Friday, 31 May 2013

Minsmere Magic!

Just been down to Suffolk for a week's family holiday. I managed to get quite a lot of birding done, including 3 visits to RSPB Minsmere and a drive over to RSPB Lakenheath.  Over the course of the week I managed a respectable total of 101 species, including 15 "year ticks".

We stayed in a small village called Sweffling, which was about 20 minutes from Minsmere. I went across to this superb reserve on 3 ocassions, incluidng 2 early morning visits. Bitterns were heard booming on all visits and Jayne and I watched one feeding from the aptly named Bittern Hide for over 30 minutes one evening.


Over the three visits we recorded a total of 69 species including CuckooBearded Tits, Nightingale, Marsh Harrier and Hobby, as well as a Great White Egret. This really is an amazing place, well worth a visit at any time of the year.


Year List update:

126 – Hobby
127 – Cuckoo
128 – Nightingale
129 – Marsh Harrier
130 – Common Tern
131 – Cettis Warbler
132- Reed Warbler
133 – Bearded Tit
134 – Red-backed Shrike
135 – Dartford Warbler
136 – Woodlark
137 – Grasshopper Warbler
138 – Dunlin
139 – Great White Egret
140 – Barn Owl

More details of some of the above birds to follow.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Linacre nest update- 19th May 2013

I think I can count on one hand the number of times I visit Linacre in a T-shirt. Sunday 19th was just one of those days, as the temperatures topped an impressive 17 degrees Celsius!! After a lovely walk around Bakewell earlier in the day I popped down for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to see what was going on.

The first bird of note was the male Pied Flycatcher that was still present and singing in the same area by the middle reservoir. Although I was very pleased to see and hear him, my joy was tinged with a hint of sadness as a quick check of the nearby nest boxes drew a blank as regards any nests. Time's getting on if he's to attract a mate and breed successfully this year.

Other nest news was more positive. The Song Thrush nest found last week was still being actively incubated. An adult Mistle Thrush was seen with a beak full of worms indicating a nearby nest and out on the water we now have 2 Coot nests and 2 Great-crested Grebe nests complete with sitting birds! The second grebe nest is on the top reservoir about 4m out from the boardwalk. Fingers crossed it doesn't get too disturbed.

Great-crested Grebe nest
One bird that appears every year at Linacre, but which is sometimes very tricky to find is the Spotted Flycatcher. Unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough to record one at Linacre on Sunday, but I did manage to see one at Dovedale on Saturday. This brings my year list to 125 species.

Year List update:
125-Spotted Flycatcher

Mist nets out again

I haven't been able to get out mist netting since 20th April, due to a mixture of awful weather and other commitments, so I was really pleased to get out with the Sorby Breck bunch this morning and put up a few mist nets at the private site in Wingerworth, Chesterfield. Although the morning started slowly, by the end of the session, we'd managed a very respectable 29 birds including my first Willow Tit and Bullfinch of the year.

Willow Tit

First bird out of the nets today was a female Great-spotted Woodpecker. As well as this individual we also enjoyed watching a pair visiting a nest site in the garden.

Great-spotted Woodpecker

A pair of Bullfinches soon followed, and I was lucky enough to find the male bird in the bird bags. 2 Willow Tits also found there way into the nets, along with their cousins, the Blue, Coal and Great Tits. Summer migrants were present all morning with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallow and Swift heard singing and seen flying over, but the only one that found itself being ringed today was a male Blackcap. Add to this a few Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Robins and a good mornings ringing was all too soon over again.

My totals were (new/retrap): Bullfinch 1/0, Great Tit 1/1, Willow Tit 1/0, Coal Tit 1/0, Robin 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0 and Dunnock 1/0.

As well as the birds we also spotted a Long-horn moth on the gravel path. See here for some information about them.

Long-horn Moth

Thursday, 16 May 2013

2nd Mandarin and first pulli of the year

After work tonight I went up to Linacre with David and Ray, my ringing trainer, to ring the second female Mandarin Duck.

Afterwards we drove across to Chesterfield to ring a brood of 4 Blackbirds, my first pulli of the year and my first ever Blackbird pulli. Here's a slightly out of focus picture!

