Monday, 28 May 2012

Guinea (but not fowl)

A quick stop at Kilvington on the way to work didn't produce much - waders included a Redshank and a Dunlin. A Red Kite on the way home was better; this flew east over the A46 just north of the Bingham junction.

This evening, Mons Pool was underwhelming, with a single Redshank the best wader, although there was a pair of Shelduck with 7 ducklings, plus 2 Turtle Doves.

A family of Shelduck at Mons Pool
These were all noted whilst on the phone to a chap at the RSPCA, trying to describe how to get to the site (after half-an-hour I'm still not sure we were both talking about the same place...). The reason for this was someone has 'released' 5 guinea pigs, which have taken up residence under the ramp to the hide. They actually look like they're having quite a jolly time and we'd made friends by the time I left. Hopefully the RSPCA will be able to find them tomorrow (before the local fox/mink tracks them down)!

Guinea pigs!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Grizzled Skipper extravaganza

Over the last three days I have clocked up an incredible 67 Grizzled Skippers at six sites around Cotham and Kilvington - almost certainly more than I've seen in all my previous years looking for them put together... It seems to be an exceptional year for them. Yesterday and today I did most of my skippering with Carl, and we found them in several new locations. Almost as noteworthy, we found 2 Dingy Skippers at one site near Kilvington - a new record for this part of the county (they're generally associated with old colliery sites in the west).

Grizzled Skipper
Away from skippers, a look at Mons Pool this morning produced a single Turnstone, but not much else of real note.

Turnstone at Mons Pool

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Field pool fading

I had a quick trip to Cotham Flash this evening, having not been there for a while. It was a bit quiet; a female Mallard with 9 ducklings and a drake Shoveler were on the flash itself, whilst the rapidly shrinking field pool held a Ringed Plover (hopefully the female is nesting nearby) and at least 2 juv Lapwings, one now quite well grown. Also present were two male Gadwall and a few Yellow Wags buzzing around.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Of courser not

I got a lift with Carl this morning to go and see the Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire. Unfortunately I had a meeting in Newark first, which meant we didn't get on our way til quite late in the morning. It was therefore a bit frustrating to be about half way there and then get a message that the bird flew off high to the south-west at 11.40...

We turned around and headed for Harlow Wood, just south of Mansfield, where a Wood Warbler had been seen today - a Notts tick for both of us. The bird was singing and showing pretty well in the mixed wood just north of the garden centre at Portland College, sitting in the dead lower branches of the pines and trilling away, often interspersing this with a 'pee-oo pee-oo pee-oo' phrase and gliding between perches.

Wood Warbler at Harlow Wood

A nice bird, and some compensation for the Courser, but I know which I'd rather've seen given the option at the start of the day...

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Prior to doing my WeBS count at Girton with my mum, we had a look at Mons Pool. The water levels had dropped slightly even since yesterday, and the site held 2 Turnstone, 34 Dunlin and 28 Ringed Plover - I don't think I've ever seen a flock of 60+ waders in Notts before! It was just like the scrape at Minsmere (well, almost) - it just needed a Temminck's Stint to cap it off nicely. Annoyingly I'd left my camera at home...

Girton wasn't quite as exciting, although we had a Hobby briefly, the Cetti's Warbler again, and nesting Oycs on Spalford Pit, plus 2 Little Egrets. Annoyingly, motorcross bikes had been in the old works site (we'd heard them but they'd cleared off by the time we got round there), and evidently they'd not just been burning around on the flat but also going up onto the sand mound, trashing some of the bank which I'd cut back previously and presumably destroying some Sand Martin nests in the process. There were still 90-odd nest holes in the south-facing bank, but even these must've been horribly disturbed whilst the bikes were there.

When we finished out walk, a motorbike teared past us, and I took his reg plate. A few moments later, a cop car turned up (follow up on a complaint about motorbikes..); we flagged him down and passed on the details. Hopefully he will have at least deterred the bikers from coming back, but I doubt it. A call to Tarmac might be required tomorrow to see if they can do something to limit access into the old works. On a positive note, there was a healthy Sand Martin colony at Spalford Pit, which are nice and safe.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Swifts and more waders

At Kilvington this morning there were 9 Dunlin,7 Ringed Plover and a fine Turnstone. Several of the RPs were quite dark (as were some of the ones at Mons Pool on the 17th), and are presumably tundrae? Most of the Plovers and the Turnstone then flew north just after 11am.

Looking at the sightings board, there have been a few good waders here over the last few days - 10 Ringed Plover on the 17th (corresponding with my 17 at Mons Pool on the same date), and 2 Common Sands, a Greenshank, 4 Dunlin and a Sanderling yesterday.

Nearby, at Cotham Flash, there were 2 Dunlin on the field Pool.

