Sunday, 29 September 2013

Crossbill news

Spent two hours at Linacre this morning and walked around all three reservoirs.

The morning started well with a Kingfisher flying up the bottom reservoir, followed very quickly by a Tawny Owl that flew out of the woods. Numbers of waterfowl were obviously higher than recently, and by the end of the morning I'd counted 92 Mallard (the highest count of the year so far), 28 Tufted Duck, 5 Little Grebes (2 adults and 3 juveniles), 11 Coot, 3 Moorhens, 2 Great-crested Grebes, 2 Cormorants, 2 Grey Wagtails,1 Canada Goose, 32 Mandarin Ducks and 1 Wigeon.

The highlight of the woods was the flock of Crossbills, that today totalled 11 birds. They were first heard flying over the Larch trees on the south side of the middle reservoir, and then heard and seen feeding in the trees by the top reservoir overflow. I hadn't taken my 'scope with me, so I couldn't get any decent photos today. Instead I though I'd include one of the bird we caught and ringed earlier in the year. Hopefully we can repeat the success again this winter!


Return to Chatsworth

The sun was shining again yesterday, so, after a morning ringing session in Sheffield, where we caught 18 birds including a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap, I went out to Chatsworth House for another look around the sculptures again, this time with my son and his girlfriend, father in law, wife and daughter!

Whilst there, I was drawn to the flowers where I managed to spot a few butterflies (Comma x 1, Small Tortoiseshell x 3, Speckled Wood x1, Small White x 1, Small Copper x 1 and Silver Y moth x 3) and 5 species of hoverfly. Here are a few photos:

Small Copper
Syrphus ribesii
Helophilus pendulus
Eupeodus luniger
I think the hoverflies are all correctly identified. The last one, Eupeodus luniger, is a "lifer" for me!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Beyond Limits

On Sunday the weather topped 21 degrees here in Derbyshire, so we popped out to Chatsworth House to look at the sculptures that are currently on display in the gardens as part of the Beyond Limits exhibition.

As well as looking at all the sculptures, being in the gardens also gave me the chance to look at the local wildlife. Birds were far and few between, but I did spot this attractive looking Mallard.


There were a few butterflies flying around as well; 1 Red Admiral, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 Comma and 1 Purple Hairstreak.

Purple Hairstreak (female)
Like my last Purple Hairstreak (see here), this individual was quite worn, as this is quite late for them to be flying. Its a female, because of the purple patch on the forewing. Males are much brighter and have purple on the hindwings too (see here for more a picture and more information).

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Adder, Fox Moth and Black Darter

Following yesterday's WeBS walk I managed to get out again and enjoyed a lovely walk with Jayne on Big Moor.

The sun was shining, and in just over an hour, we spotted my first ever Adder, a beautiful female, that unfortunately managed to slither away into the undergrowth before I could photograph it. Thanks Jayne for your excellent "spot".

We also had several Black Darter dragonflies, including several pairs "in tandem" and "ovipositing" (egg laying), into nearby Little Barbrook reservoir. I managed to photograph both males and a female.

Male Black Darter
Female Black Darter
On the way back to the car we spotted this Fox Moth caterpillar. Fox Moths are common moths, often found heath and moorland. The adult moths fly between May and June, but the larva feed until September and then overwinter on or just beneath the ground under moss or leaf litter. They then emerge in the following spring and pupate. See here for more details, including pictures of the adult moths.
Fox Moth caterpillar

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Linacre WeBS Walk- September 2013

This month's WeBS walk took place this morning with myself, my nephew Luke and three other members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group (thank you everyone). We spent 3 hours walking around all 3 reservoirs and recorded 33 species of bird including a "patch tick" in the shape of a Hobby which was seen chasing a mixed flock of 20+ House Martins and 30+ Swallows high above the middle reservoir.

Other highlights this month included the first record of Wigeon since one single male bird in March this year (see here), with 8 on the middle reservoir, a Kingfisher on the middle reservoir as well and the flock of approximately 12 Crossbills in Larches on the south side of the middle reservoir!

Away from the middle reservoir we spotted the family party of Little Grebes (2 adults and 3 juveniles on the bottom reservoir, and another bird on the middle reservoir), 59 Mallards, 20 Tufted Ducks, 2 Cormorants, 4 Moorhens (3 adults and 1 juvenile), 3 Grey Wagtails (1 adult and 2 youngsters), 2 Pied Wagtails (the first since April), 25 Mandarin Ducks, 1 Canada Goose, 17 Coots and 3 Great-crested Grebes (2 adults and 1 juvenile).

