Sunday, 29 May 2016

Linacre nestboxes and bird sightings

I've had 2 visits to Linacre this weekend, one yesterday with Brian from the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, to check the nestboxes, and one today, with my nephew, to record the bird life on the reservoirs.

Yesterday's nestbox check was successful and we ringed 5 broods of chicks ( 4 Blue Tits and 1 Great Tit). The Pied Flycatcher's nest was still going strong, with a female bird incubating, and there were another 17 nests with eggs and/or small chicks in). Unfortunately, 2 broods had failed, with dead birds found in the nests.

Today's visit, with Luke, took place between 7.00am and 8.45am, and we walked around the middle and top reservoirs. The highlights were the Shag (now present since Nov 21st 2015!), 7 Swifts (my first Linacre record of 2016), the first juvenile Robin of 2016 and an active Great-spotted Woodpecker nest. There were also 3 Grey Wagtails (2 adults and 1 juvenile), 6 Coots (all adults), 4 Moorhens (2 adults and 2 half grown chicks), 12 Tufted Ducks (all adults), just 1 adult Great-crested Grebe , 29 Mallards (18 adults and 11 ducklings) and 2 male Mandarin Ducks going into eclipse plumage. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and 1 Willow Warbler were all singing. We also had hundreds of tadpoles in the shallow water by the boardwalk on the top reservoir.



Male Mandarin Ducks (moulting)

Saturday, 28 May 2016

White-faced Darter

Today Jayne and I spent two hours in the sunshine on the Natural England Chartley Moss reserve in Staffordshire, looking for a very rare dragonfly called the White-faced Darter (see link here for details of this species). We were there as part of a guided tour with a Natural England site manager, and the British Dragonfly Society's conservation officer, as this is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with access allowed on just one day a year.

The walk started at 2pm, and the first sighting was a Barn Owl (!) flying through the fields by the entrance to the site. It even sat and posed for a photo.

Barn Owl

We were soon out on the bog, where we spotted a male Brimstone butterfly and a male Green Hairstreak. We walked across to the two pools where the darters are seen, and spent about one and half hours watching and photographing them. Here are my best efforts.


Teneral (newly emerged dragonfly)

Male showing white face

As well as the White-faced Darters, we also saw Four-spotted Chasers, a Large Red Damselfly and a couple of blue damselflies, which were unfortunately, too far out to identify to species. A couple of Common Lizards were also spotted.

Common Lizard

Bird wise, it was quite quiet, but we did see a male Mallard, and heard Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap singing.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Clumber Park

It was quite warm and sunny on Sunday, so Jayne and I had a drive out to Clumber Park. We walked around the main lake, and saw our first damselflies of 2016 and a new bird for the "year list"; Cuckoo.

The first damselfly we saw was a male Large Red Damselfly. He was sitting on a reed by the lake, and I managed a decent photo.

Large Red Damselfly

Close by we found the second species; Blue-tailed Damselfly. We had 1 male fly past and land on a reed, unfortunately, out of reach of the camera. More details about these species, and more, can be found on the British Dragonfly Society's website.

We carried on walking around the lake, finding young Coots, Canada and Greylag Geese along with 40+ Mute SwansGreat-crested Grebe, Swift, House Martins, Swallows, Moorhens and Gadwall.

Gadwall (male and female)

The best bird, however, was a Cuckoo that was heard calling a couple of times as we walked around the south side of the lake, near the weir.

Year List update:
150 - Cuckoo

Starling box - a second brood!!

According to the books, Starlings can sometimes have 2 broods in a year. So far, the box on the side of my house has only ever produced 1 brood a year, but not any longer.

Shortly after the 1st brood fledged, the same , or another, new male Starling was back around the box singing and attempting to attract a female. He didn't seem to be having any luck, despite having built the foundations for a new nest. Here's what the box looked like on 21st May.

A new nest - 21st May 2016

Undeterred, he carried on singing and defending the box. Today, when I got back from work, I saw a female bird sticking her head out of the box. She flew out, so I ran upstairs to check what was happening, and this is what I saw.... a new egg!!

First egg - 24th May

As you can see, the nest has been built up since the 21st, and a new brood has begun. I'll check back in a few days time, and begin another record  for the BTO's Nestbox Challenge.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Linacre Nestbox Update

I spent 3 hours at Linacre this morning with my nephew Luke and Brian from Sorby Breck Ringing Group checking the nest boxes. We ended with a total of 26 active nests (25 Blue or Great Tit nests and the Pied Flycatcher nest), and ringed the first brood of 2016 (7 Great Tits). As you can see from the picture, the Flycatcher nest had increased from 1 to 7 eggs, which is an excellent achievement. I haven't seen the female bird yet, but a male bird was singing in the area around the nest again today. All of today's details will be added to the Nest Record Cards for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Pied Flycatcher nest

Away from the nest boxes, we also had sightings of 1 Great-crested Grebe on the top reservoir, the Shag, which was still present on the bottom reservoir (thanks Luke), and a Grey Wagtail which was found feeding 3 juveniles (thanks again to Luke for this sighting). Canada Geese were heard calling as we walked through the woods, but weren't seen. Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush were all singing.

