Sunday, 28 April 2019

Linacre Nestboxes - Update 28th April 2019

It's now been 2 weeks since my last check of the nestboxes at Linacre, so I went down this morning with 2 other members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group (thanks Sarah and Robin), to see how things had progressed. We found a total of 25 active nests (24 with eggs, and 1 with the first chicks of 2019; 8 Great Tits). Unfortunately, they weren't quite big enough to ring. The other nests were a mixture of Blue and Great Tits and contained between 5 and an impressive 14 eggs. A minimum of 2, possibly 3 Pied Flycatchers were also present and singing. The Mallard nest I found on a wall at the start of the month had, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, been predated. A Nuthatch was seen taking food into a natural cavity, possibly feeding a sitting bird? The results of today's visit will be entered into the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Nest with 14 eggs

Whilst on site, we also recorded a couple of Canada Geese (still quite uncommon for Linacre), a pair of Raven flying over, Siskin (heard in the conifer woodlands by the top reservoir), 2 Buzzards and a new micro moth species Adela reaumurella.

Adela reaumurella

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Scotland - The Last Few Days

My last post about my recent Scotland trip is one covering a few days, and several different places.

The first place is a forest called Allean, near Queen's View in the Tay Forest Park. Jayne and I had a walk around this site for a couple of hours and recorded the usual suspects (tits, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeons), and a "year tick", Crossbill. Unfortunately, the only bird we saw was very distant, and silhouetted against the sky, so I wasn't able to see if it was a Common Crossbill or another, more exciting, species!! Afterwards, we went to Dunkeld for some delicious vegan food at The Atholl Arms Hotel, where we also saw our first Sand Martins of the trip, and a fly-over Jay.

Next stop was St Andrews on 25th April. We had a walk around the town and the old cathedral, and spotted about half a dozen nesting Fulmars, and 100+ Eider Ducks.


Our last trips of the week were to Cairn Gorm and the RSPB Loch Garten reserve. We visited Cairn Gorm yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great (windy, raining on and off, and a low mist!), but we did get great views of at least 4 Ring Ouzels, including this male in the car park, a Mountain Hare and a male Wheatear in the small garden area.

Ring Ouzel


We then visited RSPB Loch Garten. There are no breeding Ospreys there this year, but we did see a pair of Goldeneye, a couple of Red Squirrels, many (!) Siskins, but no Crested Tits!!

The last bird, and the latest "year tick", a Cuckoo,  was heard, by Jayne, at 5am this morning, from our accommodation in Killikrankie. Thankfully, she woke me up so I could hear it too!

Year List update:
157 - Crossbill
158 - Cuckoo

Starling Nest - We've got Chicks!

This year's Starling nest had 5 eggs back on 11th April. The average incubation period for this species is two weeks, so, when noise was heard from the box on 24th, is was clear this year's chicks had hatched. This was the view of the nestbox this afternoon - 5 naked and blind chicks.

5 chicks on 27th April 2019

I'll update the BTO's Nestbox Challenge site with the details, and leave the chicks for a week or so, before ringing them.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Loch Craignish and Oban

Whilst in Scotland, Jayne and I decided to drive over to the west coast. We first went to Loch Craignish, where we had a 2 hour boat trip with Craignish Cruises, seeing Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot (20+), and White-tailed Eagle. Here's a very heavily cropped photo of said Eagle.

White-tailed Eagle

Whilst out on the water we also visited a small colony of Harbour Seals.

Harbour Seal

Back in the marina we had good views of Hooded Crow, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, and what looked like a pair of Rock Dove. I haven't added them to the year list, as I can't be 100% sure they're pure Rock Dove, but they did look pretty good.

Rock Dove?
Later in the day we drove up to Oban, where we had lunch in The Little Potting Shed, vegetarian/vegan café, and also got great views of a rather scruffy looking Hooded Crow, and a much smarter looking Black Guillemot.

