Saturday, 27 April 2013

Linacre nests at last and summer migrants

Today started with a walk around Linacre to check the tit boxes. After a complete blank back on the 13th I was hoping for something, anything, and thankfully I wasn't completely disappointed. No eggs or birds were found in the boxes, but at least there were 14 nests being built. They ranged from a few pieces of moss up to a nests lined with feathers, so hopefully there should be some eggs this year and some records for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

1 of the most advance nests
Also found in one of the boxes was a Brown Long-eared Bat. It was in the same box as previously (see here), and, as can be seen on the picture, there was small mite on it as well.
Brown Long-eared Bat
As well as checking the nest boxes I also walked all around the valley today and managed a couple of new species for the year; House Martin (6 over the middle reservoir) and Swift (1 over the middle reservoir). The Swift was my earliest ever record since recording began in 2006. 30ish Swallows were also present today, along with at least 3 singing Blackcaps, 4 singing Chiffchaffs and 7 singing Willow Warblers! An adult male Pied Wagtail was on the top reservoir. Another first for me was a record of Toad, with 4 dead on the boardwalk. They all looked as if they had been eaten, presumably by Carrion Crows?

Whilst walking around I met Jackie,one of the rangers and a volunteer, Antony, who told me they had recorded some Common Lizards around the top reservoir this year and Grass Snakes around Spire View, so there's 2 new species for my records. Something else for me to look for!!

One final report from Linacre as this bumblebee, which I think is a White-tailed Bumblebee, seen here feeding on a Willow.

White-tailed Bumblebee

After lunch I had a walk up to Barbrook Plantation with Jayne, where we spotted a nice male Wheatear and a stunning male Redstart. 2 more year ticks.

Dodgy photo!
Singing Redstart

Year List update:
115 – Red Grouse (1 last week on Burbage Moor)
116 – House Martin
117 – Swift
118 – Wheatear
119 - Redstart

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Linacre update- ringing tick and nesting success.

Two visits to Linacre this weekend, one for ringing and nest recording, and one to catch up with the summer migrants. A mixed set of results.

First up the ringing and nest recording. A four hour session with the nets resulted in just 17 birds ringed, but this total did include our first ringed Linacre Chiffchaff of the year and a ringing tick for me; a Woodpigeon! A very interesting bird and my first "F" ring.

Between net rounds we managed a bit of birdwatching and recorded the first records of Mute Swan (1 flew over) and Pied Wagtail (flew over), for Linacre this year.Other birds of note included a Sparrowhawk overhead, 3 Jays, 2 Canada Geese, yaffling Green Woodpecker and drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker. We also recorded our first butterflies of the year, Small Tortoiseshell, 3 feeding on the Coltsfoot, which was out in profusion today, along with super Cowslip and Wood Anenome.
The last job of the morning was to check on the owl boxes and the Little Owls. We checked the two owl boxes above Spire View and found both contained Mandarin Duck eggs!! The first box contained 5 eggs and no bird, while the second box contained 9 or possibly10 eggs and a female Mandarin Duck.
Mandarin eggs
The second box, shown above, was full of down as well, whereas the eggs in the first box were laid simply on the sticks and leaves that were already in the box. Anyway, we'll fill in BTO nest record cards for both boxes and watch what happens. I'll let you know. We also checked the tree where we'd seen a couple of Little Owls and were very pleased to find one bird sitting tight. The hole is pretty small, so we couldn't see what the bird was sitting on, but we'll keep monitoring over the next few weeks and hopefully record a successful brreding attempt here as well.
I popped back to Linacre again this morning and walked around all three reservoirs recording the first Willow Warblers (4 singing), Sand Martins (6 over the top reservoir) and Blackcaps (4 singing) of the year. Nice!!! Just need the flycatchers, Swifts and House Martins to come back now.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Yellow and White Wagtails at Carsington

Every year at this time there is a passage of Yellow and White Wagtails at Carsington Water. I popped across there this afternoon/evening and at about 7pm,managed to catch up with a flock of 7 Yellow and 2 White Wagtails feeding on the grass by the Visitors' Centre.

The Yellow Wagtails are absolutely superb birds, as this photo from this afternoon, hopefully shows.

Yellow Wagtail
The White Wagtail is the European race of our own Pied Wagtail, but differs from this bird by having a grey back and much less black on the head. Here's a not-so-good, slightly out of focus photo of two birds from today.
White Wagtail
Unfortunately, this isn't a species in its own right, so I can't add it to the Year List proper, but I'll note it down and add it on to the full list at the end of the year. The Yellow Wagtail, however, can be added along with 3 other species I saw at Carsington today, namely:
111 – Willow Warbler (several singing)
112 – Little Ringed Plover (1 on Horseshoe Island)
113 – Yellow Wagtail
114 - Blackcap (one on Stones Island)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

M'ipit and unidentified caterpillar

I had a walk up Burbage Moor this afternoon to try and see a Ring Ouzel or two. Unfortunately, when we (Jayne and I) arrived, it started to rain and the wind, which was already quite strong when we left home, got even stronger and nearly blew us over!