Blackbird pulli

Below is a photo of a Blackbird's nest sent to me by a fellow nest recorder, Dominic, who's been following the blog. Thanks for the photo and for your interest and tips! It's very interesting to compare it to the Song Thrush nest in the last post.

Blackbird nest

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Nestboxes and WeBS

Three hours at Linacre this morning resulted in a completed WeBS count and the first full check of the nest boxes for two weeks. A total of 17 nests were found; 16 in the tit boxes and 1 Song Thrush on the floor by the top reservoir.

First up the WeBS count. As is normal for this time of year, numbers of waterbirds were pretty low with the following recorded: Mallard (12, no ducklings yet), Moorhen (3 and 1 nest), Coot (6 and 1 nest), Canada Goose (2), Tufted Duck (9), Mandarin Duck (3 males), Great-crested Grebe (3; 2 on the middle reservoir with 1 on the nest and another breeding plumaged bird on the top reservoir) and Grey Wagtail (1).  Unfortunately no Little Grebes again. Where are they this year? Please let me know if you see or hear any. In addition to these "usual" birds I was lucky enough to record a couple of Curlews this morning. They were flying over the fields by the top reservoir calling. I usually record them at least once a year and presume that they're breeding in the nearby fields.

Other birds recorded in the woods today included: Tawny Owl (2), Pied Flycatcher (male bird singing again), Stock Dove ( 2 feeding by the main entrance), Swift (20+ over the middle reservoir again), Swallow (c.30 over the top reservoir), House Martin ( a couple with the Swallows and Swifts), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Siskins and Lesser Redpoll (heard around the middle reservoir).

Last but not least the nest boxes. As stated above I managed to record 17 active nests today. Although this isn't a great total, I am pleased as I was quite worried a few weeks ago, when they weren't any at all! Most of the tit clutches numbered around the 5 or 6 eggs and weren't being actively incubated, which means they are still being laid. There were, however, a few birds sitting tight, such as this Blue Tit.

Blue Tit incubating.
As well as the tit boxes I managed to find a Song Thrush's nest this morning. It was on the floor approx. 2m away from the main path through the woods and the sitting bird flew up as I walked past it. Gorgeous eggs. Hopefully it'll survive and I'll be able to go back to ring the chicks later.
Song Thrush nest
It can be told from the very similar Blackbird's nest by the fact that the cup is lined with mud. A Blackbird's nest is left unlined. Unfortunately I haven't found one of those yet (obviously not looking hard enough!), so no photo to compare. According to the book, the average clutch size is 4 eggs, so that could be it for this bird. Fingers crossed now that the eggs don't get predated. All the nests recorded today will be recorded and monitored for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme, which collects data from around the country on things such as clutch size, laying dates and egg and chick mortality, to help understand why some species are increasing and why some are decreasing. All very interesting stuff. Anyone can join in, even with one nest in a back garden, so if you're interested, please have a look at the above link.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mandarin success

After last week's success with the Little Owl we went back down to Linacre this morning to see if we could catch and ring the Mandarin Ducks. We managed one bird, a female, which is just the second ringed by the group. As well as ringing the bird we also added another record for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. In 2011 and 2012 only 32 and 31 Mandarin nests were recorded for the scheme, so another 2 will go a long way to increase our knowledge of Mandarin breeding biology ( number of eggs laid, number of young hatched and fledged etc...).

Female Mandarin
After ringing I lead a walk around the reservoirs as part of Derbyshire County Council's Walking Festival. A group of approx. 20 people attended and we managed to record a good number of birds, despite cool, overcast conditions and a strongish wind. Highlights were a group of about 10 Swifts feeding over the water with 50+ Swallows and a handful of House Martins. We also spotted or heard a male Bullfinch, 2 Whitethroats, a Pied Flycatcher, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and a Garden Warbler.

Monday, 6 May 2013

First eggs!!

Popped down to Linacre for an hour this afternoon to show Jayne the Pied Flycatcher that I saw yesterday. It wasn't around today - arrgh!!! Whilst waiting though I had a quick check of a few nest boxes and got lucky with box 26 that contained five tit eggs - hurrah. Last year the first eggs were found on 15th April, so you can see how late there are this year. 5 is about half the usual total for a Blue or Great Tit, and the eggs were cold and not being incubated, so this clutch is still being laid. I'll check again at the weekend when, hopefully, the clutch will be complete and there will be a few more full nests. Hopefully the Pied Fly will be around again as well.

