Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Year List update

I was looking through the blog yesterday, when I realised I'd not updated the Year List since the start of May. Since then, I've added another 8 species to the list, including one (Lesser Whitethroat) that I've not had a for a few years. This species was seen (briefly), and heard singing at Holmebrook Valley Country Park in Chesterfield on 7th May. After seeing this bird I picked Luke up, and travelled to Barlow where we had great views of a Little Owl.

Little Owl

We then drove up to Padley Gorge where we recorded Pied Flycatcher (2 singing males), Redstart (1 singing male), Cuckoo (1 calling male) and Tree Pipit (2 singing males at nearby Barbrook Plantation).

The final "tick" came at the weekend, when a male Whitethroat was recorded singing in the ringing area of Linacre. Hopefully, we'll be able to confirm breeding of this species here again this year.

Year List update:
146 – Swift (first seen in Chesterfield on 5th May)
147 – Lesser Whitethroat
148 – Little Owl
149 – Pied Flycatcher
150 – Redstart
151 – Cuckoo
152 – Tree Pipit
153 - Whitethroat

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Linacre WeBS - 21st May 2017

I spent two hours at Linacre on Sunday, carrying out this month's BTO WeBS walk. The following birds were recorded: Mallard (46; 33 adults and 2 broods of 6 and 7 ducklings), Mandarin Duck (21; 3 adults and 2 broods of 8 and 10 ducklings - the first young of 2017), Great-crested Grebe (4 adults), Coot (20; 11 adults and 3 broods of 2, 3 and 4), Moorhen (10; 8 adults and 2 chicks), Tufted Duck (14) and Kingfisher (2 birds heard, but only 1 seen- possibly an adult and a young bird??).

Mandarin and ducklings

Moorhen chick

Coot chick

Other birds seen around the reservoirs included Common Buzzard (1),Whitethroat (1 singing male in the ringing site - the first 2017 record),  Chiffchaff (6 singing) and Willow Warbler (1 singing).

Monday, 22 May 2017

Nice surprise!

The first brood of Starlings fledged from the nestbox on my house on 12th May. Since then, a male bird has been present singing and building a new nest. Here's what the nest looked like on 16th May.

16th May 2017

I didn't think he'd managed to attract a mate, until today when I saw an adult bird leaving the box. I had a quick peek, and spotted 4 eggs!!

22nd May 2017

According to the literature, Starlings lay 1 egg a day, so working back, the first egg must have been laid on 19th, just 7 days after the last brood fledged.  Last year, the second clutch was just 3 eggs, so this year's is already an improvement! Hopefully, they'll lay another egg tomorrow, making 2 clutches of 5.

I can now start a new record for the BTO's Nestbox Challenge scheme.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Nestbox update - 20th May 2017

May is always a very busy month with lots of juvenile birds (pulli) in nestboxes that are ready to be ringed before they fledge. In the last week, I've been lucky enough to ring Blue Tits and Great Tits at Linacre (see last post), a Tawny Owl chick. and 3 Nuthatch chicks.

The Tawny Owl chick was 1 of  2 in a Kestrel box in a garden site in Wingerworth. What a super bird!!

Tawny Owl

The Nuthatches were a brood of 7 birds in a nestbox at a local farm in Coal Aston, where we also ringed a brood of 7 Great Tits earlier in the month.


All these nests are monitored and recorded as part of the BTO Nest Record Scheme.

There are still 7 active nests in the Linacre boxes, which will need checking again later this week. In addition, Stewart, a fellow ringer with Sorby Beck Ringing Group, sent us details of 2 very exciting nests, 1 Barn Owl and 1 Kestrel that both contain eggs!! Hopefully, I'll be able to help out with the ringing  later in the season.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Linacre Nestboxes - an update

It's now 2 weeks since Luke and I last checked the nestboxes at Linacre. Yesterday morning I had 3 hours walking around the site, and ringed 81 chicks (50 Blue Tits from 6 broods of 10, 10, 9, 9, 6 and 6, and 31 Great Tits from 4 broods of 5, 6, 9 and 11). In addition to these birds, there were also an additional 13 boxes with either eggs or chicks that were too young to be ringed.

Great Tit

Blue Tits before ringing

Unfortunately there weren't any Pied Flycatchers present yesterday, so chances are, we won't get this species this year. One box, however, contained a Wren's nest with 7 eggs in, so this will be a nice species to follow through to fledging.

As always, the details of yesterday's visit will be forwarded to the BTO for their Nest Record Scheme.

