Tuesday, 16 January 2018

White-wingers on their way

I made my weekly visit to Cotham Landfill this morning (it's a pain having to go to work...). Having scanned the tip multiple time to no avail, I was giving it one last go when I noted what looked like a white-winger at the back, partly obscured. It soon revealed itself as a 2cy Iceland Gull; very nice too. However, it spent most of its time feeding just behind a ridge in the rubbish, making observing (and photo'ing it) problematic. And then I had to leave it. The fist white-winger of the winter here, and about time too!

Back to the weekend, and I managed two brief visits to the patch, adding Peregrine, Lesser Redpoll and Coal Tit, the latter two at Primrose Hill in Besthorpe village, a spot a only ever visit a couple of times a year...

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A short review of 2017

Patchwork Challenge

I haven’t got the time (or really the inclination) to do a month-by-month review of my year on the patch; it was unspectacular, lacking a top-notch bird... In total, I recorded 140 species, amounting to 166 points – my second highest species total, but only my third highest points score. Of these, 21 were two-pointers, and one was a six-pointer (Cattle Egret). This compares with:
  • 2016 – 153 species and 193 points (29 two-pointers, a three-pointer Temminck’s Stint, a four-pointer Glossy Ibis which I didn’t claim finders points for as it had been seen at Langford the evening before, and one six-pointer for a self-found Great White Egret).
  • 2015 – 139 species and 157 points (18 two-pointers, and nothing higher)
  • 2014 – 135 species and 162 points (14 two-pointers, a three-pointer GWE and a twelve-pointer self-found Glossy Ibis)
  • 2013 – 136 species and 167 points (15 two-pointers, a six-pointer self-found Pec Sand, and a twelve-pointer self-found Pied Wheatear – crazy that this gets the same points as a Glossy Ibis...)
Highlights for this year included not one, but two Cattle Egrets, Spoonbill, and Hawfinch (all patch ticks), as well as other notable species like Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes and Eurasian White-front. Other potentially tricky or erratically occurring species which I scored included Smew, Scaup, Little Gull, Black Tern, Arctic Tern, Bar-wit, Raven, Redstart, Spotted Fly, Whinchat and Gropper. A bird I know I dipped was Great White Egret (the first when I was on a stag do in the spring, the second over two dates at the end of November according to the sightings book in the hide – these weren’t reported at the time). Other misses included Ruff and Tree Sparrow (seen in all four previous years). Add to them Bewick’s Swan, Med Gull, Merlin, Red Kite, Sanderling, Tawny Owl and Turnstone (seen in three out of five years). We'll see what 2018 brings...

The second of the patch Cattle Egrets


2017 was one of my better years for finding my own. As well as two patch Cattle Egrets (the first being something like the 6th or 7th for Notts, the second still less than double figure), I had a Red-rumped Swallow in Suffolk in April and a Red-footed Falcon in Cornwall in May. Two weeks on Unst with Paul Eele produced co-found Red-throated Pipit, 2 Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls and 4 Parrot Crossbills. Finding the latter, a first for Unst, was probably my most memorable birding moment of the year!

Red-footed Falcon
Red-throated Pipit
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Parrot Crossbill


I only added four species to my British list in 2017. One of these was the aforementioned Red-throated Pipit; the other three were the Pacific Diver in Northumberland in February, the Blue Rock Thrush in Gloucestershire in March (which I finally went to see for insurance purposes - which proved to be the correct decision), and the Elegant Tern in West Sussex in June. With the change to IOC taxonomy come 1st Jan 2018, I also gain a Bean Goose, but very frustratingly, lose a bona fide Fea's Petrel.  

Pacific Diver
Elegant Tern

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Starting over

I finished Patchwork Challenge for 2017 on 140 species, totalling 160 points - having failed to add anything new since Freya was born... more in another write-up. And despite the new arrival, I was allowed out for several hours on New Years Day (missing lunch with the in-laws), after dad duties had been completed in the morning. 