Hooded Crow

Black Guillemot

Year List update:
154 – Hooded Crow
155 – Black Guillemot
156 – White-tailed Eagle

22nd April 2019 - 5 Year Ticks

On Monday Jayne and I had a drive around and manged to get 5 new species for the year. The first two, Stonechat and Black-throated Diver, were seen at a loch near Carrbridge, along with 1 male Wheatear, Meadow Pipits, Oystercatchers, Mallard, Greylag Goose (2) and Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The divers put on a fantastic show, swimming to within 20ft of the car, where we were sitting, allowing some fantastic views of this full breeding plumage!

Black-throated Diver

The next stop of the day was the seaside town of Nairn on the Moray Firth, where we enjoyed the 22 degree heat and fantastic sunshine. We went looking for a King Eider, which we unfortunately, didn't get, but instead we enjoyed watching our first Sandwich Terns, Razorbills and Gannets feeding in the sea from the end of the pier.

Year list update:
149 – Stonechat
150 – Black-throated Diver
151 – Sandwich Tern
152 – Razorbill
153 – Gannet

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Scotland 21st April 2019

On 21st, Jayne and I visited 3 new places in Scotland. First stop was The Hermitage near Dunkeld, where we walked through the woodland and recorded just a few species: Wren, Goldcrest, Siskin, Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, Dipper (entering a nest), Chaffinch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit.

In the afternoon, we visited The Explorers' Garden in Pitlochry, where we had very similar species, and a new one, Nuthatch, and a new species of insect, a Norwegian Wasp.

Norwegian Wasp

Our final stop of the day was the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes reserve. This reserve has breeding Ospreys, which we were able to see from the hides and via  webcam. The female bird was seen incubating the eggs. Other birds seen were: Chaffinch, Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tit, Yellowhammer, Mute Swan, Mallard and Canada Goose.

We were also lucky to see a pair of Red Squirrels running around the trees near the feeding stations.

Red Squirrel

Year List update:
148 – Osprey

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Black-headed Gull 2N78

I wasn't expecting to find anymore ringed Black-headed Gulls this winter, so I was very surprised (and excited!) to find this beautiful adult breeding-plumaged bird on the river side at Bakewell on 6th April 2019.


The darvic ring looked familiar, and sure enough, it was ringed in Bowness at Windermere, on 2nd December 2018 It was last seen there on 4th February 2019, and my sighting was the next record. 

Who knows, perhaps it's a wintering bird heading back East? Hopefully, it'll get spotted somewhere in Europe during the breeding season.

Scotland - 19th April 2019

Jayne and I are up in Scotland for a few days, and our first stop, on 19th, was Musselburgh Lagoons, near Edinburgh. We stopped off here to see if we could get a view of a pair of Surf Scoters, that had been recorded from the seawall. We got lucky, and managed good scope views of both the male and female birds - LIFER!!

Whilst there we also got excellent views of Common Scoter (10+), Velvet Scoter (50+), Long-tailed Duck (30+), Red-breasted Merganser (1 pair), Bar-tailed Godwit (c.50 on the lagoons), Oystercatcher (30+ on the lagoons), Ringed Plover (2 on the lagoons), Common Sandpiper (3 on the lagoons), Redshank (c.10 on lagoons) and 2 White Wagtails.

On arrival at our cottage in Killikrankie (20th), we spotted Raven (3), Buzzard (2+), and a Golden Eagle!! The eagle was a very nice surprise, as it's only my 2nd ever record, and my first, self-found bird. No photos unfortunately, but here's one of the Common Buzzards seen at the same time.

Common Buzzard

Year List update:
141 – Velvet Scoter
142 – Common Scoter
144 – Red-breasted Merganser
145 – Long-tailed Duck
146 – Common Sandpiper
147 – Golden Eagle

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Summer Migrants arriving

Over the last couple of days I've managed to add 3 new species to the "year list" as this year's summer migrants have been arriving.

The first new species is Pied Flycatcher. My first record of 2019 came yesterday, when I saw 1 male at Barbrook Plantation. This morning I saw another 3 at Padley Gorge (all males), and managed to get a few nice photos. Here are 2 heavily cropped examples.