Apart from the Crossbills, we also recorded 3 Common Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk, the usual Tit species, Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Goldcrest in the surrounding woodlands.

Finally, just one butterfly today, a Small White, and  I spotted a new plant species by the river at the top end of the site, which I believe is Water Mint. It smelt of mint when I rubbed the leaves anyway!

Water Mint
More worryingly, I also spotted a small patch of Himalayan Balsam, which, as the name suggest, isn't from around here. It is in fact, a very invasive non native species, which, if not controlled, will spread along water courses, crowding out native plants such as the Water Mint. Here's some more information about this plant from the North York Moors National Park website.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Linacre - 15th September 2013

The weather forecast for today was wet and windy, but when I woke the sky was clear and there was just a light wind, so I decided to pop to Linacre for a few hours. I went round all three reservoirs and  managed to record some great birds.

The highlights were 5 Common Buzzards, including the apparent family party of 4 together, 2 different Kingfishers (1 on the middle reservoir and 1 on the river below the bottom reservoir), 1 Crossbill over the top reservoir, 2 singing Chiffchaffs, 1 Raven heard overhead, the family party of Little Grebes (2ads and just 2 juveniles), 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (7 adults and 2 juveniles/1st winters), feeding in the field by the main entrance, Linnets heard by the top reservoir and flocks of 20+ Swallows and 30 House Martins!

Duck numbers are starting to build up again (25 Mandarin Ducks and 59 Mallards today), and the males are starting to look very smart in their newly-moulted feathers. Looking good for next week's WeBS count.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Non-stop Ringing

That was the order of the day today as we (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), made our annual trip to the moorlands above Sheffield (Ringinglow), to catch and ring Meadow Pipits as they migrate south over the area. We arrived at 5.45am and over the next five hours we had a constant stream of birds, resulting in a super catch of 139 Meadow Pipits and 1 Tree Pipit.

Today's ringing site
As many birdwatchers know, Tree and Meadow Pipits can be quite difficult to tell apart, but when "in the hand" there are several features that make the job a little easier. When the Tree Pipit turned up this morning, the first thing we noticed was the much shorter, well curved, hind claw, followed closely by the number of primary feathers in a line (2-4 in a line, 2-5 in a Meadow Pipit ), "pinkish" legs and a much "stronger", more powerful beak!

Tree Pipit's wing showing primaries 2-4 (the top 3 feathers in this picture)
in a line

As I mentioned at the start of the post, we were very busy this morning, ringing and recording the bio metrics (weight, wing length, fat and muscle scores) for all those birds, but we also recorded the other birds seen around the site. A Kestrel flew over the area a few times, a few Red Grouse were heard and a couple of Carrion Crows were also about.

Finally, thanks alot to Kevin and Sean for your support and hospitality this morning. Look forward to ringing with you both again.

Monday, 9 September 2013


Yesterday I managed to get out ringing with the group, to Carr Vale, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's reserve near Bolsover. We arrived at 06.00am and in 4 and a half hours we'd managed to ring 65 birds of 13 species.

As you can tell from the title of today's post, warblers were the key birds, with 41 of the 65 birds caught being warblers. Blackcap were particularly numerous with 17 new birds ringed, followed closely by 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Reed Warblers and 1 Whitethroat. The bird below was one of the Blackcaps. This bird is a 3, meaning it was born this year, and you can just see a few of the brown juvenile feathers remaining.

Moulting Blackcap
As well as the warblers we also caught 4 species of tit (Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Willow). Included in the 12 Long-tailed Tits were two birds that were already ringed. We haven't caught any Lottis before, so it will be interesting to see where these birds were ringed.
Other birds ringed on site were (new/retraps): Dunnock 2/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Robin 3/0, Chaffinch 1/0 and Wren 1/0.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Birds, Butterflies and Autumn Berries

The weather forecast for this morning was not good, so I stayed in bed and then had a walk around Linacre this afternoon. I was hoping to repeat my success with the butterflies, but as I arrived, the sky turned grey and it began to rain, so the number and range of species was lower than hoped for.

First up was a Speckled Wood, followed by a single Peacock, 1 Large White, 1 Small Copper and 1 Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Tortoiseshell (from my garden)

As well as the butterflies I also managed to spot the Kingfisher again, flying around the middle reservoir, along with 7 House Martins, 1 Swallow, 5 Little Grebes (2 adults and 3 juveniles), 5 Mandarin Ducks, 4 Cormorants (the highest count since last winter) and the usual Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Tufted Ducks and Canada Goose.

