Saturday, 30 April 2016

Cairn Gorm

Jayne and I are up in Scotland for a few days, and, as the title suggests, we visited Cairn Gorm today. We went in search of Ptarmigan, but were out of luck. We did, however, manage to hear Red Grouse and see Meadow Pipts (!), a male Pied Wagtail and a super flock of 15 Snow Buntings. Four of the buntings landed close enough to get a few photos.

Snow Buntings in snow

After the visit to Cairn Gorm we drove down to RSPB Loch Garten where we popped into the centre to see the pair of breeding Ospreys. Both birds were on the nest when we arrived. We didn't see the other specialities, but we're heading back there tomorrow, so fingers crossed.

In the evening we had a short visit to the River Spey where we saw 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 pairs of Goldeneye , several singing Willow Warblers and a single Dipper.

Year List update:
136 – Red Grouse
137 – Common Sandpiper
138 – Redstart
139 – Snow Bunting
140 – Osprey
141 - Dipper

Monday, 25 April 2016

Linacre News - 25th April 2016

I wasn't able to get down to Linacre this weekend, so I was very pleased to see some records on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website this afternoon.

The first record was one of the Shag that is still present. I first saw Shags at Linacre back on 21st November 2015, so this recent report means that there has been at least 1 bird present for 5 months now. Other water birds reported were: Great-crested Grebe (4 birds, including a record of a nesting pair), Little Grebe ( a pair) and Tufted Duck (36, the highest count this year).

Other birds reported were Swallow (40+), House Martin (7), a Sparrowhawk and Blackcap (10+).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

5 eggs and..... 5 chicks

It's been exactly 2 weeks since I last blogged about the Starling nest in the box on the side of my house. Since then there have been a few developments, as the  title of today's blog suggests.

First up, is a picture taken on 12th April. As you can see, there were 5 eggs in the nest.

12th April - 5 eggs

When I saw the 5 eggs I knew it was time for incubation to begin, so I left the nest until today. I decided to check again this afternoon after I noticed one of the adult birds leaving the nest. I had a quick check and found this... 5 chicks!

24th April - 5 chicks

This year's birds have nested approximately a week earlier than they did in 2015, with the chicks hatching on 30th April (see blog posts entitled Starling Nest 2015 for details), so, if all goes well, and the chicks prosper, they should be ready to fledge in about 3 weeks time ( 15th May).

I'll enter the new details into the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website, and, as in the previous 2 years, I'll ring the chicks before they fledge so that we can hopefully see where they end up.

Monday, 18 April 2016

House Sparrow Nest

As well as the Starling nest box I also have a House Sparrow Terrace on the side of my house. It was used last year, and I managed to ring a couple of pulli (see here). This year I noticed birds attending the box and yesterday I had a quick check to see what was happening. Here's what I found:

House Sparrow eggs

I've entered the details into the BTO's Nest box Challenge scheme and will continue to monitor the outcome of the nest, and hopefully ring the chicks later in the season.

Linacre Ringing and Nestboxes- 17th April 2016

The temperature yesterday morning was minus 1 when I arrived at Linacre for a ringing session with 3 other members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group. Thankfully, the sun was already of its way up, and the skies were clear, so the frost soon cleared and the temperature rose to 8 degrees.

We put 3 nets up, 2 around the feeders and 1in amongst the Willows, and soon had the first birds of the day, including a male Chiffchaff, and a male Blackcap. The Blackcap was the first record for Linacre in 2016, and both species were the first to be ringed at Linacre in 2016. The Chiffchaff was a retrap, having been ringed last May at Linacre. It wasn't recorded again last year, so who knows whether it stayed around or whether it moved on. Hopefully, we, or someone else, will re trap it again this summer, so that we've an idea where it goes. We caught another 3 Chiffchaffs (all un ringed), later in the session.



