Saturday, 31 August 2013

More from the patch

I had an enjoyable morning at Collingham and Meering with Mark Speck, who'd come up from his usual patch at Attenborough. We gave the area a good thrash, but didn't come up with too much - or certainly, nothing unexpected. Ferry Lane Lake held 4(+) Common Sands, 5 Ringed Plover (which called a lot and then got up and headed south, although one doubled back and flew N), 2 LRPs, 3 Snipe (which flew SW), and 2 Greenshank which dropped in just as we were about to move on. 

On the Silt Lagoon, the 5 Curlew were present again along with a further 2 Snipe, and there were 11 Golden Plover in the field to the south with some Lapwing. Mons Pool held a Ringed Plover (probably one of the 5 from earlier), a Greenshank which flew in from the river, a Dunlin, and the Egyptian Goose (also present last night). Mark refused to get excited about this bird; I guess they're a bit more commonplace at Attenborough!

Meering was pretty quite; best were 2 Turtle Doves on wires, whilst a juvenile Herring Gull was amongst a group of Lesser Black-backs following the plough in an adjacent field. We also grilled a few tit flocks as we'd been walking around, and had seen a few phylloscs and sylvias, but no Redstarts.  

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Walk like an Egyptian

The wader action at Collingham was a bit limited tonight, with 2 Greenshank, a Common Sand, 8 Ringed Plover and 2 LRPs on Ferry Lane Lake, 3 Green Sands and 5 Curlew (seemingly an adult and 4 juvs) on the Silt Lagoon, and a Dunlin on Mons Pool. In addition, a flock of c.100 Golden Plovers put in a brief appearance. More pleasing, however, was a finding a bird I was actually looking for - an Egyptian Goose pottering around amongst the 500 or so Greylags! I knew one had been seen at Langford Lowfields recently, so thought there was a good chance of it making it to Collingham/Besthorpe. 

'Gyptian Goose

There were also a few large gulls around, mainly Lesser Black-backs, and including several juvs. One of them caught my eye as it was slightly larger and had a rather noticeable whitish head and breast and contrasting dark mask; a heavy black bill; whitish fringing on its upper parts (made less eye-catching in the photo below due to the warm evening light, but noticeably different from the rather brown fringes on the LBBs); and it had neat spots on the sides of the undertail coverts. I only had a moment to grill it before it took off and headed north, when it showed a neat black tail band contrasting smartly with a white base and rump, and a subtle pale window on the inner primaries. All in all, I think it was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, a plumage I've not got much experience with... so I'm happy to be corrected!

Juv YL Gull?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

An invisible crake

I took a long lunch break to try and see the Spotted Crake which was found on the Slurry Lagoon at Netherfield Lagoons yesterday, and had been seen again this morning. I only had a hour, and that proved not to be long enough unfortunately. However, I did see two juvenile Water Rails, and first one, and then a further two, Garganey

Monday, 26 August 2013

Avocets in 2013

Avocets have turned up at Collingham twice this year - these occurrences were kept quiet at the time in case they related to breeding attempts. The first record related to a pair which turned up on 24th April; I last saw them on the 27th, when they looked like they might be thinking about nesting on Mons Pool, but I think the loafing GBB Gulls put them off. I then saw another pair on 4 June - these may well have been the same birds, which I believe tried to nest at Langford Lowfields in the end. 

Pair of Avocets on Mons Pool in April
Avocet on the Silt Lagoon in April

Patch yearlist additions

Today on the patch was actually fairly productive, with two additions for my Patchwork Challenge list. The fist of these was a Ruff, which was hiding in a flock of several hundred Lapwing, and revealed itself when the local female Sparrowhawk made them all lift up. The second was a Spotted Flycatcher, feeding on the ground along Trent Lane in a group of finches. A Pied Fly would have been better, with birds today at IVNR and Dunham Lagoons, but hey, shouldn't complain....

Spotted Flycatcher

Waders in addition to the Ruff were 2 Greenshank, 3 Green Sands, 4 Common Sands, 3 Dunlin, 4 Curlew, 3 Snipe and 11 Ringed Plover. Wildfowl highlights were 4 Wigeon and 2 juv Shelduck, along with plenty of Teal - but still no Garganey.