Autumnal berries are beginning to show nicely, so I took a few photos.

Blackberries and Woody Nightshade

Rowan berries

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Three new species for Linacre

One of the best things about looking at the insects at Linacre is the fact that I keep discovering new species on just about every visit. When I say new species, obviously I mean species that are new to me, not science! As far as I'm aware no one else is recording these species, so hopefully all these new records are adding something to our knowledge of this site.

Yesterday I blogged about 2 species of butterfly that I'd seen for the first time and mentioned that there was another species that I still had to identify. I put a picture of it on Ispot with a suggested name and sure enough someone else agreed, so I can now say that the species in question was a Purple Hairstreak.

Purple Hairstreak
Purple Hairstreak is a species that is associated with oak woodlands, so it's no real surprise that I found one at Linacre. Unfortunately though, they spend most of their lives high in the canopy and rarely come down to the ground, so I was very lucky to spot this tatty looking individual on the floor by the middle reservoir. It's not the best photo, as I had to be very quick, before it was scared away by a marauding dog that was running towards me at the time!

The next "new" species that I found this week was this moth. It's either a Copper Underwing (Amphipyra pyramidea) or a Svensson's Copper Underwing (Amphipyra berbera svenssoni). Unfortunately, the only way to tell the two species apart is to look at the amount of orange on the underside of the hindwing, something I didn't know, until later. Interestingly, this individual was found in the toilet block(!), but I also recorded several specimens in the bird boxes this year, so it appears to be quite a common species, whatever it is.

Copper or Svensson's Copper Underwing

Last up is this species of hoverfly that I found whilst looking for the butterflies. It doesn't have an English name, but goes by the latin name of Myathropa florea, and is the only member of this family of hoverfly in Britain. It is classed as "widespread and common" in my superb Hoverfly Identification guide. and the best way to identify it is to look at the pattern on its thorax, which is said to resemble the "Batman" logo. What do you think?

Myathropa florea

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sightings of the Year!!!

Today was the last day of the summer holidays, the sun was shining and yesterday's strong winds had dropped, so I decided to pop down to Linacre for  a few hours to try and get some photos of the myriad insects that are usually on offer. I'm very glad I did, because in just one and a half hours I notched up 10 species of butterfly, including 2 "Linacre Lifers" in the shape of a CLOUDED YELLOW and a Painted Lady!!
Clouded Yellow (male I think)

Painted Lady
Both these species of butterfly are annual migrants to Britain from southern Europe and North Africa. Painted Ladies are usually seen in reasonable numbers every year, but Clouded Yellows are much rarer. This year, however, has been a bumper year with individuals seen across the country. Several individual have been recorded in Derbyshire as well, see here for details, but I was still VERY pleased to spot this individual today. Not only is it anew record for Linacre, but also a new species for me in Britain.

As well as these butterflies I also managed to find the following: Speckled Wood (5), Meadow Brown (5), Small Copper (5),  Small Tortoiseshell (1), Comma (1), Peacock (1), Large White (2), Small White (2) and another species that I've yet to identify- oooh!!

Comma (1st Linacre record this year)

Whilst looking at the butterflies, there was also a hawker species of dragonfly flying about, lots of hoverflies, bumblebees and some lovely birds including the flock of 15 Crossbills seen at the weekend, a possible family group of 4 Common Buzzards right overhead, 3 Swallows, 2 squabbling Kingfishers on the middle reservoir (my first record of more than one bird together) and Linnets, that were heard, but not seen (first Linacre record of 2013). Not a bad hour and a half, by anyone's standards.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Linacre Ringing -31st August 2013

Before going to "twitch" the Spotted Crake yesterday I had a three hour ringing session with my trainer and 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at Linacre. We caught 40 birds of 9 different species, including both Chiffchaff (2 birds) and Willow Warbler (1). All 3 were all 3Js, birds born this year, which will soon be heading off to Southern Europe and Africa for the winter.


Willow Warbler
Other species ringed were: Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Dunnock, Robin, Blue and Great Tit. Here's a young Chaffinch's  head turning blue as it moults.
This morning I went back to Linacre for a walk around. The usual water birds were around, but I also managed to spot a Cormorant, a Kingfisher, which caught and ate a fish on the bottom reservoir, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (2 adults and a juvenile bird), which, for the first time, were seen to fly down to the water and pick something to eat (they're usually seen flying over), a Green Woodpecker, a singing Chiffchaff and, the best of all, a flock of between 10-15 Crossbills, which were flying and calling over the larch woodlands on the south side of the middle reservoir.