Monday, 30 April 2012

Wheatears... and a flycatcher

After spending the day looking longingly out of the window, I managed half an hour at Cotham Flash this evening - there was the usual stuff on the flash, with 5 or 6 Yellow Wags and 4 Wheatears in the paddocks - good, but not a patch on the numbers elsewhere in the county; 25 at Bentinck Void and 22 at Annesley Pit Top today.

And definatelty not a patch on a putative Atlas Flycatcher at Flamborough. Having seen some pics and read the thread on Surfbirds, I'm in two minds; it's certainly a striking bird, but as a 2nd CY it sounds like proving it isn't a hybrid will be difficult. I've been to Flamborough three times and seen three quality birds - Brown Fly, Brown Shrike and E Olivaceous Warbler; if it hangs around, could this be number four...?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wet wet wet

It felt more like the end of November than the end of April out there today - it took a lot to psych myself up to leave the house, something I then regretted doing as soon as I arrived at Collingham - the weather was atrocious, with constant rain and a biting breeze from the north - my car claimed it was just 6 degrees C. Predictably, I didn't see much, although there was a bedraggled party of 5 Wheatears in the grassland next to the Main Pit - 4 males and a female. They seemed to be finding food ok, although one was just hunkered down behind a clump of knapweed looking like it wanted to be somewhere else - I know how it felt...

At Mons Pool, a Hobby lingered for a couple of minutes before heading north, harassing the good numbers of hirundines present. I scanned these half-heartedly for a Red-rumped Swallow (one can but hope), and was impressed by the precision flying of both the Swallows and Sand Martins, fluttering low over the water before pulling their wings up and dropping their heads to delicately pick an insect off the waters surface - whilst battling into the blustery wind and dealing with the choppy water. Judging from the tinyness of the insects concerned, they must have to catch thousands, given the amount of energy they must expend catching them in the first place. Poor little blighters!

Girton wasn't better, with more low-feeding hirundines, including 50 or so Swallows feeding in the lee of a hedge (ignoring me completely) and a single Swift, but the Cetti's Warbler was singing from its new hang-out, along with a couple of Reed Warblers.

Swallows at Girton Pits
Finally, in the paddocks at Cotham Flash, there was another Wheatear and at least 3 Yellow Wags, but by now I was cold and wet, and couldn't see through my optics properly, so I went home and did some DIY. Lets hope the weather improves next week...

Friday, 27 April 2012

Marsh Tits in Wellow Wood

A stop at Kilvington first thing this morning produced a party of 13 Dunlin, plus single Swift and Common Tern. This was followed by a walk round Annesley Pit Top (aka Newstead and Annesley Pit Top) for work, which was a nice change from the office, and produced 6 Swifts (apparently arriving yesterday, tallying nicely with the birds at Collingham and Girton), plus a Common Sand.

After work I had a walk round Wellow Wood; plants were my focus, but I had Marsh Tits at three different locations in the wood (which is big, so there are probably lots more). This allowed me to check out something which I'd been reminded about recently when reading Birding Frontiers (see here) - the presence of a pale spot (or smudge) on the base of the upper mandible and its use as an ID feature. This feature was clearly visible on the two birds I saw well, along with a buffy suffusion across the rear of the pale check patch. Interesting - see the November 2009 issue of BB for more.

Wellow Wood

By now it was getting a bit late to go to Collingham or Girton, so I made a quick visit to Cotham Flash. There were at least 10 Yellow Wags in the grass between the carpark and Pykett's Pond, with 2 smart male Wheatears in the paddock. There was nothing on the flash itself, but the field pool held pairs of Redshank, Ringed Plover (1 sitting?), Oystercatcher, Shoveler and Gadwall, a head count of at least 10 Lapwing (= 5 pairs?), and a single White Wag with a few Pieds.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A swift visit

Given that there have been yet more Arctic Terns passing through the country (and the county), with a smattering of goodies amongst them (e.g. Little Tern at Hoveringham yesterday), plus a putative Whiskered Tern last night at Long Eaton (which then apparently flew NE up the Trent), another visit to Girton seemed in order. But no Arctic Terns - just 1 Common Tern on the Sailing Lake. But there were 6 Swifts there instead, and loads of hirundines, including good numbers of House Martins.

