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

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Shieldbugs, Flies, Grasshoppers and Hoverflies

Whilst ringing at Linacre yesterday the sun came out and I spent some time searching out some of the insects with Luke, my nephew. Together we found 3 shieldbug species, 3 hoverfly species, a new fly species and a couple of Field Grasshoppers. The shieldbugs were new records for me at Linacre, as was the grasshopper and one of the hoverflies. Lovely!!!

The Field Grasshopper is a common, widespread species throughout Britain (see here for details), but this is the first time I've managed to see and identify one at Linacre.

Field Grasshopper
 We also spotted this beauty, a Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana) Again, this is a common species, but my first record. More details here.
Noon Fly
 The shieldbugs were all new to me at Linacre. Here's the first one, the Common Green Shieldbug. The top photo shows the adult, and the bottom photo shows a "fourth instar" nymph. Apparently, young shieldbugs moult several times before they become adults and each time they moult, they look different. See here for pictures of the different moults.
Adult Green Shieldbug

Young Green Shieldbug
Another species we saw was the Bronze Shieldbug. This time I'm sure this individual is a "final instar nymph". See here for more images.

Bronze Shieldbug
The final shieldbug was a Hairy Shieldbug, another common and widespread species, but my first at Linacre. See here for more details.
Hairy Shieldbug
The hoverflies were a Drone Fly species (Eristalsis pertinax), a Helophilus species, most likely Helophilus pendulus and a Syrphus species. The Syrphus species is particularly tricky to identify as there are 3 very similar species that can only be separated under good magnification. Unfortunately I didn't have a hand lens with me and the hoverfly wouldn't sit still!
Drone Fly

Helophilus pendulus

Syrphus sp

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Linacre ringing and a new species

Spent a few hours down at Linacre this morning with the Ringing Group. We thought it was going to be quiet, as the feeders had hardly been touched, but by the end of the session we were pleasantly surprised with 28 birds, including a summer migrant, a new species for Linacre, and some good records of  over flying birds (both summer and winter migrants!)

First up, the ringing. Today we caught a total of  7 species (Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blue, Great and Coal Tit).  We also had a Yellowhammer in the ringing site, which was a first for Linacre. My personal totals were (new/retrap): Blue Tit 0/1, Dunnock 2/1, Robin 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0 and Great Tit 1/0.

As well as the ringing we also recorded 4 Swallows (the latest Linacre record so far), a hunting Kestrel, 3 over-flying Skylarks (the first 2013 record), some Pink-footed Geese (heard by David, but unfortunately not seen, first record of 2013), Tawny Owl (heard "twit twooing" at 6.45am in woodlands below the ringing site) and c.50 Black-headed Gulls feeding in the fields on the way out (my first record of the winter period).

In between the net rounds I spent some time with my nephew, Luke, searching out some of the insect life at Linacre. I'll blog about the sightings later in the week, but I can say, there are some new species again!!