2 Dunlin on the field pool at Cotham Flash
This arvo we had a walk round Collingham and Besthorpe with my mum who's up for the weekend. The Swifts were absolutely amazing - there must have been several hundred across the area (maybe as many as four or five hundred), many feeding at head height and zooming all around us, sometime passing feet from our faces and coming from every direction. Absolutely fantastic.

Swifts at Collingham Pits
Aside from the Swifts, there was a Wheatear (not a Greenland) on the Carlton Ferry Farm Pit (plus nesting Oycs), and 6 Lapwing chicks and a Little Egret on the Silt Lagoon. Finally, Mons Pool again supported a good flock of waders, this time 19 Dunlin and 7 Ringed Plovers, but unfortunately nothing more unusual.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Redstart ramble number 2

I resisted the temption check out the wader situation at Mons Pool first thing, and instead stuck to the original plan and did another survey of Sherwood/Birklands for Redstarts. Although a bit overcast, I logged Redstarts in at least 7 locations, including a pair visiting a nest site. Taking the two surveys together, I reckon I've recorded at least 8 and up to 11 pairs/territories. I'll have to compare notes with Carl to see if he found any additional birds. In my five hour walk I also logged at least 10 singing Tree Pipits, had Spotted Flys in five locations, and again had several parties of Crossbills overhead, all heading north. A fun morning.

After lunch I then headed for Mons Pool, full of expectation. However, it was a bit of an anticlimax, as many of the waders that were present yesterday had gone, and there was nothing new in. Even the remaining 6 Ringed Plover and 1 Dunlin all got up and flew east at 1315, leaving the site almost empty! Oh well, next time....

Thursday, 17 May 2012


There was very little at Collingham this afternoon, but Mons Pool, by contrast, was excellent! Water levels have fallen further, and the islands and other marginal habitat have reappeared. As a results, it was positively heaving with waders, with a  flock of 17 Ringed Plovers, 4 Dunlin, and 2 Turnstones. Also present were 2 Little Egrets and 10 male Gadwall, plus 2 purring Turtle Doves (one on the island and one on the track between Mons Pool and the Silt Lagoon) and a very confiding Cuckoo.

2 Turnstones and several Ringed Plovers at Mons Pool

Turnstone and Ringed Plover at Mons Pool

Given how good this site is now looking, the dilemma I face is do I go to Sherwood again first thing for Redstarts and risk someone else turning up a Wood Sand or Temminck's Stint, or do I postpone my Sherwood visit...?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Redstart ramble

I got up at an ungodly hour this morning for a successful walk around Sherwood Forest (specifically Birklands - the area that used to be known as Sherwood Forest Country Park) to look for Redstarts -something I have done the last couple of years. In addition to these stunning little birds (definitely one of my faves), there was a nice supporting cast of woodland species - quite a few Spotted Flys, at least 10 singing Tree Pipits, several fly-over Crossbills, plus a few Marsh Tits, a Cuckoo, and lots of Nuthatches,Treecreepers and GS Woodpeckers. Lesser Spot was the only real absentee.

Early morning in Sherwood Forest

In summary, I recorded Redstarts (either a singing male, or a pair in which the male wasn't singing) at five locations in the north-western sector of the site. This is on the low side when compared with previous years:

12th May 2011 - 5 singing males/pairs
28th April 2011 = 11 singing males/pairs
7th May 2010 - 9 singing males/pairs

However, Carl recorded 7 singing males at the site a few days ago, so I do wonder if the apparency of this species declines as the breeding season progresses - presumably as birds pair up. Indeed, I stumbled across two pairs, in which the male was completely silent, completely by accident; there is a lot of habitat out there, so I'm certain I missed more. Anyway, I'm going to go back for another look on friday, this time with a GPS as recording exactly where the birds are on a map in the middle of some fairly featureless woodland is not easy...

Spot the Redstart

Finally, the mystery of the Pacific Swift at Collingham seems to have been solved - apparently it was seen again first thing today, and this time it was confirmed that not only did the bird have some white on its rump, it also had some white in its tail, so an aberrant Common Swift.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Nesting in secret

Two Dunlin at Kilvington this morning were the only birds of note, although whilst driving onwards to work, 3 curlew sp. flew across the road in front of me just east of Orston; by the time I parked up and got my scope on them they were too far away, but my gut feeling was they were Whimbrel. As they flew north, they veered in the direction of Kilvo. I then wasted the next half hour driving back in that direction, scanning both the West and East pits without luck.

This evening, I had a trip out to a secret location to look for a nesting Long-eared Owl which I had been told about recently. Sure enough, there she was sat in an old crow's nest in the top of a hawthorn - I grabbed a few shots and then left her in peace.

