 7/0, Blue Tit 2/1, Great Tit 1/0, Blackbird 3/0 and Robin 1/0.

In between net rounds we managed a bit of birding which included a couple of "year ticks", namely:

Year List additions:
94 -Shoveler
95 - Golden Plover

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Linacre Walk - 2nd March 2013

The sun was shining beautifully yesterday morning, so I decided to spend a few hours down at Linacre. I walked around all three reservoirs and enjoyed the sounds of spring with many resident species in full song.

Top reservoir in the sun

The first song I heard was a Song Thrush, singing strongly from a tree near the Rangers' hut. Another couple were heard throughout the morning. Other songsters in good voice included Goldcrest, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Coal, Blue and Great Tit. Several Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming. Another very welcome sign of spring was a summer plumaged Great-crested Grebe that had appeared on the middle reservoir. I was particularly pleased to see this bird, because it was my first on site since November! Hopefully it'll attract a mate very soon and get down to the business of breeding. Still no sign of the Little Grebes yet though.

Most of resident waterbirds were present, with the exception of Mandarin Duck. This species becomes very elusive at this time of the year, as birds pair up and apparently leave the area to breed. So far we've only ever had 1 definite record of breeding on site, when a pair used one of the owl boxes (see here for details). Hopefully they'll be successful again this year. Waterbird numbers today were: Mallard (24 - a very low count), Coot (11), Moorhen (1!), Tufted Duck (16), Black-headed Gull (57), Grey Wagtail (1), Cormorant (3, including 2 adults in breeding plumage) and Goosander (10 - 6 males and 4 females).

One of the breeding-plumaged birds