Box 26
A couple of Stock Doves were feeding in the field by the main entrance and whilst walking by the middle reservoir we managed to hear and photograph a male Blackcap. Can you spot him in this photo?
Before I went to Linacre I spent a couple of hours with members of the ringing group at Carr Vale, a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserve near Bolsover, where we set up a new feeding station and cut some net rides. Sedge Warblers ( a year tick) were singing all around us and hopefully we'll be able to ring these and other warblers over the summer.
Year List update:
124 - Sedge Warbler

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Flycatcher returns

This morning's walk around Linacre (6.15am - 9.00am) was very good with several "firsts" for the year including one that I was very happy to see, a male Pied Flycatcher. After last year's no show I was beginning to worry that this year might be much the same, so when I found one singing by the middle reservoir and showing a lot of interest in a nest box I was very relieved and pleased. No photo today, but hopefully one to follow soon.

Other firsts included a singing Garden Warbler in the same patch of brambles by the ringing site as the Whitethroat, a singing Skylark above the top reservoir, a Common Sandpiper on the bottom reservoir and a Common or Smooth Newt on the path by the top reservoir.

Smooth Newt

A second singing Whitethroat was also found by the top reservoir and there were at least 6 singing Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers and 1 singing Blackcap!

Whitethroat (top reservoir)

Out on the water there were a pair of Greylag Geese, a pair of Canada Geese and the hybrid bird, a Kingfisher and the first Coot, Moorhen and Great-crested Grebe nests of 2013.

Year List update:
122 - Common Sandpiper
123 - Pied Flycatcher

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Little Owl ringed

It was a little too windy to set the nets this morning, so instead we had a lay in and met up at Linacre at 9.30am with the intention of checking the progress of the Little Owl and Mandarin nests. In the end it turned out to be a very good decision with a new ringing tick for me (thanks everyone!) and good news on the Mandarins.

First up the ringing tick. We went across to the Little Owl nest and managed to ring the female bird.

Little Owl
We also noticed that she had 2 eggs in the nest, so we updated the record card for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. According to my superb nest recording book (see here), the average clutch size is between 3-5 eggs, so she may well lay at least 1 more egg.  Owls usually start incubating as soon as they lay their first egg, and the young hatch asynchronously. The youngest chick can then become food for the older chick/s if other food is scarce. Hopefully this won't happen with this nest, but we'll leave her now and, if all goes to plan, i.e. the weather stays good and the nest isn't predated, we'll go back and ring the chick/s later in the year.
After ringing the Little Owl, we went across to the Mandarin nests and were very pleased to see that both boxes contained incubating females. Again, more information for the Nest Record Scheme.
Mandarin Duck
One last sighting from Linacre was the male Whitethroat, that I found on Thursday. He was still on site singing and displaying beautifully. Hopefully he'll attract a mate soon.
In the afternoon I went out to Chatsworth with Jayne. We had a lovely walk from the Carlton Lees car park and saw 3 Redstarts, including 2 males, which were fighting over a female bird. Whilst there we also recorded the first Garden Warbler of the year, a Treecreeper, a singing Willow Warbler, several Swallows, a pair of Pied Wagtails, Chaffinches, Goldfinch and lots of chirruping House Sparrows.

Year List update:
121 - Garden Warbler

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Whiethroat and butterflies

Had a visit to the Chesterfield Canal with school today and, as well as having a very good time looking at the narrow boats and enjoying the sunshine, I managed to add a new species to the Year List; Whitethroat. At least 4 individual birds were seen and heard along the stretch of canal. Lovely!
Here's a photo taken a few years ago at Carsington Water.


Whilst out and about I also managed to see three new species of butterfly: Brimstone (1 male), Orange Tip (1 male) and Speckled Wood (1).

Orange Tip
Popped up to Linacre in the evening to fill up the feeders and recorded a Bullfinch and a singing Whitethroat on the ringing site. The Whitethroat was especially good as it was my first record here this year and was also the first record in this area. It was singing around a very interesting looking area of brambles, so it could become a good record for the Nest Record Scheme - if I can track it down!

Year List:
120 - Whitethroat