Nesting Long-eared Owl at a secret location
I was lucky enough to find a LEO nest myself a few years ago, and then helped ring the three chicks, which was a fun experience!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Grizzled Skippers

A few hours spent working Collingham and Besthorpe this morning didn't produce anything spectacular, however it was great just walking around the sun and relative warmth, listening to the birds sing. There was a single Dunlin on Carlton Ferry Farm Pit, with a Peregine flashing over here to the south. Another raptor came in the form of a Hobby at Mons Pool, where I recounted the Cormorant nests, this time coming up with 86 (90 was my previous tally - I think a couple which were previously visible may now have been obscured by foliage). There was also a Little Egret here, with another on the Silt Lagoon.

As there were several butterflies on the wing, including Brimstones and Orangetips, I decided to have a look for Grizzled Skippers. A couple have been seen in Notts this week, and Carl had one at Kilvington yesterday, but I'd had two failed attempts to see them at Staunton Quarry so far. However, today proved to be third time lucky, as I found two in the small meadow area just inside the entrance. I also had a Willow Tit calling.

Grizzled Skipper at Staunton Quarry
A bit of a walk at Kilvington failed to turn up an more skippers, but there were single Dunlin and Common Sand on the West Lake.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Colingham Mega!

Just had a mega - a 'wholly unconfirmed report' of a Pacific Swift at Collingham late morning on Tuesday - no doubt the same bird that I heard about from Besthorpe that afternoon. There's nothing about it on the Notts Birdwatchers website, so I've no idea where this has come from. And given that there have been two reports of Pacific Swift in the last two days (from Norfolk and Suffolk) that have both proved to be aberrant Common Swifts, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this!

Also on the pager (well, Twitter), the Ficedula flycatcher at Flamborough has turned out to be a... Pied Flycatcher! I've not had a chance to read the Surfbirds forum yet for people's views on this, but it seems amazing that this bird can be 'just' a Pied Flycatcher, given it's appearance.

In other news, having spent most of the day at Newark Show, a quick visit to Kilvington produced 5 Dunlin on the West Lake and a tardy Goldeneye (a 1st S male) on the East Lake but not much else, whilst a failed attempt for Grizzled Skipper at Staunton Quarry produced a Willow Tit. Hopefully tomorrow might turn something up.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Birders 1, fishermen 0

Having not been to Collingham for a few days, I paid a quick visit there tonight. From a birding perspective, it was pretty uneventful: of greatest  note were three Lapwing chicks (appearing to belong to two different females) on the Silt Lagoon. Water levels were even higher than last visit on the Main Pit (with the boundary ditch now dry).

By contrast, at Mons Pool, water levels had dropped by almost a meter, but the only excitement came when I had an amusing discussion with a fisherman. I’d spied him walking slowly along the shore on the far side, looking intently down and wearing bins, so I first thought he was either a stupid birder, or maybe an egg collector. However, he then started pulling things out of a packet and throwing them into the water – quite clearly bait balls. I waited for him to walk back in my direction, and then enquired if he realised fishing wasn’t allowed at this site. His reaction from the off was of someone caught in the act – he first acted surprised, pretending he didn’t know what bait balls were, then saying it was none of my business what he was up to, before demanding  to know who I was and if I had any ID. No mate, I haven’t got any ID, I’m out birdwatching, and I’m not the one acting suspiciously. I told him that we both knew he was chucking bait balls into the water, and the best he could do was to again mutter “...bait balls...?”. I decided not to push the matter any further, given that we were stood near my car and I didn’t want to find it with its windows broken/tyres slashed next time I was out. And despite the fact that he’ll be back at the site tomorrow fishing his baited areas, the moral victory was mine and the look on his face a picture. Idiot.

After that I bombed over to Cotham Flash, but this was equally uninspiring, and not really worth mentioning. So I wont.

On a more interesting matter, I have heard that DNA testing of the Ficedula flycatcher at Flamborough has so far confirmed that the bird is a male. I laughed when told this, but apparently this is good news cos it means that sufficient DNA has been obtained from the feathers to do the further test. Also, results are likely to be available this weekend, so not long to wait!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Little Lapwings

There were rumours this afternoon of a 'strange swift' at Besthorpe (seen at around 2.45pm amongst around 50 Common Swifts, and which may or may not have shown a white rump, although details are sketchy). Being the bird-finder that I am, I went instead to look at cute baby Lapwings at Cotham Flash (which seemed like a better idea than looking for partially albino swifts). Carl had had one Lapwing chick on the field pool this morning, and my visit this evening produced 4 chicks there - a family of 3 and one lone bird. Nice to see.

