Sunday, 28 December 2014

Garden birds in the snow.

We've had a bit of snow here over the last few days, so I've been watching the garden intently to see if we got any different visitors. Luckily today I spotted a Song Thrush and a Brambling, both very infrequent visitors to the garden.

Here are a couple of pictures.


Song Thrush
 As well as these two species, I also had all the "usual suspects"; Chaffinch (15), Goldfinch (18), Greenfinch (4), Collared Dove (2), Woodpigeon (1), Magpie (2), Blue Tit (1), Blackbird (8), Dunnock (2) and House Sparrow (2).


Goldfinch and Greenfinch
As always, I'll be sending the records into the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Quiet end to the Year

Yesterday morning I made my last visit of the year to Linacre. The weather was grey, overcast and just 2 degrees Celsius, but it was very still which made counting the waterbirds quite nice and easy.

The last counts of the year were: Mallard (108), Moorhen (13, the highest count of the year), Coot (4), Tufted Duck (18), Grey Wagtail (3), Grey Heron (2) and Black-headed Gull (113). I was particularly pleased with the Wagtail and Heron sightings as these are species which aren't seen that much in December.

The woodlands were quite busy too, with the highlight being another very close and confiding Treecreeper. 2 Common Buzzards were also seen, including 1 low over the bottom reservoir being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Siberian Chiffchaff

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) is, as the name implies, a common summer visitor to Britain. These birds are recorded throughout the country during the summer months, with a several birds also over wintering. Today I saw a couple of these at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Carr Vale reserve, whilst I was looking for a much more uncommon bird, the Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita tristis). Again, as the name implies, this subspecies of Common Chiffchaff originates from much further east, and is an annual, but scarce, winter visitor to the UK.

Telling these two birds apart is very difficult in the field, but one of the main identifying features is the over all grey tones of the Siberian Chiffchaff. Today's bird showed quite well, if somewhat briefly, and was noticeably greyer than the accompanying Common Chiffchaffs. I managed to grab a very poor photograph, which I heavily cropped.

Siberian Chiffchaff (honestly!)
To see some much better photographs of other Siberian Chiffchaffs see the Birdguides website here.

As this bird is still a subspecies of Common Chiffchaff it can't be added to my Year List.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Record Black-headed Gulls and first Goosander

I was looking at the Sheffield Bird Study Group website last night, when I noticed a record of 240 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Goosanders at Linacre on Friday. Both records were noteworthy, as the gull's record is the highest ever count for this site as far as I am aware, and the Goosander record is the first of this winter period.

With these records fresh in my mind, I decided to go down to Linacre this morning to see what was about. I took a loaf of bread with me, and managed to attract a respectable 132 Black-headed Gulls down, which was my best count of the year (so far). I managed to entice a few of these birds onto the wall, so I could scan their legs for colour rings, but, as you can see, all the legs were bare!

Black-headed Gulls
Whilst walking around I also managed to spot 2 male Goosanders on the middle reservoir, along with 126 Mallards (my highest count since January), 10 Tufted Ducks, 9 Moorhens and 3 Coots. Unfortunately, despite a lot of searching, I didn't manage to find any Mandarin Ducks at all!
The sun came out every now and then during my walk, and I managed to grab a photograph of this Treecreeper. Not an easy species to spot, never mind photograph, I was really pleased to get these shots.

Other species seen in the woodland included Jay, Crow, Magpie, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Great-spotted Woodpecker along with Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tit.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Linacre Ringing - 13th December 2014

I wasn't able to attend the ringing session at Linacre this weekend as I was out with the Chesterfield RSPB Group (see last post), but Ray from Sorby Breck Ringing Group sent me the details of what will most likely be the last session of 2014.

The weather was very cold all morning, and the ringing was pretty quiet with just 37 birds of 8 species ringed. The majority of the birds were retraps (29 out of 37), and comprised (new/retrap): Dunnock 1/2, Nuthatch 0/2, Wren 1/0, Robin 1/5, Chaffinch 1/0, Blue Tit (2/11), Great Tit (2/6) and Coal Tit 0/3.

I'll write a post towards the end of December with the totals from all the ringing we've done at Linacre this year.

Monday, 15 December 2014

WWT Welney

I was out and about with the Chesterfield RSPB Group at the weekend, visiting the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust's Welney reserve.

At this time of the year the highlight of a visit is the wintering Whooper and Bewick Swans. During our visit we saw lots of Whoopers, both in the fields and on the reserve itself. Many of the birds are colour ringed including the female bird of this family party(far right). The female bird, U5D, was originally ringed at Martin Mere, another WWT reserve in Lancashire, 9 years ago, and is paired up with an unringed male bird. As you can see, the pair have managed to raise 3 young this year.

Family of Whooper Swans

Unfortunately, the Bewick Swans weren't playing during our visit, and we didn't see any on the reserve. We did, however, see several hundred swans flying onto the reserve to roost as we were driving home. Some of these were most likely Bewicks!!

As well as the swans, we also saw very good numbers of other waterbirds, including Pochard, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Ducks, Canada and Greylag Goose, and several species of wader; Black-tailed Godwit (c.600), Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Snipe.

