Sunday, 28 February 2016

Little Owl Nestbox

Regular readers of the blog will know that back in 2013 we (Sorby Breck Ringing Group) found a Little Owl pair that was breeding at Linacre (click on Little Owl labels for details). We managed to ring the female bird and one juvenile bird. Unfortunately, the birds moved sites in 2014 and 2015, so we weren't able to ring any more birds. With this in mind I got a Little Owl nest box for Christmas 2015, and eventually managed to get it up today, with a lot of help from Jayne (thanks!). It's in the same tree that the birds used in 2013, so I'm keeping everything crossed, that they, or another pair, find the box and use it. Obviously, if they do, I'll record the nesting attempt for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme, hopefully, ring any chicks and update the blog. Here's a picture of the box in place.

Little Owl box

After putting up this nestbox, Jayne and I, went round and checked the other "owl boxes" to ensure there weren't any Grey Squirrels in them. We didn't find any live squirrels, just 1 dead one, and lots of dried leaves. These were all cleared out, to hopefully make room for the Mandarin Ducks.

After that we had a quick walk around all 3 reservoirs in cold, but sunny conditions. Birds noted were as follows: Shag (2 juveniles still on the middle reservoir), Cormorant (2 in breeding plumage), Mallard (40), Black-headed Gull (105 - a great count, my highest of the winter by far), Great Crested Grebe (5, including 4 in breeding plumage, another great count), Little Grebe (1 heard on the middle reservoir), Grey Wagtail (2 on the river below the bottom reservoir), Coot (9), Moorhen (5), Tufted Duck (22), Mandarin Duck (6 on the middle reservoir) and Canada Goose (3 on the top reservoir). Several birds, including Song Thrush, Wren and Chaffinch, were singing in the settled conditions, and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were heard drumming (no Lessers yet).

Ringing News- 27th February 2016

I was out ringing yesterday morning with 4 members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We were at the private garden site in Sheffield, an in 3 hours, we managed to ring 33 birds of 9 species (Song Thrush, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin, BullfinchTreecreeper, Blue, Long-tailed and Great Tit).

My totals were (new/retrap): Robin 1/0, Dunnock 1/1, Great Tit 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 4/1 and Blue Tit 0/1.

On the drive to the site I was lucky enough to see a Barn Owl flying over the road in Jordanthorpe- very nice!

Saturday, 27 February 2016


After a morning's ringing session (more about that later) I drove out to Silkstone near Barnsley, with Jayne, to "twitch" a Firecrest that has been present at the sewage works fora few weeks.

We arrived just before midday, and spotted a small group of birders, so headed in their direction. After about 10 minutes, and lots of false starts (pesky Goldcrests!!!), we managed to spot the bird, and watched it for about 10 seconds before it disappeared. We had another 10 -15 minute wait, before the bird was found again, and this time it hung around for about 1 minute, and gave some reasonable views. A great bird, and my first since at least 2010. I didn't manage to get a photo, but here's a link to a great shot on the Bird Guides website.

While looking for the Firecrest, we spotted a few other birds, namely: Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Pied and Grey Wagtails on the neraby sewage words.

This bird was, of course, a "year tick", and it's the second of the week, following a Red-legged Partridge that I saw stood on the top of a farm building in Apperknowle on Thursday. I was a bit taken aback to see it on the top of a building as I've only ever seen this species on the ground before!

Year List update:
118 - Red-legged Partridge
119 - Firecrest

Monday, 22 February 2016

Linacre Ringing and February WeBS

I wasn't around on Saturday, but 4 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group spent  just over 2 hours on site, ringing around the feeding station. The session turned out to be very quiet with just 17 birds of 6 species caught, and , as you can see, the vast majority were retraps. Counts were as follows (new/retrap): Blue Tit 1/4, Great Tit 0/1, Long-tailed Tit 1/7, Goldcrest 0/1, Robin 0/1 and Nuthatch 0/1.

February's WeBS count took place on the 17th this month. Unfortunately, it was grey, overcast and drizzling, so it was generally quite quiet with the following birds reported: Mallard (56), Tufted Duck (23), Coot (7), Moorhen (10), Grey Wagtail (1), Black-headed Gull (24), Little Grebe (1), Great-crested Grebe (2), Cormorant (3) and Shag (1 juvenile).

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Ringed Black-headed Gull and Ring-necked Parakeets

I've just been in London for a few days, and whilst there, I managed to "tick" 3 new species, get some new photos and spot a darvic-ringed Black-headed Gull.

First the gull. The bird in question was spotted on the banks of The Serpentine in Hyde Park, feeding with an estimated 100 - 200 other Black-headed Gulls, a couple of Herring Gulls, a dozen or so Common Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Black-headed Gull -28P1

As you can see, it was wearing a darvic ring, 28P1, and, after a little bit of research, I managed to find out that it had been ringed in June 2015, by Reading and Berkshire Ringing Group, as a pullus at Hosehill Lake LNR, in Berkshire, 63km away. The bird had been seen there again until July 2015, and was then reported in Kensington Gardens on 8th October 2015, before moving to Hyde Park, on 6th December 2015, where it has been reported 3 times over the winter period, my record being the latest one so far.