There were quite a few butterflies around, with no fewer than 17 Brimstones nectaring on purple loosestrife along a short section of ditch next to the Silt Lagoon, with c.10 Common Blues, a couple of Small Heaths, and best of all, a Clouded Yellow, also in the same area, the latter shooting through without stopping, in typical fashion. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Donna Nook

Given that the weather forecast was looking quite promising, I decided to head over to the Lincolnshire coast this morning and see what I could see. I don't know the Lincs coast at all well, so went to the only place I've been several times before - Donna Nook. I got there just after 6am, and incredibly I only saw one other birder in the six hours I was there - and that wasn't until just before midday. 

I was hoping to kick a Wryneck out of the dunes, or maybe come across an Icky amongst the good numbers of warblers in the coastal scrub. I looked at every Linnet in case it was a Rosefinch, and scanned the tops of all the bushes for shrikes. But I didn't come across any of those! In fact, the best birds I could muster were a Whinchat near the start of the track that heads north from the carpark, and at least 4 Pied Flycatchers in the sycamores at Pyes Hall, with another Pied Fly along the track, where there was also a Wheatear

Pied Fly

There were plenty of warblers to look through - mainly Common and Lesser Whitethroats and lots of day-glow yellow Willow Warblers, plus single Garden, Reed and Blackcap. Also in the area were at least 5 Yellow Wags, a juvenile Hobby, and single Swift. Waders included Spotted Redshank, Ruff and several Whimbrel, and I also had a small party of c.10 terns which came from the west, flying out to see - I only caught the tail end of them as the disappeared out of sight above the dunes, but the looked like juvenile Arctics. I also saw my first Walls for a few years, actually in reasonable numbers once the rain stopped.


Slightly disappointed not to have found anything more unusual, I then paid a quick visit to the dunes at Saltfleetby, somewhere I've never been before. I met two (old) birders in the carpark and asked them what they'd seen; "a few birds" was the response. Anything in particular? "No." was the short, sharp response. I thanked them very much for their help, and caught one of them giving me evils as I looked back over my shoulder. Bizarre. Anyway, I quickly realised that the half-an-hour I had available wasn't going to be long enough time to look for a Wryneck - there was too much ground to cover! I made do with another Whinchat, and several more Walls, and cut my losses. Annoyingly, a Red-backed Shrike was located in this area late afternoon; I just hope it wasn't the two miserable old ****'s from the carpark who found it.

I pulled in a quick look at Collingham Pits on the way home, where an adult Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Greenshank, 2 Green Sands, a Common Sand, 7 Ringed Plover, 3 LRP and a Dunlin were all on Ferry Lane Lake. The Idle Valley continues to intercept all the decent waders before they can make it down here!

Friday night's wader report

Last night at Collingham Pits: 5 Greenshank, 4 Common Sands, 2 Green Sands, 1 Dunlin, 9+ Ringed Plover, 7+ LRP and 3 Wigeon (all Ferry Lane Lake); 2 Common Sands (Silt Lagoon), and 2 Green Sands, 1 Common Sand and 1 Snipe (Mons Pool). A Turtle Dove was also in the newly-ploughed field just west of the Silt Lagoon.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Eyeing up the Idle

A few more waders are beginning to trickle into the county; parts of the Idle Valley sound especially good at the moment, with multiple Wood Sands and a Little Stint today, plus good numbers of commoner species. 

I was therefore full of expectation tonight in advance of another visit to Collingham. But this soon evaporated; although there were loads of bird on Ferry Lane Lake, these were mainly Black-headed and LBB Gulls, and Greylags. Single Greenshank, Green Sand, Common Sand, and LRP were the only waders. Things didn't improve elsewhere, with single Greenshank and Green Sand on the Silt Lagoon, and one each of Green and Common Sand on Mons Pool.

I'm also expecting a Garganey any day now - Teal numbers have now increased to 50 across the site, so it can only be a matter of time... The gulls provided some interest, with an adult Herring Gull probably the most notable (scarce at this time of year), with three Yellow-legged Gulls (an adult, a 2CY and a 3CY), and two Common Gulls also present.

