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

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Incubation's Begun

The Starling's in the nestbox have continued their nesting attempt this week, and appear to have started incubating the eggs.

Male Starling on nest

Last year (see Starling Nest 2016 labels for details), the eggs hatched after 12 days incubation, so I'll leave well alone until then, and then see what's happening at the end of April.

Details of today's visit will now to added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Starlings' First egg.

The Starlings have been building a nest on the side of my house again (see labels Starling Nest 2017 for details).

Male Starling

When I got back from work this evening I spotted a male Starling in the Rowan tree in the garden, and decided to have a check on the box. I was very happy to see.... the first egg of 2017!

First egg

It's always good to see the birds doing well, and it's also interesting to compare this year's nest with the last 2 years. Last year, the first egg was laid on 7th April, and the first egg in 2015 came on 14th April. Hopefully, this pair will go on to lay another 4 eggs, like they did last year, and, who knows, perhaps a second clutch?

I'll add the details of today's visit to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website, and update the blog again when the clutch is complete, most likely at the weekend.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Derbyshire Cattle Egret!!

According to The Birds of Derbyshire, Cattle Egret is a "very rare vagrant" in the county, with just 7 previous records in 1966, 1968, 1986, 1996, 2009 (2 records of possibly the same bird), and 2014. Scrolling through Birdguides this afternoon, I noted that one had been reported at Poolsbrook Marsh, Staveley, so, as soon as possible Jayne and I had a drive over to see the bird.

We dropped lucky, with the bird still being present on the edge of the reedbed, and managed some good, if somewhat distant, views.

Cattle Egret

The bird stayed on the edge of the reeds for about 15 minutes before flying up into a dead tree, where I got this shot.

Cattle Egret

It looked as if it would roost there, but a report came through that it had flown off "high to the north". Hopefully, it'll turn up again somewhere in the county. An excellent Year, British and County tick!

Year List update:
120 - Sand Martin (1 on 2nd at Avenue Washlands)

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Avenue Ringing - 2nd April 2017

After a few weeks without a ringing session it was really nice to get out and about again today. I spent 3 and a half hours out with 4 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield. We had a quiet session with just 17 birds ringed, but the total did include our first summer migrants of the year; 3 Chiffchaffs and a single, female Blackcap.



Today's totals were (new/retrap): Chiffchaff 3/0, Blackcap 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Blue Tit 0/1 , Great Tit 0/2, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Dunnock 1/1, Robin 1/2, Wren 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0 and Reed Bunting 1/0.

During net rounds we also recorded these birds: Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker (year tick), Linnets, Yellowhammers, Goldfinch, Canada Geese and Mute Swans.

Year List update:
117 - Green Woodpecker
118 - Raven (1 over Sudbury Hall, Derby, this afternoon)
119 - Shoveler (1 male on Sudbury Hall lake).

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Summer Migrants at Linacre

Luke and I had 2 hours at Linacre this morning and walked around all 3 reservoirs. We recorded good numbers of the usual waterbirds, along with a pair of Greylag Goose (present since Wednesday 29th) and our first singing Blackcap (3) and Willow Warbler (1) of 2017. The Willow Warbler was by the top reservoir, and was 3 days earlier than 2016, whilst the Blackcaps were by the middle reservoir (1), and by the stairs by the bottom reservoir (2) and were an  amazing 16 days earlier than last year!! Also singing this morning were: 9 Chiffchaffs, 7 Song Thrushes, Wrens, Stock Doves and Dunnocks. 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming.

Greylag Geese (a pair?)

Waterbirds seen were: Mallard (33), Tufted Duck (27), Coot (6), Moorhen (12), Cormorant (3; 2 adults and a young bird), Great-crested Grebe (6; 3 pairs, including 1 pair that appeared to have a nest), Mandarin Duck (6) and Grey Wagtail (4: 2 pairs). A mixed flock of c.30 Siskins and Lesser Redpolls was flying around the Larch woodlands.

Wood Anenome, Lesser Celandine and Coltsfoot were in all in flower. Interestingly, another 4 Perch and another dead Trout were in the overflow from the middle reservoir, along with, what looked like a half eaten duck, possibly a Mallard?


Year List update:
115 - Chiffchaff (at Linacre on 12th March)
116 - Willow Warbler