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