Sunday, 31 January 2016

Mute Swan Update

Last weekend I blogged about an unusual "polish" Mute Swan I'd seen at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire (see post here). Well, today I received an email from the person who is studying the distribution and ecology of this bird, confirming that it is indeed a "polish" bird. He also stated that, apart from a bird in Shetland that he knows about, this is the only record, so far, of a "polish" bird outside of SE England.

In his email, he asked if I'd try and catch up with this bird in the summer to see whether it breeds with a "normal" Mute Swan and what colour the resulting off spring are. Apparently, "polish" Swans produce young that are all white instead of the more usual grey.

Again, an update will come in the summer.

Colour-ringed Coot

I was across at Poolsbrook Country Park in Chesterfield yesterday afternoon, looking for a Caspian Gull (no luck there though!), when I spotted a colour-ringed Coot (FBL), feeding with the Mallards, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls.

This is the first ever colour-ringed Coot I've seen, and as soon as I saw it I thought of Kane Brides, of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, who I know has been ringing Coots this way in the North West of England, for several years. I sent him a picture of the bird via Twitter,and heard back that the ring was in fact from his project. This morning, however, I received a Tweet from David of Sorby Breck Ringing Group to let me know that the bird had been ringed by Dan, a member of our own group at Thrybergh CP near Rotherham just last week, on January 22nd. See details of his recent ringing activities on the his website here.

As well as the Coot, I also managed to spot about 100 Black-headed Gulls, a couple of Herring Gulls, dozens of Canada Geese and Mallards, including this funny looking hybrid. Any ideas?

Mallard hybrid

This winter plumaged Great-crested Grebe put on quite a show as well.

Great-crested Grebe

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Linacre - 30th January 2016

I was down at Linacre this morning at first light to walk around the reservoirs, and check on the Shags. Two had been reported on Thursday on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website, and I managed to find two again today on the bottom reservoir.

Apart from the Shags it was quite quiet this morning with just 48 Mallards and 16 Tufted Duck seen. Both Coot and Moorhen were, however, present in the highest numbers of the year so far, with 10 and 13  respectively seen. 17 Mandarins were on the middle reservoir, with 2 Goosanders (1m and 1 redhead), as was a Great-crested Grebe, that was just beginning to get its breeding plumage. Black-headed Gulls numbered just 20, and there was just 1 Cormorant today, a beautiful, breeding-plumaged bird.

The woodlands were quite quiet as well, but three species; Woodpigeon, Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush were heard singing. A Kestrel was seen flying over the top reservoir, as was a female Sparrowhawk. There were four species of tit on the feeders by the bridge at the top reservoir (Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed), along with several Nuthatches.

Long-tailed Tit

Friday, 29 January 2016

Interesting Mute Swans

I like Mute Swans, but they aren't usually a bird that I would describe as interesting. They tend to stay in one place, and, compared to their rarer and more mobile cousins (Whooper and Bewick Swans), don't really do anything! Anyway, as you can see from the title of this post, I've got some interesting news about a couple of Mute Swans I've seen recently.

Firstly, is a colour-ringed bird that I saw at the start of January on the flooded river Severn in Worcester.

Mute Swan

This bird, was, as I said, part of a large flock of Mute Swans (100+), that can be found year round on the River Severn in the centre of Worcester. A good number of these birds are colour ringed, and this one, 95G, was seen on Sunday 3rd January 2016. I reported the bird to the BTO (link here), and heard back that it had originally been ringed, as a cygnet, in July 2013, about 1 km away from where I saw it! It was first reported in the "Worcester flock" on 16th March 2014, and hasn't been reported anywhere else.....yet.

The second interesting Mute Swan, is one that I saw last Sunday, whilst walking around Clumber Park with Jayne. At the time I didn't think much about it, just that it was sitting on the tree trunk and looked quite photogenic! I took a picture, and posted it here, and on Twitter. I received a reply to my tweet, saying that it was a "polish" Mute Swan! I didn't think much about this again, until I read an interesting article in the BTO's Bird News tonight, asking for sightings of "polish" Mute Swans! 

Mute Swan

Apparently, this is the name given to a leucistic version of Mute Swan, which is caused by a recessive gene. The birds are white as cygnets, and, when adults, have greyish-pink legs, instead of the usual black ones. Most birds have been recorded in the south of England, mainly in Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, so, if this is such a bird, it might be quite a good record. Anyway, I've sent the details off, and will update when I hear back.

Perhaps Mute Swans are interesting after all!!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

6 Year Ticks

I was out and about again this morning, trying hard to "tick" a Black Redstart that has been present on an industrial site in Sheffield since 13th January. I was there for two hours, but unfortunately drew a blank. As you can guess, it was recorded later on, about 2 hours after I'd left! See the BirdGuides Website here for details and some great pictures. The good news, however, is that whilst there, I did manage to get a couple of "year ticks", with about half a dozen Skylarks present and singing over the site, and  a flock of about 15 Linnets also seen.

