Monday, 24 February 2014

Year List update

Just a quick post tonight to update the Year List with a Great Northern Diver that I saw yesterday at Carsington Water. Despite very choppy conditions on the water, it was pretty easy to see as it swam about 20m off Stones Island.

Carsington Water is a regular spot for this species, and this, or another bird, has been present all winter. Here's a photo of one coming into summer plumage that I took back in April 2012.

Great Northern Diver

More information about bird sightings are Carsington Water can be found on the website of the Carsington Bird Club here.

Year List update:
110- Great Northern Diver

Sunday, 23 February 2014

New nestboxes for Linacre

It was very windy yesterday morning, so, instead of getting out ringing, I went down to Linacre to put up 10 tit boxes that will replace some old ones and some of the open fronted boxes that have, unfortunately, never been used since being installed in 2006!

Nestboxes ready to go up!

On Thursday I was up at Linacre with a couple of guys from the Ringing Group, and Alan from Chesterfield RSPB Group, to put up another "owl box". It's most likely too late to be used by an owl this year, but it could still get used by the Mandarin Ducks. Whilst there, we also checked the other owl boxes. A Tawny Owl was roosting in a Holly tree near to one of the boxes, but the box itself was empty- again!!

Alan up a ladder.

I recently applied for a "restricted C permit" from the BTO, which means I will be able to monitor the boxes by myself this year, and also ring any chicks that I find. I'll also be filling in Nest Record Cards for all the nesting attempts and sending them off to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. More updates will appear on the blog later in the year.

After putting up the boxes I had a walk around the site. Waterfowl numbers were much lower than last week, especially Mallards and Tufted Duck, with just 48 and 38 respectively. Mandarin were down to just 3(!) and Coot and Moorhen were also lower at 9 and 7.

On a more positive note, there were 3 Cormorants, 6 Goosander (4 males and 2 females), 2 summer plumaged Little Grebes and the year's highest count of Black-headed Gulls (83). The single summer plumaged Great-crested Grebe was still present on the middle reservoir, and I had  first record of Grey Wagtail since the start of January with 3 present around the reservoirs. There was also a Canada Goose on the top reservoir, which was only my second February record, the last being 3 in 2010.

Away from the water there were 5 Mistle Thrushes feeding in the fields by the main entrance, a pair of Kestrels displaying over the woods, a Common Buzzard being hassled by Crows, singing Goldcrests and the flock of Crossbills.

Friday, 21 February 2014

First moths of 2014

I haven't put the moth trap out this year yet, as the weather just hasn't been dry and warm enough, so I was really pleased to spot a moth on the outside of kitchen window on Monday 16th. I took it into the house, and, after a few "tweets", I managed to identify it as an Early Moth - my first record of this species.

Early Moth

As the name suggests, this moth is found in January and February, and is, according to the UK Moths website, a relatively common species across England. Apparently the spots on the wings (seen faintly in this photo) are diagnostic for this species.

Hot on the heels of my first moth came another one today, that I could identify myself. This one was the Twenty-plume Moth, a species I first identified last November (see here). This species is also common, and feeds on Honeysuckle, a plant we have in the back garden, so I'm expecting to see quite a few this year!

Moth List 2014:
1) Early Moth
2) Twenty Plume Moth

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Med Gulls in Scarborough

Hot on the heels of Monday's birding trip I spent yesterday in Scarborough with my wife and daughter, where I managed to get a few new birds for the Year List. 

The first new bird was a Red Kite, that we saw on the journey up. It was spotted by Junction 46 of the M1, which is close to Harewood House and is presumably one of the birds from the Yorkshire Red Kite Project.

When we arrived in Scarborough I drove up to the Holbeck Car Park above the South Bay to catch up with the wintering Mediterranean Gulls. After a little encouragement with some bread cobs, the birds came down with the Black-headed Gulls to feed, and I managed to get a few photos.

Second winter and adult birds
Adult head

Second winter head
Follow this link for a few more pictures of second winter birds.

Whilst waiting for the birds I 'scoped the sea and picked up the first of about 4 Red-throated Divers, as well as some Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.  Several Fulmar pairs were already back on the cliffs above Marine Drive, and a couple of Guillemots were feeding on the sea. A couple of Harbour Porpoises were also feeding close off shore and 3 Rock Pipits were seen and heard on the breakwaters.