As well as the gulls, I also managed to spot 3 new species for the year; Ring-necked Parakeet, Egyptian Goose and Cetti's Warbler. The geese were all over the park, as were the parakeets, and we were very lucky to have a couple of birds fly into a bush by the bridge, allowing me to get some nice close up photos.

Ring-necked Parakeet

Whilst watching the parakeets, we heard Cetti's Warbler calling from a small reedbed by the bridge, the same reedbed we heard them calling from in October 2015.

One final bird of note was a Black Swan that was also on The Serpentine. Not a bird to count, as it's not a British species, but interesting to see, none the less.

Black Swan

Year List update:
115 - Ring-necked Parakeet
116 - Egyptian Goose
117 - Cetti's Warbler

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Short-eared Owl

I was driving past Leash Fen at about 4pm this afternoon when I noticed a few cars parked up on Fox Lane. At this time of the year, it can only mean one thing- Short-eared Owl. I parked up, and sure enough, there it was hunting over the rough grassland. I was able to watch it for half an hour, as it hunted and perched up in one of the Silver Birch trees. Unfortunately, a pair of Carrion Crows then mobbed it and the bird flew onto the ground, where it could no longer be seen. Here's my best photo.

Short-eared Owl

This bird is a "year tick" as is the Meadow Pipit that was heard whilst watching the owl.

Year List update:
113 - Short-eared Owl
114 - Meadow Pipit

2016 Starling Season Begins!

Last year the bird box on the side of my house was used by a pair of Starlings, and they managed to raise 5 healthy chicks (click on posts called Starling Nest 2015 for details). The birds have been back again over the winter period, singing around the box, and today, when I went out of the back door, I noticed some dry grasses on the doorstep. I decided to take a quick look in the box, and this is what I saw....

2016 nest started

As you can hopefully see, the birds have started a new nest- hurrah!!! 

Looking back at the records for 2015, the first signs of a nest were built in March (see post here). Perhaps they've built a bit earlier this year because of the mild winter? Anyway, whatever happens, I'll keep an eye on the box, record the details for the BTO's Nest Box Challenge, and hopefully, ring any chicks that the birds produce.

WWT Slimbridge- 15th February 2016

It's half term this week, so I traveled down to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust's Slimbridge reserve with my nephew and his friend on Monday. We saw lots of great birds (as always), including ten "year ticks", one of which was also a "lifer".

The first stop on the journey was a small pond on the outskirts of Gloucester (Horsebere Pool). Two male Penduline Tits had been present here for a couple of weeks. We arrived on site and were lucky enough to see 1 of the birds within about 10 minutes. The bird was feeding on the Reedmace in the corner of the pond. I managed to get it in the binoculars for about 30 seconds (!), before it disappeared, never to be seen again. A very smart little bird and my second "lifer" of the year. No photos of my own unfortunately, but here's a link to the BirdGuides website, where there are some super shots. Also present here were 2 Chiffchaffs, a male and a female Stonechat, Robin, Long-tailed Tit and Reed Bunting.

Moving on to Slimbridge, we spent about four hours looking around the reserve, adding another 9 "year ticks" to the Year List, along with hundreds of commoner birds, including Teal, Wigeon, Tufted DuckPochard, Mallard, Canada and Greylag Goose, Lapwing, Dunlin and Golden Plover.


Crane, Pintail, Lapwing and Wigeon

Year List update:
102 - PENDULINE TIT (lifer)
103 - Stonechat
104 - Black-tailed - Godwit
105 - Shelduck
106 - Pintail
107 - Common Crane (4 colour ringed birds)
108 - Scaup (2 females)
109 - Avocet
110- European White-fronted Goose (7)
111- Barnacle Goose (100+)
112 - Bewick Swan

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A very busy morning!

A break in the wet and windy weather meant that I was able to get out ringing on Sunday with 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. We met up at the private garden site in Wingerworth at 7.15am, and, in a non-stop session, we caught and ringed 115 birds of 13 species.

When we arrived, the homeowners told us that they'd had good numbers of both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll visiting the garden feeders during the week. The session started very well, and over the course of the morning, we caught and processed 11 Siskins (9 new and 2 retraps/controls), and 12 Lesser Redpolls (all new birds). One of the ringed Siskins was a bird that we'd caught at this site back in September 2015 for the first time (see post here). We're still waiting for details of the other ringed bird. Here's a picture of a male Siskin feeding in my garden from December.