Birds of Prey were represented by a couple of Marsh Harriers that kept flushing all the birds, and a stunning Barn Owl that was hunting along the ditches of the reserve.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Linacre WeBS - December 2014

This morning saw me down at Linacre for this month's WeBS walk. The temperature when I arrived was minus 3, only the second time we've had a frost so far this winter, but the sun was out and it was gorgeous!!

Waterbird numbers were pretty good too for the last WeBS walk of 2014. Mallard topped 100 for the first time this winter (101 to be precise), 26 Mandarin Ducks were on the middle reservoir, 29 Tufted Ducks were also present, along with 71 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Moorhens, 3 Coots, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Pied Wagtail and 1 Kingfisher.

Away from the water, there were good numbers of Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, as well as a couple of Jays, a female Sparrowhawk (that flew the entire length of the top reservoir carrying a prey item), Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Crows. The highlight for me, however, was this Fieldfare that was feeding in a Holly bush by the top reservoir. Not only is it only my second sighting at Linacre this winter, but it also posed very nicely for a picture.

As the sun was shining this morning I decided to take the camera with me, and, on the way out, I found the ringed Little Owl again, and managed to get a photo with a bit of blue sky behind her!
Little Owl

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Avenue Ringing - Finches galore!

The weather for the last few weekends has been grey, overcast and wet, so when we saw a half decent forecast for this morning we (Sorby Breck Ringing Group) decided to get out and do some ringing - hurrah!

3 of us managed to get out to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield, where we ringed 49 birds of 11 species (Blackbird, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Robin, Blue, Great and Willow Tit) in three and a half hours.

As the title suggests, many of the birds were finches, and I was lucky enough to ring 3 new Bullfinches (and process 1 retrap), a retrap Greenfinch, 2 new Goldfinches, and 1 retrapped Chaffinch. Along with these birds I also had the following birds new/retrap: Blue Tit 2/3, Great Tit 4/6, Robin 2/0 and Willow Tit 0/1.

In between net rounds, as always, we kept our eyes open for other wildlife. Today we managed to record several Fieldfare, lots of Blackbirds, Skylark, a Kestrel, and, best of all, an over-flying flock of approx. 45 Pink-footed Geese.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Linacre - 22nd November 2014

No ringing this weekend, so I went down to Linacre for a couple of hours in between the rain showers.

Waterbird numbers were pretty good with 67 Mandarin Ducks spread over the 3 reservoirs, although the best place to see them is the middle reservoir, 71 Mallards, 21 Tufted Ducks, 2 Cormorants, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Moorhens, 4 Coots and 42 Black-headed Gulls.

The surrounding woodlands were quiet, with no sight nor sound of any winter visitors, but there were 2 Common Buzzards low over the top reservoir, along with the common resident birds; Robins, Dunnocks, tits, Chaffinch and Blackbirds.

On the way in and out of the site I spotted the ringed Little Owl in the usual tree, and got another photo! Hopefully, I'll get a shot with a nice blue sky, and without a branch in front of the bird one day.

Little Owl

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Derbyshire Bird Report 2013

Yesterday I received my copy of the new 2013 Derbyshire Bird Report that is published every year by the  Derbyshire Ornithological Society.

I always have a quick flick through to see some of the records I've sent in, to read the ringing section at the back, and to see if there are any extra records for Linacre that I missed last year. The best record in this year's edition is the Polish colour-ringed Black-headed Gull that I saw at Linacre in November 2013 (see blog post here).
As always, you can get hold of a copy in several local bookshops, or, if you join the DOS, you get a free copy as part of your subscription.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Linacre Lifer!

I set off for a walk around Linacre yesterday morning, not really expecting to see much. It was grey, drizzly, mild (8 degrees), and pretty foggy. The middle reservoir was quiet, with just a few Tufted Ducks and Mallards floating about. When I got to the top reservoir, however, I noticed a small group of gulls in the middle of the water. I expected them to be the usual  Black-headed Gulls that over-winter on site, but when I looked at them through my binoculars I noticed that there were 10 Herring Gulls (5 adults and 5 juveniles/1st winters), and one adult Common Gull.

This my second record of Herring Gull at Linacre, the first was an adult that was present for just 1 minute on the ice in December 2010, and was the subject of one of my first ever blog posts (see here).

The Common Gull was my first ever record at Linacre. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me today, so I didn't get a photograph. It sat with the Herring Gulls for about five minutes, before flying off high to the south. Lovely record!

Here's a photograph of another one I saw a few years back, with a Black-headed Gull, for comparison.

Common and Black-headed Gull

Common Gulls breed in the UK, but many of the  birds we see at this time of the year, come here for the winter. Here's a link to an Estonian Common Gull that I saw and photographed  in Essex.

Apart from the gulls, the only other bird of note was the ringed Little Owl, that was sat in the usual tree again.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Linacre WeBS - November 2014

Last weekend Mandy from the Chesterfield RSPB Group carried out November's WeBS walk at Linacre Reservoirs.

Details are: Mallard (77), Mandarin (a minimum of 50 were flushed by dog walkers), Tufted Duck 26, Grey Heron (1), Coot (3), Moorhen (6), Black-headed Gull (17) and Cormorant (1).