Nearby at Collingham, there were a further 2 Swifts (and a few Yellow Wags, but not much else), with another Swift over the village itself. Added to the sigle Swift I spied over Farndon (just south of Newark) on the bus home this afternoon, this brought the day's total to ten.

Looking on the Notts Birdwatchers website, there have been a few bits n pieces this week locally seen by others - 9 Blackwits on the Silt Lagoon at Collingham on monday, and an Arctic Tern at Kilvington yesterday.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes it's a plane - a Vulcan bomber over Langford village

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Circus sighting

Collingham tonight produced a few bits and pieces - a Cuckoo calling somewhere off to the north, at least 17 Yellow Wags (13 of them on Carlton Ferry Farm Pit), 2 Green Sands, and a female-type Marsh Harrier - the second in 10 days; or the same bird hanging around? It was flying north when I picked it up, but it then turned south over Mons Pool (encouraged to do so by a party of corvids), then making a beeline in the direction of Langford (where apparently there aren't any breeding birds this year).

Monday, 23 April 2012

Groppers galore (well, almost)

Cotham Flash held nothing of note this evening, so I had a roam over Hawton Works Grassland. I do love this site, despite its many faults - it's the closest thing we have to a wilderness around Newark. I kicked up at least three pairs of Grey Partridges, before tracking down my target bird; not one, but two Groppers, reeling from the scrubby centre of the site. Other nice birds included the Short-eared Owl again, plus a Little Owl silhouetted on the Works building. And I made it home just in time for Silent Witness.

Spectrogram of reeling Grasshopper Warbler at Hawton Works Grassland

Sunday, 22 April 2012

More migrants

Birding this weekend was a bit on the light side - with a christening and our hockey club presenation to attend yesterday, I only managed an hour out yesterday (8 Yellow Wags, c.40 Mipits and 21 Fieldfares at Cotham Flash), and today wasn't much better (for one reason and another...). However, I managed a few year ticks including a Whitethroat at Mons Pool and at least 1 Reed Warbler at Pykett's Pond.

Aside from these, Collingham Pits held a Common Sand and a White Wag on the Main Pit, but Mons Pool had changed dramatically from last visit - water levels were up at least a foot (probably more), and all the low islands were submerged; I dread to think how many nests have been flooded out. Another disappointment here is the Sand Martins seem to be showing no interest in their nesting bank where several hundred nested last year. Unfortunately the bank wasn't cut back over the winter and is slumping in places (on the plus side, the RSPB have created a new nesting bank not too far away at Langford).

This evening, I popped out to Cotham Flash. The paddocks held two Yellow Wags, with a White Wag on the field pool - unfortunately the sitting Lapwing wasn't in evidence - I fear she too has been flooded out. There were 15 Fieldfares feeding in the grass field next to Pykett's Pond, but best was a lingering Short-eared Owl hunting around the flash - it surely must be thinking of heading off soon!

A nice full Cotham Flash

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Rain, rain, go away...

I know we need it, but I'm getting a bit bored of all this rain - I got soaked for the second night running whilst not seeing any birds; last night I zoomed round Girton and Collingham in the hope of a lingering Arctic Tern or two, given the overland passage (but no luck), whilst today I visited Kilvington, where 4 Yellow Wags were the highlight (flying up to mob a low-flying Buzzard at one point) - there was an Avocet and Little Gull here yesterday. Nearby, the paddocks at Cotham Flash still held a Fieldfare, and a single Yellow Wag.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Colour-ringed Glauc - Part 4

