Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ringing and Year Listing 2013

Well 2013 is nearly over (just 8 hours to go), but I've just got back in from a few hours around Linacre and the sun is just setting, so unless something amazing happens I don't think I'll be doing any more ringing or adding any new species to my "Year List". With this is mind I thought I'd write up a quick post to round off the year.

First up the ringing. Over the last twelve months I've been out ringing with my trainer and other ringers from the Sorby Breck Group, 42 times. Linacre was the most frequently visited site (17 visits), followed closely by The Avenue in Chesterfield (10 visits). As well as these traditional sites, we also started visiting some new sites, most notably the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's reserves of Carr Vale Flash near Bolsover, and Ladybower Woods near Bamford. I "processed" a total of 526 birds of 30 species, with 4 new species added this year (Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.)

Year Listing in 2013 was very successful  with an end-of-year total of 197 species, which included 4 new birds or "lifers"; Egyptian Vulture, Thekla's Lark (both in Minorca), Ivory Gull and Two-barred Crossbill. Please click on "Year List 2013" labels for details of all the new birds seen this year.

So that's it for 2013. Thanks go to everyone who has supported me again this year. Happy New Year to everyone reading this blog and Happy Birding in 2014!!

Linacre Roundup 2013

During 2013 I managed a total of 35 full visits to Linacre and 17 ringing visits. Over the course of the year 79 species of bird were recorded either on the reservoirs or flying overhead. Included in these were 5 new species: Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Cuckoo, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. Other groups that provided sightings were Chesterfield RSPB Local Group, Sheffield Bird Study Group and Sorby Breck Ringing Group. Many thanks to everyone who recorded sightings, especially the members of the RSPB Group who attended the monthly WeBS walks. Thanks also to Jackie and Jill, the DCC rangers based at Linacre.

The monthly WeBS walks continued throughout 2013. No new species were recorded this year, but counts of both Mallard and Tufted Duck in the second winter period were the highest on record. Black-headed Gulls were the main species of gull recorded at Linacre, and, for the first time ever, a colour ringed bird from Poland was recorded (see here for details).  Other waterbirds were recorded in average numbers throughout the year, except for Kingfisher, which had its best year yet, being recorded on most visits from August onwards. Surely they must be breeding nearby?

As well as the WeBS information, one of the key things I like to monitor at Linacre is the number of bird species that breed. This year was a much better one, despite the very late spring. Two new species were proven to breed on site this year; Grey Wagtail and Little Owl. In addition I was very lucky to find a Song Thrush nest that survived to fledge 3 chicks, and 166 Blue and Great Tits also fledged from the nest boxes this year. Unfortunately, even though a Pied Flycatcher was recorded singing, he didn't manage to attract a mate. An overview of the breeding season can be found here.

As mentioned above I continued to visit Linacre with other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to ring birds. This year we made 17 visits and ringed 517 birds of 25 species. The vast majority were Blue and Great Tits (226 and 124 respectively), but also included 7 new species, namely; Crossbill, Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Mandarin Duck, Willow Warbler, Magpie and Reed Bunting. Ringing will continue next year, and hopefully we'll be able to add some new species again. Pied Flycatcher and Tawny Owl perhaps?

Last, but by no means least, Insects! I tried to pay a bit more attention to this area of natural history in 2013, and I did manage to add several new species to the "Linacre List". The highlights for me were the two new butterfly species - Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady. Please click on the "Linacre insects" label for details of the species seen this year.

So that's it for 2013. I hope you've enjoyed reading about the wildlife at this superb site over the last twelve months. Hopefully you'll keep reading in 2014. Don't forget I joined Twitter this year as well, so if you don't already follow me, please give it a go on @linacreblogger.

Happy New Year to everyone!!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Garden Birding - a few surprises

Every week I record the wildlife that uses the garden, as part of the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme. The recording runs from Sunday to Saturday, so this morning's session was the first for this week.

It started well with over 20 Goldfinches present feeding on and around the sunflower feeders. 6 Chaffinches and 6 Greenfinches were also recorded along with 3 Blue Tits, 1 Great Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Robin, 3 Dunnocks, 7 Blackbirds, 2 Starlings, 2 Woodpigeons and 6 Collared Doves (including a mating pair).

These species are recorded weekly in varying numbers, but today I recorded another 3 species that are a bit more unusual. The first was a Fieldfare, a species which is recorded once or twice a year in the garden, usually during heavy snow. Today's bird flew into the garden briefly, before flying to feed on the Hawthorn bushes behind the garden.

The second bird was a Lesser Redpoll. This species is more common and is usually present throughout the winter in small numbers. I had a couple last week, and today's bird was feeding along with the Goldfinch on the sunflower hearts.

The final new bird was a very big surprise, a male Blackcap! Over wintering Blackcaps have become an increasingly common sighting in Britain over the last 20 years, but this was my first record in the garden. It spent about 10 minutes feeding in the Mahonia bush. Hopefully, it'll stay around for a while. More information about Blackcaps can be found here.

Blackcap on Mahonia

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Two-barred Crossbill

Back in August the first records of a small flock of Two-barred Crossbills at Broomhead Reservoir near Sheffield started to appear on the Birdguides website. This species is classed as "Rare", and although recorded annually in the UK, it is seldom seen this far south. This year, however, has been a very good year for them, with several birds seen across the country. More info on the BTO website here.

I had a look for the birds back in the summer, without luck, so, with records coming in again, I thought I'd pop across and have a look again. This time I was successful, and managed to watch a small flock of approximately 7 birds feeding high up in Larch trees by the side of the reservoir. A very attractive bird, and also a "lifer" for me and Jayne.