As you can see, nothing outstanding, but it's always really nice to see the Mandarins at this time of year, and Mallard numbers are beginning to pick up. Another count of 67 Mandarins was recorded later in the week on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Colour-ringed Turnstones

Back in February I wrote a post about some colour-ringed Turnstones that I'd seen in the harbour at Scarborough (see here).

Back in August I got a reply from the co-ordinator of the colour-ringing scheme with details of where and when the birds had been ringed. Both birds I reported had been ringed in the harbour at Scarborough that morning! They were last seen in the area on the 16th and 18th March respectively, and haven't been reported again ...yet.


Ringing recoveries from the BTO show that many of the Turnstones that winter in Britain are recovered in many different countries (see here for details). As those I saw were presumably over-wintering here, they could have come from much further north, possibly Iceland, Greenland or even Canada. They could possibly have wintered further south and have been on return migration. Hopefully, I'll get across this winter and find them again.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Linacre Little Owl

No ringing this morning due to wet weather, so I popped down to Linacre to fill up the feeders. On the way out I checked the "Little Owl tree" and spotted this beauty sitting there.

Little Owl
I drove home to get my camera, and Jayne, and we rushed back to find the bird still there. While Jayne drove, I managed to get a few more photos, but it was only when I get home again, and put the photos on the computer, that I noticed the bird was ringed!!

Little Owl (with ring)
The only Little Owls to have been ringed at Linacre were two that were ringed back in 2013 by me and other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group.  The first bird we ringed was an adult female (see here). Unfortunately I couldn't read the ring number today, so I can't be 100% sure that it is the same bird, but I think it's highly likely, as she was sitting in the same tree as before, and, according to the books, breeding birds stay on site throughout the year.
The second bird we ringed in 2013 was a juvenile bird (here). Juvenile birds are normally driven off by the parent birds once they've fledged, so I think it unlikely that this is the juvenile bird.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

November Chiffchaff and Lesser Redpoll

Saturday's ringing session took place at Linacre, and, in the space of 4 hours, we caught and ringed a very impressive 94 birds; 75 new birds and 19 retraps. As the title suggests, amongst the 94 birds we had our first ever November Chiffchaff record, and the first Lesser Redpoll of the winter. The Chiffchaff was full of fat, so was probably migrating through the site.

As well as these two birds, we also recorded the following (new/retrap); Long-tailed Tit 22/0, Blue Tit 10/10, Great Tit 13/1, Coal Tit 1/3, Dunnock 0/3, Bullfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 5/0, Goldcrest 10/0, Wren 2/0, Lesser Redpoll 1/0, Robin 4/1, Goldfinch 3/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Blackbird 1/0 and Nuthatch 0/1.

As you can see from the totals, we were very busy, especially with the Long-tailed Tits, quite possibly my most favourite bird in the hand.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Garden Brambling

Whilst watching the birds in the garden this morning for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, I noticed my first Brambling of the winter.


This is my 17th record of Brambling in the garden, my first since last winter. Hopefully, it'll hang around.

I also managed to get a decent shot of a male House Sparrow today that I thought I'd share.

House Sparrow

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Norfolk Highlights

It's been half term this week, so I spent a couple of days in Norfolk with Jayne. We were based in Wells-next-the Sea, and whilst there, we spotted a few nice birds, including a couple of "year ticks".

On arrival in Wells we walked down the estuary to the beach. Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls were present all along the river. There were dozens of Dark-bellied Brent Geese  present on the river, including this family party of 2 adults and 4 juveniles.

Brent Goose
When we arrived on the beach there were dozens of Redwings and a few Fieldfares flying "in-off" the sea.

Next morning we drove down to Holkham Hall, and parked up on St Ann's Drive where we saw Pink-footed Geese grazing in the surrounding fields. We then walked down through the woods, and out on to the beach to scan the sea. We spotted 4 Red-throated Divers, half a dozen Common Scoters, and the two "year ticks"; Velvet Scoter and a winter-plumaged Razorbill. A couple of Oystercatchers and 5 Sanderlings were also seen feeding along the edge of the water. On our way back to the car we spotted a couple of Redwings and this Blackbird feeding on berries in the dunes. I think the white scalloping on the back of this bird points to it being a "continental" bird.


Our last stop in Norfolk was RSPB Titchwell. We only had an hour or so here, but we did get some great views of this winter-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit, along with hundreds of  Golden Plover, a few Dunlin, Teal, Shoveler, a Little Egret and a calling Cetti's Warbler.

Black-tailed Godwit

Year List update:
175 -Velvet Scoter
176 - Razorbill

Monday, 27 October 2014

Linacre- 26th October 2014

I haven't been down to Linacre for a couple of weeks, so I took advantage of the extra hour yesterday morning, and had a couple of hours walking around the site. It was very windy, but at 12 degrees, it was also pretty warm.

Wildfowl numbers were about right for the time of year, with Mallards at 56, Coot (8), Moorhen (4- fewer than expected), Tufted Duck (14), Grey Wagtail (1), Pied Wagtail (1 on the barbed wire fence by the main entrance), Kingfisher (1- reported by my nephew, Luke, later in the day), Cormorant (4 - via Luke), Black-headed Gull (22), Little Grebe (1) and Mandarin Duck (69 on the middle reservoir- the highest count of the year so far).