In the afternoon, Jayne and I decided to drive over to the National Trust's Clumber Park to enjoy the 15 degree temperatures! We walked all around the lake, and added another 4 species to the "year list". The first species, Marsh Tit, was very good to see, as I didn't manage to get it at all last year at all. I'm not sure why, as there were everywhere today, especially at feeding stations. It's not the easiest species to identify, so here's a link to the BTO's i.d. guide. Well worth a look. Here's a terrible, out of focus picture I took today. They really are fast!

Marsh Tit

The next species seen was Stock Dove, which was seen in the trees by the car park. The last two species, Shoveler and Pochard, were seen on the main lake. There was a pair of Shoveler, and 7 Pochard (4 males and 3 females).

Shoveler (male)

Other species seen on the lakes included Mallard, Gadwall, Coot, MoorhenTufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Black-headed and this single Lesser Black-backed Gull

Mute Swan

Year List update:
93 – Skylark
94 – Linnet
95 – Marsh Tit
96 – Stock Dove
97 – Shoveler
98 - Pochard

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Linacre Ringing - 1st visit of 2016

After an enforced break of 6 weeks, due to wet and windy weekends, I managed to get out ringing this morning with my trainer and 1 other member of  Sorby Breck Ringing Group. The first visit of the year took us to Linacre Reservoirs, where we managed to ring 35 birds of 8 species.

The first bird out of the nets this year was...... a Blue Tit, followed closely by..... a Great Tit! After this, we continued to catch good numbers of these two species, but also added a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits (Lotties), Coal Tits, a Chaffinch, a Robin, two Nuthatches and a super 3 Lesser Redpolls.

Lesser Redpoll

Numbers were as follows (new/retrap): Blue Tit 11/3, Great Tit 4/2, Long-tailed Tit 1/5, Coal Tit 2/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Robin 0/1, Nuthatch 0/2 and Lesser Redpoll 3/0.

In between net rounds, we watched and listened for other birds using the site, and I was lucky enough to record 2 "year ticks" when a Raven flew over the ringing site, "cronking" away!. It, or another bird, flew over again about half an hour later. We also had a pair of Sparrowhawks in display over the woods, the first "drumming" Great-spotted WoodpeckerHerring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (2nd "year tick") flew over and a couple of Redwings were also in the area.

My nephew, Luke, came down with his friend, Izie, and they walked around the reservoirs. They spotted, amongst other things, the 3 Shags together on the bottom reservoir, 2 Grey Herons, a Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher.

Year List update:
91 - Raven
92 - Lesser Black-backed Gull

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Snowy Garden adds two new species

Last night brought a few hours of snow to the garden, the first proper snow of the winter so far, and meant that I woke up to this lovely, if somewhat grey, scene.


As you can see in the picture I went out and cleared a spot around the feeders, filled up the water and put out a mixture of sunflower hearts, suet pellets and soaked raisins for the birds. In the next 3 hours I recorded 17 species of birds for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, including 2 "year ticks"; Brambling and Blackcap.

The Bramblings consisted of 3 birds; 2 different males and a female bird. All 3 birds were feeding with a large number of Chaffinches (a minimum of 15 birds), and actually used the seed feeder, something I haven't seen before. I got a couple of photos.

Brambling (male)

Brambling (female)

The Blackcap was a male bird that flew into a Honeysuckle plant in the garden, pecked at a dried up berry, and then flew off again! Somehow I managed to get a photo in the minute it was present! 

Male Blackcap

This isn't the first record of this species in the garden in winter, but my last record was way back in December 2013 (see blog post here). They are a regular wintering bird in the UK now, and the BTO has just published some very interesting research about how garden feeding may have influenced this behaviour (see here).

The other species seen today in the garden were; Goldfinch (c.20), Greenfinch (2), Lesser Redpoll (1 male), House Sparrow (2; 1 male and 1 female), Magpie (2), Collared Dove (2), Woodpigeon (5), Starling (14), Robin (1), Blackbird (11; 6 males and 5 females), Blue Tit (1), Coal Tit (1), Dunnock (2) and Wren (1).

Year List update:
89 - Brambling
90 - Blackcap

More Year Ticks

After yesterday's visits to Linacre, I went for a walk around Rufford Country Park in the afternoon with Jayne. Whilst there I managed to add another 4 species to the "year list", namely Hawfinch (1 in the Lime trees by the car park), Greylag Goose (dozens on the main lake), Gadwall (1 pair on the lake) and Treecreeper (1 in the trees by the main lake). Unfortunately, no photos of these new species.