I managed a few photos.

Male bird (note the two bars!)
Male again!
I also managed to get a bit of video footage. The first clip is of a female bird (here), and the second is a male bird (here). The birds have a very distinctive "trumpet call" that we managed to hear today. Listen here.
Year List update:
197: Two-barred Crossbill

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Over the last few weeks there has been a small influx of Ivory Gulls into the UK. They are usually found in the High Arctic, so birds that make it to Britain are highly sort after. More details about Ivory Gulls can be found here.

One bird made it south to Patrington Haven in East Yorkshire, so I drove across to have a look and add it to my "Life and Year Lists".

As I arrived, the bird was flying around the pumping station and I managed to grab a quick in-flight shot.

Ivory Gull
Within minutes it had landed on the floor about 20m away, to feed on some fish that local birders have been providing. I managed to grab this shot, before it had its fill and flew off towards the Humber.

Ivory Gull
Year List update:

196: Ivory Gull

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Linacre- 22nd December 2013

I picked my nephew, Luke, up for this morning's walk around Linacre and we spent a couple of hours walking around all three reservoirs. Luke brought along his camcorder, and we managed to get some footage of some of the special birds that make Linacre such a lovely place.

First up was a very nice looking male Kingfisher, that we found on the middle reservoir. We watched it perched up in the trees by the water for about 15 minutes- very nice! Whilst watching this, we heard the Crossbills, and a small flock of at least 14 fed in the Larches above us. Luke managed to get some video footage of both species, which can be seen on You Tube here. Redwings were also feeding in the Holly bushes around the site.

Waterbirds were still present in good numbers again, with the following recorded: Goosander (11; 6 males and 5 females), Mallard (145), Mandarin Duck (27), Tufted Duck (53), Little Grebe (3), Coot (9), Moorhen (8), Cormorant (3) and Black-headed Gull (10).

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Linacre WeBS- December 2013

I arrived at Linacre at 7.30am yesterday morning, so that I could fill up the feeders around the ringing site before the last WeBS count of 2013. As I did, the sun came up and so I took this lovely photo.

Linacre sunrise
At 8.30am I met up with Mandy from the Chesterfield RSPB Group, and we spent the next two hours walking around all three reservoirs. Duck numbers were high again, especially Mallard (140, the highest this year) Tufted Duck (60) and Mandarin Duck (40). Also present were: Grey Heron (3, the highest count of the year), Coot (12), Moorhen (13, the highest, and only double figure count of the year), Goosander (3; 2 males and 1 redhead), Black-headed Gull (43, all roosting on the water, so no chance to see any colour rings!!), a possible Kingfisher that we heard, but didn't see, and Pied Wagtail (1 over).
The Crossbills were present again (15-20 today), as were Redwing (c30 flew out of a Holly tree, possibly from a roost), Fieldfare, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper and Mistle Thrush.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull Update

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Linacre, my first ever!(see here). I was pretty sure the number was TC30, so I sent the record off to see where it had come from. Since the sighting I kept everything crossed that the bird was a foreign-ringed one, and today I got confirmation that it was Polish ringed bird.

 TC30 is an adult bird, that was ringed on 21st May 2009 in Poland on its nesting grounds. At the time it was aged as at least 2 years old, which means it is now at least 4 years old. Since ringing, it has flown a minimum of 1362km from the ringing site, but the chances are it's flown to Britain and back to Poland every year since it was born. My sighting was the second since it was ringed. The first was at Orgreave Lagoons in South Yorkshire, on 29th August this year. I sent my record to the Polish Ringing Centre (see link here).

Now I just need to see it again and get a photo!! Wish me luck.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Storm damage and duck counting at Linacre

Following the heavy winds last week I was interested to see whether the woods at Linacre had suffered much damage. Luckily, the answer was "no", with just a couple of branches down and this tree by the bottom reservoir.
Storm-damaged tree
New stump!
I walked around all three reservoirs this morning, hoping to see last week's colour-ringed  Black-headed Gull (TC30), but the birds that were there today (just 31), were being fed by some kindly dog walkers, which meant they were flying around and not perching on the walls, so I couldn't see if s/he was there.

Luckily for me, however, the reservoirs were very busy with other birds today and I managed to count 135 Mallards and 60 Mandarins, which were both the highest counts of the year so far. Also present were: 12 Coots, 8 Moorhens, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Wagtail, 55 Tufted Ducks, 1 Kingfisher (on the middle reservoir), 1 Grey Heron, 3 Cormorants and a great flock of c60 Lapwings, that were flying over the top reservoir for about fifteen minutes (only the second record of 2013).

Lapwings (63 I think. Please feel free to count)

 Other sightings were Starling (7 flew over the top reservoir), a hunting Kestrel over fields by the top reservoir, Redwings and Fieldfares, Siskins and a small group of Crossbills (c12), which were feeding in the larches by the middle reservoir.

Monday, 2 December 2013

December Ringing

Sunday's ringing outing was the first of December, and saw me reach the 500 mark for birds that I've "processed" i.e. ringed or retrapped, in 2013. Yesterday's trip with Sorby Breck, took us up to a private garden site in Chesterfield, where we had a very busy morning, with 50+ birds caught.

The majority of birds today were tits (Blue, Great, Willow and Coal). One of the Coal Tits was leusistic, i.e. it had lost pigment in its feathers and showed more white than usual. The owners of the house said that they had seen the bird visiting their feeders before, but this was the first time we'd caught it.

Leusistic Coal Tit
As well as the tits we also caught one Nuthatch, that I was lucky enough to ring, several Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Robins.
Tawny Owls, Mistle Thrush and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were also seen and heard today.