The woods were quite quiet, the exception being a large and vocal mixed tit flock, mainly Long-tailed Tits, around the top reservoir. Unfortunately no winter thrushes around today.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

"Continental" Song Thrush

The weather forecast for the weekend didn't look good for any ringing, but, despite some strongish winds, we managed to get out for a few hours to the private site in Sheffield. We were out for just over four hours and managed to scrape together 13 birds.

Another 2 Goldcrests were good to see, but the most interesting bird of the morning was a Song Thrush that we caught in the first net round. It was aged as a 3 i.e. a bird born this year, but was thought to be a "continental" bird due to its greyer colouration. Hopefully it will survive the winter, fly back to mainland Europe and turn up in a net in Sweden next year.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Garden Mega!!

I don't blog that much about the birds in my garden, but today's an exception because I had a "mega" bird in - a Great-spotted Woodpecker!

Great-spotted Woodpecker

Looking back in my BTO Garden Birdwatch notes, the last time I recorded a woodpecker in the garden was in July 2001. Today's bird, as you can see from the picture, was feeding on fat pellets, which I only put out on Thursday, so hopefully, if I keep them topped up, it will return over the winter.

Other birds seen this afternoon, included this female Sparrowhawk, a male Sparrowhawk, that I didn't manage to get a photo of, 4 Greenfinch, 3 House Sparrow, a Robin, 2 Collared Doves, 3 Woodpigeons, 4 Blackbirds, 4 Starlings, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit 1 Coal Tit, and 15+ Goldfinch. A flock of approximately 30 Redwings were feeding on the Hawthorns behind the house. Hopefully, I can encourage a few into the garden over the winter. Bring on the snow!
Sparrowhawk (female)

Linacre WeBS - October 2014

While I was ringing at Linacre last Saturday, Mandy from the Chesterfield RSPB Group was busy walking around the reservoirs carrying out the monthly WeBS walk.

Nothing spectacular to report, but good numbers for the start of the winter period, and the first Black-headed Gulls (15) since April. Other birds recorded were: Mallard (56), Tufted Duck (17), Mandarin Duck (10, )Moorhen (8), Coot (4), Little Grebe (1), Grey Heron (1) and Cormorant (5).

In addition, a flock of approximately 50 Pink-footed Geese was seen flying over to the west. These too were the first of the winter.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A Golden Morning

Today's blog title comes from Alan this week (thanks Alan), and refers to the fact that out of the 55 birds we managed to catch this morning at Linacre, 10 were Goldcrests and 10 were Goldfinch.

In addition to these lovely birds, we also managed to catch 3 Bullfinches, 3 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, 3 Coal Tits, 6 Chaffinches, 2 Wrens, 8 Dunnocks, 5 Robins and 1 Chiffchaff. The Chiffchaff was a very nice bird to see, especially as we heard 1 singing at the same time that this one was being ringed, so we know that there were at least 2 on site today. It had a fat score of 5 and a muscle score of 3, so it will presumably be heading south soon. Interestingly, I also had 2 feeding in the garden this afternoon. Good records for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme.

My personal totals were (new/retrap):
Robin 1/0, Great Tit 2/1, Blue Tit 0/2, Coal Tit 0/2, Dunnock 1/1, Chaffinch 2/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Goldfinch 2/0 and Goldcrest 2/0.

Other birds seen or heard during this morning's session included 5 over-flying Cormorants, a lovely flock of approximately 50 Pink-footed Geese flying over to the north west (my first at Linacre this year), 3 Red-legged Partridges (feeding in the fields by the main entrance, and again, my first at Linacre in 2014), and several Skylark that were heard flying over, but not seen.

The sun was out most of the morning, which meant I was also able to log a couple of insects, namely a Harlequin Ladybird and a Red Admiral butterfly.

Harlequin Ladybird

Red Admiral

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Crest Fest

Today's title comes courtesy of David (thank you David), and relates to the fact that this week's ringing session, in Wingerworth, caught a very impressive 5 Goldcrests. This isn't a species we catch a lot, but, by putting on a tape lure, we managed to greatly increase our total .

As well as the Goldcrests, we also managed to catch another 46 birds of 8 different species (Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blue, Great and Coal Tit) during a three hour session.

My personal totals were (new/retrap):
Goldfinch 2/0, Blue Tit 0/3, Great Tit 1/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Coal Tit 0/1, Robin 2/0 and Wren 2/0.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Record Cormorant numbers and first Pied Wagtail of 2014

No ringing on Sunday, so instead, I went for a quick walk around Linacre. Nothing stunning to report, but numbers of water birds had started to pick up and included a new record number of Cormorants and my first Pied Wagtail of 2014.

I started my walk at the bottom reservoir, where I spotted a solitary Grey Heron fishing on the south side of the water. There were also a few Tufted Ducks, and a couple of Mallards. The first of 2 Grey Wagtails also flew over.