We carried on ringing a few birds at a time over the next 3 hours, and ended with 24 of the following species (new/retrap): Bullfinch (0/2), Chaffinch (1/1), Blue Tit (2/2), Great Tit (1/4), Coal Tit (0/1), Chiffchaff (1/3), Blackcap (1/0), Blackbird 0/1, Song Thrush (1/0), Nuthatch (1/0), Dunnock (0/1) and Robin (1/0).

Stewart and I also went and checked the 6 "owl" nestboxes that we have around the site. No owl nests were found this year, although a Tawny Owl flew out from a nearby tree as we walked to one box. One of the boxes contained a clutch of 13 Mandarin Duck eggs, the Little Owl box was unused, and the 4 other boxes were either empty or contained Grey Squirrels! We'll check the boxes again in a few weeks time, just in case any more get used by the Mandarins, and also to try to catch the bird whose eggs we found. It'll be interesting to see if she's one of the 2 bird that we ringed last year (see here), or whether she'd a new bird.

After the ringing session  I went to try and re find a Common Sandpiper that my nephew had found earlier in the day. We dropped lucky, finding the bird on the bottom reservoir. I was particularly pleased as this was the first Linacre record since 2013. The Shag was also still present.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Linacre Nestbox Season Begins - just!

It was supposed to snow this morning, so I decided to stay in bed. In the end it didn't snow, it didn't even rain, so I eventually  went down to Linacre in the afternoon to have a first check of the nestboxes for the 2016 season. In all, I checked all the tit boxes (80+), with just half a dozen or so showing any sign of nesting activity. All the nests found were N1, meaning they'd just been started, and consisted of just a few pieces of moss. A Great Tit was seen with nesting material need to one of the boxes.

Whilst walking around I heard at least 8 singing Chiffchaffs and 2 singing Willow Warblers, along with a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker. 3 Canada Geese were on the top reservoir along with a pair of Mandarin Ducks,  a super group of c.50 Swallows- very nice. 1 House Martin was found in amongst the Swallows. The juvenile/2nd calendar year Shag was still present on the bottom reservoir along with 2 Cormorants. I managed to get a fuzzy picture of what I think is a Chiffchaff in the Willows by the top reservoir. As you can see, a pesky branch got in the way of the auto focus, but it's not too bad.


The Willows around the top reservoir were starting to come out today, so I got this photo.


The weather was about 8 degrees and there were a few sunny spells. During the sunny spells I noticed my first bee species of the year, a Tree Bumblebee, feeding on a dandelion.

Tree Bumblebee

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Egg number 4

As I drove onto the drive this afternoon I saw 2 Starlings come out of the nest box on the side of the house. Knowing they'd be gone for a minute or two, I grabbed the camera and took a quick picture. Here's what I saw..... egg number 4!

Starling nest with 4 eggs

According to the literature, Starlings start to incubate properly on the penultimate egg, so, if this pair have 5 eggs as they did last year (click on Starling Nest 2015 labels for details), they should start incubation today. I'll leave well alone now and listen out for the calls of the young birds in a couple of weeks. Details, as always, have been added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website.

Ringing and Nesting

I haven't been out ringing since the end of March, what with one thing or another, so it was really nice to get out this morning for a few hours. I went out with 2 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, to the farm site in Coal Aston, and we managed to ring 14 birds of 6 species. Numbrs were as follows (new/retrap): Great-spotted Woodpecker (1/0),  Nuthatch (2/0), House Sparrow (1/0), Dunnock (2/0), Blue Tit (7/0) and Coal Tit (1/0). Here's a picture of the male House Sparrow from this morning.

House Sparrow

Whilst on site, we also put up a new owl nest box, and checked the 5 tit nest boxes. 2 were empty, but 3 contained the beginnings of nests, all of which looked like tits. The details of these nests wll be recorded for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Beginnings of  nest

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Linacre Peregrine!

I had a short, 1 hour trip to Linacre yesterday afternoon to see if the Shag was still around- it was. It was perched up on the branches on the lower reservoir again, and it sat nicely while I took a few photos. Unfortunately, the branch got in the way!


