Sunday, 30 March 2014

Chiffchaff ringing

Following on from last week's blog about my first Chiffchaff sightings of the year, today I was out ringing with The Group, and I managed to ring my first Chiffchaff of 2014.

Our session this morning took place at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands site near Chesterfield. In total we caught and ringed 3 different Chiffchaffs (all aged as 5s; born last year). These were the only summer migrants of the day, but we did see and hear 2 Bramblings, and I also added a new species to the Year List; 2 Stock Doves that were investigating an owl box.
Year List update:
114 - Stock Dove
As well as the Chiffchaffs, I also managed to ring the following birds (new/retrap):
 Great-spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Great Tit 1/1, Greenfinch 0/1 and Reed Bunting 1/0.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Chiffchaffs are back

Last Wednesday (19th), there was a report of a singing Chiffchaff at Linacre on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website, the first of the year. Unfortunately I couldn't get down there until today, but during a 2 hour walk around the site with Jayne, we managed to hear 4 birds and see one of these low down in a willow on the ringing site. This is always the first summer migrant back at Linacre, so it was really nice to hear it's song. What next? Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow?

As well as the Chiffchaffs, most of the usual suspects were also in good voice this morning, including Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Blue and Coal Tit, Great-spotted Woodpecker (drumming), Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush.

Out on the water we spotted 2 pairs of Great-crested Grebe; 1 each on the middle and top reservoirs, 6 Mandarin Ducks (3 pairs. 1 each for the owl boxes?), 28 Mallards, 12 Tufted Ducks, 2 Cormorants (including the ringed bird), 3 Grey Wagtails, 12 Coots, 4 Moorhens and 1 Little Grebe.

Out in the fields was a small flock of winter thrushes comprising 9 Fieldfares and 2 Redwings. Later on we also  spotted a large flock of about 50/60 Starlings flying over the top reservoir, a large female Sparrowhawk, a small group of about 20 Siskins and 4 Lesser Redpolls, so winter's not over yet.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Linacre WeBS - March 2014

This month's WeBS count took place over the weekend, with 2 walks by Mandy of the Chesterfield RSPB Group on Saturday morning and me on Sunday morning. Both walks were quiet, as is to be expected at this time of the year. My walk only lasted just over an hour, as the wind was so strong and cold, and the water looked more like the North Sea! Unfortunately no summer migrants were recorded, due to high winds, which made singing and hearing almost impossible!

The results show the highest counts from both walks: Mallard (34 on 16th),  Black-headed Gull (1 on 15th), Coot (10 on 16th), Moorhen (5 on 15th,), Tufted Duck (13 on 15th), Mandarin Duck (8 on 15th), Great Crested Grebe (2 on 15th), Grey Wagtail (1 on 15th), Cormorant (1 on 15th), Canada Goose (2 on 15th).

Mandy also recorded 1 or maybe 2 Stock Doves , which is the first Linacre record for 2014. Other small birds seen were Crossbill (1 male on 16th), Bullfinch on 15th and a large flock of mixed finches (mainly Siskin), in the Larches by the middle reservoir.

Two Brown Hares were seen in the field by the main entrance on 16th.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Another new moth

I had the moth trap on last night (all night), and caught an amazing 2 moths of the same species! Thankfully it was a new species for me and for the garden -  Common Quaker.
In the egg boxes

Actual size

These two photos show the same individual. The first was taken whilst the moth was still in the egg box which is placed in the moth trap. The second was taken on the kitchen table. Amazing how the colour changes. As the name suggests, this species is common across the country, so I should get used to seeing them over the next couple of months.

Thanks to the users of Ispot for help with the id again. ( ) . More information about this species can be found here.

The moth List goes up to 4 species:

4- Common Quaker

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Linacre in the sunshine - 9th March 2014

Sunday morning started sunny, so I decided to pop down to Linacre for a few hours. The temperature at 7am was already 7 degrees and the sun was shining. By 9am the temperature had risen to 12 degrees! My hope was to find the first summer migrants, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. Instead, I enjoyed a great walk with a lovely mixture of birds, and the first frogspawn of the year.

As I walked down from the car park I was surrounded by singing birds (Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Woodpigeon and Wren!). A couple of Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, and a Green Woodpecker was heard "yaffling". 

Waterbirds were becoming scarcer with Tufted Duck and Mallard numbers down to 13 and 38. There were just 8 Black-headed Gulls, but a big surprise was 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls that were feeding along with them!! 3 Cormorants were also present on the bottom reservoir, including an adult with a BTO ring on its right leg. This time last year a ringed Cormorant was also present- the same bird returning? If only I could read the number!!!1 Little Grebe was swimming around, while 2 Grey Wagtails were fighting each other around last year's nest site and another 2 were on the top reservoir. Coots and Moorhens were present in good numbers, 11 and 9, and 7 Mandarin Ducks, were together on Linacre Brook, east of the lower reservoir. 1 Grey Heron was spotted flying around the middle reservoir. Finally, two pairs of Great-crested Grebes were present and a couple of Canada Geese, including the hybrid bird returning for at least its 8th year, were found on the top reservoir (see here for details of last year's return).