Euan at Grampian Ringing Group has provided an update of the most recent movements of the Glauc bearing the colour-ring T:193:
  • Ugie Estuary, Peterhead  (hand-caught) - 03/08/2011
  • Boldon Flats, Tyne and Wear - 23/12/2011
  • Newburn Sewer, Seaton Carew - 15/01/2012
  • Cotham Landfill Site, Nottinghamshire - 18/02/2012
  • Cotham Landfill Site, Nottinghamshire - 27/02/2012
  • Ogston Reservoir, Derbyshire - 08-12/03/2012
  • Longnewton Reservoir, Cleveland - 24/03/2012
  • Lingham Lake, Yorkshire - 03/04/2012
  • Lingham Lake, Yorkshire - 07/04/2012
It's interesting that after heading up to Cleveland after its stay in the Midlands, it then turned south again to Yorkshire. Where next?

Monday, 16 April 2012

Lunchtime at Budby

I stopped briefly for my lunch at Budby Heath on the way back into the office from a site meeting today; this proved the be a good call, as the Ring Ouzel reported there yesterday was still present; a smart male in the sheep field on the south-east side of the heath. I managed some particularly awful pictures of it (handheld through my bins).

Ring Ouzel at Budby Heath
Also there, my first Tree Pipit of the year, and a Chiffchaff with an abnormal song. I pointed my Remembird in its direction - the resultant spectrogram is produced below, and roughly equates to "chiff chiff chiff chaff chaff cheef chaf cheef cheeef cheeef cheeef" (or something like that!). Not an Iberian unfortunately (it looked like a standard Collybita as well), but I'm always interested by Chiffies with odd songs. I wonder if they manage to attract a mate?

Spectrogram of singing Chiffchaff at Budby Heath

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Counting Cormorants

Still no Ring Ouzel in the paddocks at Cotham Flash this morning (but 2 Fieldfares); I didn't find one in a good walk round at Collingham Pits either, a bit disappointing as I was determined to find one this weekend, given the good numbers coming through, including a couple of birds in elsewhere Notts. Aside from no Ring Ouzels, there wasn't a huge amount else of note; small numbers of hirundines, a fly-over Yellow Wag, 2 Green Sands, a Little Egret, and a Peregrine scaring the local Stock Doves. There wasn't much at Mons Pool either, with singles of Green Sand, Redshank and Ringed Plover.

Given the lack of migrants, I spent some time trying to accurately count the Cormorant colony. This is easier said than done, given that some of the nest are obscured and there is a small rookery in the same location (i.e. black birds with twiggy nests...). The colony here was first recorded in 1990, peaking at 178 nests in 1999, but falling to 98 the year after; numbers then fluctuated between 78 and 120 up to 2006, when there were 90, and in 2007 a count of 137 was made (although I understand this was based on the number of Cormorants present rather than an actual nest count). My count (of 90 nests) is the first count since then, and suggests the colony remains fairly healthy.

Cormorants nesting at Mons Pool

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Hundreds of hirundines

I began the day at Kilvington - convinced that the Black-winged Stilt that flew NNW from Rutland Water last night would have headed this way (it hadn't - it went to Spalding instead). There were a few hirundines on the East Lake; 5 Swallows and 2 House Martins. Nearby, the horse paddocks at Cotham Flash still didn't hold a Ring Ouzel; thrush interest here instead came in the form of 35 Fieldfares. No Yellow Wags today either.

Collingham produced my first good concentration of hirundines of the year - around 40 Sand Martins, 4 Swallows and 2 House Martins over the Main Pit, with a female Marsh Harrier north through here. On the Silt Lagoon, there was a Little Egret, with more hirundines at Mons Pool - 20 Sand Martins, and 10 Swallows, plus 3 Redshank.

Finally, as the weather came in at Girton, so did more hirundines; at the north end of the Sailing Lake, at least 40 Swallows were amongst c.100 Sand Martins, along with about 3 House Martins, and a further 40 or so Swallows and c.20 Sand Martins were on the Spalford Pit, bring the day's Swallow count to a least 95.