Arriving at the middle reservoir the bird numbers started to increase, and included a flock of 20+ Mallards. By the end of the morning I had counted a total of 76 Mallards, which is pretty good going for this time of the year.  Coots and Moorhens were in good numbers too, with 12 and 9 respectively.

16 Mandarin Ducks made an appearance on the top reservoir, along with 8 Cormorants, which included 7 juvenile birds. This is the highest ever count since my recording began in 2006. Also here, was the first Pied Wagtail of the year, and a few more "Tufties", taking the day's total to 14.

Gulls don't normally arrive at Linacre until October, so 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying over to the North was noteworthy.

The woodland was quiet, except for several singing Robins and Wrens, and a lovely mixed tit flock made up of Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tits.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

House Sparrow ringing- new for the year

House Sparrow is a species  that I don't ring very often (my last was in August 2013), so I was very pleased when one turned up in the nets whilst out ringing with The Group this morning at our private garden site in Sheffield.

House Sparrow
The bird in question was a bird born this year, which was going through it's "post juvenile moult". In the picture below, you can see that it has dropped all its greater coverts. These will regrow over the next week or so, and will become indistinguishable from an adult bird.

House Sparrow in moult
In addition to the House Sparrow, we also ringed a couple of Blackbirds, a Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits, 2 Goldcrests, along with several Dunnocks and Robins.
There were a few other species around the site, including a singing Chiffchaff, 4 Mistle Thrushes, 4 Swallows and several Jays.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blue Tit recovery

This year, was a bumper year in the nest boxes at Linacre, with 232 birds ringed. Yesterday, I received an email from David from the ringing group, with details of one of "our" birds that had been found by a member of the public.

The bird in question  was a Blue Tit that had been ringed in a box on May 25th 2014 (see here). Unfortunately, it had only survived 27 days and had been found just 2km away in Old Brampton, after flying into a window.

Although its sad to hear of fatalities, it is interesting to know that at least some of the juvenile birds from Linacre disperse away from the site when they fledge. Hopefully, we'll get some more recoveries later in the year- this time of live birds!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Black Redstart

Black Redstarts are very uncommon birds in Derbyshire, so when news of a summering bird at a site just 30 minutes from home, came out in July (see Darley Dale Wildlife blog here), I decided to have a drive over for a look. Unfortunately I didn't catch up with it then, but another record this week on Birdguides, made me decide to have another drive across today. This time I dropped lucky, with the bird showing within 10 minutes of me arriving.

The weather wasn't great (bit drizzly and misty), so, although I managed to get a quick photo, it isn't the best. You can just about make out the red tail.

Black Redstart
I also managed a short piece of video (see here).
Year List update:
174 - Black Redstart

Saturday, 13 September 2014

More Mipits and a (near) record Goose Count

After last week's success ringing my first Meadow Pipit of 2014  I was very pleased to hear that we were heading back up to a moorland site at Ringinglow, Sheffield, for our annual Meadow Pipit ringing session (see here for details of last year's visit).

As in previous years, we arrived on site nice and early (5.30am), and got the nets up as quickly as possible. The MP3 players were set to Meadow Pipit, and after a bit of low cloud had cleared, we started to catch birds. Four hours later we'd managed a very respectable 107 new birds, all Meadow Pipits. The vast majority were juvenile birds, with just 4 adult birds ringed.

Other birds seen during today's session included Raven, Red Grouse (Year Tick), Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, and a Sparrowhawk, that kept buzzing the nets, thankfully, without success!

Thanks to Sean and Kevin for another brilliant session!

In the afternoon, I went for a walk around Linacre with Jayne. There wasn't too much going on, except a couple of "wheeting" Chiffchaff and an amazing 58 Canada Geese on the top reservoir. The group appeared to be one made up of adults and juvenile birds, and is the second highest count I've had there after 80 in October 2011 (see here). We'll see if they hang around, or move on. Here's a poor camera phone photo of some of today's geese.

Canada Geese

Year List update:
173 - Red Grouse

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Linacre WeBS and Ringing

This weekend saw two visits to Linacre Reservoirs. The first visit, on Saturday morning, to carry out the September WeBS walk, followed by a second visit on Sunday with The Sorby Breck Ringing Group, to ring birds.

I arrived for the WeBS walk at 8.30am, and the first quarter of an hour went okay with a Grey Heron fishing on the bottom reservoir, and my first Little Grebe here since 6th April!! Unfortunately, the rain started at about 8.45am, and really hammered down for the rest of the walk. Despite this I still managed to record a few birds: Mallard (47), Coot (5), Moorhen (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile), Grey Wagtail (1),  Great-crested Grebe (1), Tufted Duck (16) and Mandarin Duck (18). The only other bird of note was a Chiffchaff, that for some inexplicable reason, was singing in the heavy rain.

Sunday's visit was a little earlier, starting at 6.30am, and this time the weather was much better, being dry, sunny and warmish. We set the usual two nets around the feeders, and then, thanks to David's foresight, we decided to set a third net away from the usual area with a Meadow Pipit tape playing. We got lucky on the first net round, and caught a total of 5 "Mipits", all juveniles, our first at Linacre since 2012 (see here) and a ringing tick for Stewart.

