Sunday, 26 April 2015

Linacre WeBS and Nest box News

Yesterday morning is was cool (just 3 degrees) but dry, still and sunny, so I took the opportunity to pop down to Linacre for a few hours to count the ducks, check the nestboxes and see if there were any new summer migrants on the patch.

Last week when I checked the boxes there was just the beginnings of few nests, but the birds had obviously been busy this week as there were now 15 nests with eggs ranging from 2 to 10! None were being incubated yet, so no full clutches yet. Still, all good data for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

There weren't many birds about on the water, but a pair of Greylag Geese prospecting for possible nest sites was interesting, as was my first sighting of Kingfisher, flying down the top reservoir. Other birds present were: Mallard (30), Tufted Duck (21), Mandarin Duck (5 males), Coot (8), Moorhen (1), Grey Wagtail (1 on the middle reservoir) and Great Crested Grebe (3; 2 on the middle reservoir and 1 on the top reservoir).

No new summer migrants were seen today, but there were 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers and several Blackcaps singing, along with Swallows that were heard, but not seen.

This year's Year List has moved on this week with 3 Little Ringed Plovers at Carsington Water on Wednesday,
Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler singing yesterday at Poolsbrook Marsh and today's Kingfisher.

Year list update:
112- Little Ringed Plover
113- Whitethroat
114- Sedge Warbler
115 - Kingfisher

Nest boxes in use.

At the start of April I put 5 new tit boxes up at a farm site in Coal Aston. Yesterday I got a text to say that there were eggs in 2, so I popped across to check and found this.

First eggs!

There were 2 clutches of 6 and 7 eggs. Another of the boxes had a lined nest, but no eggs, and the other 2 boxes were empty. Neither clutch was being incubated, so presumably there will be more eggs to come. I think 1 nest is Blue Tit and 1 is Great Tit. Nest Record cards will be started for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

RSPB Bempton, Scarborough and Flamborough

I spent this weekend in Scarborough celebrating my up-coming birthday (thanks Jayne!!). We started off at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, then moved on to Scarborough, and then visited The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Flamborough Cliffs Reserve.  Over the 2 days we added 7 new species to the "year list", enjoyed some lovely weather, great food and company (thanks again Jayne) and stunning views of some of our amazing seabirds.

The weekend trip started at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, where the first birds we saw were the Gannets, followed closely by Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and a couple of Puffins. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing everywhere, and Tree Sparrows were feeding around the centre.

Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and a Razorbill

Razorbill and Kittiwake

After Bempton, we drove down into Scarborough. We had a walk around the town, went on the beach, had a spot of lunch at the excellent  C.A.L.F. vegetarian café, and added a couple more birds to the list, namely Purple Sandpiper (30 roosting on the breakwaters in the harbour at high tide), and a male Scaup, that was present on the lake in Peasholme Park (no photo, it was just too far away).

Purple Sandpiper

Also present in the harbour were about 6 pairs of Kittiwake that were on nests, several Herring Gulls, a pair of Rock Pipits, two Turnstones and a stunning breeding plumaged Redshank.

Pair of Kittiwakes nesting in Scarborough harbour.



This morning we left Scarborough and headed down to North Landing at Flamborough Cliffs. We didn't see anything new, but we did spot a pair of Puffins, and I managed to get a reasonable photo.


Year List update:
105 – Gannet
106 – Kittiwake
107 – Guillemot
108 – Razorbill
109 – Puffin
110 – Purple Sandpiper
111 - Scaup

Friday, 17 April 2015

Incubation's begun!

I had a quick check in the Starling nest box on the side of my house this evening and this is what I found.

Incubating Starling

According to my nest recording book (see here- well worth getting a copy), the eggs are laid daily. I had 2 eggs on the 14th, so if she's laid 4 eggs, as she did last year, the full clutch should have been finished today. Apparently incubating begins with the penultimate egg i.e. yesterday's, and with he bird sitting tight on the nest, this seems to be a good indication that incubation has begun. My check only lasted 30 seconds, and as incubation usually lasts about 12 days (range of 11 - 15 days) days, I'll leave well alone now until the chicks have hatched. Hopefully there will be four healthy chicks by the end of the month!.

As always, this observation has been entered into the BTO's Nestbox Challenge Survey.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Starling Nest 2015- First eggs!

I've had a "Starling nestbox" on the side of my house since 2010. In the first year, it was used Great Tits who managed to raise a brood of six. It wasn't used in 2011 or 2013, and 2 failed nesting attempts took place in 2012. 2014 was the most successful year so far with 4 young raised to fledging, and this year will hopefully see another good season.

The first signs of nesting began on 8th March, when this photograph was taken (sorry about the lens cap!) As you can hopefully see, the "nest" at this time is just a few pieces of grass.

