Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A chat over lunch

I called into the Main Pit at Collingham briefly at lunchtime, en route to a site meeting at South Clifton. Other than 4 Goldeneye there was very little on the pit itself, but a small passerine perched in the ruderal vegetation between the grassland and the water could only be one thing - a Stonechat. Stonechats were very thin on the ground the last couple of winters (e.g. just nine recorded at five sites across the whole county in January and February 2010), so it was nice to find this bird - a female, which showed quite pronounced orangey fringes to the secondaries (just about discernable in the picture below).

Stonechat at Collingham Pits

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Reed all about it

Girton Pits today, and for once no time constraints. There was quite a lot of disturbance, especially on the sailing lake - some guys (presumably from the sailing club) were cutting scrub with chainsaws on one of the islands, and there were several fisherman dotted around. However, the A1133 Pit was a bit quieter, with lots of duck on the southern part. There was nothing of particular note, with a total of 358 Tufted Duck and 45 Goldeneye the stand-out counts. Single Redshank and Green Sands were also present (the latter on the Spalford Pit). Nearby, I took a drive through Spalford Warren to check the feeders - loads of tits and finches, plus a single Lesser Redpoll.

A revisit of Mons Pool (this time accessed from the north) didn't produce much different from yesterday, so I bumped down the track to Besthorpe NWT North. The new reedbed was officially opened here last week, with water let in from the adjacent storage lagoon. The Newark Advertiser rather optimistically described this as a 'vast' wetland with the creation of 8 hectares of reedbed and 3 hectares of wet grassland during recent works (across both this site and Mons Pool). Whilst definately not 'vast', these sites will no doubt become important areas of habitat, and I look forward to seeing how the sites evolve over the next few years.

The newly flooded (future) reedbed at Besthorpe NWT North

Saturday, 28 January 2012

All calm at Collingham

I had a quick run round at Collingham Pits this morning; the Ferry Lane Farm Pit and the Main Pit were pretty birdless, although there were 5 Buzzards up together over Mons Pool. The Silt Lagoon held a bit more, including 7 Redshank and a Little Egret. There was more still on Mons Pool, with 2 more Redshank and at least 1 (and possibly 2) Curlew, whilst a nice pair of Pintail and 4 Shelduck were amongst the duck. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Happy in Hampshire

The lure of two potential ticks finally proved too much, and myself and Carl C headed to Hampshire today. After a four hour drive down from Newark, first stop was Calshot, where we quickly caught up with the Spanish Sparrow - a smart bird. It showed well in a hedgerow, before flying to feeders in a back garden. Having had its breakfast it then flew off into another part of the housing estate. Just to the north, 2 Peregrines were sat up on the power station chimney.

Spanish Sparrow at Calshot, Hampshire
One down, one to go. Next stop was Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest. We saw the Dark-eyed Junco pretty quickly in the area that it favours around some fallen pines. These were a bit fleeting at first, and it then flew off with the Reed Bunting gang that it was hanging out with. It reappeared half an hour or so later, and gave better views. Whilst perched up (before flying off for a second time) it gave a trilling 'trillit' - reference to Sibley at home suggest this was its song, so it was good to hear this. Also in the area were quite a few Crossbills, a nice bonus.

Dark-eyed Junco at Hawkhill Inclosure, Hampshire
All in all a good day, although it seemed a shame to visit such a great part of the country for such a flying visit - all that heathland looked amazing! The long drive home was made a bit more interesting by spotting Red Kites.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A goose in a gale

Dunham Pools isn't a site I normally visit - a few decent birds do get seen there now and then, but it's not a site I like much, being a bit over-landscaped; short mown grass and trees in neatly fenced plots. However, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose had been reported there yesterday, so I headed up there this morning, having never seen a Brent Goose (of any form) in the county before.