Swallows at Girton Pits
Elsewhere at Girton, there were good numbers of singing Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, with a fly-over Yellow Wag near the sailing club, but no Whitethroats yet, and only one Sedge Warbler, along Trent Lane. Aside from migrants, the 3 Pink-feet remain on the Trent off the fishermens carpark (but no sign of last week's White-front), with 2 Curlew also here - hopefully  latter may stay and breed on the holmes.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

April showers

I stopped at Kilvington and Cotham on the way home this evening, but got caught in a shower without a waterproof - foolish. Kilvington was a bit quiet, although the rain brought in 4 Swallows, and the 2 Egyptian Geese were back again. By the time I reached Cotham Flash, the rain had stopped, and there were 4 (and perhaps 5) Yellow Wags in the horse paddock to the south. Despite looking promising, no Ring Ouzel -  I'm sure there'll be one next visit! The field pools held 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers and a Redshank, plus the usual Lapwings - one bird is definately incubating. The Flash itself held a few Teal and a couple of Gadwall.

Yellow Wag at Cotham Flash

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Hello yellow

With the Thayer's Gull readily accessible today up near Brigg, I instead went round Collingham, Besthorpe and Girton as I'd promised myself some local birding before going back to work (and yesterday had been a write-off cos of the weather). Nothing too amazing - smatterings of hirundines (a total of 6 Swallows and 2 House Martins, the latter at Mons Pool) and Willow Warblers, and the new reedbed area at Besthorpe NWT (North) actually held a couple of birds, including an LRP.

Single Little Egret and Green Sand were on the Sailing Lake at Girton, and most notably a 1st W Eurasian White-fronted Goose was with the Greylags on the River Trent off the fishermens carpark (mind the asbestos).

An evening visit to Cotham Flash was notable for two reasons; 1. the flash is actually holding some water (and some birds - a Redshank, a Ringed Plover and a few duck), and 2. it produced my first Yellow Wags of the year, glowing in the sun. These were in the horse paddocks to the south, along with c.15 Pied Wags (but no alba's) and a Wheatear.

So will I regret not going for the Thayer's? I will if it doesn't hang round until saturday...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

A week in Devon

We've just come back from a nice week in Devon, staying in Torcross at the southern end of Slapton Ley. Although strictly speaking a non-birding holiday, the time and location did lend itself to a few birding sorties...

Overall, migrants seemed a bit thin on the ground, but Wheatears featured frequently and the number of phylloscs built up during the week, with plenty of Willow Warblers at Prawle Point on the 7th - although Cirl Buntings were the undeniable highlight here (and elsewhere along the coast - super birds).
Prawle Point
Cirl Bunting at Prawle Point
A Black Redstart at Start Point on the 4th was probably my best find of the week - but not quite the Hoopoe of Alpine Swift I was hoping for... Hirundines were definitely few and far between - one Swallow at Start Point and two in-off at Prawle, a House Martin at Start, and a Sand Martin at Slapton Ley were the sum total.

Start Point
Other highlights were the Little Bunting at the sewage works at South Milton Ley, a pair of Garganey on the Graveyard Pool at Slapton Ley and a nice selection of seabirds including - Manx Shearwaters, Sandwich Terns, a Med Gull and plenty of Auks and Gannets. But perhaps more memorable were some of the common birds - Cetti's Warblers were everywhere in suitable habitat (and even in some not-so-suitable looking habitat), with one bird singing outside our cottage all night, and Stonechats seemingly sang from every patch of scrub, bracken or bramble on the coast at Start Point.

Little Bunting at South Milton Ley
So what did I miss whilst I was away? Well, I certainly wouldn't have put money on a Sacred Ibis turning up at Cotham Flash! Plastic ibises aside, I don't seem to have missed much; so I'll see what's around tomorrow.