Meadow Pipit
We carried on ringing until about 10.30am, by which time we'd caught and ringed a total of  47 birds of 12 species (Chiffchaff (3), Blackcap (1), Meadow Pipit, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Wren, Nuthatch, Robin, Dunnock, Blue, Great and Coal Tit).

In between net rounds, we spotted a few birds around the ringing site including 4 Swallows, 6 House Martins, a fly-by Cormorant, a couple of Sparrowhawks and a Speckled Wood butterfly.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Avenue Ringing x 2

As the title of today's post suggests, I've had two ringing sessions at The Avenue this week. The first, on Sunday, was an early morning session, whilst the second, on Tuesday, was an evening visit for a last attempt at the Swallow roost.

Sunday's session was a slow, but steady, with a total of 46 birds of 10 different species ringed (Willow, Great and Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackcap and Chiffchaff). My personal total were (new/retrap): Willow Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 2/4, Chaffinch 1/0, Bullfinch 1/2 and Dunnock 1/1.

Tuesday's session was out second attempt of the year to catch Swallows that roost at The Avenue before migrating to Africa for the winter months (see here for details of our first outing). . There were only about 50/60 birds roosting, so we were very lucky to catch 23, as well as a single juvenile Sand Martin. Again, my personal total was 8 Swallows, all new birds. A change from the first visit was the fact that we caught 4 adult birds this time.

Unfortunately, this will most likely be our last attempt to catch the Swallows this year. We can now begin to look forward to the Meadow Pipit migration up on the moors, and the first winter visitors... a Redwing or Fieldfare would be nice!!!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Northumberland News

After our holiday in Suffolk at the start of the summer (see here and here), Jayne and I went up to Northumberland for a break last week. Although not a birding trip, we did visit a few regular spots, and also managed to add 3 birds to the "Year List".

The first new bird was an adult Caspian Gull (see here), which had been present in the harbour at Amble for a couple of weeks.

Caspian Gull

As you can see, this bird was colour-ringed, which showed that it had been ringed at a Caspian Gull colony in Poland. Nice and easy to identify!! Other birds seen around the harbour included Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed , Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Eider Ducks, Cormorants, Common Terns, Shags, Goosander, Mute Swan, Mallard, Redshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Knot , Shelduck and Starling.

On the Tuesday, we went to Bamburgh and Seahouses. Whilst there, we took a "sunset cruise" around the Farne Islands with Serenity Tours. Unfortunately, all the auks had left, but we did see lots of Kittiwakes and Shags, along with several Fulmars one Purple Sandpiper and a couple of Gannets. The Atlantic Grey Seals have also returned to the islands to breed, so we got some pretty good views of them too.

Grey Seals

The final new bird of the week was a Pectoral Sandpiper, that was found on a flash at North Charlton. It was feeding along with 10 Ruff, 2 Snipe, 1 Little Ringed Plover and several Moorhens. Here's a link to a much better photo than I got.

Year List update:
170 - Caspian Gull
171 - Gannet
172 - Pectoral Sandpiper

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Avenue Swallow Roost 2014

Last night I was out with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to carry out the annual Swallow roost at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield.

Sunset over The Avenue

This was our first attempt of the year, and ended in success with 105 bird ringed. Out of the 105 birds, 101 were juveniles, including one that had been ringed by another member of our group, in the Mayfield Valley in Sheffield, 14km away from The Avenue, on 1st July 2014. It's always great to get a "control", especially when it's one from our group. Hopefully we'll be able to get another session in, and pick up some more, before the birds migrate.

Other birds on site tonight included a couple of Swifts, 20+ House Martins, 1 Reed Warbler, a Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtails and a family party of  Canada Geese ( 2 adults and 3 young).

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Painted Lady and Mole at Linacre

I had a couple of hours at Linacre today. The birdlife was quite quiet, but I did record a few insects, including my first Painted Lady of the year. This is only my second Linacre record, with the first coming last year. I didn't manage a photo today, so here's one of last year's individual.

Painted Lady
The Painted Lady is an annual migrant to Britain, sometimes seen in good numbers. See the Butterfly Conservation's website here for more details.

As well as the Painted Lady I also spotted my first ever Linacre record of Mole.  I've seen molehills on site before, but never an actual animal. Unfortunately today's individual was found dead on the path by the middle reservoir. It had a little bit of blood  on its paw, so had possibly been killed by a dog.


Another very busy session

The last time I went out ringing (see here), we managed to ring over 100 birds. Well, Saturday saw us (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), down at Linacre for a ringing demo, which was just as busy and saw us ring a total of 108 birds of 16 different species (Blue, Great, Coal Tit, Jay, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Nuthatch, Dunnock and Robin).

We set the nets at 5.30am, and the first net round produced 34 birds. Every net round brought in a similar number, and included our first Garden Warbler of the year, our first juvenile Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs and excellent counts of 20 Blackcaps, and 16 Blackbirds.

Out of the total of 108 birds ringed,101 were 3Js, or birds born this year, which again shows what a good season it's been. Especially nice to see was a Great Tit, that had been ringed in one of the boxes on site earlier this year.

