Saturday, 29 September 2012


It dawned on me last night that I hadn't done my WeBS count at Girton this month, so I did it rather belatedly this morning. Generally, wildfowl numbers were fairly low still, but a group of 210 Tufted Duck on the A1133 Pit had me hoping there might be something else hiding amongst them (not today), and there were 40 Wigeon across the site. A Green Sand was present on the North Pit, with a Little Egret on Spalford Pit. There was a steady stream of hirundines south through the site, with a small party of Siskin at the southern end of the Sailing Lake.

Friday, 28 September 2012

It's the Pits

I had my first visit to Collingham Pits this evening since the 11th. Unfortunately there wasn't much to get too excited about; Ferry Lane Farm Pit (where quarrying continues apace) hosted a single Green Sand, whilst on the Main Pit there were 5 Green Sands and 3 Pintail, plus lots of Teal and decent numbers of Wigeon and Shoveler; unfortunately I didn't have time to count them. Mons Pool was a waste of time; water levels were high and there were few birds. Such are the delights of inland gravel pit birding - I might try somewhere different tomorrow...

Monday, 24 September 2012

I'll have a Slav

With more quality birds on Foula today, I consoled myself with a little birding between work and a Notts Birdwatchers committee meeting this evening; I headed for Holme Pierrepont, a site that is close to my office but one which I rarely visit. I was after the Slavonian Grebe that had been seen there yesterday. I located it at the eastern end of the A52 Pit, and got some rubbish pics (bad light, choppy water etc.) - a Notts tick for me.

Slav Grebe at Holme Pierrepont
Slav Grebe at Holme Pierrepont
Slav Grebe at Holme Pierrepont
Also present was a 1st W Little Gull briefly, and large numbers of hirundines - probably at least a thousand, and mainly Swallows.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Well, Foula, what can I say? The abridged version is I didn't see too much, with winds mainly from the west and south-west (swinging round to the north-west for the last couple of days). The longer version is as follows:

I was staying in a small cottage at the north end of the island called 'Ristie', and had two  and a half days there on my own before being joined by Paul French, who'd invited me to stay at Ristie for this week (prior to the 'regulars' arriving). During this time I had a good explore, met another birder in the annexe next door, and the islands' resident birders, Geoff and Donna. Geoff and Donna were very kind, supplying me (and the other birders arriving later in the week) with tea and biscuits when required, and reminiscing about the birds they'd found recently - Collared Fly, Booted Warbler and Great Snipe, for example! 

Ristie, looking towards the Gaada Stack
The birding during these first few days was steady, but I found (or re-found?) a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on my second day (15th). There had been a Buff-breast found on the 10th, so given the time gap, the consensus was it could well have been a new bird - there were plenty turning up after all; furthermore, it definitely hadn't been seen again at the southern end of the island (where the bird on the 10th was found), and there was no sign of it in the area I found it in (Kinglya) when I walked across there the night before. This bird was last seen on the 17th, and it was great to have it more-or-less to myself, and by crawling on my stomach I managed to get within about 10 metres of it, and got some satisfactory pics.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Ruscar on the north-east coast
Paul arrived on the 17th, but the birds didn't; in fact things seemed to get quieter and quieter each day; clear skies on the preceding night meant on the 18th there were far fewer Meadow Pipits around (they'd been everywhere when I fist arrived), and the numbers of Northern Wheatears declined noticeably (77 on the 16th falling to 12 on the 19th).

Hiorawick on the north coast, looking towards Stremness
Looking south down the island from Harrier
We did see a few nice birds, with plenty of Lapland Buntings (a peak of 27 on the 17th), Snow Buntings (19 also on the 17th) and Twite (28 on 19th), a single, exhausted-looking Spotted Flycatcher (on the 19th), and a Merlin, but only small numbers of phylloscs (a couple of Chiffchaffs daily, and the odd Willow Warbler). We also had an Acro which we spent 2 hours trying to nail on the 18th, and even then could only say it was a Reed or Marsh - it was incredibly skulking. Others saw it subsequently and thought it was a Marsh.

Lapland Bunting
Spotted Flycatcher
Other birds included 3 Whooper Swans throughout on the Mill Loch, small numbers of duck and common waders (including a few Purple Sands), plenty of Snipe (large and dark faeroeensis birds), Bonxies (Foula has the biggest breeding colony in the world), huge numbers of (at times very inquisitive) Fulmars, Tysties (including a raft of 100), and the odd Puffin and Razorbill.

