Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spotted Crake

Just a short post to update the Year List with this superb bird - Spotted Crake!!!!! Not the best photos, but it was about 30m away, so I was very pleased to get a shot at all.
Spotted Crake

Cropped picture

The juvenile bird has been present at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Wyver Lane reserve since Thursday and I managed to get there this afternoon with Jayne to try our luck. The bird was very cooperative and showed within seconds of being there! It then hid away for a while, before coming out again for me to video it. Very kind. It's only my second ever sighting and my first in Derbyshire. Here's a link to the video on You Tube. Enjoy!!

176 - Spotted Crake

Thursday, 29 August 2013

RSPB Blacktoft Sands and Old Moor

I decided to have a drive over to RSPB Blacktoft Sands today in search of waders. As always I was very pleased with the variety of birds on offer, including a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting low over the reeds and then coming to a rest on the floor, Greenshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Lapwing, Snipe, a Common Buzzard (my first record at this site) and a "year tick"; Spotted Redshank (20+). There were also a few duck species around, namely Teal (100+),  Wigeon (3), Mallard (loads!) and Pintail (4).

175 - Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Marsh Harrier (juvenile)

Toad - found walking across the path
After Blacktoft I drove over to RSPB Old Moor for a few hours. Again, waders were the highlight, with Wath Ings Hide very busy. Black-tailed Godwits, Green Sandpipers, Ruff, Dunlin, Lapwing and Redshank were all on show, along with this very showy Kingfisher that spent most of the afternoon perching and hunting from a perch by the hide.

Kingfisher (adult male, I believe)
There were a few insects about at Old Moor, including a beautiful male Common Blue Butterfly. Here are a couple of shots, the first showing the blue upper wings and the second showing it feeding on a flower of the Bird's Foot Trefoil. Gorgeous!

Common Blue Butterfly

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


That's the estimated total of Swallows that we've managed to ring in the reedbed roosts at The Avenue so far this summer.

We were down there again on Monday and managed to catch another 62 Swallows and 1 Reed Warbler, our first at this site this year. Interestingly 13 of these Swallows, were adult birds, our highest catch yet. The rest were all this year's birds (3Js).

Other birds on site tonight included Mallards, Moorhens, Canada Geese and the feral Barnacle Goose, as well as a Hobby, which was hunting the Swallows as they came into roost.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Linacre WeBS - July and August 2013 and Nestbox Update

Just realised that I haven't blogged about the two most recent WeBS counts for Linacre ,so here goes.

First up is the July walk. I wasn't around for this walk, but, as usual, members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group were, and they recorded the following: Mallard (70; 40 adults and 30 young), Mandarin Duck (8), Moorhen (6, all adults), Coot (20; 13 adults and 7 young), Great-crested Grebe (9; 2 adults and 7 young), Little Grebe (1 adult), Tufted Duck (5), Canada Goose (1), Grey Heron (1), and the site's first July record of Black-headed Gull!!

August's records are a combination of two walks.The first was carried out by Barbara from the RSPB Group (thanks) and I managed to get down yesterday morning for a few hours as well. Unfortunately Barbara's walk was spoilt by heavy rain, but I was more fortunate and managed to stay dry. The results were: Mallard (52), Mandarin Duck (11), Moorhen (4; 3 adults and 1 youngster), Coot (15; 12 adults and 3 young), Great-crested Grebe (5; 2 adults and 3 young), Little Grebe (4;1 adult and 3 young), Tufted Duck (20), Canada Goose (4), Grey Heron (1) and Grey Wagtail (heard).

As you can see, the results are similar for both months. The highlight for me was seeing the juvenile Little Grebes, as I didn't think they'd breed this year. The pair had been seen on a nest in June, but this was presumably predated as no young were seen. They were then seen on a new nest at the end of July, and the 3 very young chicks were seen yesterday. Hopefully they'll survive and thrive. Here's a picture of the 2011 birds which bred out in the open. Perhaps this year's birds are the same pair?

2011 nest at Linacre
As well as carrying out the WeBS count, I also checked the tit boxes for the last time to see if any of this year's young had died before fledging. I'm very pleased to tell you that of the 166 chicks ringed (129 Blue Tits and 37 Great Tits) just 1 was found dead in the boxes - a very good fledging rate of 99.4%! 
Whilst checking the boxes I also came across 4 Brown Long-eared Bats and a Shrew species, which I think was a Common Shrew.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Year List Update

Just a quick  post to update the old Year List. Three new species were added recently as follows:

172 – Osprey
173 – Greenshank
174 – Ruff

The Osprey was added whilst visiting Rutland Water for the Bird Watching Fair and the 2 waders were seen last week on a quick visit to RSPB Old Moor at Barnsley.