Friday, 12 May 2017

All Gone!

I last blogged about the Starling nest in April, when I ringed the chicks. Since then, they've gone from strength to strength, growing into 5 healthy, fully-feathered chicks, as can be seen in this photo taken on 8th May.

8th May 2017

Since then, there's been a lot of activity around the box, as the adult birds have tried to encourage the young to leave. By 11th (yesterday), 4 of the 5 birds had flown, and today, when I got home from work, the box was empty.

12th May 2017 - empty nest

I'll update the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website with the data, and see if the birds have another brood like they did last year.

As well as these birds to look out for, I've also had my first ever ringed adult Starling in the garden this week. First seen on the 7th May, I was very keen to get a photo of the ring, just in case it was one of the previous year's birds. Unfortunately, the ring number wasn't one from the rings I'd used, so I contacted our data manager at Sorby Breck Ringing Group, who told me that it had been ringed by another member of our group about 1 mile away in June 2016. It was aged as a 5 then, so was born in 2015. It was collecting mealworms, so presumably has a nest nearby.

Ringed Starling

Monday, 8 May 2017

Linacre - 7th May 2017

I spent a couple of hours at Linacre yesterday, recording 2 new species for the year; Swift and Skylark. The Swifts, 4 birds, were flying over the bottom car park when I arrived at 6.30am, and the Skylark, a single singing bird, was in the fields above the top reservoir. As well as these 2 species, I also recorded my first ever May record of Black-headed Gull, with 3 breeding plumaged birds flying over the middle reservoir!

Other birds of note  were: Greylag Goose (2), Canada Goose (1), Mallard (52; 46 adults and one brood of 6 ducklings), Tufted Duck (22), Mandarin (3 males), Grey Heron (1), Coot (14; 8 adults and a brood of 6 chicks), Moorhen (6 adults and 2 nests), Great-crested Grebe (4 birds and 2 nests) and Grey Wagtail (2).

Greylag Goose


Other birds seen were: House Martin (3), Swallow (1), Willow Warbler (2 singing), Chiffchaff (4 singing), Blackcap (3 singing), Song Thrush (collecting food), Bullfinch (1 male) and Buzzard (1 being mobbed- as always!!).

Monday, 1 May 2017

Linacre Nestboxes - 1st May 2017

Luke and I spent 2 and a half hours walking around Linacre this morning checking on the 80+ tit boxes. 39 were occupied, 21 of which either contained eggs, but no adults, or nests, but no eggs. The nests that contained eggs, but no adults, should hopefully, go on to produce chicks later in the season. The remaining 18 nests had 12 Blue Tits and 6 Great Tits, that were sitting tight when we checked, indicating a clutch of eggs underneath. All the results of today's search will be forwarded to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Blue Tit incubating

We also managed to record 2 other nests today, namely a Coot on the top reservoir, and a Moorhen that had built in a very precarious site on the overflow on the middle reservoir. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see the contents for a nest record.

Moorhen nest

A pair of Mallards were seen with a group of 7 very small  ducklings on the top reservoir. 2 Mistle Thrushes were collecting food for an unseen nest by the bottom car park.

Whilst walking around, we spoke to a couple who we seen regularly walking their dog around the reservoirs. They mentioned seeing a herd of 24 swans in late March. The timing of the sighting, the number of birds involved, and the fact that they were described as "noisy" makes me pretty sure they were Whooper Swans. Unfortunately, the couple couldn't remember exactly when they'd seen them. Perhaps they were present on 12th March when Luke and I had 2 Whoopers at Holmebrook Valley CP (see here)?

Other birds seen today included 3 Mandarin Ducks, an immature Cormorant, a dead Canada Goose (on the top reservoir- no obvious signs of death), a couple of Great-crested Grebes and a singing Willow Warbler.

Night Heron

The Night Heron, or Black-crowned Night Heron, to give it its proper name, is a relatively common bird found on all continents, except Antarctica, but is, perhaps surprisingly, still only an uncommon migrant to the UK. I've never managed to catch up this species in Britain, so when I saw, on Birdguides, that there was a bird not too far from home, on a pond in a park in Shrewsbury, I decided to pop across and see it (thanks Jayne!).

The bird had been frequenting this island in The Quarry in Dingle Park (see here), so, when we arrived, we went straight there, and waited with the half a dozen or so other birders.

We didn't have too long to wait (about half an hour), before the bird walked out of the undergrowth, and stood by the side of the water.