8th March 2015
By the time this second picture was taken some 2 weeks later there is a much more recognisable cup shape appearing.
22nd March 2015
The third picture shows a well developed nest and the final picture, taken this evening, shows the first 2 eggs of the 2015 season.

8th April 2015

14th April 2015
The average brood size is between 2-5 eggs, with each new egg laid daily, so I'll check back at the weekend to see how the clutch has developed.
As in previous year's I'll be monitoring the nest for the BTO's Nestbox Challenge, and, if the young survive, I'll ring this chicks as I did last year (see post here).

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Blackcap and Chiffchaff

Today's ringing session saw 5 members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group down at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve in Chesterfield. The forecast wasn't great, so we got down nice and early to get a few hours in before the wind picked up. The ringing was slow, but we still got a single Chiffchaff and our first Blackcap of the year, a male bird born last year.


As well as these two species we also caught a couple of Reed Buntings, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Wrens, 2 Yellowhammers, 1 Blackbird, 1 Greenfinch , 1 Dunnock, 1 Long-tailed Tit and a few Blue and Great Tits.

The Blackcap was a "year tick" and we also had 3 Linnets flying around the site, which were also new for the year. A Barn Owl was seen just before I arrived, so this "tick" will have to wait for another day!

Year List update:
103 – Linnet
104 - Blackcap

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Monsal Dale Redstart

The sun was shining again this afternoon, and despite it being only 9 degrees and pretty windy, Jayne and I went for a walk along Monsal Dale.

As soon as we got out of the car we heard the first of six or so singing Chiffchaffs, and a Willow Warbler. We also came across this Common Toad that was walking back across the path away from the water.

Common Toad
We then set off following the River Wye towards Monsal Head where we spotted 4 Dippers, including this pair, a Grey Wagtail, a pair of Mandarin Ducks, 3 Swallows, a Common Buzzard and several Mallards.

After a spot of lunch at Hobb's Café at the top of Monsal Head (lovely Watercress and Potato soup for Jayne and a Banana and Peanut Butter toastie for me!), we walked back along the valley when Jayne spotted a flash of red fly out from this tree; a male Redstart!! We managed to get a decent view as it landed in a tree on the other side of the river, but unfortunately it disappeared before I could get a photograph. Click here to see and hear just how amazing a bird it is.

River Wye
Checking in the Derbyshire Ornithological Society's Bird Report for 2013 I noted that the first Redstart reported in that year was 12th April, so today's bird beats that by 1 day- nice! Unfortunately, another bird was reported in Lathkill Dale on 9th April this year, so ours isn't the first for 2015.
Year List update:
102 - Redstart

Linacre sunshine, butterflies and a Swallow

On Thursday the sun was shining and it was about 14 degrees, so I decided to have a couple of hours down at Linacre, which resulted in my first Linacre butterflies and Swallow of the year.

I started at the top of the site today, and had a quick check of some of the tit nestboxes. As predicted at the weekend, there was no sign of any nests yet, but I did manage to see a couple of Brown Hares (in the woods, not in the boxes!), and these 2 little critters; Brown Long-eared Bats, I believe.

Brown Long-eared Bat
Waterbirds were quite sparse, but there were a couple of Grey Herons on site, along with a metal-ringed  breeding plumaged Cormorant. Chiffchaffs were singing around all three reservoirs, and I counted 7 in total, as well as a single Swallow over the top reservoir.

With the weather so nice, I spent half an hour at the bottom of the top reservoir, where there was a willow tree full of catkins and butterflies, with 7 Peacocks, 1 Comma and 3 Small Tortoiseshells present.

Willow Tree

Friday, 10 April 2015

Ring Ouzels and Wheatear

Living just 20 minutes from the Peak District National Park you'd think that "year ticking" Ring Ouzel and Wheatear would be quite easy, but for some reason (mainly a lack of effort on my part, if I'm honest!), I don't get them every year. With this in mind, I set out to Stanage Edge this morning to try my luck. I arrived at 6.30am, and in the next 2 hours, I managed to notch up 7 new species for the "year list", including my two target species.

When I arrived, I parked in the car park, and walked up to the Edge. At first, it was quite quiet except for several Meadow Pipits, Red Grouse, Wrens, Dunnocks and a single singing Willow Warbler. I walked right up onto the top of the Edge and heard a calling Ring Ouzel! I managed to get my bins of the bird, which turned out to be a female, but she then jumped off the Edge and disappeared! Whilst waiting to see if she'd reappear, a Raven flew over being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. I then decided to walk back down to the area below the Edge. Whilst walking back a male Wheatear appeared, and  I managed a rather distant record shot. Here's a heavily cropped photo.