My personal totals were (new/retrap):

Blackbird 4/0, Willow Warbler 2/0, Blackcap 6/0, Jay 0/1, Nuthatch 2/0, Great Tit 4/0, Bullfinch 1/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Dunnock 2/0, Robin 2/0, Blue Tit 2/1, Chaffinch 1/0.

During the very few breaks we got, a few other birds were noted, including a migrating flock of about 50 House Martins that passed through to the East, 2 Swifts, and a flock of 7 Canada Geese that also flew over the site.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Bird Fair 2014

On Friday I went down to Rutland Water with my nephew, Luke, to visit this year's British Bird Fair. I like to go along every year to look around all the different trade stands, spot a few celebrities, buy a new book (or two) and get a few "year ticks".

The day started at the BTO's Ringing Demo. The weather conditions were perfect, and the nets were full, including a smart looking Marsh Tit. This was the first I've seen "in the hand", and was a very nice year tick too. Whilst there, Luke also got the chance to release a Blackcap and a couple of Great Tits.

After the ringing, we walked around the stands, where I bought a new moth book,  helped the BTO celebrate 75 years of the Nest Record Scheme, by eating a slice of their birthday cake, and then went along to a moth talk featuring a celebrity, Richard Lewington, the illustrator of many superb wildlife books, most of which I've bought (see here for details of the books he's illustrated). The talk was great, and included a few new moths (Canary-shouldered Thorn, Swallow Prominent and Lesser Swallow Prominent), but the highlight for Luke was a very photogenic Elephant Hawkmoth (his first), which posed very nicely for him.

Luke and an Elephant Hawkmoth

The final part of the day was a visit to the Osprey Project to see.... the Ospreys. We walked along to the Wader Scrape hide and saw the Manton Bay Pair, who were sitting on the perch next to the nest. Unfortunately, this pair hasn't managed to raise any chicks this year, but a total of 11 chicks have been born around the reservoirs. Whilst here, we also spotted a couple of Little Egrets, a few Common Terns, 2 Egyptian Geese and 4 Common Sandpipers.

Year List Update:

167 – Marsh Tit
168 – Osprey
169 – Egyptian Goose

Thursday, 14 August 2014

August Linacre WeBS Count and Annual Report 2012- 2013

This month's WeBS count took place at the weekend, and was carried out by Mandy and Barbara of the Chesterfield RSPB Group (thanks). As is expected in the summer months, the counts were quite low, but in line with previous years. Here are the details: Mallard (50), Moorhen (3), Coot (12), Tufted Duck (16), Great-crested Grebe (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile), Mandarin (5), Grey Heron (1) and Grey Wagtail (2).

As well as this update, I also wanted to include a link to the most recent WeBS Report that has just be published by the BTO. As well as the paper copy I received, the report is also available on-line. Here's a link to the BTO page. Just find Linacre Reservoirs in the Locations drop down menu, and then you can see all the details of the counts since 1967!!!!

Friday, 8 August 2014

RSPB Frampton Marsh

Yesterday I drove over to the RSPB Frampton Marsh reserve in Lincolnshire and spent a few sunny hours watching the birdlife, including couple of "year ticks".

On arrival I walked straight down to the Reedbed Hide, where there were a couple of migrant juvenile Ruff, feeding with the resident Mallards, Great-crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Coots and Moorhens. I then went across to the 360 Hide to see if I could spot the Glossy Ibis that had been present throughout the summer. Unfortunately it wasn't in view, but I did manage to find a couple of Spoonbills, including this juvenile bird with a completely pink bill, approximately 700(!) Black-tailed Godwits,  a couple of summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper, juvenile Redshank, Teal, Wigeon, Canada and Greylag Geese.

Spoonbill (juvenile)

I had a short walk around the rest of the reserve and then returned to the 360 Hide. This time, the Ibis was feeding just in front of the hide, and I managed to get a few photos, showing the glossy feathers that give this bird its name.

Glossy Ibis

Also spotted in front of this hide was a stunning Wood Sandpiper, that I also managed to get a shot of. I'm pretty sure it's a juvenile, due to the prominent supercilium behind the eye, and the  fine streaking on the breast. Please tell me if I'm wrong!

Wood Sandpiper

Driving home I spotted a dead Barn Owl by the side of the road. I managed to stop and look to see if it had been ringed, but unfortunately it hadn't.

Year List update:

164 – Whinchat (a family party seen on Big Moor on 27th July)
165 – Spoonbill
166 – Glossy Ibis

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Linacre Nestbox and Butterfly Update

As you know, this year's nestbox season at Linacre has been our best ever (see here for details), and yesterday I went down to check the boxes to see if the chicks had all managed to fledge successfully.

I'm very pleased to say that out of the 232 pulli that were ringed by me and other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, only 5 had failed to fledge! That gives us a fledging rate of 98.2%, which compares very nicely with the 99.4% fledging rate last year, when 166 birds were ringed. I didn't have time to check on the Mandarin Box, so I'll check that soon.