Canada Goose and hybrid
The final birds of note were calling Crossbills, a singing Skylark above the top reservoir, and a female Kestrel in the same area.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

New garden moth, first butterflies of 2014 and Year List update

With temperatures rising (19 degrees today!) I decided to put my moth trap out last night, for the first time in 2014. It was on all night (7pm to 5am), and only caught 2 moths of the same species, but, at least it was a new species- Hebrew Character.

Hebrew Character
2 Hebrew Characters
This species is a common moth, which flies between March and April, so hopefully I should see a few more over the coming months. More details here. Many thanks to the people on Ispot, who identified it for me.
When the sun came out today I managed to see my first butterflies of the year as well. First up was a Small Tortoiseshell basking on the side of the house. The next two species; Peacock and Comma, were both seen as I walked around Yorkshire Sculpture Park this afternoon. Click here to find out more information about these species.  Last up, 1 new bird for the year was a singing Chiffchaff in the afternoon sunshine.

Year List update:
113 - Chiffchaff

Moth List update:
3 - Hebrew Character

Saturday, 8 March 2014

New (ringing) species at Linacre

This morning was the first ringing session at Linacre since January (see here), when we were rained off after an hour, so we were very pleased to get on site and get a couple of nets up around the feeders. The morning started very well, when the first bird out of the nets was a species that we hadn't ringed at Linacre before - a Lesser Redpoll! Thanks David, for putting that recording on. This bird was a female, as was the second one, and then the third bird turned out to be a male- 3 Lesser Redpolls in one morning!!! Before these birds, I hadn't even recorded them on site this winter. Here's a few photos of 2 of this morning's birds:

Female bird

Male bird

The morning carried on well as the birds came "thick and fast", with 58 birds of 8 species ringed by the end of the morning's session (Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Lesser Redpoll, Wren and Dunnock).  My personal totals were (new/retrap):

Lesser Redpoll 1/0, Great Tit 2/2, Blue Tit 6/2, Robin 1/2, Dunnock 1/0.

In between net rounds we kept our eyes open and spotted a couple of Canada Geese flying over, drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, 4 Mistle Thrushes and singing Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren and Dunnock.

One final record from today was my first sighting of Coltsfoot for 2014.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Ringing Demo and a new species

On Sunday I spent 5 hours carrying out a ringing demo with the Group at Blackburn Meadows in Sheffield. As well as being a very enjoyable time I was also lucky enough to ring a new species of bird - a Snipe. This is my first wader and a beautiful bird to see "in the hand". Here's a photo of one we ringed  a few weeks ago at Blackburn, as Sunday's photos didn't come out too well.

As well as the Snipe we also had a very good morning with a steady run of birds from every net round, 48 in total. My personal totals were (new/retrap):
Robin 0/1, Reed Bunting 0/2, Bullfinch 1/0, Blue Tit 1/2, Great Tit 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/2 and Greenfinch 3/0.

In between net rounds I spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull flying over, a "year tick".

Later in the afternoon I went into Sheffield and saw a Peregrine Falcon sat on the breeding ledge on St George's Church- another "year tick". Here's a link to the website, which shows live footage from the nest.

Year List update:
111- Lesser Black-backed Gull
112 - Peregrine Falcon

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat

This winter has seen several records of over-wintering Lesser Whitethroats in Britain. Several have been spotted feeding in gardens on suet feeders, and at least two have been caught, ringed and their DNA has been analysed by scientist in Aberdeen.

The upshot of all this clever science is that the birds seen in Sheffield and Tynemouth; Northumberland, have been identified as "Siberian Lesser Whitethroats", most likely from Kazakhstan!

There is an article on the Sorby Breck Ringing Group website with a picture of the Sheffield bird here .

Information about the Tynemouth bird and pictures of another bird seen in a Derby garden can be found on the Birdguides website here.

Spring is (nearly) here.

After getting my daughter to band, and my wife reunited with her newly-mended car I popped down to Linacre this morning for a couple of hours in the very spring-like conditions. The sun was shining, the sky was very blue, there was no wind and, after the frost had gone, the temperature raced up to 5 degrees!

After refilling the feeders in the ringing area, I walked around all 3 reservoirs, surrounded by a lot of birds singing their hearts out. I heard Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, but unfortunately, no Lesser Pecker - yet! The settled weather brought out the birds of prey as well, and 2 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk and 1 Kestrel were all seen. A Skylark was singing in the fields above the top reservoir (the first Linacre record of the year, and the 42nd species of bird seen at Linacre this year), and 2 Magpies were visiting last year's nest.

Out on the water the Little Grebes were still together and displaying to each other, while Great-crested Grebe numbers had risen to 3; 2 on the middle reservoir and 1 on the bottom reservoir. There were also 4 Cormorants; 3 in breeding plumage, on the bottom reservoir along with 34 Tufted Duck, 45 Mallards, 2 Grey Wagtails, 6 Moorhens and 9 Coots. 2 Goosanders (1m and 1fm) were around with 106 Black-headed Gulls (the highest count of the year).

Just to prove that winter isn't over yet though, I did spot a flock of 10 Redwings and heard the Siskins.

Out ringing again in the morning, so tune in tomorrow for an update.