I didn't see anything of particular note, but notched up 70 species in 5 and a half hours, with highlights including 6 Whooper Swans still on the fields just north of Meering Marsh, a Stonechat on the western side of Mons Pool, 4 Curlew on Ferry Lane Lake, and a Barn Owl at Meering. Jack Snipe and Woodcock didn't show in their favoured haunts though, unfortunately. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Hawfinches at Rufford

New Years Eve, we had a walk at Rufford Country Park with some friends. I'd negotiated that we could arrive a little earlier so I could have a quick look for Hawfinches. After checking the yews nearest the abbey, I tracked them down in the yews furthest away, on the start of the exit road. They were feeding quietly, but then flew up into the tree tops in two groups totalling at least 11. With a baby strapped to my front, bins over my shoulder, and scope in one hand, I failed to get any shots (at least, none in focus!). Four more Hawfinches flew over as we walked through the Wilderness - more, or some of the same?

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Ducks n' Gulls

Last weekend (Saturday 9th) I did my WeBS count at Girton; nothing much of note, and only modest numbers of wildfowl, but there were two odd looking Aythyas in the Sailing Lake . Both promptly swam out of sight - one a male, the other a female or young bird. Sunday past, I made another visit to Girton, where I was aided by ice concentrating the wildfowl. There was no sign of the female bird, but the male showed well - a Tuftie x Pochard, with a charcoal grey mantle showing no sign of any vermiculations.

Tuftie x Pochard
Tuftie x Pochard
Tuftie x Pochard
Tuftie x Pochard
Tuftie x Pochard

Today, I had a quick look at Cotham Landfill - I'm managing one brief visit a week at the moment. Last week's produced the 1st W Yellow-legged Gull, and the same bird was still present today. Overall gull numbers remain fairly low... 

1st W Yellow-legged Gull
1st W Yellow-legged Gull
1st W Yellow-legged Gull
1st W Yellow-legged Gull
1st W Yellow-legged Gull

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Gulling before it's gone

Despite the new arrival, I have managed one to two brief birding trips out, although these haven't yielded much of note. However, I'm painfully aware that Cotham Landfill is rapidly filling up, and that after this winter, local gulling opportunities are going to be seriously curtailed. So, I'm going to somehow need to make the time to visit the site during the week, when the tip is operational... I managed an hour there yesterday morning on the way into work. There were maybe 500+ large gulls present. No Casps and no white-wingers, but a big 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was an eye-catching bird, and there was the usual smatter of yellow-ringed Herring Gulls originating from York, plus a white-ringed Black-headed Gull that I need to track down.

1st W Yellow-legged Gull
Yellow-ringed Herring Gull

Monday, 20 November 2017

Things will never be the same

On 8th November my wife gave birth to our first child, Freya, 10 days earlier than expected. Amazing, daunting, and life-changing! Things will never be the same again, including my birding... However, I have managed two short trips out since then.

The first, on 15th, saw my mother-in-law almost pushing me out of the front door so I could go and do some birding; I think really she just wanted some one-on-one time with her daughter and new granddaughter - but I wasn't complaining! I headed first to Girton Pits to do my WeBS count. The highlight was a 1st W female Scaup on the Sailing Lake, not the most obvious one I've ever seen and requiring a closer approach to confirm it. In addition, there were no fewer than 3 Cetti's Warblers singing in various places, 2 squealing Water Rails, and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls (and adult and a 1st W). 

It was then on to the patch, where the western side of Wharf Pit was being remodelled. Water levels here were extremely low, and the pit held 8 Redshank and a Dunlin - there were another 5 Redshank and 3 Dunlin on Mons Pool. Further evidence that it has been a good year locally for Cetti's Warblers came in the form of three more in song, and there were 3 Water Rails suggesting something of an influx. A Barn Owl hunting over Besthorpe Meadow wrapped things up. 

Today, and I was allowed another few hours out. I wanted to check out Cotham Landfill, and spent just over two hours there. Around 700 Herring Gulls were present, along with c.75 GBBGs and 7 LBBGs, and best a 2nd winter Caspian Gull. There were also 5 darvic ringed Herring Gulls, and 1 GBBG. The Herrings were all ringed yellow on their left leg with the code Y:xxx, so ringed at a landfill near York. The GBBG was black on right, JW131; the 1st winter GBBG I had here earlier in the winter was ringed black JX157, and originated from Vardo in northern Norway - today's is no doubt from the same scheme. 

2nd W Casp
2nd W Casp
Cotham Landfill - not much room left...