Sunday, 25 June 2017

All Gone!

It's been 3 weeks since I last blogged about the Starling nest in the nestbox on my house, so here's an update.

The 4 chicks hatched on 4th June, and were ringed, by me, on 10th June.

Starling pullus

3 of the young survived to fledging, bringing the total to 8 from this box this year. They were still in the box on 19th June, including this adventurous individual.

19th June 2017

The birds fledged on 20th June (Thanks Lydia for the sightings), and spent a short while in the garden, before flying off to who knows where. hopefully, the rings attached will be read somewhere, and I'll get an update on their whereabouts.

20th June 2017

Now that the nesting season is over for this box, I'll update the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website. See you all in 2018!!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Mute Swan 089 and Family

Back in February I blogged about a darvic ringed Mute Swan (ringed by Sorby Breck Ringing Group) that had taken up residence at Holmebrook Valley CP in Chesterfield (see post here). At the time I mentioned that he had set up a territory with a female bird. Well, as the title suggests, the pair have been successful, and last week I went down to see the birds with their 3 cygnets.


089's partner and cygnets

As well as the swans there was also a pair of Greylag Geese with 4 goslings.

Greylag Geese

Two species of damselfly were also seen, namely: Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Year List Update - 4 new species

Over the last couple of weeks the "year listing" has slowed down some what, but despite this, I've managed to add 4 new species, taking the 2017 list to a very respectable 173.

The first new species was Grasshopper Warbler, with 1 male "reeling" at The Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield on 11th. I also added Long-eared Owl last weekend, at a site in Derbyshire, and the last 2 species; Woodcock and Nightjar were added during a visit to Clumber Park with Chesterfield RSPB Group.

Year List update:
170 – Grasshopper Warbler
171 – Long-eared Owl
172 – Woodcock
173 - Nightjar

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Linacre Ringing - 4 breeding records

This morning's ringing session at Linacre was a quiet one, with just 10 birds caught, but within that small number, we were very lucky to record juvenile birds, born this year, of 4 species (Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Blue Tit and Mistle Thrush). Of these 4 species, 3; Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Mistle Thrush, were the first records of young birds for 2017, and prove breeding on site. The Blue Tits included new  juvenile birds, unfortunately, not ones ringed in the boxes. The 4th species in the title was Common Buzzard. We didn't ring any chicks (unfortunately), but we did spot an adult bird carrying food into the woods, which, again, is positive proof of breeding. This last record, is particularly pleasing, as it's the first time I've recorded breeding of this species at Linacre.

Other birds caught this morning were: Bullfinch (a new male and a retrap female) and a retrap male Nuthatch.

In between the net rounds we recorded a couple of Swifts, a Grey Wagtail (thanks David), a House Martin, a Kestrel, a Brown Hare, a Sparrowhawk and a Chimney Sweeper (moth - see here for details).

We also took the ladders with us today, so we could check the owl boxes. The Mandarin Duck eggs we found in April (see here) had gone (hopefully hatched and fledged, and not predated), and the other boxes (including the Little Owl box), were all empty.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Four New Chicks

On 22nd May I blogged about the Starling nestbox on my house having a second clutch of 4 eggs. On Saturday afternoon I had a look in the box and spotted .... 4 newly hatched chicks!

4 chicks

A great record, and one to add to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Linacre Insects - 3rd June 2017

It was bright and sunny again today (20 degrees), so I had a couple of hours in and around the ringing site at Linacre, to see which insects were out and about. As it turned out, there were quite a few, including many "new for the year" species.

The first insect I saw was Common Blue Damselfly, which was very numerous (c.20/30 individuals), including many newly emerged individuals. A single Large Red Damselfly was also present , in exactly the same spot as last year's individual.

Common Blue Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

A single Meadow Brown butterfly (my first of 2017), was seen, as was a male Common Blue Butterfly, feeding on the Bird's Foot Trefoil, and a Large Skipper.

Common Blue Butterfly

Large Skipper

As well as these butterflies, there were also several day flying moths present, 3 of which I could identify: Nettle Tap Moth, Cinnabar Moth and Bloodvein.

Cinnabar Moth


Hoverflies were present in good numbers with numerous Eristalsis sp seen, a single Helophilus pendulus , 1 Volucella pellucens (Great Pied Hoverfly), 1 Volucella bombylans and a couple of "as yet unknown" species!!

Great Pied Hoverfly

Other species seen were: Scorpion Fly, a Mayfly sp (possibly Drake Mackerel) and a Hairy Shieldbug. All in all, an excellent couple of hours!!

Friday, 2 June 2017

RSPB Minsmere - A Final Visit

Today was our last day in Suffolk, so we had a final visit to RSPB Minsmere (thanks Jayne). It was 21 degrees, and the sun was shining when we arrived, and we went straight down to the pond by the Reception to check on the dragonflies. The most numerous by far was Four-spotted Chaser, with at least a dozen flying around and perching on the reeds.

Four-spotted Chaser

A male Broad-bodied Chaser was also present on the pond, along with one Southern Hawker, Large Red, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies.