I spent a few minutes stood on the dam wall overlooking the middle reservoir watching a gorgeous Great-crested Grebe, and a female Grey Wagtail that was collecting nesting material. Whilst there, I also spotted a male Kestrel flying over the trees, and the suddenly a Peregrine Falcon appeared! It too was high over the woodlands and present for about 1 minute. I managed to  get a few quick photos. The first is the uncropped version, and the second is a heavily cropped version. This is only my 2nd record of Peregrine at Linacre- the first since October 2013.

Peregrine Falcon

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Starling Nest 2016 - First Egg

I just had a quick (20 second) check in the Starling nestbox on the side of my house to see what, if anything, was happening with this year's nest, and guess what..... yes, the first egg of 2016!

First egg of 2016

Compared to last year, this year's nest is approximately 1 week earlier, so, if everything goes to plan, and the birds manage to lay another clutch of  5, there should be chicks by the end of April (compared to 2nd May in 2015).

I'll put the details into the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website, and keep the blog updated with the developments.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Scarborough, Bempton and Bridlington

I spent yesterday out and about in Yorkshire with Luke. We started the day off in Scarborough, before driving down to the RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve, and finishing off in Bridlington.

We started off in Scarborough so that Luke could see his first Black-necked Grebe. Luckily the bird was still present in the harbour, and we managed to see it straight away, swimming around the boats. The Turnstones were around (no colour rings today though), as were Herring Gulls, Kittiwakes, and, best of all, a single male Wheatear, hopping about on the sea defences, presumably having just arrived in the country. Luke managed to grab this distant record shot, before it continued on its journey to who knows where...


From Scarborough, we headed off down the coast to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. The weather turned when we arrived, and we ended up being blown about and rained on, as we stood looking over the famous cliffs. Luckily, we managed to spot all the key birds through the rain, with excellent views of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Guillemots, Razorbills and, best of all for Luke, Puffin ( a new species)! 


After Bempton, we drove down to Bridlington so we could go for a boat trip out along the coast. We had an hour long ride up towards Flamborough Head. Unfortunately, the weather didn't improve and we only managed to see  a few birds, including Kittiwakes, a couple of Gannets, several Herring Gulls and a winter plumaged Guillemot. The only highlight, though, was a "year tick" for me and a new species for Luke; Common Scoter. We saw about 6 birds flying past in small groups.

After the boat trip we walked around the harbour where we spotted another dozen or so Turnstones, another Black-necked Grebe (!), Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls and a Barnacle Goose.

Black-necked Grebe

Barnacle Goose

Further investigation via Twitter, lead me to find out that the Barnacle Goose is a feral bird that has been around the harbour for about 5 to 6 years. A very strange and unexpected addition to the day's birding.

Year List update:
131- Wheatear
132 - Gannet
133 - Razorbill
134 - Puffin
135 - Common Scoter

Carsington- 4th April 2016

After my walk around Linacre on Monday, I decided to pop across to Carsington Water to see what was about.

I had a walk around Stones Island and managed to find 3 White Wagtails, the European version of our Pied Wagtail. It isn't a species in its own right, so it won't appear of the Year List. Cracking bird, nonetheless.

White Wagtail

Also present was this Pink-footed Goose. It's a very unusual species to be found "on the ground" in Derbyshire. Normally, they're seen flying over the county throughout the winter months, so I'm not sure where this one's come from. It's either a feral bird, or possible a wild bird that's been injured and has found the area to its liking. Where ever its from, it was coming to bread with the local Mallards, and appeared very tame!

Pink-footed Goose

One last bird of note was Common Gull. There were six present sitting on buoys around the Sailing Club.

Common Gulls (4 of the 6 present)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Linacre Update - 2 new summer migrants

It was pretty grey and overcast this morning, but I hadn't been to Linacre since Friday (!), so I popped down for a walk, and to see if there were any new birds about. As it turned out, it was a good decision, with 2 new species added to the "year list", and the return of an old favourite.