The sun came out while we were there, which meant we saw a few butterflies, namely Green-veined White,  2 male Orange Tips and 2 Speckled Woods.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Deep Dale

Last May I visited Deep Dale to see the Early Purple Orchids and Cowslips that grow there. This weekend Jayne and I had a return visit to see them again.

Early Purple Orchids and Cowslip

 Whilst there, we also spotted a few butterflies, including this male Orange Tip and a beautiful Green Hairstreak.

Orange Tip (male)

Green Hairstreak

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Year List Update

I've managed to add a few new species to this year's Year List over the last few weeks, so I thought I'd better write a short post to keep the blog up to date.

The Pied Flycatcher was added at Linacre last weekend and the Swift was first recorded on Friday 6th May, flying over Tesco in Chesterfield. The Wood Warbler was seen at Padley Gorge last Sunday (8th) following a tip off of a singing male from Chesterfield RSPB Group. The Little Owl was seen in a tree by the side of the road in Barlow, again, from a tip off from a colleague at school. I managed to get a photo.

Little Owl

The final two species, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler, were seen this morning. The Whitethroat was a singing male seen in a hedgerow in Apperknowle, and the Reed Warbler was 1 of several seen and heard singing at Poolsbrook Marsh as I was carrying out some maintenance work with Ray and David from Sorby Breck Ringing Group, on the net rides for some ringing next week.

Year List update:
144 – Pied Flycatcher
145 – Swift
146 – Wood Warbler
147 - Little Owl
148 – Whitethroat
149 – Reed Warbler

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Coal Aston Nestbox- First chicks

I popped across to the farm in Coal Aston after school on Thursday to check on the progress of the nest boxes there. Last time I visited in April (see here), there were 3 out of 5 boxes with active nests in them. Tonight's visit showed that these 3 were still active, with eggs in 1 and day old chicks in the other two boxes.

The box with the eggs looks like it may have been abandoned, as there were cold and uncovered. The chicks, however, all looked very healthy, so I'm keeping everything crossed for some nice, warm settled weather over the nest few weeks to allow both broods to grow and prosper. It's hard to say which species the birds are when they are so young, blind and naked, but my best guess is Blue Tit. Time will tell if I'm right or not!

Details of all 3 nests will be forwarded to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Much Better News

No ringing today, so instead I got back down to Linacre for a couple of hours checking the nestboxes. I'm very glad I did as well, because, not only had the number of active nests increased from 11 to 24 (!), but there was also a very welcome return to a species that hasn't bred successfully at Linacre since 2010 (clue - it has blue eggs).

23 of the active nests belonged to either Blue or Great Tits. There were more sitting birds this week, which means their clutches are now complete and full incubation has begun.

Blue Tit sitting tight

The 24th nest, however, contained something a lot more exciting .. a single blue egg, which belongs to.... Pied Flycatcher!!!

Pied Flycatcher nest

As I mentioned at the start of today's post, this species hasn't nested successfully in one of the nest boxes since 2010. Eggs were laid in 2011, but failed, no birds were recorded in 2012, a singing bird was present in 2013, but no nests were found, and there were no records at all in 2014 and 2015. Hopefully, the nest will continue, and young will fledge. I'm keeping everything crossed!

As well as the nest boxes, I also managed to spot a Tawny Owl flying through the woodland, Blackbirds and Robins with food, several singing Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Wrens, Song Thrushes and a very agitated male Blackcap that was scolding as I checked one of the boxes. The Great-crested Grebes were still on their nest on the top reservoir, the Shag was still on the bottom reservoir, a Moorhen was seen with 2 chicks and there were 3 broods of Mallard (4, 10 and 6).

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Starlings are gone

Earlier in the week I noticed that the Starling nest box was quieter than usual. I had a quick look in yesterday and got this photo.

7th May 2016

This was the sight on 7th May. As you can see, all 5 of the chicks were fully feathered and looking ready to go. I had another look on 11th, and found that 2 birds had fledged.

11th May 2016

When I got home tonight it was very quiet, and when I looked in the box I found this... an empty box!

12th May 2016

This is always a great sight, because it means all 5 of the chicks have fledged successfully. I haven't seen any of this year's birds in the garden yet, but hopefully I'll manage to see them over the next few days and weeks.

