Tuesday, 31 July 2012

An evening trip to Langford

With a free evening, I decided to pay Langford a visit. Although it was raining when I arrived, this soon fizzled out and left a still, warm evening, albeit overcast. I stayed at Langford 'til the light failed, notching up 2 Green Sands, 8 Little Egrets and a Yellow-legged Gull (flying in briefly before leaving again to the north-east), as well as a Barn Owl (seemingly oblivious to my presence), and three pairs of GC Grebes with young (two pairs with two, and a third with three). As I left the site, two Oystercatchers flew in, and a Hobby bombed east over the Silt Lagoons.

Earlier, I'd had a quick look at Kilvington on the way home. This too was fairly quiet, with 4 Yellow-legged Gulls the best I could do.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A nice morning for cricket(s)

Mons Pool looked promising this moring, with water levels down (but carpets of algae in places), but there wasn't even a Green Sand taking advantage of this newly reappeared habitat - one Little Egret was the only thing of note.

Not much at Collingham Pits either, so I had a look in the grassland adjacent to Wharf Cottages Pit for Roesel's Bush-crickets. This species was first recorded in the county in 2006 from a road verge on the A453 near Clifton; I then had the second county record from this field at Collingham Pits in 2007, where they have been present ever since (and seemingly quite widely elsewhere now). They are difficult little beast to see - their high pitched, buzzing stridulation is difficult to pinpoint, and even when you think you're in the right patch of grass, actually locating them is tricky! Nevertheless, I persevered today and got a few record shots.

Roesel's Bush-cricket at Collingham Pits
As I was waiting for one of the Roesel's to re-emerge after I spooked it, a different bush-cricket walked into view - a conehead. It was a male as it lacked an ovipositor, and had short wings, so I wondered if it was a Short-winged Conehead (which I don't think has been recorded in the county yet!), but a quick Google tonight revealed that Long-winged Coneheads do come in a short-winged form, and apparently the shape of the cerci (the spikes on the tip of the abdomen) are a good ID feature. My pics suggest these are straight, and therefore this was a Long-winged Conehead. This species arrived in the county a year after Roesel's Bush-cricket, being first found at Keyworth Meadows in 2007, and spreading north ever since - I found several at a site on the south side of Hucknall in 2008, and at another site in Hucknall in 2011, but this is the first I've had in this area.

Long-winged Conehead at Collingham Pits
After an uneventful walk around Dukes Wood and Mansey Common this afternoon (it was cool and breezy with a heavy shower at one point, and there were very few butterflies around, let alone any fritillaries...), I popped out to Langford for the early evening. There had been up to 35 Black-tailed Godwits through the site yesterday, but the best waders I could muster today were 4 Dunlin which flew in and circled low around the site before disappearing. Also present were 14 Common Terns and at least 5 Little Egrets, and a Peregrine powered over on a beeline south. Non-avian highlights were 3 Purple Hairstreaks again at the northern end of the oak copse next to the silt lagoons, with a huge Privet Hawkmoth on the end of a willow stump next to the path - always an impressive animal to see.

Privet Hawkmoth at Langford Lowfields

Friday, 27 July 2012

Kilvo Yellow-legs

At Kilvington this afternoon, at least 14 Yellow-legged Gulls on the West Lake this afternoon amongst the Lesser Black-backs - adults and several 3CY birds.

One of 14 Yellow-legged Gulls at Kilvington

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

More on fritillaries

After my sighting of a probable Silver-washed Fritillary at Langford on saturday, there have now been several other sightings of a big orange butterfly at the site by staff there, in the same area or nearby. Hopefully someone will get a proper look at it soon!

In other fritillary news, there have been several other sightings elsewhere in Notts that I have heard about. A probable Dark-green Fritillary was seen by botanists at Bentinck Void/Annesley Woodhouse Quarry last week, with another of this species reported from Blidworth Pit Wood recently. Yesterday, staff from NWT and the NBGRC had multiple sightings of a fritillary sp. at Dukes Wood and Mansey Common, near Eakring - probably a Silver-washed, but one was thought maybe to be a Dark-green also. 

