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