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.