Historically, I believe that five species of frit used to occur in the county, with Pearl-bordered hanging on at Cotgrave Forest until the early 1980s. This site produced an intriguing series of records of Dark-green Frit last summer (which I searched for unsuccessfully, but I saw the pics!), and there have been records of Silver-washed from a few sites in the county over the last few years - the latter at least presumably natural vagrants.

Unfortunately, there is some doubt in my mind about the provenance of some of these records, especially those relating to Dark-green, as there is an individual in the county who raises butterflies from eggs and then releases the imagos. This is wrong on several counts, not least because it instantly casts doubt on whether records of anything unusual relate to genuine vagrants (perhaps responding to climate change or improved woodland management) - rather than having just been let out of lunchbox. There are several other reasons why it's wrong, but I'll stop there!

Anyway, an intriguing series of fritillary sightings so far this summer; if time and weather permits, and the birding is slow, I might explore some woods in the centre of the county this weekend in hope. Wellow Wood has potential I reckon...

Silver-washed Fritillary in Alsace, France (August 2010)

Lots of Yellow-legs

I popped into Kilvington on the way home; the Black-necked Grebe was on the East Lake, at the southern end, allowing me to take another fantastic (ha ha) picture of this species. I'm sure this is the bird that was at Langford on saturday. Also present were several hundred gulls loafing on the on the far side of the West Lake. They were mainly Lesser and Great Black-backs, there were at least 9 Yellow-legged Gulls - 5 adults and 4 3CY birds, plus 2 Common Gulls.

Black-necked Grebe at Kilvington Lakes

At Cotham Flash, no sign whatsoever of the Ringed Plovers on the field pool. I fear they failed again and have abandoned the site. There were, however, 64 Lapwings there, plus at least 4 juv Yellow Wags. As I left, a brief scream made me look up, where there were around 100 Swifts in a fairly tight flock overhead, which then moved south. Not sure what they were doing, as they didn't seem to be feeding.

More Swift action when I got home after hockey training, when I counted 50 in the airspace over my house on William Street in Newark. There is no better noise than the exuberant screaming of Swifts on a fine summer's evening!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Waiting for waders

My WeBS count at Girton Pits was pretty quiet - indeed the A1133 Pit didn't have a single bird on it! However, there were 10 Oystercatchers on the Trent, a Little Egret on Spalford Pit, and a pair of Wigeon on the North Pit. I had previously recorded a male Wigeon here on my WeBS counts in June and April - I wonder if these birds attempted to breed?

Elsewhere, Mons Pool was deep under water again, with just a Little Egret of note, and nearby, Carlton Ferry Farm Pit held a Common Sand and a party of 4 Redshank, despite the lack of habitat - hopefully water levels here, and at Mons Pool, will drop as wader passage picks up.

It was a bit to breezy for looking for hairstreaks, but I had a go anyway; success came at Girton, where I found a Purple Hairstreak in the young oaks and ash planted along the northern shore of the A1133 Pit (a first for the site I think), but I couldn't find any White-letter Hairstreaks in a spot at Collingham which I've had my eye on for the last couple of years - but I'm sure they're there! Finally, I tried to locate the probable Silver-washed Fritillary I'd had at Langford yesterday, without luck, and only one Purple Hairstreak was in evidence, confirming it really wasn't a great day to be looking for them.

Comma at Langford Lowfields

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Black-necked Grebe, and a Fritillary?

A very nice summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe was found at Langford this afternoon by Mike Warren - a first for the site. Unfortunately, the picture below doesn't nearly do it justice as it was horribly backlit, which my camera struggled with. Also present was an adult Yellow-legged Gull, but not a huge amount else on the bird front.