Lapwing chicks on the field pool at Cotham Flash
I then spent the rest of the evening until dark on Hawton Works Grassland. There were 3 reeling Groppers, and surprisingly a Short-eared Owl still present. Is this bird going to summer? On a disappointing note, still no sign of any Barn Owls (which bred successfully last year), but the usual Little Owl was around the works building.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Taking it easy in Suffolk

No birding in Notts this weekend - instead we headed for Suffolk to stay with my parents just outside Ipswich. A brief visit to Shotley Marshes on saturday produced a yeartick in the form of 16 Whimbrel on the grazing marshes (definitely the most I've ever seen together on the Shotley Peninsular), plus a little group of 8 Wheatears. Later on, a Nightingale at Holbrook Creek was another yeartick, with another 3 Whimbrel and 500 Brents still on the Stour.

Today, I got up early and made it to Landguard for twenty to six. Three hours later, I'd counted at least 32 Wheatears along with a male Black Redstart, but there was no sign of the previous day's Tawny Pipit, or the Wryneck - although annoyingly the latter was trapped on the Icky Ridge just after I left - typical. By the time I left birders (and photographers) equalled Wheatears in number. I'm glad I got there early and had the site to myself at least for a bit!

Landguard Common

Friday, 4 May 2012

Speculigera speculation

With the day off, I headed up to Flamborough with Mark Speck to successfully twitch the might-be Atlas Flycatcher. After brief initial views in the canopies of the trees on the opposite side of the ravine at South Landing, it then reappeared lower down and much closer, allowing some pretty decent views; however, it didn't stay still for long making it difficult to get in the scope, and even more difficult to photograph - I grabbed a few hand-held shots.

Ficedula sp. at South Landing, Flamborough Head

There's been a lot said online about this bird (most usefully on the Surfbirds forum), but I understand the results of its DNA test might be available as early as next week. So fingers crossed! But whatever the answer, it is a very smart little bird and well worth the journey.

On the way home we had a Red Kite over the A1 between Blyth and Ranby - the first I've seen in Notts this year. I then had an uneventful spin round Collingham and Girton. Best were 2 Wheatears next to the Main Pit at the former and probably at least 1000 hirundines over the A1133 Pit and Sailing Lake at the latter (including at least 200 House Martins feeding along Trent Lane).

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Green-winged Teal

I chose not to call at Kilvington on the way into work today as I had too much to get done in advance of a nice 4 day weekend. This proved to be a mistake, as a Green-winged Teal was then discovered there this morning! This was followed by negative news later in the morning.

However, it was still present when I called in on the way home early this evening - I think it had been hiding at the back of the spit on the West Lake. It showed well, albeit in very dull conditions (hence the rubbish photos), and seemed to be associating with a female Teal; she followed him around, seemingly not interested in the 2 male Eurasian Teal, and also doing an odd sideways swim towards him at one point like she was trying to illicit a response. He displayed to her, and the other female Teal present, but seemed subordinate to the 2 male Eurasian Teal, swimming off when challenged by either of them.

Green-winged Teal asleep on the spit on West Lake at Kilvington Lakes

Green-winged Teal with Eurasian Teal at Kilvington Lakes
Green-winged Teal displaying at Kilvington Lakes
Green-winged Teal with Eurasian Teal at Kilvington Lakes

I think this is about the 12th record for the county, and the second for Kilvington Lakes - one stayed for 4 days here last year (during which time I failed to see it). I was fortunate enough to find the 7th county record back in 2004 at Langford Lowfields; what was almost certainly the same bird returned to the site in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and I also located it at Girton Pits in 2005 and 2006 and at Collingham Pits in 2007.

Also present at Kilvington this evening were 5 Dunlin, 1 Common Sand and 5 Yellow Wags, but there was no sign of the Barwit which had been reported earlier today and yesterday.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

One good tern deserves another

I finally caught up with an Arctic Tern this morning - a fly-through at 0835 at an otherwise pretty birdless Kilvington. It lingered briefly on the West Lake before flying across the East Lake, then gaining height and heading NNE.

After a site visit this afternoon, I then caught up with a Black Tern at Kingsmill Res; two had been reported earlier (and subsequently), but this bird was difficult in the murk, flashing its silvery wings, and I didn't hang around for the second.

Convinced that there would be Black Terns at either Girton or Collingham (there weren't), I spent an hour or half out this evening; there were loads of hirundines at Girton (I'm rubbish at estimating large numbers, but I reckon at least 500, mainly Swallows, on the A1133 Pit), along with quite a few Swifts, including some 'screamers', my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year. (at last), and 4 Common Terns on the Sailing Lake, one of which was colour-ringed, completed the tern trio for today.

Common Tern at Girton Pits
At Collingham, the Main Pit was super full, with the boundary ditch overflowing (this is either dry, as it is 99.9% of the time, or full to burst), spilling across the grass and flowing into the pit - as a result, the islands are all but gone. There were 3 Wheatears and at least 6 Yellow Wags on the grass that wasn't flooded. Nearby Mons Pool was also extremely full, with another Lesser Whitethroat rattling away nearby.

The Main Pit and boundary ditch at Collingham Pits