We also had a walk around the harbour area where we saw 4 Purple Sandpipers and about 20 Turnstones, many of which were colour ringed. I'll update the details of these birds when I hear back from the BTO.
Year List update:
104 – Red Kite
105 – Mediterranean Gull
106- Red-throated Diver
107 – Fulmar
108 – Guillemot
109 – Rock Pipit

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

100 up

On Monday I decided to have a day where I go to several sites to see a few birds that I otherwise wouldn't catch up with. As you can see from the Year List update below it was quite a busy and successful day, with me breaking the 100 barrier.

First stop was Rufford Country Park in Nottinghamshire. This is a reliable site for my first target of the day: Hawfinch. Birds are usually to be found around the main car park, but unfortunately on Monday there was some work going on in the site, and so the birds weren't in the area. After an hour, however, I managed to pick one up as it flew in and landed at the top of a tall tree.

Next up was the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, which is part of the Lound Gravel Pits complex. where a Slavonian Grebe had been sighted.

Slavonian Grebe

Last stop of the day was the wonderful RSPB Blacktoft Sands reserve. My main target was Hen Harrier, which is a winter visitor to the reserve. The birds come in to roost on site, so I had to wait 'til the end of the day to see this species, but it was well worth it. Whilst waiting I also managed to catch up with a few other species, including a flock of Twite that have been feeding in and around the car park for most of the winter.


Also present were 4 Marsh Harriers, an immature Scaup, 2 female Goldeneye, loads of Tree Sparrows, flocks of Pink-footed Geese and 20+ Snipe.

Year List update:
95 - Hawfinch
96 – Slavonian Grebe
97 - Tree Sparrow
98 - Twite
99 - Pink-footed Goose
100 -Goldeneye
101 - Scaup
102 - Marsh Harrier
103 - Hen Harrier

Monday, 17 February 2014

Avenue Ringing - 16th February 2014

Yesterday morning the weather was dry and still, so I managed to get out ringing with the Sorby Breck Group. We went back down to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's  Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield. We had a very productive few hours with 42 birds of 12 species ringed (Jay, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Blue, Great, Willow and Long-tailed Tit).

My totals were (new/retraps):
Song Thrush 1/0, Great Tit 0/3, Blue Tit 2/0, Dunnock 0/2, Reed Bunting 0/1, Yellowhammer 1/0.

In between net rounds we did some birding and the highlight for me was a "year tick"; Meadow Pipit. A flock of 12 appeared and perched on the fence. Grey Partridge were heard again.

Year List:
94- Meadow Pipit

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Birds of Derbyshire - a new book

Last month I blogged about a brilliant new book detailing the breeding birds of the Sheffield area. Well, yesterday I got a very nice surprise when this smart looking book appeared in the post.

My wife, Jayne, had ordered this book for me as a Christmas present, but with a few problems at the printing stage, it has only just arrived. Was it worth the wait? What do you think? At nearly 400 pages, and over 300 individual species accounts, this amazing piece of work is absolutely brilliant. The book contains everything you need to know about "birds and birding in Derbyshire", from historical records, right through to the most recent addition to the "Derbyshire List" (Western Bonelli's Warbler in 2011).
As you can imagine the first thing I did when I opened the book was look for references of Linacre Reservoirs! Obviously, at a county level Linacre isn't the most important area, but it does get quite a few mentions including a brief outline of the key species on p.30 and a very nice reference to "our" owl-box-nesting Mandarin Ducks on page 91.(see here for details and a picture of the eggs).
Hope you've enjoyed this little review, and if you fancy getting hold of a copy, follow this link to the Derbyshire Ornithological Society's website.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Linacre WeBS - February 2014

Last month's WeBS walk was a very wet and windy affair (see here). Unfortunately, this month's walk also turned out much the same!   Despite the horrible weather, me and my nephew, Luke still managed to record 10 species of birds and reasonable numbers for the time of year.

This month's counts were: Mallard (55), Tufted Duck (59), Moorhen (8), Coot (16- my highest ever February count), Black-headed Gull (9), Mandarin Duck (14), Little Grebe (2), Great-crested Grebe (1 summer plumaged bird), Goosander (1 male) and Cormorant (3).

Woodland birds were quiet, due to the weather, but we did manage to record a couple of Mistle Thrushes (including 1 that was singing), 1 Song Thrush, a lovely Goldcrest , a flock of 20 Starlings by the entrance, a single Common Buzzard being mobbed by some Crows and a flock of c.20 Crossbills, that were feeding by the middle and top reservoirs.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Sorby Breck Ringing Report 2013

Regular readers will know that I ring with Sorby Breck Ringing Group, and the purpose of this short post is to let you know that the Ringing Report for 2013 is now available on the website here.