Black-necked Grebe at Langford Lowfields
However, there were plenty of butterflies around, including my first Gatekeepers of the year, and at least 6 (and maybe up to 10+) Purple Hairstreaks in the young oaks between the footpath/stream and the 'first' silt lagoon (if approaching from the south, having just passed through the wood). These were flitting around in the tree tops, in typical style, above the footpath at the northern end of the oak copse. Intriguingly, whilst watching these, I also briefly saw a Fritillary in flight, which I'm pretty sure was a Silver-washed, being chased by a Comma... This is a rare butterfly in Notts, so I hung around to see if it would reappear, but it didn't. I might have a look for it tomorrow.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Saturday night's alright for birding

At Mons Pool this evening, 6 Green Sands including a juvenile bird, and a Little Egret. Not much at Collingham, and a further 9 Little Egrets at Langford Lowfields - but again not much on the wader front. Still, it was nice to be out birding for a decent amount of time.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Whinchat at the Flash

News came via Birdnet of a Whinchat at Cotham Flash this morning; I'd packed my scope in the car for some birding on the way home after work, so I decided to see if it was still present this evening. It was, and as expected was on the posts along the southern boundary of the Flash (where I had a fine male a couple of springs ago). This bird was a female - has it already given up for the summer, and is heading south?

Whinchat at Cotham Flash
Nearby, on the field pool, there were three LRPs - an adult and a full grown youngster. The male Ringed Plover was also present, and it sounded like the female was calling from within the wheat crop - there were several crows hanging around so maybe she's taken some new chicks in there to hide...? I'll be back to check soon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A trip up the Trent

I had to visit a couple of sites along the northern section of the Trent today for work. Between Littleborough and West Burton Power Station, I kicked up at least 3 pairs of Grey Partridges, and there were 8 Curlew on Out Ings (seemingly all adults), as well as a small colony of Tree Sparrows at the pumping station at the northern end of Out Ings. Other birds included Yellow Wagtail and Little Owl.

I then went to Bole Ings (the old Trent oxbow), where there was a calling Willow Tit (which sang briefly) and several Bullfinches, with another pair of Grey Partridges along Saundby Beck just to the north, and best of all, a female Marsh Harrier over the restored part of the ash disposal site.

After a bit of a rest (I was exhausted after all that walking!), I had a quick look at Langford Lowfields this evening; best were 9 Little Egrets and a reeling Gropper off to the west next to the Trent, plus 12 Common Terns and 8 Oystercatchers; but no other waders of note.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A taste of the Mediterranean

A look at Mons Pool this afternoon produced the three Mediterranean Gulls (2 ads and a 2nd summer) that had been found here yesterday; they flew in with a small group of Black-headed Gulls and bathed, before flying off north - where there were some more gulls wheeling around. Not finding much else (although 2 female Pintail were nice) I decided to go and check these gulls out (after giving Collingham Pits a very cursory look - 1 Green Sand on Carlton Ferry Farm Pit).

I found the gulls in a bare, partially flooded field on the north side of the access track to Besthorpe NWT North (beyond the track down to Mons Pool). Scanning through the several hundred Black-headed Gulls, I came across at least 5 Common Gulls, and a 2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull with a few Lesser Black-backs. The 3 Med Gulls were also present - and amazingly so was a fourth - this time a 1st summer Med Gull.

2 adult Med Gulls at Besthorpe 

Ad Med Gull at Besthorpe

2nd summer Med Gull at Besthorpe

1st summer Med Gull at Besthorpe

2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull at Besthorpe

Lots of gulls at Besthorpe

Earlier, I'd had a bit of a look round Langford, hoping for some waders. As I was just about to leave, having only seen single Common Sand and Green Sands, a nice Black-tailed Godwit dropped in. I managed some distant record shots, but unfortunately in the time it took me to get round to the viewing screen it had vanished. Also here, a Hobby hawking overhead, and a Peregrine flying south with a Wood Pigeon in its clutches (tailed by the 17 Common Terns that were feeding over Phase 1!).