Perhaps I'll have to get myself up to the north of the county if I'm going to find that county-first White-rumped Sandpiper.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Monday night

No birding tonight, but I managed a quick spin around Collingham Pits before a Besthorpe NR management committee meeting last night. There were 6 Greenshank on Ferry Lane Lake, along with single Green and Common Sands, 8 LRPs (all juvs) and a Ringed Plover. Elsewhere, there was a Common Sand on the Silt Lagoon, and 2 Green Sands and 2 Curlew on Mons Pool. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Saturday morning

This morning at Collingham; 3 Greenshank, 5 Green Sands, 5 LRPs and 1 Ringed Plover on Ferry Lane Lake, with a further 2+ Green and 2+ Common Sands on the Silt Lagoon and single Green and Common Sand on the Northcroft Pit (giving a total of 8+ Green Sands and 3+ Common Sands). Also 15 Shoveler and at least 28 Teal around the site.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Madeira 2007

It seems like a while ago now, but I spent a fortnight on Madeira at the end of January and beginning of February 2007. It was a bit chilly and the weather was mixed, and one week would've been enough. However, there were several birding highlights, which included the island and Macaronesian endemics, i.e. Madeiran Firecrest, Trocaz Pigeon, Plain Swift, Berthelot's Pipit and Island Canary

But it was the vagrants that were almost more memorable. Firstly, I was aware that a Sora had been located the previous December at Lugar de Baixo, and was pleased to relocate this bird  - the second for Portugal, and only the second for Macaronesia after one on the Azores in 1998. This bird was accompanied by a Spotted Sandpiper, which in all probability was also a bird from the previous October (although I wasn't aware of this at the time), and was the eight for Madeira. In one surreal moment, I watched the Sora chase the Spotted Sand off it's favourite patch of mud; now that can't have happened too often on this side of the Atlantic...


Spotted Sandpiper

However, best of all was a 1st winter Bonaparte's Gull which I found lurking amongst a few Black-headed Gulls on the beach next to the marina in Funchal. I saw this bird on a further three dates; it transpired that this was a first for Madeira! 

Bonaparte's Gull

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Falcon's feature

A few more waders at Collingham tonight; Ferry Lane Lake held 5 Greenshank and 3 Green Sands (and John Ellis also had a Common Sand just before I arrived), as well as 3 LRPs and a Ringed Plover. There was a Curlew on the Silt Lagoon (again), whilst a Greenshank flew in from the Trent whilst I was at Mons Pool. However, it was a couple of falcons that made the evening; first a Peregrine sat surveying the activity at Mons Pool before flying north and stooping at a Wood Pigeon unsuccessfully a couple of times. I then enjoyed great views of a Hobby barely a few metres above me just before I got back into my car. 


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Setting a record

I was doing some tidying yesterday and came across an old copy of 'The Harrier', which is the Suffolk Ornithologist's Group newsletter, dating from September 2008. There is a nice write-up in it by David Walsh of our bird-racing team's record-breaking May bird-race from that year, reproduced below. We had seen 152 species the year before, breaking the previous day-record of 148, and improved upon that total in 2008 by two species, notching up 154 - amazingly, we reached 100 species before 9am, two-and-a-half hours earlier than in 2007. 

I enjoy bird racing, but perhaps January 1st more so than May - the former is a sprint requiring tactics, the latter a marathon requiring stamina; we spent 19 hours 'on-it' in the field in 2008, which was quite exhausting! Nevertheless, it would be nice to have a go at improving on our record - is 160 possible? Maybe in 2014..? 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Ticking over on the patch

This afternoon at Collingham, Ferry Lane Lake held 1 Common Sandpiper, 5 Ringed Plovers (all ads) and 3 LRPs (juvs), as well as as juvenile Shelduck. On the gull front, there were 4 juvenile LBb Gulls amongst around 10 adults - the first juvvies of the year. 