As well as all the details of the Group's ringing activities and  recoveries of birds ringed by the group, there are also several articles that have been written by members of the group. My personal favourite gives details about the first year of ringing at Linacre, written by yours truly!!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Coastal Birding

At the weekend I popped up to Newcastle with my wife and daughter, to visit our son and his girlfriend. As always when we go up I pop across to the coast for a spot of "coastal birding" at St Mary's Island in Whitley Bay.

St Mary's Island and causeway

As you can see from the above photo, the tide was out on my visit, which meant that the are all around the island was exposed, providing lots of rocks and feeding areas for a wide variety of waders, most of which were additions to the "Year List".

I always enjoy seeing waders, but there are two species that really stand out for me; Purple Sandpiper and Sanderling. Both species are rarely seen in Derbyshire, and take a little effort to see, so I was very happy to get great views yesterday. The Sanderling, in particular, were great, because I didn't see them at all last year, and also because of the way they feed. Yesterday's birds, which numbered about 80 in total split into 2 small groups, were running backwards and forwards on the water's edge, and looked amazing. Watch this video for an idea of how great they are!

Year List update:
85 – Common Gull
86- Eider Duck
87- Kittiwake
88 – Shag
89 – Oystercatcher
90 – Ringed Plover
91 – Sanderling
92 – Purple Sandpiper
93 – Turnstone

Saturday, 8 February 2014

This morning at Linacre

Guess what? The weather was rubbish again this morning (too windy again), so no ringing. Instead I went to .....? You guessed it.... Linacre! I had a couple of hours on site, filled up the feeders on the ringing site and got 2 new species for the Linacre List 2014, including 1 for the Year List as well.

One of the first birds I saw this morning was the "Year List" addition - Raven. In a normal year, we record Raven on a couple of occasions, at Linacre, so this morning's sighting was a good start to the year. What made it even better though, was the fact that today's sighting involved 2 birds flying together, low over the woods - possibly prospecting for a nest site??

The second "new" bird  was a Great-crested Grebe, seen on the middle reservoir. It was in full summer plumage, and looked very smart. In addition it was calling and appeared to be looking at last year's nest site. 2 Little Grebes were also present on the bottom reservoir, so hopefully, we could have both species breeding again in 2014.

Other sightings today were: 14 Mandarin Ducks, 75 Mallards, 65 Tufted Ducks, 13 Black-headed Gulls, 12 Moorhens and 13 Coots. Unfortunately, no Kingfisher, Wagtail or Crossbill sightings today.

The woods were quite quiet today, but I did hear Siskins calling, and Dunnocks, Wrens, Chaffinches, Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all singing in the sun, so perhaps Spring isn't too far away.

In the afternoon I had a call from my nephew telling me that he'd had a small group of about 20 Redwings feeding in the field by the entrance. Thanks Luke!

Year List update:
84 - Raven (41st for Linacre)

Playing catch up

The weather last weekend was pretty awful, but I did manage to get out for one ringing session with the Group. We went down to The Avenue in Chesterfield, where, after a quiet start, we managed a respectable 32 birds of 10 species (Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue, Great, Willow and Long-tailed Tit).

My personal totals were (new/retrap):

Willow Tit 0/3, Great Tit 0/1, Yellowhammer 0/1, Chaffinch 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

First Kingfisher Sighting of the Year

The wind was blowing quite hard again this morning, so unfortunately no ringing today. Instead I popped down to Linacre to pick up some new nestboxes that I'll be putting up in a few weeks time, and had a couple of hours walking around all 3 reservoirs.

Despite the windy conditions I did manage to record a few woodland birds, including a few singing Blue, Coal and Great Tits, along with the Crossbills (heard, but not seen), a Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Jay.

Out on the water the Tufted Duck numbers were up to 70, which is the highest ever count. Also present were 73 Mallards, 6 Goosanders (4 redheads and 2 males), 1 Grey Heron, 12 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Moorhens, 12 Coots, 2 Little Grebes and a Kingfisher (year tick). The Kingfisher was first seen perched in the trees on the south side of the middle reservoir at around 9.30am, and then when I was walking by the bottom reservoir at about 11,15am I saw it or another fly the length of the water and disappear into the woods to the East of the site. A lovely site and a very nice addition to the "Year List". Interestingly there wasn't a single Mandarin Duck  on site at all today. Where were they??

As well as being my 83rd species of the year it was also the 40th species for Linacre this year.

Year List update:

83 - Kingfisher