We drew a blank with the Ouzels, but we did manage to see and hear lots of Meadow Pipits (year tick), which weren't put off by the awful weather, and were singing and displaying beautifully. We also had a fly-by Raven, singing Wrens and this caterpillar that was moving around in the undergrowth. Any ideas anyone?

Year List update:
110 - Meadow Pipit

Two Bramblings

Just a quick post to show you a picture of two Bramblings that came into the garden this afternoon. We normally get the odd one or two at this time of the garden, as birds make their way back north to breed, but this is my first record of two birds together. Super record for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme.


Empty nestboxes, WeBS Walk, summer migrants and a new bird!

This weekend's visit to Linacre was pretty busy with the first check of the nest boxes and the monthly WeBS Walk. Added to this, I also recorded another summer migrant and my first sighting of a species which has been recorded before, but never by me.

First up was the WeBS Walk. Things were pretty quiet out on the water with the following birds recorded: Mallard (21), Tufted Duck (13), Coot (10), Moorhen (7), Cormorant (3), Great-crested Grebe (3), Black-headed Gull (4), Mandarin Duck (2 males), Grey Wagtail (3), and Greylag Goose (2 flew east down the valley).

As well as the waterbirds there were 4 singing Chiffchaffs and the new summer migrant, a Swallow, that flew over the lower car park. The new bird for me was a Woodcock, that flew up from the woodland floor when I was checking the nestboxes. As I said, this species has been reported at Linacre before, but not by me, so it was very nice to record it. Hopefully it will be the first of many sightings. Another new bird for the year at Linacre was a Skylark that was singing in the fields by the top reservoir. Finally, the Little Owls were still in their favourite tree by the entrance.

The nest boxes were checked, but unfortunately, they were all completely empty. This is in contrast to this time last year, when several boxes already had nests and egss in them. See here for details. Next week perhaps?

Year List update:
109- Woodcock

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Common Cranes

Last night, whilst surfing the web I came across some very interesting news that saw me driving down to The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge reserve today to see a pair of Common Cranes that are attempting to breed!

The birds in front of Martin Smith Hide
The WWT have been working with several other wildlife organisations as part of the Great Crane Project to breed and release Common Cranes back into south west England for several years now. 

The pair, that are nest building right in front of one of the centre's hides, were raised at Slimbridge and released in the Somerset Levels 3 years ago. They returned to Slimbridge during the winter with another 5 birds, which are also still present on site, and started to build a nest. Here are a few photos of the birds.

Male bird displaying
Close up!
As well as these amazing birds I also added a few other species to the year list, including a couple of summer migrants:

104 – Common Crane
105- Water Rail
106 –Sand Martin
107 – Swallow
108 - Pintail
One last picture today of a Little Egret that too was feeding right in front of one of the hides. Gorgeous bird!
Little Egret

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Linacre Owlfest

Last week I heard from one of the Rangers at Linacre that a Tawny Owl had been spotted leaving one of the "owl boxes" that we put up last year (see here). The box in question was too high to reach with the normal ladders, so, after managing to get hold of some taller ones, I went to check the box today with the hope of finding some eggs or young. The adult bird was present again this morning, but, on inspection, the box was found to be completely empty! Hopefully the bird will stay on territory this year and produce young next Spring. Here's a photo that my nephew, Luke took.

Tawny Owl in flight

Whilst checking the box and filling up the feeders at the ringing site, a small flock of 4 Greylag Geese flew overhead, the second record of the year and the highest count by far. Who knows, perhaps this year could be the year for them to breed?

On the drive in 2 Little Owls were sitting in their favourite tree again. They were seen together and a noticeable size difference was noted. Again, here's a photo from Luke.

Little Owls

Monday, 8 April 2013

Red Squirrels and 3 Year Ticks

Jayne was off work today, so we drove across the Pennines to visit the National Trust site, Formby Point, in the hope of seeing some Red Squirrels.

On arrival we had a walk around the "Squirrel Walk", where, after about 10 minutes, we spotted our first squirrel. Since out last visit in 2007 several feeding stations have been set up, and the 3 squirrels we saw were all feeding in and around them.

Squirrel Walk and the aerial feeder
Unfortunately, the squirrels didn't come close enough for photos today, so here's one from our last visit.
Red Squirrel
A few birds seen in the woodlands were: Jay, Siskin, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Great and Coal Tit.
After seeing the squirrels we headed up the coast to the RSPB's Marshside Reserve where we added 3 species to the Year List, namely
101: Avocet (30+ birds, including many pairs calling and displaying)
102: Black-tailed Godwit (1 winter-plumaged bird)
103: Little Egret

Avocets from Sandgrounder's Hide

Ringing demo -7th April 2013

Yesterday morning 8 members of the group met up at Shire Brook Valley in Sheffield to run a ringing demomstration for the Sheffield RSPB Group. We arrived at 6.15am and, over the next 4 hours, we managed to ring 53 birds of 9 species (Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Robin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit).