Magpies Galore

This morning saw me out for a short ringing session with 2 other members of the Sorby Breck Group at the private site in Sheffield. We arrived to quite a stiff breeze, but decided to put just two nets up in the most sheltered spots, and were rewarded with 25 birds of 9 different species.

My personal totals were (new/retrap): Blue Tit 4/1, Dunnock 2/0, House Sparrow 1/0, Blackbird 1/0,Chiffchaff 1/0, Magpie 2/0 and Goldfinch 1/0.

As before, most of today's catch consisted of young birds, including this Goldfinch, which is just beginning to moult into its adult plumage.

I also managed to ring not one, but two new Magpies this morning. Unlike my first, one of today's managed to draw blood!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

139 birds

That's the total number of birds me and five other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group caught at The Avenue during two sessions on Tuesday.

The first session began at 6am. During this session we caught the first 37 birds of the day. The vast majority of the birds were juveniles, which is very good news, demonstrating a good breeding season. I got to ring 4 Blackcaps (all juveniles), 1 juvenile Whitethroat, 1 juvenile Blue and Great Tit and 1 juvenile Chiffchaff.

Juvenile Whitethroat

Juvenile Whitethroat
Other birds caught this morning were: Willow Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Goldfinch and Bullfinch.

The second session of the day was a Swallow roost in the evening. We returned at 6.30pm and set up two nets along the edge of the reedbed.

Mist nets
Approximately 200-300 Swallows came in to roost and we managed a very good catch of 102 birds. Again, the vast majority were young birds, including 2 controls (birds ringed by other ringers and re caught by us). Interestingly, the ring numbers of these two birds were just 6 digits apart, indicating that they were ringed by the same person, most likely from the same nest.

As well as the Swallows, there were about 70 Canada Geese on the reserve tonight, including this family, where a feral Barnacle Goose has paired up with a Canada Goose to produce 2 hybrid birds.

Barnacle and Canada Goose family

Monday, 19 August 2013

S'Albufera es Grau and Algendar Gorge

Two sites that we visited whilst on holiday in Menorca were the large marsh called S'Albufera es Grau near the village of Es Grau in the north east of the island and the Algendar Gorge in the south west of the island.

Harbour at Es Grau
S'Albufera es Grau is the only official nature reserve on the island. It is nearly 2000 hectares in size, 67 hectares of which are a large, freshwater lake. We visited one afternoon, when it was very, very hot! It wasn't the best time to visit, but we did still manage to find a few birds; Little Grebe (several pairs nesting), Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gulls (2 juveniles- quite a rarity here), a single male Pochard, Red Kite, Kestrel and several juvenile Red-crested Pochard.

View from the hide at S'Albufera es Grau

Another good spot for any visiting birder is the Algendar Gorge.

Algendar Gorge
The main reason for visiting this site was to catch up with Egyptian Vultures. We arrived at about 11am and managed to see 2 birds; an adult and a juvenile bird, already high up in the sky. As well as the vultures we also saw and heard the following; Blackcap (singing male), Kestrel, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Rock Dove, Red Kite and Raven. Woodchat Shrike and Hoopoe were seen on the drive over.

A typical Menorcan gate

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Menorcan Insects

As well as enjoying some nice birds in Menorca I also managed to spot a few insects too, including a very impressive adult male Scarlet Darter dragonfly.  The first few pictures were seen on the flowers in front of our apartment.


Common Blue Butterfly (female)

Painted Lady

We also spotted a few insects around Son Bou, some of which I can't identify.

Long-tailed Blue (I think!)

Scarlet Dater (male)
Shieldbug species; Graphosoma lineatum italicum!
These two photos were taken at Algendar Gorge, near Cala Galdana in the west of the island. Any ideas about the grasshopper?

Grasshopper species

Clouded Yellow (not too sharp)
The last photo shows a dragonfly species, that decided to spend a minute on my foot one day, whilst I was on the beach. I think it's a female  Red-veined Darter, due to the black line down its abdomen and the pale pterostigma with a black border. Unfortunately I can't see any yellow on the base of the hind wing though, so I can't be 100% sure. Any thoughts?
Red-veined Darter?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wragg's Quarry Dragons

After our ringing session yesterday the sun came out and the temperatures soared to an amazing 20 degrees, so I popped up to Wragg's Quarry on Beeley Moor to search for some elusive dragonflies. I read a very good blog , which had some sightings of the two species I wanted to see, and is definitely worth a read.

Pond at Wragg's Quarry

As soon as I arrived I spotted my first species and a "lifer"; Common Hawker. This large dragonfly is very active, rarely settling for more than a few seconds, so I was very pleased when a stunning male took time out of patrolling the small pond to sit on a rock.