Looking north towards Mill Loch

The Redpolls were interesting - all 'North-western' types, some dark (all brown) but others with pale tramlines and rump. Small numbers of Swallows were seen on several days, including 5 on the 17th, and a peak of 7 White Wagtails on the 17th. It was also good to get decent views of zetlandicus Wren and zetlandicus Starlings (not that the latter looked any different from those at home).

A brown 'North-western' Redpoll

Two paler 'North-western' Redpolls
Shetland Wren
My only 'miss' of the week was a Barred Warbler which had been in Ham since before I arrived - I looked for this on several occasions without success. I was also shown where all the rare birds had been in the past; e.g. the Veery was under the boat here; the Sibe Thrush was up on that slope; over there is were the Bobolink was found, this is the patch of grass where the Yellow-breasted Bunting was, etc..

My last day was a bit frustrating, as there were clearly birds beginning to turn up - a Rosefinch was seen, and I had a brief look at a possible 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat (with quite sandy upperparts) that was found in Ham, and the talk was that the winds were turning to the east for the weekend.

A possible 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat
Once back in Lerwick, I had a walk round Clickimin Loch, noting a 1st W Scaup amongst the duck, but nothing in Helendale (a leafy suburb that can be good by all accounts), and a Merlin flew over the ferry as we left for Aberdeen.

Scaup in Lerwick
And low and behold, the birds started to arrive on Foula the day after I'd left, with Bluethroat, Wryneck, and 24 Yellow-browed Warblers amongst what was seen; things were even worse today, with news of a Swainson's Thrush and a Sykes's Warbler! And no doubt more to come. Oh well, hopefully I might have another go next year...

Looking west past Sumburgh to a distant Foula

The good news is that I haven't missed much locally whilst I've been away, although there was an intriguing record of two Black-winged Stilts from Cottam Powerstation (not Cotham Flash, as I thought) a few days back. Might be worth keeping an eye out for..?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Looking forward to Foula...

This time in two days I will be on a ferry somewhere between Aberdeen and Lerwick, en route to Foula, off the west coast of Shetland. And I can't wait! I've had an autumn birding trip to the northern isles once before, spending 10 days on Fair Isle in October 2005, seeing Siberian Rubythroat, Lanceolated Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, 2 Black-throated Thrushes, Arctic Redpoll, 2 Little Buntings, Short-toed Lark, Richards Pipit, Pallas's Warbler, several Yellow-brows, Bluethroat, good numbers of Snow and Lapland Buntings, 11 Short-eared Owls (together), a big fall of thrushes, Little Auk, Grey Phalarope... This clearly set the bar pretty high! I'm not expecting Foula to be like Fair Isle (not least as there will be no nice home-cooked meals waiting for me after a hard day's birding), but I do have some hopes - certainly a few self-found ticks, maybe a British tick or two, ideally a self-found BB rarity tick... We'll see!

Black-throated Thrush on Fair Isle, October 2005

Bluethroat on Fair Isle, October 2005
Little Bunting on Fair Isle, October 2005

Richard's Pipit on Fair Isle, October 2005

Twitching a Lancy on Fair Isle, October 2005

Curlew quartet

I met Carl C at Collingham Pits this evening, where there were 2 Dunlin, a juv Ringed Plover and a Common Sand on the Main Pit, plus a Pintail. There wasn't much on the Silt Lagoon, so we headed for Mons Pool, where there were 4 Little Egrets and 5 Wigeon, as well as what appeared to be 2 alba Wagtails. Whilst looking at these, 4 Curlew dropped into the Silt Lagoon behind us briefly, before moving across to Mons Pool; these looked like an adult and 3 juvs. After I left, Carl had 3 Green Sands on the eastern part of the site.

Checking the log book in the hide at Mons Pool, it was apparent that there were a few more waders around yesterday (which is to be expected on a day that I couldn't visit) - nothing too outrageous, but including a Blackwit on the Main Pit and 5 Green Sands on Mons Pool.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Good numbers of Goldies

Despite Mons Pool looking pretty good at the moment, there were no waders there apart from several Lapwing, which has been the case recently and continues to be a source of disappointment.

Mons Pool
It was the same on the Main Pit and Ferry Lane Farm Pit - no waders at all other than Lapwing. However, one Curlew was lurking amongst the several hundred Lapwing on the Silt Lagoon. The only other birds of note were single Wigeon and Pintail on Main Pit, and 4 Wigeon on the Silt Lagoon.