Black-tailed Godwit at Langford Lowfields

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A few waders at Collingham...

At Collingham Pits tonight, there were 3 Green Sands and a Common Sand on Carlton Ferry Farm Pit., plus what appeared to be an Oystercatcher having another go at nesting. There wasn't much on the Main Pit, whilst a flock of 26 Lapwing on the Silt Lagoon included at least 3 full grown juvs, along with a Little Egret and the pair of GC Grebes with two large stripey-headed young. Nearby, Mons Pool was pretty quiet; the Shelduck pair now have four remaining young (the rest perhaps having become pike food...?).

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

News from Cotham Flash

As it was actually a fairly nice evening for a change, I had a quick trip out to Cotham Flash after hockey training. The field pool only held a single Ringed Plover, initially feeding, and then returning to its nest. I first noted this nest on 21st June (i.e. 13 days ago); according to BWP the incubation period for this species is 23-25 days, so hopefully there will be some young soon. Also in the area were at least 2 juv Yellow Wagtails, along with several adults, so good news that these bred successfully.

The Flash itself held a pair of Lapwing; the female appeared agitated, calling constantly so hopefully there are young nearby. Aside from these, a female Mallard had 4 well-grown ducklings. Off to the north, one of the Grasshopper Warblers was audible from Hawton Works Grassland, and the Little Owl was perched on its favoured look-out, on the lighting column next to the Works building.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Redstarts in Sherwood - update

Earlier in the year myself and Carl made two visits apiece to Sherwood Forest NNR to survey for Redstarts (my visits were on 16th and 18th May and Carl's were on 5th and 19th May). Combining the results of these with incidental records made by Trevor Pendleton during invertebrate surveys, we produced an estimate of 16 territories at the site this spring - a good count based on recent form, but confirming in my mind that this species has been grossly under-recorded at this site over the last few years.

The majority of territories were in the north-western sector of the NNR, with a single bird in the north-east (Queen Oak Plantation), and four others outside the NNR to the west - one near Centre Tree and three in Blackpool Plantation (the latter recorded by Trevor). The records from Blackpool Plantation are interesting, and suggest Redstarts might occur more widely through Birklands West. Hopefully time and weather will permit an expanded survey next spring, perhaps also including Budby South Forest. If anyone is interested in helping out, please get in touch via notbirding@yahoo.co.uk!

Redstart territories in Sherwood NNR and environs in spring 2012

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Peak birding

We've just come back from a very enjoyable (if at times, damp) weekend in the Peak District. Yesterday started well, as I lay awake at 3.30am cursing a punctured airbed, when a Quail started singing from the field next to our campsite at Mandale Farm, just west of Over Haddon, near Bakewell. It sang for at least half-an-hour or so, but I didn't hear it again; possibly because we invested in a new airbed and I got a much better night's sleep last night!

We spent most of saturday on a walk up Padley Gorge, then doing a loop round across the moors up to Upper Burbage Bridge. The woods at Padley produced several Pied Flycatchers, most easily at the top near the gate, whilst a female Whinchat was next to the path on the open section up to the road. On the moors, we didn't see several expected/hoped for species (Red Grouse, Ring Ouzel), but had several more Whinchats including a singing male below Fiddler's Elbow and another audible from Duke's Drive just south of Upper Burbage Bridge. 

Today we had a short walk up Cressbrook Dale. The dale is a fantastic site with some superb calcareous grassland, yellow with rock-rose in places and littered with fragrant orchids in others. Best bird-wise were several Redstarts, including at least 3 males and a couple of juveniles. The rest of the day was spent at Amy's uncle and aunt's farm near Bakewell, seeing another pair of Redstarts on their drive and then finishing the day with a visit to some excellent flowery pasture that they graze near Coombs Dale.

Coombs Dale in the Peak District