Pied Flycatcher

Whilst at Padley I also managed to see a couple of male Redstarts (no photos unfortunately). My last stop was RSPB Eastern Moors, where I spotted a male Wheatear by Barbrook Cottage, and this very obliging Meadow Pipit (not a summer migrant or new for the year, but very nice). 

Meadow Pipit

Year List update:
138 – Pied Flycatcher
139 – Redstart
140 – Wheatear

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Linacre Insects - 17th April 2019

The weather went up to 17 degrees yesterday and this afternoon, so I had a couple of sessions walking around the middle reservoir of Linacre. This area is particularly good for insects as it's south facing, and there is also some open ground, along with many Dandelions and Dog Violets. Today's session was the best with at least 7 Peacocks, 4 Commas, 2 Orange Tips (males), 1 Small White, 1 Green-veined White and 2 Brimstones seen.


Other insects seen included: Red-tailed, White-tailed, Common Carder and Tree Bumblebees, 3 Dark-edged Bee Flies, Tawny Mining Bee (2 females  - first Linacre record), a Drone Fly species, most likely Eristalis pertinax, and a new species of Nomad Bee, Nomada leucophthalma.

Tawny Mining Bee (female)

Nomad Bee?

Monday, 15 April 2019

Attenborough Nature Reserve - 15th April 2019

I haven't been to Attenborough Nature Reserve near Nottingham for several years, so when I heard that a pair of Ferruginous Ducks were present, and "showing well", I thought I'd have a drive down. The ducks were, as promised, very confiding, swimming around the bridge by the Visitors' Centre, allowing some great views and photographs.

Male Ferruginous Duck

Female Ferruginous Duck

Whilst there I also managed another 2 "year ticks"; Cetti's Warbler and Red-crested Pochard.

Red-crested Pochard (pair)

When the sun came out I also got a couple of "butterfly ticks"; Small White and Speckled Wood, along with my first ever Tawny Mining Bee.

Small White (female)

Speckled Wood

Tawny Mining Bee (female)

Year List update:
135 – Cetti’s Warbler
136 – Ferruginous Duck
137 – Red-crested Pochard

Year List Update- 14th April 2019

It's been over a month since I last updated the year list, and, since then, I've added quite a few new species, including a "lifer", the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) that I caught and ringed in February (see here). As you can see, most of the new species are summer visitors, except for the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (heard at Linacre on 30th March - my first record there since 2014), and the Red Grouse, seen yesterday at Stanage Edge.

Ring Ouzel

Year List update:
126 – Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
127- Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) 
128 – Blackcap
129 – Willow Warbler
130 – Swallow
131 – Sand Martin
132 – House Martin
133 – Red Grouse
134 – Ring Ouzel

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Linacre Nestboxes and Summer Migrants - 14th April 2019

Luke and I were down at Linacre this morning to have the first check of the nestboxes for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. We went around all of the "tit" boxes and found 12 with eggs in them already, including one with a Great Tit sitting, and a further 20 with the beginnings of nests in them. All the eggs were tit eggs, and all but one of the nests were tit nests. One nest looked a little different with grass in it, so fingers crossed for this one. Unfortunately, there weren't any signs of Nuthatches using the boxes... yet. The owl boxes will be checked later in the week.

Tit nest with 12 eggs

Along with these nests, we also inadvertently flushed a female Mallard off a nest that was built on top of a 1m high wall (the first one I've ever found at Linacre), and also had a pair of very annoyed Chiffchaffs alarm calling and wing flicking at us as we walked past them. The Moorhen's nest that we found last weekend was still active, with a bird sitting on it, whilst a tiny, newly-fledged Moorhen chick was by the boardwalk on the top reservoir. Last, but by no means least, was a Blackbird carrying nesting material.

Mallard nest

Other birds noted this morning were: 4 Bramblings still around the top reservoir, Greylag Geese (birds heard honking, but not seen, 1st record of 2019), Teal (a pair on the top reservoir), Siskin and Lesser Redpoll (heard by the top reservoir), Blackcap (4+ singing), Willow Warbler (2 singing) and a very nice mixed flock of Swallow (c.40), Sand Martins (c.20) and House Martins (4+) feeding on the top reservoir, and coming in to roost on the dam wall (1st Linacre records of 2019).