Another birder had just seen the goose fly from the pools over to the opposite side of the Trent when I arrived. The wind was blowing an absolute gale, but I located it after a few minutes with three Canada Geese. It showed well, spending most of its time sat, eating grass within reaching distance, but periodically standing and walking to a new spot. However, it was darker on the flanks and belly than a hrota should be, and was in fact a 1st winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose at Dunham Pools

After a while, it flew a short distance north, but still on the opposite side of the Trent. This meant it was in Lincolnshire the whole time I saw it, so I still haven't got Brent Goose on my Notts list!

Monday, 16 January 2012

A little drummer

I had some site visits to do for work this afternoon, one of which was in Edwinstowe, so I had my lunch break at Rufford Country Park with the aim of seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Parking in the 'woodland' carpark, one was calling from the woodland just to the north, but it took another 5 or 10 minutes for it to show itself; it was a female, which flew up into the top of one of the lime trees towards the western end of the Lime Tree Avenue, drumming gently against a dead limb right at the top. Unfortunately I didn't have time to look for Hawfinches, so they'll have to wait for another visit.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Wild goose chase

Today was a notbirding out-of-county trip. Myself and Carl Cornish (minus a certain Mr French who had to bail on us to go up to Scotland for work) headed for Buckenham Marshes in Norfolk. Our quarry was the Lesser White-fronted Goose, which I had dipped just after Christmas (and hadn't bothered to go and see last year). The bird showed upon our arrival, albeit rather distantly, and spent a lot of time either obscured in a ditch, or asleep, when its long wing tips, projecting well beyond the end of the tail, were a particularly useful ID feature.

A particularly bad picture of the Lesser White-fronted Goose at Buckenham Marshes
Buckenham really is a superb site - wouldn't it be great to have some habitat like this in Notts?! As well as the LWFG, there were c.70 Taiga Bean Geese with which it was associating, small numbers of Eurasian White-fronts, Pink-feet and Barnies, at least 2 (and probably 3) Peregrines, 2 Bitterns in flight together, and 2 Short-eared Owls to the south of the Yare. Plus lots of Wigeon, Golden Plover and Lapwing, several Cetti's Warblers, etc.!

Pleased with how the day was panning out, we headed for Titchwell. We had sufficient views of the Coues' Arctic Redpoll with the flock of Lessers and at least one rosy-pink breasted Mealy, although viewing wasn't particularly easy and I couldn't manage a photo. Elsewhere on site, of note were a female Mandarin and a 2nd W Yellow-legged Gull on the freshmarsh and several Spotted Redshank on the brackish marsh.

Spotted Redshank at Titchwell RSPB
There was also a nice selection of stuff on the sea; 5 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Velvet Scoters, 3 Eider, single Red-necked Grebe and Fulmar, several Razorbills, and a fly-by Goosander. Two Snow Buntings also flew east up the beach, and then back again. A nice end to a good day.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Ducks up

With the morning free before an afternoon hockey match, a visit to Girton Pits beckoned. I did a complete sweep of the site, which was looking crisp in the morning's frost, for my WeBS count.

A frosty A1133 Pit at Girton
There was nothing much out of the ordinary, but duck numbers were definately up from last visit (260 Mallard, 187 Wigeon, 292 Tufties). Highlights were 3 Green Sands (2 on the Sailing Lake and one on the A1133 Pit) and 50 Pink-feet heading west, whilst on the Trent there were 3 adult Whooper Swans (no doubt the birds from Besthorpe NWT last weekend), and a smart drake Goosander.

3 Whooper Swans on the Trent at Girton
On the way home a drove through Spalford Warren to get Great Spotted Woodpecker for my yearlist (which I did). A lot of conifer felling work is underway at the site - bad for Crossbills but good for Woodlark!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Owl be back

Determined to get some better pics of the Short-eared Owls at Cotham Flash, I finished work early and headed that way this afternoon. I began by trailing round trying to find a gull flock to go through, but none were easily viewable (either to distant, obscured, or into awful light).