However, just as I had a final check of the Ferry Lane Farm Pit, I noted three flocks of Golden Plovers to the north - two flocks of 80 which appeared to come down to the west of the Trent, and a larger flock of 130 which circled round over Mons Pool, and then headed west as well. It would be nice if these were accessible next visit so I can have a look through them...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dunlin duo

At Collingham this evening, 2 Dunlin on the Main Pit, 7 Wigeon on the Silt Lagoon, and 30 Golden Plover in the stubble field to the west of Mons Pool - with nothing of note on Mons Pool itself.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Colour-ringed Cormorant - part 2

No birding tonight; however, I had a message back (already) from the BTO about the colour-ringed Cormorant that was on the Main Pit at Collingham yesterday. The bird was ringed as a chick in the nest at Rutland Water by the Rutland Ringing Group on 22nd May 2012. Apparently this is the first time it has been reported since then.

On the subject of colour-ringed birds, it is interesting that there haven't been any sightings of colour-ringed Little Egrets this summer/autumn; last year there were several sightings of multiple birds that had been ringed at a breeding site in Lincolnshire.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Cricket action and a colour-ringed Cormorant

I had quite a good orthoptera day today; a site visit to Langar Airfield produced loads of Roesel's Bush-crickets in the long grass on the western side of the airfield near the control tower, plus at least two female Long-winged Coneheads.

Long-winged Conehead at Langar Airfield
When I got home, I trimmed out buddleja (which was beginning to overhang the road a bit too much), and in the process found a green cricket nymph. By the time I'd gone to fetch my camera it had wandered off and I couldn't find it again, but I'm pretty sure it was an Oak Bush Cricket - the first cricket of any species I've had in the garden, which is only a small urban one. This page on the website shows what these beasts look like (or at least, the adults).

Whilst on the subject of my garden, I cut the mini-meadow at the weekend. This resulted in invertebrate Armageddon, about which I felt a bit guilty (especially as the chickens were out and had a field day in the cut grass...), and mainly I didn't know what I was looking at, but I saw a couple of 14-spot Ladybirds (yellow and black), and some shieldbugs, which I looked up on the very useful British Bugs website; they proved to be Common Green Shieldbug nymphs.

Common Green Shieldbug nymph in Newark
Anyway, back to birds. Once again not much at Collingham late PM. There was a Dunlin (still?) on the Main Pit, along with a colour-ringed juvenile Cormorant; I first thought the ring read '912', but a better angle showed it to actually read ZL6. A quick check here (accessed via the website) suggests this bird was ringed at Rutland Water - but I will seek confirmation of this. Elsewhere, on the Silt Lagoon there was a party of 8 Shelduck - seemingly an adult female and 7 immatures. And that was about it!

Colour-ringed Cormorant (ZL6) at Collingham

Monday, 3 September 2012


The water levels at Collingham Pits are puzzling at times. After no rain and continued pumping on Ferry Lane Farm Pit, the water levels on Main Pit were actually up since yesterday, with the small bits of marginal habitat around the edges of the pit, and parts of the islands, having vanished again. The only thing I can think is that the pumps on FLF Pit ran out of diesel overnight? Anyway, there wasn't much happening birdwise - the Dunlin was still on the Main Pit, and there were 3 Green Sands on FLF Pit. I met Carl, who'd had a fourth Green Sand, and we viewed FLF Pit from a different angle, noting not much more than a single a Little Egret.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Pintail trio

Mons Pool held a Common Sand and 2 Little Egrets this morning, whilst on the Main Pit at Collingham there were single Dunlin, Common Sand and Green Sand. The number of duck were up even since yesterday, and although I didn't count the Shoveler, there were now three eclipse drake Pintail (2 on Main Pit and 1 on Main Pit Annex), and 10 Wigeon (4 on Main Pit Annex and 6 on the Silt Lagoon).

Ferry Lane Farm Pit at Collingham

Red Admiral

Saturday, 1 September 2012


After a lie-in and then a hockey match, I popped put to Collingham (where else?) mid afternoon, arriving just after 4pm. Heading straight for Main Pit, I was greeted by a Knot on one of the islands. This bird was quite unsettled and I suspect it had not long arrived. Also present here was a Dunlin, a single Green Sand and 13 Shoveler.

Knot on the Main Pit at Collingham
On the Main Pit Annex there were good numbers of duck, mainly Mallard and Teal, but also 14 Shoveler, 2 Wigeon, and an eclipse drake Pintail. Still no Garganey... Also of interest was a big flock of c.250 Goldfinches feeding on the knapweed heads in the adjacent meadow area.

Eclipse drake Pintail on the Main Pit Annex at Collingham
Ferry Lane Farm Pit didn't have much of note on it - 3 Little Egrets were best - but the Silt Lagoon held a further 2 Wigeon, and nearby on Mons Pool there was another Wigeon and 2 Shoveler.