After checking the boxes, I had a walk around all the 3 reservoirs. The bird life was very quiet, so I decided to look at a new area of wildflower meadow that is being developed by the Rangers, near Spire View. The sun had come out when I got there, and I managed to count a good number of butterflies on the flowering knapweeds: Peacock 11, Small Copper 1, Ringlet 1, Comma 3, Meadow Brown 10, Gatekeeper 6, Small Skipper 1, Green-veined White 2 and a day-flying moth, Common Carpet 1.

Green-veined White on Knapweed

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A very busy session!

Sunday's ringing session with the group, in Wingerworth, Chesterfield started nice and early, at 5.00 am, was my busiest ever with an amazing 117 birds caught and processed in just 4 hours. Out of the 117, 102 were juvenile birds, which shows just how productive the season's been this year.

10 species of bird were caught ( Blackbird, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blue, Great, Coal and Willow Tit). The Woodpecker was a retrap, a juvenile bird that had been caught at this site earlier in the year.

My totals were (new/retrap):

Blue Tit 13/2, Great Tit 11/1, Coal Tit 2/0, Great-spotted Woodpecker 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Dunnock 1/0, Robin 1/0, Blackbird 1/0.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Linacre July WeBS and insects

This month's WeBS count didn't get done earlier in the month as everyone who normally helps out was busy doing other things. Today was the first opportunity I'd had to do it, so here are the results of a slightly belated count: Mallard (42, all "adults", non obviously young), Tufted Duck (20; 14 adults and 6 juveniles), Coot (8; 3 adults and 5 juveniles), Moorhen (7; 3 adults and 4 juveniles), Grey Heron (1), Great-crested Grebe (1 adult and 2 juveniles on the middle reservoir, no sign of adults or juveniles on the top reservoir), and Mandarin Duck (5). No sign of any Little Grebes again. They don't appear to have bred here this year- the first blank year since recording began in 2006!

The weather was great today (21 degrees and sunny), so as well as the birds, I also spent some time looking at the insects again. There were good numbers of butterflies, hoverflies, dragonflies, damselflies, moths and bees.

I recorded 9 species of butterfly (Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Green-veined and Large White, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Copper, Peacock and PURPLE HAIRSTREAK). The last species was the best, simply because it was my first Linacre record of 2014, and also because I managed to get a photo as it fed on a Thistle.

Purple Hairstreak
The two moth species I saw and identified today were both new for me at Linacre. Both were moths that are easily disturbed from the ground, namely Brown China-mark and Shaded Broad-bar.

Brown China-mark
Brown China-mark is a common species throughout the UK, but is quite unusual in that its larvae are entirely aquatic! See here for more details.

Shaded Broad-bar
Shaded Broad-bar is also a very common species. Details from UK Moths here.
Hoverflies were also present in good numbers, and included another new species for me at Linacre, Volucella inanis.

Volucella inanis
Also present today were Brown Hawker dragonflies (5+), Common Blue Damselflies (10+) and 3 species of bumblebee (Red-tailed, White-tailed and Common Carder)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Carr Vale Ringing - 2 new species

On Saturday I was out ringing with my trainer and Brian from The Sorby Breck Ringing Group, at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Carr Vale reserve. It was the first visit for a while, and hopes were high for a few warblers. We were not disappointed as we caught 27 individuals of 7 different species, including 2 new species for me.

The first new species was a Lesser Whitethroat. It was one of the first birds out of the nets, and also my first sighting of the year. Unfortunately no photos as I was busy getting all the information from it!

The second new species for me was a Sedge Warbler- 1 of 3 birds processed today. The bird I ringed was a new bird, born this year, while the other 2 were retraps. 1 had been ringed by my trainer at Carr Vale last year, and we're still waiting for information about the other bird. Here's a couple of photos- the first is the bird held safely in the "ringers' grip", whilst the second is a close up of the bird's head. What a super bird!

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler's head

Along with these 2 birds I was also lucky enough to ring another 27 birds of 13 species -Whitethroat (2), Chiffchaff (2), Wren (1), Blackcap (2), Reed Warbler (2), Reed Bunting (1), Bullfinch (1), Great Tit (2), Blue Tit (2), Long-tailed Tit (2), Dunnock (1), Robin (1) and Song Thrush (1). All these birds were new birds, except the Dunnock, which was a retrap.

Year List update
163 - Lesser Whitethroat

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Suffolk Butterflies and Moths

As well as looking at the birds in Suffolk last week, I also managed to spot a few butterflies and moths. Most of the species seen were at the RSPB Minsmere reserve. Over the course of the week I managed to spot 19 species of butterfly and 3 moths.

The butterflies included many of the commoner species, namely Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Small Copper, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Small Heath, Small, Large and Essex Skipper (a new species for me) and Comma as well as a few more unfamiliar ones such as Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Grayling, Purple Hairstreak, (2 basking in the sunshine from Bittern Hide), White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. More information about all these species can be found on the Butterfly Conservation's website here. Here are a few pictures.

Essex Skipper

White Admiral

I didn't take my moth trap with me, so the moths I saw were three day-flying varieties; 6-spot Burnet, Rosy Tabby (Endotricha flammealis, seen at Dunwich Heath) and a mint moth called  Pyrausta aurata or Small Purple and Gold. More information about these species can be found on the UK Moths website here.

6-spot Burnet

Small Purple and Gold

Rosy Tabby