Saturday, 25 February 2017


Bluethroats are pretty uncommon in Britain, usually seen as a passage migrant in spring and autumn, mainly on the east coast. News, therefore, of a "red-spotted" Bluethroat found apparently overwintering in Lincolnshire was a great record, and one I couldn't pass up on. I've only ever seen 2 before, 1 briefly (about 5seconds) at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, and one on Beeley Moor, Derbyshire, in June 2001 (see details, and 1 photograph on the Birdguides website here).

Today's bird was initially found on 10th February, and has been present in the same area, by the main path at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Willow Tree Fen Reserve ever since. When Jayne and I arrived the bird had just been out, for about 20 seconds! We waited an hour (in cold, windy conditions!), before it came out again for about 45 seconds. I managed a few photos, and a little video (see here), before it dived back into the reeds. A beautiful bird!


Whilst waiting for the Bluethroat to appear, we also spotted a couple of Marsh Harriers (year tick), and heard some Teal. Driving home, we spotted a small flock of approximately 30 Golden Plovers (year tick).

Year Tick update:
102 – Bluethroat
103 – Marsh Harrier
104 – Golden Plover

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Linacre WeBS - 18th February 2017

Luke and I were down at Linacre this morning to carry out this month's WeBS count. It was a grey, overcast morning, but it was also quite mild at 5 degrees. As we drove onto the site, we were met by an amazing flock of c.400 Starling flying over. What a start!

We were on site for just over two hours, and recorded the following birds: Mallard (63), Tufted Duck (24), Mandarin (5), Little Grebe (2), Great-crested Grebe (4), Moorhen (16), Coot (15), Black-headed Gull (17), Grey Wagtail (1), Cormorant (2) and Goosander (2 redheads).

For Luke and me, the highlight was the 2 Goosander. These were our first of the year at Linacre, and are always nice to see. Other birds seen in the surrounding woodland included 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Treecreepers, a male Sparrowhawk, a male Bullfinch, 1 Buzzard, Siskin (heard), 5 singing Song Thrushes and 4 drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Mute Swan 691

Hot on the heels of Tuesday's Mute Swan sighting, today's blog gives details of.... you've guessed it, another darviced Mute Swan!

Mute Swan 691

This bird was sighted by Jayne and me on the Upper Lake at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park this morning. Again, it was a bird that had been ringed by Sorby Breck Ringing Group, and I managed to get the details from David, our data manager. The bird had been ringed, as a 1st year bird, in August 2014 at Royds Hall, a stately home, just north of Bradford. It was seen twice in 2016 in Roundhay Park, Leeds, and Swillington Ings, before moving down to The YSP, where it was first reported on 15th January 2017, and then again today by me.

The bird was with another Mute Swan today, so hopefully, they'll settle down to breed here this year. I'm pretty sure 691 is a female bird, as she was smaller than the other bird, with a paler bill. The other bird also seemed to be "protecting/ defending" 691. Only time will tell if I'm correct.

691 (top bird) and partner

Other birds seen during the walk around the lakes were: Grey Heron (a minimum of 15 birds back on nests), Teal (8 birds), Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard (1 male), Goosander (1 male and  female), Black-headed Gulls (c.200), Kingfisher (3 sightings), Great-crested Grebe, Canada and Greylag Geese. Woodland birds seen included: Great-spotted Woodpecker (3 drumming), Nuthatch (calling), Robin, Blue and Great Tit.

Mute Swan - 089

I don't often blog about other people's sightings, but when I got news from my nephew, Luke, about a Mute Swan he'd seen on Tuesday at Holmebrook Valley Country Park in Chesterfield, I thought the news was worth a post.

The bird in question was wearing a yellow darvic ring, number 089.

Mute Swan 089

I did a quick internet search, and guess what? It turns out the bird was ringed our very own Sorby Breck Ringing Group, at Treeton Dyke, South Yorkshire, on 10th September 2013, as a 3, i.e. a bird born in that year. I contacted David, our data manager who provided me with the following details. Since it was ringed, it has only been reported on 2 other occasions, both at Rother Valley Country Park, South Yorkshire, on 12th April 2015 and on 25th August 2015. Luke's sighting was the first since then. Who knows where it's been in the meantime? Luke thought that it was setting up a territory with another Mute Swan, so hopefully, if it does, we'll be able to keep tabs on it throughout the summer.

Whilst there, he also recorded a pair of Gadwall (his first record at this site), 2 Kingfishers, 2 Pied Wagtails, a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gulls, and, best of all, a Water Rail!!!!

Water Rail

Update on 17th Feb: Luke and I've just been down to Holmebrook Valley CP again, and the swan is still there, with the female bird.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

North East Adventure

Every February half term I like to have a day out birding somewhere different. This year I spent a day with Luke travelling around the North East, picking up 2 "lifers", and 21 "year ticks".

The first stop of the day was Skinningrove in Cleveland, where an Eastern Black Redstart had been reported on rocks by the pier. We arrived at 8.30am, and enjoyed a couple of hours here watching the bird as it fed in amongst the rocks. It was a very confiding bird, coming to within a few feet at times. Although, not yet a full species, it's still a great looking bird and very nice to see. See here for details of the different subspecies.

Eastern Black Redstart

Also present here were several Stonechat, 4 Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Pied Wagtails, 4 Redshank, 4 Oystercatchers, Rock Pipits and c.20 Fulmars.