The Silt Lagoon also produced a Common Sandpiper, whilst it was great to see that one of the pairs of Great Crested Grebes at Mons Pool has at last been successful, with two stripey young in tow, maybe only a day or two old. A pair of Moorhens also had two small chicks, and another juvenile Shelduck completed the young bird interest. There were no waders, but 5 Teal, 2 Shoveler and 6 Gadwall were the best of the wildflowl.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Back in Suffolk

We went back to Suffolk this weekend to see my parents. I got up early(ish) on saturday to visit Shotley Marshes, my old patch. Highlights were c.10 Bar-wits, 8 Avocets, 5+ Med Gulls,  a male Marsh Harrier and 2 Cetti's Warblers - any one of which I would've been pleased to find at Collingham... I also notched up 4 species of bush-cricket in just a few yards - both Short- and Long-winged Coneheads, Dark Bush-cricket and Roesel's Bush-cricket.

Short-winged Conehead
Roesel's Bush-cricket

In the afternoon, after lunch in Southwold, we had a couple of hours at Minsmere. We didn't have time to do the Wader Trail, but did a lap of the scrape. A Gargeney from West Hide was perhaps the best thing I found - not exactly rare, but it was nice to pick this out from among the Teal (and that no-one else had done so all day) - even if I couldn't get a pic of it with its head up! 

Juvenile Garganey

There relatively few waders around, but these included at least 6 Greenshank, 2 Spotted Redshank and a Ruff. My mum was delighted with good views of Bearded Tits, whilst I was delighted to see a Stone Curlew. There were also decent numbers of Little Gulls offshore along with c.25 Common Scoters.

Stone Curlew

Back at the carpark, the buddleja's yielded a couple of Grayling, but there was no sign of the Silver-washed Fritillary which has been gracing the area recently.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

A couple of patch visits

I had two uneventful visits to the patch at the end of this week; on Thursday, Northcroft Pit held 2 Common and 1 Green Sands (plus a Kingfisher), with a Curlew on the Silt Lagoon. Friday produced one Common Sand on Ferry Lane Lake, along with an adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst c.15 Lesser Black-backs. There were also 2 Shoveler here, along with a couple of Teal  (there were 6 here a few days ago). The Silt Lagoon again held a Curlew

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Yet another Sanderling

Tonight at Collingham, there were single Sanderling, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper on Ferry Lane Lake. The Sanderling is my 7th of the year, and an adult moulting out of s.p., whilst the Greenshank was a nice sleek looking juvenile. I didn't have time to check Mons Pool; that'll be where the Pec was then...


Sunday, 4 August 2013

A decent wader at last

First thing this morning I had a quick look at Collingham Pits, where there were actually a few waders - single Greenshank and Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sands, plus 2 fly-over Snipe. I then went to Langford to assist with the morning part of their volunteer task pulling Himalayan balsam, After two hours we'd cleared the patch and produced a large pile of several thousand plants!

A big pile o'balsam

I then had a look for Hairstreaks, finding both Purple and White-letter quite easily (and thanks to Jenny at Langford for pointing me in the right direction with the White-letters!).

Purple Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak

After success with the butterflies, I returned to Collingham. I was planning to look for Hairstreaks here too, but by now it was quite windy and a bit overcast, so I decided to leave it for another time. So back to birding; I couldn't find any of this morning's waders on Ferry Lane Lake, although there was a Dunlin on the Silt Lagoon, so decided to see what was happening at Mons Pool. Not much at first, but as I wondered up the western boundary, I spotted something that looked interesting... maybe just another Dunlin... but no, a Wood Sandpiper! A decent wader at last; I was rather pleased. 

Looks interesting...

Wood Sandpiper

Not finding frits

So yesterday, I had a wonder up the main ride in Wellow Wood to look for butterflies - mainly in the hope of a Silver-washed Fritillary, but alas, it was not to be. However, when the sun came out the verges were heaving with butterflies; mainly Whites, but plenty of other things as well, including quite a few Peacocks - only one Red Admiral though. A couple of Hairstreaks had to go unidentified, they were just to high, against the light, and always obscured by a leaf! Earlier, however, I'd seen a couple of definite Purple Hairstreaks from the road between Laxton and Kneesall Woods.

Wellow Wood

In the afternoon, a quick look at Ferry Lane Lake at Collingham produced an adult and juvenile Dunlin, a 4 juvenile LRPs and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Not much else though.