Night Heron

It then walked into the rhododendrons that were hanging over the waters edge and started to hunt. Unfortunately, it didn't catch anything whilst we were there, but we did enjoy great views for 45 minutes. Here's a link to a bit of video I managed to get. A great bird to see, and a lovely addition to the "year list".

Year List update:
145 – Night Heron

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Linacre Ringing and a 2 new Species

I was out ringing with 3 members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at Linacre yesterday. We had 3 and a half hours on site, but only caught 9 birds, most of which were retrap Tits (Blue, Great and a single new Long-tailed). We also had singles of Dunnock and Bullfinch (a 5 male). Unfortunately, no warblers were caught, although Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all heard singing.

Whilst there, the sun came out for a while, and a Peacock butterfly was seen, along with a moth. I grabbed a quick photo, and was very pleased to identify it later as a Water Carpet - a new species for me and for Linacre (as far as I'm aware).

Water Carpet

Apparently, this species is quite common in Derbyshire, so is presumably quite common here, but has, so far, been overlooked. A nice addition.

The other "new" species was , I think, a Short-tailed or Field Vole. The individual was found underneath an old manhole cover that was on the grass by the ringing site. I lifted it up, and spotted this.

Field Vole

As you can (hopefully) see, its the back end of a Vole, and appears to have a very short tail. According to The Wildlife Trust's website (see here),  a Field Vole's tail is approximately 30% of its body length, so I quite happy that the id is correct. We did, also, see its face, but I didn't manage a photo of that end!! Now I know what the Kestrel that we saw, was after.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Starlings Ringed

The Starling chicks in the box on the side of my house have continued to grow very nicely over the last week and a half since they hatched on 19th April. I got some "C" rings from Ray, my trainer, today and ringed the chicks.

Starling chick (just before ringing)

As you can see, this chick, 1 of 5 ringed, has begun to grow its flight feathers, and, all being well, should fledge, along with its 4 siblings, in about a week. The ring numbers will be forwarded to the BTO, so that, if the chicks are re sighted, the details of their lives can be recorded, and will add to our knowledge of this "Red listed" species. Details of the nest will also be added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Black-winged Stilts

I haven't seen a Black-winged Stilt in the UK for many years, not since "Sammy", the resident, and possibly escaped, bird that used to live in and around RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk (see article here). When I spotted on Birdguides that 3 birds had turned up in WWT Slimbridge, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to catch up with this species again.

I drove down on Sunday (with family), and got excellent views of 3 different birds feeding about 10m away in front of one of the hides. Here's a couple of photos and a link to a bit of video (here).

Black-winged Stilt

Other birds seen around the site included: Common Crane (4 birds), Ruff (6 birds, including 2 males in breeding plumage), Avocet, Oystercatcher, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Mediterranean Gull (1 2cy bird), Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, (with 5 goslings), Little Egret, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Gadwall.

Gadwall (male)

Year List update:
142 – Common Crane
143 – Black-winged Stilt
144 - Ruff

Monday, 24 April 2017

Starling Nest Update - 5 Chicks

Last time I blogged about the Starling nest in my nestbox was the 8th April, when I noted incubation had begun. Since then, the nest has gone from strength to strength, and we now have 5 healthy chicks, that can be heard cheeping very loudly every time the adult birds return with  a mouthful of food. Here are a couple of pictures. The first shows a full clutch of 5 eggs on the 8th April.

8th April 2017

The chicks hatched on the 19th April, after 11 days of incubation, and the second photo, taken yesterday (23rd April), shows the 5 healthy chicks.

23rd April

I'll keep an eye on them over the next few weeks, and ring the chicks as soon as they're ready. The details of the nest developments have been added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge Scheme.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Birthday Lifer

It was my birthday this weekend, so I travelled up to Teesdale and RSPB Bempton Cliffs with my family for a couple of days. High on my wish list was a bird that I've looked for before - Black Grouse. This year luck, and a bit of research, paid dividends, and I got to watch an amazing 22 males and 19 females at a lek site in Upper Teesdale. The birds were seen (and heard) from the road, with the birds about 500m away. After the lekking was over, a female bird and 2 males flew closer to me, allowing a couple of reasonable shots from the car.

Black Grouse (female)

Black Grouse (male and a Curlew)

Driving back down to our hotel in Barnard Castle I managed a couple of lovely photos of 2 other moorland birds; Lapwing and Snipe.



Other birds seen in Teesdale were: Red Grouse, Common Sandpiper (1 on the Tees in Barnard Castle), Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Curlew, Swallow (5) and Red-legged Partridge (year tick).