Next stop on our day trip was the Northumberland Wildlife Trust's East Chevington Nature Reserve. The main bird we were here to see was a juvenile Pacific Diver. With a little persistence and some help from another birder, we found the bird, swimming distantly with Mute and Whooper Swans. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any photos, so click here for some amazing shots of the bird, taken earlier in its stay. Other birds present on and around the reserve were: Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup (4), Slavonian Grebe (1), Gadwall, Skylark, Goldeneye, Mallard, Coot, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Curlew, Canada and Greylag Geese. Whilst here, we also walked down through the dunes to have a look for some Shorelarks and Twite that had been reported on the beach. Unfortunately, the Shorelarks weren't around, but we did see an amazing flock of c.90 Twite, and a few Linnets. Some seed had been put down by a couple of photographers and the birds kept flying in to feed about 10 feet away from us.


Ringed Plovers were also running around on the beach along with c.30 Sanderlings, including a colour ringed individual. Hopefully, I'll get the details of this bird, and update the blog later.

The last stop of the day was North Shields Fish Quay, where we hoped to catch up with a couple of "white-winged" gulls. The first species, a 1st winter/2nd calendar year Iceland Gull, was seen flying around as we parked up, but couldn't be found again (!), whilst a 1st winter/2nd calendar year Glaucous Gull was a lot more confiding. The bird flew in to some bread and sat a few feet away begging for more for the whole time we were there. Needless to say, we managed to get some great photos.

Glaucous Gull

Other birds seen around the quay were: Herring, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls, 2 Guillemots, several Shags and Cormorants and 11 Eider Ducks.

Year List update:
80 – Red Kite (5 seen on the journey)
81 – Stonechat
82 – Eastern Black Redstart
83 – Rock Pipit
84 - Shelduck
85 - Pacific Diver
86 - Red-breasted Merganser
87 - Whooper Swan
88 - Scaup
89 - Slavonian Grebe
90 - Gadwall
91 – Skylark
92 - Goldeneye
93 - Ringed Plover
94 - Sanderling
95 - Twite
96 - Linnet
97 - Red-throated Diver
98 - Iceland Gull
99- Glaucous Gull
100 - Eider Duck
101 - Curlew

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Des Res

At the end of last year's nesting season I noted that a few of the nestboxes at Linacre were, to put it nicely, looking a bit worse for wear.

damaged nestbox

I contacted my friends at the Chesterfield RSPB Group, who very kindly, made me some new boxes to replace those that had been attacked by the Great-spotted Woodpeckers and Grey Squirrels and this morning I spent a few hours replacing the damaged boxes.

Des res!

I'll leave well along now and begin checking the boxes in April so that I can record the nesting attempts for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Monday, 6 February 2017

How old??

How long do birds live? is a question we are often asked by members of the public at ringing demonstrations. I was asked this exact question whilst out ringing yesterday with Sorby Breck Ringing Group at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve. The bird in question was a Blue Tit that we'd just extracted from one of the nets and was found to be wearing a ring already.

David checked the ring number when he got home, and emailed the following details. The bird had originally been ringed at The Avenue on 28th March 2010 and aged as a 5M i.e. it had been born in 2009. It had only been re trapped once before today, on 27th February 2011, also at The Avenue. This means that this bird is now 7 years old (in its 8th calendar year), which is a pretty impressive age for such a small bird. A quick check of the BTO's Longevity Records , shows that the oldest Blue Tit on record was 10 years, 3 months and 10 days old when it was last recorded, so "our" bird still has a few years to go!

Other birds caught during yesterday's session were (new/retrap): Wren 0/1, Dunnock 2/1, Robin 3/0, Blackbird 5/0, Song Thrush 0/1, Long-tailed Tit 1/0, Blue Tit 0/4, Great Tit 3/1, Chaffinch 2/0, Goldfinch 1/0, Bullfinch 4/3, Yellowhammer 1/0, Reed Bunting 11/1.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Year List Update

After walking around Linacre yesterday, I had an hour up at Shillito Woods. I put out some seed, and within a few minutes there were 13 Bramblings, 5 Yellowhammers, dozens of Chaffinches, Robins, Blackbirds, Blue and Great Tits.


In the afternoon, Jayne and I went to Rufford Country Park. We walked around the lake, and added another four birds to the "year list"; Greylag Goose, Pochard (1 male), Common Gull (minimum of 5 birds, including at least 1 adult) and Goosander (10; 5 males and 5 redheads).


Common Gull (2nd cy)

The final addition to this year's list is Pink-footed Goose, and relates to a skein of approximately 200 birds that were flying over the Avenue Washlands this morning during a ringing session.

Year List update:
74 – Brambling
75 – Greylag Goose
76 – Pochard
77 – Common Gull
78 – Goosander
79 – Pink-footed Goose

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Linacre - 4th February 2017

Luke and I made our first visit to Linacre for February  this morning. It was cold (0 degrees on arrival), dry, bright and sunny, and we walked around all 3 reservoirs.

Water birds seen were: Mallard (66), Tufted Duck (27), Mandarin Duck (5), Moorhen (14), Coot (8), Little Grebe (2), Great-crested Grebe (2; 1 very vocal bird on the middle reservoir, and another, quieter bird on the top reservoir, both birds in full breeding plumage), Cormorant (3, including 1 in full breeding plumage), Black-headed Gull (10) and Grey Heron (1 in trees on the middle reservoir).

The woods were quite quiet, but we did hear a couple of singing Song Thrushes, drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker and Siskin. Robins were also in good voice, and the/a usual bird was still present by the top reservoir enjoying some free food!