The two new species seen today were; House Martin and Willow Warbler. The House Martins (3)were flying over the top reservoir with 5 Swallows, and the Willow Warbler was singing on the north side, by the middle reservoir. Chiffchaffs were also present in good numbers, with 13 singing around the site.

The "old favourite" mentioned above, is a hybrid goose, that has been seen at Linacre every Spring since at least 2006 (when I started recording the birds). It usually appears at the end of March/start of April, often with a Canada Goose, as today, stays for a couple of weeks and then disappears for the rest of the year.

Hybrid Goose

The juvenile/2nd calendar year Shag was still present today, on the bottom reservoir, as were: Cormorant (3; 1 in breeding plumage), Mallard (26), Tufted Duck (23), Canada Goose (4; 1 pair on the middle reservoir and 1 with the hybrid goose), Great-crested Grebe (5; 2 pairs and 1 on the bottom reservoir), Grey Heron (1 on the bottom reservoir), Grey Wagtail (4; 2 on the top reservoir and 2 on the middle reservoir), Coot (6), Moorhen (6) and Mandarin Duck (6; 2 pairs and 2 males). 

Year List update:
128 - Willow Warbler
129 - House Martin
130 - Green Woodpecker (seen on 28th Feb at Linacre).

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Garden Finches and a juvenile Woodpigeon

I watch and record the birds in my garden every week for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme. I don't blog about the results often, but this last week has been so good I wanted to share the news and a few photos.

Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches are regular visitors to the garden throughout the year, with weekly winter totals averaging 15, 5 and 20 respectively. This year, however, these 3 species have been joins by their much less common cousins; Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Brambling and Bullfinch.

Siskin in particular, have been very numerous this winter, with sightings in every week since the end of January. Numbers started off quite low, with 1s and 2s, but have steadily built up, culminating in a superb 14 birds this morning!

4 of today's 14 Siskins

Lesser Redpolls are not so numerous, but have again been present on and off throughout much of the Winter/early Spring.The maximum count so far being 6 present on 2nd April, including this very colourful male bird.

Lesser Redpoll and male Greenfinch

Bramblings were first recorded in mid January, with just 1 present. This built up to 3 birds; 2 males and 1 female, in February, until this afternoon, when I looked out and saw 7 birds, 2 males and 5 females, feeding on the lawn. This is my highest ever count!


Bullfinches are the least common finch species in the garden, with just a few sightings each year. So far this year, I've recorded them on just s couple of occasions, including a pair today. Unfortunately, neither bird would pose for a photo.

Along with all the finches, the garden also attracts several other species on a daily basis, including Dunnock (3 today, singing and wing flicking to each other), Blue Tit (2), Coal Tit (1), Great Tit (1), Blackbird (4; 2 males and 2 females, 1 of which was collecting nesting materials), House Sparrow (1 male and 2 females, inspecting the nest box), Starling (4, including 2 nest building in the box), Collared Dove (1) and Woodpigeon (7, including the year's first juvenile bird!).

Juvenile Woodpigeon (complete with downy chest!)

Friday, 1 April 2016

Linacre Sightings - 1st April 2016

It's the first day of a new month, so I decided to have a couple of hours down at Linacre to see what was about. Luke was with me again, and we spent 2 hours walking around all three reservoirs.

The highlight of the morning was the Shag, that has now made it into its 5th month. It was present on the bottom reservoir along with 4 Canada Geese (another 2 were also present on the top reservoir), the first of 41 Mallards and 33 Tufted Ducks. 8 Coots were spread out around the site, as were 4 Moorhens. There were also 5 Great-crested Grebes (3 on the top reservoir, and 2 on the middle reservoir), 1 calling Little Grebe on the middle reservoir, 3 Grey Wagtails, 4 Mandarin Ducks and a couple of Grey Herons flying over.

Chiffchaffs were present again, with a minimum of 7 heard singing around the site. A Curlew was heard calling, but not seen, by the top reservoir, and the first frogspawn of the year was seen.