We also noted Mallards, Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks, Coot, Moorhen, Goosander (c.10), Black-headed and Common Gulls (c.10). I got a few photos of the Common Gulls.

Common Gulls (2 different 1st winters/2nd calendar year birds)

One last "year tick" was a Barn Owl that I saw hunting in fields in Apperknowle on Wednesday. It was in the fields by "the triangle" at 7.30am. Great sight!

Year List update:
84 - Hawfinch
85 - Greylag Goose
86 - Gadwall
87 - Treecreeper
88 - Barn Owl

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Linacre WeBS - January 2016

No ringing this morning, so instead I was down at Linacre to carry out the first WeBS count of 2016. I was on site at 7.30am, and got a lovely photo as the sun came up a bit later.

Linacre middle reservoir

I walked around all three reservoirs, and recorded the following birds: Shag (3 juveniles on the bottom reservoir), Cormorant (7 in the Beech trees by the bottom reservoir, including 2 in full breeding plumage), Great-crested Grebe (1 winter plumaged bird), Little Grebe (1 bird on the middle reservoir), Mallard (77), Tufted Duck (24), Moorhen (10), Coot (8, the highest count of the year so far), Grey Heron (2), Grey Wagtail (1 heard), Kingfisher ( 1 on middle reservoir), Mandarin Duck (15), Goosander (1 male) and Black-headed Gull (25). I'm really pleased with these numbers, especially the Shags and the Cormorants. A great start to 2016! Here's a picture of the Shags on the bottom reservoir.


There was a record of 216 Black-headed Gulls last week, which must have been amazing. A Common Gull was also with them, the first record since 2014.

Whilst walking around I also recorded three "year ticks", namely the GoosanderBullfinch and Great-crested Grebe.

Year List update:
81 - Goosander
82 - Bullfinch
83 - Great-crested Grebe

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Mancunian Great Northern Diver

Jayne had an appointment in Stockport today, so I had  a few hours to spare. Checking the Bird Guides website, I noticed there was a juvenile Great Northern Diver at Salford Quays, which was described as "showing well", so I popped across to have a look and "tick" it for the "year list".

Great Northern Diver

When I arrived, it was indeed "showing well", down to about 10m at times, and I was able to get quite a few shots, including the one above. It's my best ever view of this species, and looked quite out of place in the middle of the city! Here's one more shot, showing the bird next to the ski jump that's on the quay.

Great Northern Diver in Salford!

Other birds seen in the area were: Canada Goose (year tick), Moorhen (1), Coot (2), Mute SwanPied Wagtail (2), Feral Pigeon, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and this beautiful juvenile Cormorant ( 1 of 4 present).


Year List update:
79 – Great Northern Diver
80 – Canada Goose

Saturday, 9 January 2016

January Chiffchaff

Back in December I was lucky enough to spot a Chiffchaff feeding with a small group of Long-tailed Tits in the willows on the north side of the middle reservoir ( see here). At the time, I speculated that this species was possibly over wintering at Linacre, and said how good it would be to find a bird in January- well today it happened! Today's bird was found in the willows again, on it's own this time, so February is now the only month of the year that this species has been reported. Guess what I'll be doing in February?!

Apart from the Chiffchaff, it was quite quiet again, with Mallard and Tufted Duck numbers low again, 58 and 16 respectively. 11 Mandarins were on the middle reservoir, along with 2 Little Grebes, and the 3 juvenile Shags. Black-headed Gulls were seen on the top and middle reservoirs, with a very good count of 85 birds. There were 6 Coots and 10 Moorhens, which was good. 2 of the Coots were engaged in some strenuous fighting! 1 Cormorant , 1 Grey Heron, and 1 Grey Wagtail were also recorded.

The woods were also quiet today, but a Buzzard was seen over the top reservoir, and Nuthatch , Great-spotted Woodpecker and Redwing were also new for the year.

Year List update:
74 – Great-spotted Woodpecker
75 – Redwing
76 - Nuthatch
77 - Fieldfare (see last week in Worcester)
78 - Chiffchaff

Monday, 4 January 2016

Linacre Ringing - 2015 Overview

Ringing took place at Linacre Reservoirs throughout 2015, for the fourth year in a row. Throughout the year, the site was visited on 15 occasions, 9 times to catch birds around the feeding station and 6 times to ring pulli from the nest boxes. A total of 648 birds were ringed, which is slightly down on the 728 in 2014. This could be put down to the fact that we were unable to ring there at all in February, March, July and December, due to bad weather, other site commitments, and the fact that we lost several broods of pulli in the early part of the season due to wet and windy conditions.