Broad-bodied Chaser

Away from this pond, we also managed to spot another four species of odanata; namely Red-veined Darter, Variable Damselfly, Norfolk Hawker (my first record at this site) and Black-tailed Skimmer

The Red-veined Darter, a male, was my first ever confirmed record. Unfortunately, it was a brief view, and it flew away before I could get a photo. Here's a link for more information about this species. The Variable Damselfly, a female, and , again a "lifer", was seen by South Hide, and I managed to get this photo. Again, details about this species can be found here.

Variable Damselfly

The Norfolk Hawker, and the Black-tailed Skimmer, were also seen on the path by South Hide. 

As well as the dragon/damselflies, we also added 3 new species to the ornithological "year list". The first new species was Sandwich Tern, with several breeding pairs seen. Next up were two gull species; Caspian and Yellow-legged.

Caspian Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Year List update:
167 - Sandwich Tern
168 - Yellow-legged Gull
169 - Caspian Gull

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Red-footed Falcon!!

News of a 1st summer male Red-footed Falcon on Dunwich Heath on Tuesday evening had me up early (again!) this morning, to see if I could catch up with this species. I've seen a female Red-footed Falcon in Britain before, but this was my first male, so I was really keen to see it. Luckily, as the blog title suggests, I got lucky, and had super, 'scope views of the bird as it perched up in a dead tree in the reedbeds at the bottom of the National Trust's Dunwich Heath. It was also seen flying around briefly, catching dragonflies! An excellent addition to the "year list". No photos unfortunately, but here's a link to see photos of this species.

In addition to the falcon, I also added Little Gull to the "year list", with a first summer bird that flew overhead, along with several Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls. Other birds seen on the heath were: Linnet, Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Stonechat and several Whitethroats, including 1 carrying food to a nest.


Whilst looking for the falcon, I also heard a booming Bittern, pinging Bearded Tits and a calling Cuckoo. A Little Owl was seen on the drive.

Year List update:
165 - Red-footed Falcon
166 - Little Gull

Ickworth House

We had a walk around the National Trust's Ickworth House yesterday. There was a lake called Canal Lake, where we saw a few birds, namely Canada Goose, MallardCoot, Tufted Duck and Moorhen. Also present here were a few damselflies; Red-eyed and Common Blue, both new for the year.

Red-eyed Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

Two other new species for the year were seen on Monday; Egyptian Goose ( a pair and 2 goslings on Thorpeness Meare, and Dartford Warbler (1 on Dunwich Heath).

Egyptian Goose and gosling

Year List update:
163 - Egyptian Goose
164 - Dartford Warbler

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Minsmere again!!

RSPB Minsmere really is a wonderful place, so I popped down again yesterday morning at 5:30am, and spent 3 and a half hours walking around the reserve!

I started off at Island Mere hide to listen out for a singing Savi's Warbler that had been reported. It started singing as soon as I sat down in the hide - a wonderful "year tick", and only my second ever record. Bitterns were heard booming here, and Marsh Harriers were also seen. From here, I moved on to the rest of the reserve where I  heard Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers, singing. 5 Little Egrets were on the levels, whilst Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls were present on the scrapes along with Common Terns. There were at least 2 broods of Shelduck, including this one with 9 chicks.

Shelduck and ducklings

There weren't too many waders about, but Avocets were seen along with a couple of Redshank and a flock of c.20 Black-tailed Godwits. Ducks were represented by Mallards, Tufted Ducks and a single Gadwall. Both Canada and Barnacle Geese were seen with young.

My final stop was the small pond by the Reception, where I looked, unsuccessfully, for Water Voles. I did, however, see a single Hairy Dragonfly (again, no photo!!!), Large Red, Blue-tailed and Azure Damselflies.

Large Red and Azure Damselflies

Driving back at 9am, I saw a Barn Owl hunting over a field near Leiston.

Year List update:
160 - Savi’s Warbler
161 – Barnacle Goose
162 – Barn Owl

RSPB Strumpshaw Fen

Jayne and I had a few hours at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk, on Sunday. We went in search of Swallowtail butterflies, and Norfolk Hawker dragonflies, and got great views (but no photos) of both species. The Swallowtails were newly emerged, and we saw 6 in total, including 2 pairs in courtship or territorial fights.

As well as these insects, we also saw several Banded Demoiselles, Azure Damselflies, Hairy Dragonflies (new species for us, but unfortunately, no photos), Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers. A Ruby-tailed Wasp sp was seen in the Reception garden, and several Red Admiral , Brimstone and Green-veined White butterflies were also seen.

Banded Demoiselle (male)

Birdwise, we saw Marsh Harrier, Hobby (one hunting from the Reception hide), Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler (singing in the car park), Moorhen and Coot.

Finally, a Water Vole was seen on the pond by the Reception Hide.

Year List update:
158 – Garden Warbler
159 - Hobby

Monday, 29 May 2017

RSPB Minsmere - 27th May 2017

I'm down in Suffolk for a week, so, of course, the first stop has to be Bittern Hide at RSPB Minsmere. Jayne and I had a couple of hours down there on Saturday evening, to see what we could see. As always, this site produced the goods with amazing views of at least 2 Bitterns, right in front of the hide!!


Other birds present were: Cettis Warblers (everywhere), Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit (heard), Common Tern, Reed Warbler.

Year List update:
154 – Bearded Tit
155 – Bittern
156 – Common Tern
157 – Reed Warbler

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