I walked along the bottom of the Edge for another half an hour or so before spotting any more Ouzels, but this time, I didn't see 1, 2 or 3 , but an amazing 5 birds!! There were 4 males that were flying around, chasing each other trying to attract the attention of the single female bird. Luckily they flew right over my head and landed on some boulders about 40m away from me. They were so busy squabbling with each other, that they completely ignored me, and I managed to get some half decent photos, including this one of all 4 males together (click to enlarge and see if you can spot all 4 birds).
Male Ring Ouzels

Female Ring Ouzel

Male Ring Ouzel
The whole episode only lasted for about 5 minutes, but I don't think I'll forget this experience for quite a while! Walking back to the car I had my last "year tick" when a Snipe flew across the moor. Quite a morning!

Year List update:
95 – Meadow Pipit
96 – Red Grouse
97 – Willow Warbler
98 - Raven
99 – Wheatear
100 – Ring Ouzel
101 - Snipe

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Dovedale Walk and Carsington Water

Yesterday I went for a walk along Dovedale with my family and a good friend. We walked around the river from the car park at Dovedale to Mill Dale and back again, a long, but enjoyable 6 mile walk.

 During the walk we spotted a few nice birds and added a couple of "year ticks". The first "year tick" was a Dipper, which we spotted flying up the river. We also managed to find 3 Swallows feeding high above the valley at Mill Dale. Other birds seen along the way were: Grey Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Mallard and Grey Heron. Along with the birds, we also spotted this plant called Butterbur.

Today I spent a few hours at Carsington Water, and also added a couple more "year ticks"; namely Tree Sparrow and Barnacle Goose. The Tree Sparrows were looking in the nestboxes, and the flock of feral Barnacles were feeding on the bankside opposite the Wildlife Centre.
Year List update:
91- Dipper
92 – Swallow
93 – Barnacle Goose (F)
94 – Tree Sparrow

Monday, 6 April 2015

Linacre Ringing and the first egg of 2015

Hot on the heels of Saturday's ringing session, I was out at Linacre Reservoirs again on Sunday, with 4 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group for another ringing session, and a first check of the owl nestboxes. The ringing session was quiet, but the nestbox check produced our first egg of the year.

First up the ringing. We set up 4 nets this session, 2 around the feeding station, and a further 2 around the site. The ringing was quite quiet, as is to be expected at this time of year, as the birds disperse, and get on with business of mating, but we still managed to catch 3 new Chiffchaffs (our first to be ringed here this year), and another 24 birds of 8 other species (Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Robin, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tit).

After 3 hours ringing, we decided to go and check the 4 "owl boxes" that we have on site. The first box we checked contained our first egg of 2015!
Mandarin Duck egg?

We think it's a Mandarin Duck egg, so we'll keep an eye on this box and hope for more eggs over the next few weeks. The second box contained a female Mandarin Duck, but, as yet, no eggs; another one to watch! The last 2 boxes were empty, so again, we'll keep an eye to see if anything moves in.

Aside from the ringing and nestbox checking, we also managed to spot a few spring flowers (Cowslip, Coltsfoot, Lesser Celandine and a new one for me, Sweet Violet (see here for details of this plant).

Sweet Violet

We also managed a few other birds, including my first 2015 Linacre record of Tawny Owl, with 2 "twit-twooing" by the Rangers' Base when we arrived at 6am, a fly-over Sparrowhawk and a single Little Owl in the "breeding tree". Now I just need to get some more summer visitors- a Swallow or Willow Warbler would be nice!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Summer last!

The weather this spring has been, to put it nicely, poor! Cold, northerly winds and rain have meant that few summer migrants have managed to push north so far. I did, however, manage to add a few ticks to the "year list" with a visit to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Carr Vale reserve on Monday, where I managed to pick up a couple of male Garganey, and 2 fly-through Sand Martins. Another addition to the list was a  remaining winter visitor, the Wigeon.

Year List update:

88 – Garganey
89 – Sand Martin
90 - Wigeon

Saturday, 4 April 2015

New Ringing Site

After a week of cold, windy weather, and a distinct lack of ringing activity, I managed to get out for a few hours with Ray and Alan from Sorby Breck this morning, to have a first session at a new site in Coal Aston. The site is a small, family-run farm with cattle, and the family have set up two feeding stations in the garden area, where we set the nets. The site looks very good for Swallows, so hopefully we'll be able to ring some this summer. We've also put up 5 tit boxes, which I'll check later this month.

The weather for today's session wasn't the best, as it was quite windy, but we still managed to put up 3 nets, and, in just over 3 hours, we caught 17 birds of 6 species (House Sparrow, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit), which is a pretty good start. Here's a picture of the first bird caught and ringed at this site; a female House Sparrow.

House Sparrow

As the year progresses we should extend this list as new species arrive, and we catch some of the other resident species.

Other birds seen around the site today were; Song Thrush (1 singing bird), Redwing (1 over), Robin (singing birds), Wren (singing birds), Pied Wagtail (a pair of birds, possible breeders?), Great-spotted Woodpecker (heard drumming) and Carrion Crow.