The mist netting around the feeding station produced 23 species, including 3 new species, namely Redwing, Whitethroat and Siskin. The Redwing came courtesy of the “Latvian love song” that we used for the first time this year. The commonest species, as always, were Blue and Great Tit, whilst the summer migrants, Blackcap and Chiffchaff also had a good year. Birds ringed in previous years, but not ringed in 2015 included Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Meadow Pipit, Garden Warbler, Willow Tit, Jay, Magpie, Crossbill, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. The autumn produced our best ever number of Goldcrest, with 30 ringed, including a control bird that had been ringed 24 days previously at Spurn on the east coast, a distance of 116km away.

As in previous years, the nest boxes around the site were used primarily by Blue and Great Tits, with 136 and 72 pulli ringed respectively. This year, however, saw our first successful use of a next box by Wren, which managed to raise 3 pulli, all of which were ringed. Mandarin Ducks were found using 2 of the “owl boxes” in the woods, and 2 sitting females were ringed.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Linacre Shags still there.

After starting the year in Northumberland, I was able to get down to Linacre this morning for my first visit of 2016. Whilst there I added 13 new "year ticks", and  was very pleased to see that the 3 juvenile Shags from last year were still around, swimming and fishing on the middle reservoir. It'll be interesting to see just how long they stay.

The first bird recorded at Linacre turned out to be a singing Robin in the bottom car park, followed closely by a Tawny Owl and a singing Song Thrush - my earliest ever record at Linacre. Unfortunately it was quite drizzly this morning, so I didn't manage to see all the woodland birds I would normally expect. I did, however, see or hear: Dunnock, Goldcrest, SiskinJackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Wren, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit.

Out on the water, along with the Shags, I also recorded: Mallard (65), Moorhen (9), Coot (4), Tufted Duck (20), Mandarin Duck (11), Kingfisher (1 heard on middle reservoir), Grey Wagtail (1) and Black-headed Gull (36).

Year List update:
60 – Tawny Owl
61 – Song Thrush
62 - Moorhen
63 – Goldcrest
64 – Siskin
65 – Tufted Duck
66 – Blue Tit
67 – Great Tit
68 – Coal Tit
69 – Long-tailed Tit
70 – Mandarin Duck
71 – Kingfisher
72 – Grey Wagtail

When I got home, I looked in the garden and saw 3 Lesser Redpolls on the feeders, another great "year tick".

73 – Lesser Redpoll

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year starts with a Lifer

This year's "year list" started off in Northumberland, and, as you can see, Jayne and I managed a very respectable 59 species. The first birds, from 1 - 23 were seen in Warkworth, and on and around the River Coquet. Numbers 24 - 43 were seen at Cresswell Pond, and the nearby coastline. Numbers 44 - 51 were seen at St Mary's Island, numbers 52 - 57 were seen around the Priory and pier in Tynemouth, and the Coot was seen at Wetherby Service Station on the way home! The Wren was seen in Warkworth, but I forgot to add it in earlier, so I stuck it on the end of the list!

The best bird of the day was my first "lifer" of the year in the shape of a Long-billed Dowitcher that has been on Creswell Pond since late last year. The bird was on show from the hide, before being flushed by a Sparrowhawk. I didn't manage any decent photos, as it was quite distant, so here are a few on the Bird Guides website

1 – Blackbird
2 – Jackdaw
3 – House Sparrow
4 – Woodpigeon
5 – Robin
6 – Black-headed Gull
7- Chaffinch
8 – Starling
9 – Mistle Thrush
10 – Cormorant
11- Red-breasted Merganser
12 – Mallard
13 – Grey Heron
14 – Eider Duck
15 – Feral Pigeon
16 – Goldfinch
17 – Redshank
18 – Curlew
19 – Herring Gull
20 – Magpie
21 – Common Buzzard
22 – Rook
23 – Collared Dove
24 – Whooper Swan
25 – Greenfinch
26 - Tree Sparrow
27 – Dunnock
28 – Long-billed Dowitcher (lifer)
29 – Mute Swan
30 – Lapwing
31 – Snipe
32 – Little Grebe
33 – Pheasant
34 – Teal
35 – Wigeon
36 – Water Rail
37 – Pink-footed Goose
38 – Goldeneye
39 – Reed Bunting
40 – Sparrowhawk
41 – Oystercatcher
42 – Purple Sandpiper
43 – Great Black-backed Gull
44 – Sanderling
45 – Pied Wagtail
46 – Turnstone
47 – Dunlin
48 – Knot
49 – Ringed Plover
50 – Golden Plover
51 – Common Gull
52 – Peregrine Falcon
53 – Shag
54 – Fulmar
55 – Red-throated Diver
56 – Guillemot
57 – Kestrel
58 – Coot
59 - Wren