The details of this breeding success will now be added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website, and I'll let our data manager know that the ringed birds have fledged, just in case they  get reported elsewhere.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Linacre WeBS and a New Species

I was down at Linacre on Saturday to carry out a guided walk as part of the Chesterfield Walking Festival. 19 people took part in the walk, and we saw 33 species of bird in just over 3 hours. Whilst there I also logged the number of water birds for this month's WeBS walk. Results were: Mallard (26, including 2 broods of duckling, 12 and 4), Coot (6 adults), Moorhen (6; 4 adults and 2 chicks), Grey Wagtail (1 on the middle reservoir), Mandarin Duck (7 males), Great-crested Grebe (5 birds; 2 pairs, including 1 pair on a nest on the top reservoir, 1 pair on the middle reservoir and 1 bird on the bottom reservoir), Little Grebe (1 breeding plumaged bird on the bottom reservoir), Tufted Duck (12 adults) and the Shag (now into its 7th month!!).

Mallard and 12 ducklings

One of the first species we saw at the start of the walk was this Mistle Thrush. As you can see, it was collecting food by the bottom car park, and then flying to an unseen nest in the woods. A great record.

Mistle Thrush with food

The final record, and unfortunately not one that I made, was a report of 2 Redstarts at Linacre on Saturday. The report was on the Derbyshire Ornithological Society's website, but no further details were given. It would be great to catch up with this species at Linacre!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Linacre Nestboxes- 5th May 2016

I was down at Linacre on Thursday evening for a couple of hours checking the progress of the 80+ nestboxes. The results weren't great, with just 11 containing active nests (4 sitting birds; 3 Blue Tits and 1 Great Tit), and the other 7 contained a number of eggs, ranging from 2- 7). Whether this is due to the cold weather we've been having recently, I don't know. There were a few other completed nests without eggs, so perhaps they'll be used as well now the weather's improved. Here's one nest (either Blue or Great Tit), containing 7 eggs. Interestingly, the nests at Linacre often contain fluff from the many tennis balls that are lost in the woods by dog walkers.

Blue or Great Tit eggs

The only glimmer of hope was a singing Pied Flycatcher that was present, my first Linacre record since 2013. Whilst checking the nestboxes this nest was found.

Possible flycatcher nest?

As you can see, it contains a lot of dried grasses, so could be the start of a flycatcher's nest. Hopefully, when I return to check the progress of the boxes, there might be something very nice in here!

As always, the nests that were present will be monitored for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Starlings ringed

When I got back from Scotland yesterday I could hear that the Starling chicks in the nestbox on the side of my house were in very good voice. I had a quick check, and realised that they were ready to be ringed. I got the rings from Ray, and ringed all 5 this evening.

Starling pullus

As always, the ring numbers will be registered with the BTO, so if, and hopefully when, the birds fledge and are re sighted we will be able to follow their progress. Details will also be added to the BTO's Nestbox Record Scheme.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Scotland - Day 2

Yesterday was our second day in Scotland. We started very early, meeting up at RSPB Loch Garten at 5.30am, hoping to see our first Capercaille. Unfortunately, we "dipped", and no birds were seen during the organised event. We did, however, see dozens of Siskins, Chaffinches, the famous Ospreys (see blog here for details of this year's nest) and Coal Tits. Best of all though, was a beautiful Red Squirrel, that was sat outside the hide eating the birds' peanuts.

Red Squirrel

After missing out on the Capercaille (and Crested Tit!) at Loch Garten, we decided to head back up Cairn Gorm to see if there were any Black Grouse at the RSPB's viewpoint there. There weren't!!! Unfortunately, it was VERY windy when we got there, and there was no sign of any birds at all. Undeterred, we set off to the car park and found the flock of approximately 15 Snow Buntings feeding there again. We enjoyed watching them for about 20 minutes before heading back to the hotel for breakfast.

Our first stop after breakfast was a loch where we'd be informed breeding plumaged Black-throated Diver could be found. We found the loch easily and a diver was found straight away. It was too far away to photograph, but we had great views through the 'scope. We also saw an Osprey here, along with 3 Greylag Geese, 2 Mallards, a pair of Wigeon (possible breeders?), a pair of Oystercatchers and several Red Grouse, including this confiding individual that I was able to photograph from the car.

Red Grouse

Our next stop of the day was the RSPB's Loch Ruthven reserve. This reserve is well known as a reliable spot for breeding plumaged Slavonian Grebes, and we managed to see 4 birds from the public hide. Again, they didn't come close enough to photograph, but we watched them well through the 'scope. There were also 2 pairs of Little Grebes on eggs, a male Goosander and several singing Willow Warblers.

Willow Warbler (singing)

Year List update:
142 - Black-throated Diver
143 - Slavonian Grebe