Other birds ringed on Sunday were (new/retrap): Goldfinch 5/0, Great Tit 12/6, Blue Tit 24/7, Long-tailed Tit 9/0, Coal Tit 3/1, Blackbird 4/0, Dunnock 0/3, Nuthatch 1/2, Goldcrest 1/0, Chaffinch 4/0, and Robin 7/3.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Linacre Whoopers

I was down at Linacre this morning with Luke. We started off at the bottom reservoir, where we managed to find the 2 juvenile Shags, and also saw a couple of Kingfishers, including 1 perched up on the overflow. Unfortunately, it had moved on before we got near enough to get a photo. We then moved on to the middle reservoir where we found 15 Mandarin Ducks, 5 Goosanders (2 males and 3 "redheads"), and a couple of  Great-crested Grebes, including 1 in breeding plumage.

As we walked up to the top reservoir we spotted a group of large, white birds that turned out to be... Whooper Swans, 13 in total. This my first record since January 2014, when there were 15 present for one day. We watched them for about 45 minutes, before they took off and flew high to the North West. Apparently, 15 were also present yesterday (thanks Amanda).

Whooper Swans
Also present today were 21 Canada Geese that flew in and landed briefly on the top reservoir and a single Greylag Goose that flew over the top reservoir honking loudly! Both species were the first Linacre records of 2016.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Hybrid Duck in Bakewell

At the end of 2015 Darley Dale Wildlife Blogger wrote a post about a hybrid duck that he'd seen on the River Wye at Bakewell (see post here). The bird in question was identified as a hybrid between a male Tufted Duck and a female Pochard. I had some time on Sunday, so I drove across with Jayne to have a look for it. We found it almost immediately dozing with  a small group of Tufted Ducks on the river by the island.  The sun was out and I managed to get a  decent photo showing off its amazing colours.

Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid

When I saw this bird, it reminded me about a hybrid duck I'd reported at Linacre back in November 2013. At the time I didn't manage to get a photo, but I did get a bit of poor quality video  (see post here). The 2013 bird was also in the company of Tufted Ducks, and also had a large black area on the end of its beak, so could well be the same bird. I also reported a very similar bird at Linacre in April 2010. Again, no photos unfortunately! Interestingly, this same bird (presumably) was reported on the Darley Dale Blog visiting Chatsworth in February 2014 (see here).

Hopefully, if it returns to Linacre I'll get a photo and be able to compare it with this bird. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Avenue Ringing - 7th February 2016

After a few weekends of wet and windy weather, I managed to get out with 4 other members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group for a ringing session at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve in Chesterfield. We managed  nearly 3 hours and caught a very respectable 39 birds of 11 species (JayGoldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, BullfinchYellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Lesser Redpoll, Willow, Blue and Great Tit).

The first bird in the net was a Jay, which I get the "pleasure" of extracting. Over the next few hours we continued to extract and process the birds, with an amazing 17 Bullfinches, being the most numerous species of the day. We also had a couple of Yellowhammers, including an amazingly bright adult male, 4 Reed Buntings and a couple of Lesser Redpolls- nice!

3 of the species we caught today were "year ticks", which took me over the 100 mark for 2016.

Year List update:
99 – Jay
100 – Willow Tit
101 - Yellowhammer

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Linacre Visits- 6th and 7th February 2016

I've managed two visits to Linacre this weekend, the first yesterday morning with my nephew, and the second a brief one on my own this afternoon. Yesterday's visit was wet, to say the least, and this afternoon was dry, but windy.

Firstly, yesterday's visit. We arrived on site at 7.45am and spent about an hour and a half walking around all three reservoirs, despite constant rain! As can be expected, bird numbers were low, except for Coots, which have increased recently. Numbers seen were: Mallard (15!!), Tufted Duck (19), Mandarin Duck (18), Coot (13), Moorhen (10), Black-headed Gull (26), Kingfisher (1 seen on bottom reservoir, but possibly 2 heard), Grey Heron (1), Great-crested Grebe (2, including 1 in breeding plumage), Cormorant (2, including 1 breeding plumaged bird) and Shag (1 juvenile on the bottom reservoir). Whilst looking at/for the Shag, we were lucky enough to catch sight of a Stoat, the first Linacre record for 2016. We also had Song Thrush singing on arrival, and the first blooms of Marsh Marigold on the river feeding into the top reservoir (last year's first record was on 29th March!!).

This afternoon's visit was, thankfully, much drier, with just 1 short shower whilst I was there. This time, I was only on site for about 1 hour and only walked around the bottom reservoir, but I was lucky enough to spot 2 juvenile Shags. Both birds were on the bottom reservoir, along with 3 Cormorants, including 2 in breeding plumage. At one point I managed to get a photo of 1 of the Cormorants and the 2 juvenile/2nd calendar year Shags perching on the trees.

Cormorant and Shags

Cormorant and Shag

1 Grey Wagtail was also heard during this visit, and whilst driving out, I spotted a mixed flock of Starlings (c.20), Redwing (c.40), Fieldfare (2) and Mistle Thrush (2), feeding in the fields.