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Coal Aston Nests - 13th April 2019

I was out ringing this morning with 3 other members of Sorby Breck Ring Group at a local farm in Coal Aston. We had a steady morning, with 12 birds of 6 species, including our first ever Chiffchaff record from this site. Birds ringed were (new/retrap): Nuthatch 0/2, Dunnock 1/2, Blue Tit 1/1, Great Tit 3/0, Robin 1/0 and Chiffchaff 1/0. All the retraps were birds that we had ringed at this site previously.

Whilst there, we had our first check of the nestboxes for 2019, and were very pleasantly surprised to find 6 out of the 7 boxes were occupied (up from 2 last year). 1 box contained a Nuthatch nest, whilst the other 5 nests were all tit nests (1 with a 1/2 built nest, 1 with 5 eggs, 1 with 10 eggs, 1 with 8 eggs and 1 with 2 eggs). All eggs were cold, so incubation hasn't yet started.

Nuthatch nest

Tit nest, with 10 eggs and lots of horse hair

Details of all the nests recorded, will be sent to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Five eggs

Following on from my last post, the Starlings have now laid a full clutch of 5 eggs.

5 eggs

This should be a complete clutch now, so I'll leave the nest alone for the next couple of weeks, until the chicks are due to hatch. As always, the details will forwarded to the BTO Nest Box Challenge.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Starling Nest 2019 - The First Egg

Last year, due to a spell of cold and miserable weather, the Starlings that nest in the box on the side of my house didn't lay their first egg until 14th April. This year, the first egg was laid today (7th April). 

1st egg

Hopefully, the pair will go on to lay another 4 eggs this week and raise the chicks successfully.

Lesser Whitethroat "blythi" - 3rd February 2019

Back in February (3rd), I had my first garden ringing session on 2019. I had the 20ft net up by the feeding station and caught just 8 birds including 2 Blackbirds, 2 Goldfinches, 1 Bullfinch and 2 Long-tailed Tits (first for the garden).

The highlight of the morning, however, was the very last bird, which turned out to be a LESSER WHITETHROAT!! I've only ringed 1 previously, so I was very excited to see this species in the net, but, given the time of year, I was even more surprised to see it, and my first thoughts were.... is this an "eastern" type bird?

Lesser Whitethroat "blythi"

The first thing I noticed once in the hand was the small size, and the 2 prominent outer tail feathers. The tail feathers, in particular, looked interesting, so I quickly "processed" the bird (put a ring on, aged it as a 5, based on 1 retained greater covert, and a tail with 2 generations of feathers, and measured the wing, 63mm), before phoning a more experienced ringer to get some advice. Numerous photos were also taken showing the wing, tail and body.

Lesser Whitethroat tail

I was advised to retain any feathers lost during ringing, for DNA analysis. These feathers were subsequently sent to Aberdeen University, where said DNA analysis was carried out, confirming the bird as an "eastern" Lesser Whitethroat, subspecies blythi!!!!!!!!!

This is the first confirmed record of this subspecies in Derbyshire. There have been 2 previous "possibles" 1 in 1998 (a bird seen at feeders in November and December), and a bird seen in a garden in Eggington from December 2013 to March 2014.

Linacre Bird News - 7th April 2019

Luke and I were at Linacre this morning for a walk around all 3 reservoirs. We recorded the following waterbirds: Mallard (37), Tufted Duck (46), Mandarin (14), Great-crested Grebe (5 - including 1 pair displaying), Cormorant (2), Grey Wagtail (1 heard), Black-headed Gull (3 - unusual in April), Coot (9), Moorhen (7, including 1 sat tightly on a nest).


Whilst walking around the reservoirs we also recorded at least 9 singing Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps and the first Willow Warbler of the year. Other signs of breeding included both Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch seen carrying nesting material.


Interestingly, Luke managed to spot 4 Bramblings by the top reservoir, an excellent record!