After Teesdale, we drove across to Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire, and added another 4 species (Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet and Kittiwake) to the "year list", taking me to 141. It was pretty windy when we got there, and the Gannets, in particular, were hovering just on the edge of the cliffs, and dropping down onto the grass to grab mouthfuls for  their nests, allowing some decent photo opportunities.


Other species seen here were: Guillemot, Tree Sparrow, Skylark, Fulmar and Herring Gull.

Year List update:
136 – Black Grouse
137 – Red-legged Partridge
138 – Razorbill
139 – Puffin
140 – Gannet
141 – Kittiwake

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Three New Birds

I was up at Carsington Water for a couple of hours on Tuesday evening (18th) walking around Stones Island. I was on my annual "wagtail hunt", as this site is usually a good place to catch up with passage Yellow and White Wagtails. As it was, I dropped lucky with White Wagtail, but "dipped" on the Yellow.

The White Wagtails (a minimum of 3, possibly more), were feeding around the back of Stones Island, along with several Pied Wagtails. Here's a picture of a male and  a female.

White Wagtail (male)

White Wagtail (female)

Unfortunately, White Wagtail can't be added to the "year list" as it isn't a species, it's just the European race of the British Pied Wagtail, but I did manage to add another 2 species with a Common Sandpiper and a beautiful breeding plumaged Dunlin being seen.

Common Sandpiper

Other species seen included: Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Great Northern Diver (breeding plumage, but distant), Black-headed Gull, Coot, Mallard, Canada Goose, Great-crested Grebe, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Dunnock, Oystercatcher (2) and Redshank (2).


Year List update:
134 – Common Sandpiper
135 – Dunlin

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Linacre Nestboxes - an update

I spent three and a half hours down at Linacre this morning carrying out the second check of the nestboxes. See here, for the details of my last visit. The number of nests had increased from 29 to 35, and included our first Mandarin Duck of the year.

Mandarin Duck

Later in the day, Ray and I went back down to ring her. Whilst off the nest, we counted the number of eggs, so we could do a nest record for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. I took a photo, and think I can count at least 29 eggs!! There were only 3 nest records for Mandarin Duck in Derbyshire in 2015 (the last year for which data is available), and only 48 for the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, so every record can help build up information about this species' breeding cycle.

Mandarin nest

The other 34 nests, ranging from N1 (just started), to NL (nest lined), were all either Blue or Great Tit, with the most eggs being a super clutch of 12! Last year, we had one Pied Flycatcher nest, so fingers crossed for one in 2017 as well.

2 other nests that were active today were one each for Moorhen and Coot. The Coot nest was the same one I'd seen on 11th April on the top reservoir, and the Moorhen was a new one, also on the top reservoir. It was about 1.5m up in a willow tree by the boardwalk. Hopefully, it should be safe from the dogs up in the tree! Unfortunately, I couldn't see into either nest to record the contents.

Moorhen nest

As well as nest recording, I also recorded some of the birds on and around the reservoirs. 2 Canada Geese were seen on the top reservoir, and the first Mallard ducklings (6), were on the middle reservoir. 1 Grey Wagtail was heard, an immature Cormorant was seen, and a pair of Mandarin Ducks were feeding around the bridge on the top reservoir.

Mandarin Duck pair

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were heard again, and Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all singing.

Wild Garlic was in flower, as were BluebellsGreater Stitchwort, Lesser Celandine, Marsh Marigold  and Red Campion.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Big Moor Year ticks

Jayne and I had a couple of hours on Big Moor this afternoon. It was pretty blustery, but we walked from the road up to the old reservoir and back again, adding 2 new species to the "year list".

The first species seen was Wheatear, with 2 male birds seen on the fence posts by the house by the reservoir.


The other "year tick" was Red Grouse, with 2 birds seen flying over the moor. Other species seen were: Kestrel (1 hunting by the house), Peregrine Falcon (1 flew over), Meadow Pipit (10+ flying around and singing), Skylark (6 flying and singing), Lapwing (5 displaying), Canada Goose (2 birds on the pools), Curlew (1 heard), Carrion Crow (3), Reed Bunting (1 male) and Linnet (2 birds flew over).

Year List update:
132 - Wheatear
133 - Red Grouse

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Idle Valley Nature Reserve

Today Luke and I met up with several members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group for a walk around the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's Idle Valley Nature Reserve. we spent most of the day on site, and recorded approximately 60 species, including 9 "year ticks".