Common Hawker
All in all I saw at least 5 male Common Hawkers over the small pond.

The other target species for the morning was Black Darter, and again I was very lucky to catch up with several dragons including this male and female "in tandem".

Male and female Black Darter
This pair are mating, a process that can take from 6 - 60 minutes(!), and the male will stay attached to the female whilst she lays the eggs or "oviposits" them into the vegetation in the pond. Darley Dales Wildlife has an excellent picture of a pair doing just that here.
As well as the pair, I also managed to find this lone male basking on a rock, close to the water. They are non-territorial, and often spend time perched up on vegetation, rocks and bare ground. Identification is pretty straight forward, as it is the only all-black dragonfly in Britain. As can be seen here, it also has black legs, a waisted abdomen and a black pterostigma (the black patch on the wings). A lovely insect. The Black Darter's favoured habitat is shallow, acidic, nutrient-poor pools on heathland and moorlands. This makes the pond at Wragg's Quarry ideal.

Male Black Darter
Other dragonflies seen today were; Common Darter and Emerald Dragonfly.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Ringing again!

Following hot on the heels of Saturday's ringing session at Linacre I was out again this morning with 4 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at the private site in Wingerworth, Chesterfield. Three and a half hours passed by very quickly as we caught and ringed/processed a total of 56 birds, including 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, such as this juvenile bird (note the red feathers on the head). A pair bred on the site this year, so perhaps this was one of the youngsters?

Great-spotted Woodpecker
As well as the woodpeckers we also ringed a wide range of woodland species such as Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and Chaffinch.


Juvenile Blue Tit (growing new blue feathers)
A common bird at all our ringing sites is the Dunnock (Prunella modularis). Below are a couple of photos from this morning showing one way to age this species. The top picture, an adult bird, shows a very bright, contrasting eye colour. The second picture shows a bird born this year, (3J) and hopefully you can see that the eye is overall much darker with very little contrast. Honestly!!

Adult Dunnock
Juvenile Dunnock
There were a few other birds flying around the site this morning including Jay, Common Buzzard and at least 2 Swifts.
After we'd finished I popped back up to Wragg's Quarry to look for some dragonflies. I'll blog about that tomorrow, but suffice to say I got a "lifer" and some nice new photos!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Linacre Insects

Every summer I spend some time looking at the insect life at Linacre. Today I spent  three hours walking around the bottom and middle reservoirs and recorded some lovely things. Here are some photos:

White-tailed Bumblebee

Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle

Common Carder Bee

Great Pied Hoverfly

Green-veined White

Small Copper

Other species seen, but not photographed were: Small White, Large White, Peacock and a Southern Hawker dragonfly that chased, caught and ate a Speckled Wood butterfly.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Punta Nati and Cap de Cavalleria

There are 5 lighthouses on Menorca and during our recent holiday we managed to visit two in the north of the island, Punta Nati and Cap de Cavalleria. Both sites stick out into the sea and are home to a variety of very good birds.

Cap de Cavalleria

Punta Nati

When we visited it was very hot and obviously late in the breeding season, so the number of birds seen was quite low, but it did include one lifer; the Thekla Lark. We also managed to see Tawny Pipit, Rock Dove and Kestrel!

Tawny Pipit
Other birds that can be seen at these sites include; Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Lark, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Stone Curlew and Raven. Next time hopefully!
On the drive up to lighthouse at Punta Nati there is a small breeding colony of Cattle Egrets which we managed to see.
Cattle Egret
Driving back from Cap de Cavalleria we stopped off a wetland called Tirant, where we saw a at least 50 Cattle Egrets roosting in the trees. Luckily for me, a Booted Eagle flew over the area as I was looking at the birds and spooked them into flight. Lovely!! Other birds seen here were: Swallow, Egyptian Vulture, Coot, Red Kite, Little Grebe, Moorhen and Red-crested Pochard. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Linacre Ringing

I spent a few hours down at Linacre yesterday morning with 3 members of the Ringing Group. We put a couple of nets up and managed to catch 37 birds of 9 species, including a new species for Linacre, which was also a ringing tick for me, a Magpie!

Young Magpie

One feature of this session was the number of young birds (3Js), which is very good news. This time last year we were mainly ringing adult birds with very few young birds having survived to fledging. Luckily this year seems much better.

Also interesting were the adult birds under going their post breeding moult, including this male Blackcap that was very tatty...

and this Great Tit.
Great Tit with new tail feathers
Birds ringed by me today were (new/retrap):
Magpie 1/0, Robin 1/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Blue Tit 3/0, Great Tit 4/0 and Bullfinch 1/0.
As well as the ringing I also took the opportunity to pick Brian's brain and identify the plant species on site. We managed to record a very impressive 36 species.