The Chiffchaff was only my second of the year. I didn't manage to ring it as I was busy with another bird, but I did get a photo, Hopefully we should manage to catch a few more over the next months, so I'll be able to ring one then. A few more were heard "chiff-chaffing" away throughout the morning.

The last birds of the morning were a flock of 7 Long-tailed Tits. Although this was lovely for the group to see, it is a little worrying, as they should normally be split up into breeding pairs by now. Presumably the continuing cold weather has put breeding on the back foot for a while.

Long-tailed Tit

Saturday, 6 April 2013

100th species of the year

In my last post I mentioned that Chiffchaff was the 99th species I'd seen this year and speculated about which would be 100th. My guess was another spring migrant, but this morning, whilst out ringing, I saw and heard a Red-legged Partridge in a neighbouring field, making this my 100th species this year!

Apart from the new bird, this morning's ringing was, to be polite, quite slow. Over a four hour period we managed just 12 birds. My totals were (new/retrap): Blackbird 1/0, House Sparrow 0/1 (my first of the year), Long-tailed Tit 0/1 and Dunnock 0/1. We also caught a beautiful adult male Greenfinch, which was very nice. Unfortunately I forgot my camera today, so no photos!

Anyway, as they say, we had a lot of time to study the birds we caught and also to enjoy the good company and look at the resident species that were getting ready to breed. In particular, a pair of Mistle Thrushes, which seemed very keen on an ivy-covered tree, with 1 bird, presumably the male, standing guard. Other birds recorded, but not ringed, were Collared Dove, Canada Goose (2 flew overhead), Sparrowhawk and Woodpigeon. A Red Fox was also seen running though the garden on one net round.

Year List:
100 - Red-legged Partridge

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Chiffchaff at last!!!!

Every Spring I look forward to hearing my first Chiffchaff of the year, but this year, thanks to the awful weather, I've had to wait a little longer than usual, roughly 2 weeks to be precise. Anyway, following a two and a half hour walk around the reservoirs this morning without any sign or sound of this species, I managed to hear one as I walked back up to the car park. Thank goodness!!!

Other signs of spring today included my first record of Greylag Goose for the year (1 flew up and down the valley), an adult Little Grebe on the bottom reservoir (my first since 1st January!), 3 Great-crested Grebes, including a pair displaying and "dancing" on the top reservoir, 6 Canada Geese (5 and the hybrid bird) and all the usual woodland birds singing away.

Canada and Greylag Goose (photo from 2009)

A Nuthatch was also noted examining a hole in a tree by the bottom car park. Hopefully it'll stay and nest there this year. I had a quick look in a couple of tit boxes to see if anything had been daft enough to start nest building, but guess what? Nothing had!

Just to show that winter hasn't quite given up yet, however, one of the most exciting sights this morning was an enormous flock of at least 300 Starlings, 100 Fieldfares and 50 Redwings, all feeding in the field by the main entrance. These are by far the highest counts of each species that I've ever had at Linacre and when I put them into the BTO's Birdtrack scheme, it started flashing at me and asking me to check the numbers! Other winter visitors still present today were Black-headed Gulls (26), 2 Goosanders (both males), which flew down the valley and several Siskin heard around the middle reservoirs.

Just before I go I'd like to say hello to the couple who I met today whilst walking around the top reservoir. It was great to speak to you both and if you ever have any sightings, please let me know via the comments section. Hopefully see you again one day.

Year List update:

99 - Chiffchaff

What will be my 100th species this year??????? Swallow? Willow Warbler?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Yorkshire Red Kites

Back in 1999 a project was started to reintroduce Red Kites back into Yorkshire. The site chosen for the reintroductions was the Harewood Estate on the outskirts of Leeds. The scheme was a great success and this site is now one of the best and easiest places in our area to see Red Kites. I went up with Jayne today and we managed to see four individual birds including 2 birds that were flying low over the treetops calling to each other. One very kindly perched up in a tree for a few minutes and I managed to digiscope this image.

Red Kite

More information about the scheme can be found here. Here's one more picture of one of the birds flying over head, showing the very distinctive fork-shaped tail. Lovely birds!

Flying Red Kite

Year List update:

98: Red Kite

Monday, 1 April 2013

Avenue Siskin

Taking advantage of the bank holiday we spent a few hours ringing at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands site this morning. The weather on arrival wasn't too promising as it was zero degrees with snow flurries. Thankfully the flurries didn't come to anything and we set up  three nets and managed to catch 15 birds over 3 hours.

The highlight of the morning for everyone was, without doubt, a superb adult male Siskin that found its way into the nets mid morning. Although an annual winter visitor to this site, this was the first one caught by the group and made a very nice ringing tick for Stewart. Well done!

For anyone wanting to know a little more about ageing and sexing Siskins, please follow this link to a very good blog post by The Barley Birder. I don't know this person but the blog is excellent and well worth a read.

My personal totals for this morning were (new/retrap):

Blackbird 0/1 and Chaffinch 1/0