We started out at the Visitors' Centre, where we saw 2 Tree Sparrows on the feeders, and a Swallow and a House Martin in amongst a big flock of c.100 Sand Martins. We then spent the next 2 and a half hours walking around the area near Bunker Wood and Bellmorr Lake and Ponds. Canada and Greylag Geese were numerous, as were Mallards. We also spotted a minimum of 5 Red-Crested Pochards (2 pairs and a male), 3 Shovelers (2m and 1fm), Tufted Ducks, Pochard (2m), Gadwall, Mute SwanMoorhenLesser Black-backed (a large breeding colony of c.100 birds) and Black-headed Gulls, 1 Snipe and Coot (including 2 broods of 6 and 4 chicks)

Coot chick

Passerines were also present, with dozens of Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps singing around the site. A real surprise was a singing Sedge Warbler (quite an early record), and at least 1, possibly 2 singing Cetti's Warblers (a lifer for Luke).

After lunch Luke and I went off to the far end of the Reserve in Lound, to look for a Great White Egret. Unfortunately, we didn't spot it, but we did spot 4 Little Egrets, 3 breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Avocets, 2 Oystercatchers and a Little Ringed Plover.

3 species of butterfly were also seen: Orange Tip (1 male), Comma (1) and Speckled Wood (1 - my first of 2017).

Year List update:
123 – Red-crested Pochard
124 – House Martin
125 – Sedge Warbler
126 – Cetti’s Warbler
127 – Black-tailed Godwit
128 – Little Egret
129 – Avocet
130 – Little Ringed Plover
131 - Oystercatcher

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Linacre Nestboxes - a first visit

Over the weekend, and yesterday, I paid my first visit of 2017 to monitor the nestboxes at Linacre. I had a feeling they'd be further on than last year, as I'd seen 1 Blue Tit entering a box last weekend. As it turned out, I found a total of 29 boxes with nests in them ranging from N1 to NL, and even 1 with an egg!! The egg is particularly early, with the first one in 2016 not recorded until 5th May!

Nest with an egg (possibly Blue Tit)

On Sunday I checked 4 of the 5 "owl" boxes that I have up around the site. The Little Owl box was empty, as were 3 of the other boxes. The remaining box contained.... a Grey Squirrel nest complete with 2 young squirrels. Last year, two of the owl boxes were used by Mandarin Ducks, but eggs weren't laid until later in the month, so I'll pop back in a couple of weeks to see if anything's happened. All the results will be sent in to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

After checking the boxes I walked around the site to carry out this month's WeBS walk. Numbers were quite low, but the following were spotted: Mallard (27), Tufted Duck (27), Coot (7 - including the first nest of 2017 on the top reservoir), Moorhen (3), Mandarin (11), Cormorant (3; 2 adults, including one with a ring, and an immature bird), Great-crested Grebe (3), Mandarin Duck (11) and Grey Wagtail (1).

Mandarin Duck

Other birds seen included a Mistle Thrush carrying food to an unseen nest, 3 Sand Martins, 1 Swallow (first Linacre records of 2017), a minimum of 3 singing Willow Warblers, 5 singing Blackcaps and 4 singing Chiffchaffs. Siskins and Lesser Redpoll were also heard.

It was quite sunny yesterday morning, so there were a few insects flying around, including a single Peacock, several Droneflies (Eristalsis sp), and, best of all, a potential new species; Early Mining Bee.

Early Mining Bee??

Year List update:
122 - Swallow

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Welcome Back EXP662

EXP662 is the ring number of a Chiffchaff that was ringed as a juvenile bird at Linacre on 16th July 2016 (see blog post here). This morning I was out ringing at Linacre with 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, when we re trapped said bird. Where it's been in between we don't know, but most recoveries of British-ringed birds show this species moving south into southern Europe and North west Africa, so this the was likely destination for "our" bird. Hopefully, it'll hang around and breed here. Along with this bird, we also ringed another 4 Chiffchaffs (all new).


Also caught this morning were (new/retrap): Blackcap (1/0), Dunnock (1/0), Coal Tit (1/1), Blue Tit (1/2), Magpie (1/0), Nuthatch (1/0).

In between net rounds we also saw: Brown Hare (2), 1 Peacock and 1 Small Tortoiseshell (first Linacre records of 2017 for all 3 species), a Dronefly (Eristalsis sp), a Harlequin Ladybird, Mandarin Duck (2 flew over), Sparrowhawk ( 1 female over), Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow,  dozens of Cowslips and a single Red Campion flower.


Small Tortoiseshell

Harlequin Ladybird on Gorse