So I gave up with gulls, and tried my luck with owls. Staying at Cotham Flash, I had nice views of one Short-eared Owl floating around the back of the site - they really are superb birds - but it didn't want its picture taken. The only time it perched in a good position, it was in shade rather than in the lovely late-afternoon orange light washing over everything. Another SEO was over towards the cycle path, landing on the northern flank of 'Ayer's Rock', with this or another over Hawton Works Grassland a bit later.

Giving up trying to take bad shots of birds (but still determined to get a better shot of the SEO's at some point!) I went home, and took a bad picture of Jupiter instead.

Jupiter and the Galilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The long and the short of it

No birding this morning, but in the afternoon I took fellow Newark birder Carl Cornish to see the LEO's that I'd been lucky with yesterday, and we managed to find one of them in more or less the same spot as before.

Continuing with the owl theme, we then visited Cotham Flash, enjoying several encounters with a Short-eared Owl, one perching up on a hay bale allowing some hand-held shots to be taken through Carl's scope. I fetched my own scope and adapter from the car, and no sooner was I set up for a shot than the owl hopped behind the hay bale, whilst the sun came out and washed everything in a beautiful evening light... Carl also picked up a Peregrine here as it flashed through heading east.

Short-eared Owl at Cotham Flash
Giving up on photography, we spent the period up to dusk on Hawton Works Grassland, where three fantastic SEO's (including quite a pale bird) were hunting until we left the site. A nice covey of 19 Grey Partridges were also present, with several others calling from the field to the south. The only thing that marred the atmosphere were three offroad bikes tearing around nearby... But the owls didn't seem to mind too much.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Pinkies on the move

I paid my first visit of the year to Girton Pits this morning. Generally things were pretty quite, although there was a Green Sand on the North Pit, and about 10 Tree Sparrows and 3 Bullfinches were in with a flock of Reed Bunts feeding in the winter beet field at the intersection of Trent Lane and Green Lane - there were also good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing in this area.

At the far end of Trent Lane at the fisherman's carpark I scanned the Holmes on the opposite side of the river for geese, instead finding 3 Whooper Swans to the south of Smithy Marsh. I decided to drive round to Besthorpe NWT (North) to get a better look at them, although by the time I got there they'd moved onto the Trent; this did mean I also came across a nice group of 8 Goosander (3 drakes and 7 redheads) which I wouldn't otherwise have seen.

Whooper Swans (with three of the 8 Goosander behind) on R. Trent at Besthorpe NWT (North)
At the same time, 35 Pink-footed Geese passed overhead, battling into the westerly wind, and another larger group appeared to land back towards where I'd just come from; I retraced my steps back to Girton and down Trent Lane, and a quick check of Grassthorpe Holme produced a group of c.120 Pinkies - the most I've ever seen on the ground in Notts, and in the exact same spot where I had 13 Eurasian White-fronts in mid November.

Pink-footed Geese on Grassthorpe Holme

Friday, 6 January 2012

White-winger and luck with LEO's

So, time for my first post:

I had a quick trip out at lunchtime to check a couple of sites close to home - my main target was the Glaucous Gull that's been seen at Cotham Landfill and the surrounding area over the last few days. I checked Pykett's Pond and the field next to Cotham Flash without success, and then looked through a large gull roost next to Hawton Road, just south of The Grange. Again, no Glauc, but I then scanned across to Cotham Landfill, where large numbers of gulls were wheeling around, and a number (although distant) were visible stood on a newly seeded area. My luck was in, as the first gull I looked at was a first-winter Glaucous Gull. Nice!

1st winter Glaucous Gull at Cotham Landfill

I then visited a nearby (undisclosed) site, where I met a couple of other birders, who very kindly took me to see two roosting Long-eared Owls, which I wasn't aware of. The LEO's showed extremely well, roosting 10 metres apart in a hedgerow. One was laid out across two branches, whilst the second was sat up in a more normal posture.

Long-eared Owls at undisclosed site