Friday, 29 November 2013

First white-winger of winter

With my flexi-time looking nice and healthy, I took this afternoon of with the intention of visiting Cotham Landfill - John Hopper has been having a couple of Iceland Gulls and the odd Caspo in the roost at Hoveringham, so I was hopeful of something good. There were maybe a thousand or so gulls present (probably more) - mainly Herrings, with smaller numbers of Great Black-backs. I couldn't see anything that looked like a Caspo, but did have a nice 1st W Iceland Gull (with a dark smudge on its left cheek); these are scarcer than Glaucs at Cotham, so good to get one under my belt on my first visit of the winter. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Super Whoopers

There is something very special about wild swans, so it was great to come across a small family party of Whooper Swans - 2 adults and a juvenile - on the Silt Lagoon at Collingham Pits this morning; my first of the winter. Elsewhere, there were 2 Pink-footed Geese in with the Greylags on Mons Pool, a Green Sand on Ferry Lane Lake, and 4 Redshanks around the site. Not masses else though.

The Whooper family
2 Pinkies

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Normal service is resumed

I managed a quick look at Collingham Pit this evening having been away most of the weekend. There was still evidence of last weekend's events, with a well-worn path down into Ferry Lane Lake and flattened grass on several of the mounds. But of course, no rare bird today. In  fact, the best I could do was an adult gull which was probably a Caspian which dropped in at dusk. Unfortunately the light was too bad to ID it with certainty, and I couldn't make out it's wing pattern when it flew off.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Final word on the wheatear

I'll start writing about something else soon before it gets boring (or perhaps it's boring already), but nice to see my Pied Wheatear getting listed as one of the week's 'headline birds' on RBA's weekly round-up (where there are some good stats on occurrences), and that it gets 'Bird of the Week' in the BirdGuides webzine and weekly news email (I doubt I’ll get one of those again from Collingham!). I've also just done an write-up for 'Finders Keepers' on BirdGuides' webzine (subscription only). 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Bye to the Pied

No reports of the Pied Wheatear at Collingham today; looks like it did an overnight bunk. My only comment is that thank goodness it didn't do this yesterday. So that's that! 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

More on the Pied Wheatear

Finding a rare bird is what drives many patch birders, and the hope of finding something good, although rarely realised, is always in the back of my mind whenever I visit Collingham. My visit yesterday was actually my first in two weeks – with the clocks going back, evening visits after work are no longer possible, and with my parents coming to stay last weekend my birding options were limited to a quick look at the Glossy Ibis with them. So really I was just going to see what had changed in that time, and I wasn't expecting to see much of note; it’s mid November after all - wader passage is long finished, and wildfowl numbers have been unspectacular recently. Certainly, thoughts of a rare passerine didn't cross my mind...

I arrived on site at about 10am, and began by scanning Ferry Lane Lake. There wasn't much present, so I had a look through the Linnets and Meadow Pipits that were moving around on the gravel. Scanning along a line of Linnets sat up on a low gravel bund, the final bird instantly caught my eye. It was sat front on, was small (not much bigger than the nearest Linnet), and looked like... a wheatear. Worryingly, it had a very plainly marked head, and had a brown, slightly ochreous, band across its upper breast. It bobbed a couple of times, pumping its tail, and then flicked over the back of the bund, flashing a wheatear-patterned tail. My heart rate quickened – I’d only seen it for a few seconds, but this looked good!

It popped up further along the bund 10 minutes or so later, and gave an equally brief, front-on view, but it still looked good. However, it was then another 30-40 minutes or so before it showed again, this time much further left along the bund, and stood sideways on it looked quite long-tailed and showed a brownish-grey mantle. I began to panic – this was either a Black-eared or a Pied Wheatear; I knew the latter was much more likely at this time of year, but also that the two can be very tricky to separate. Foolishly, instead of getting a photo when I had this opportunity, I decided I needed back-up and started making calls, getting hold of Carl Cornish (who’d just arrived in Sherwood for a relaxed morning’s birding). He came straight back over to Collingham, but the bird had vanished just after I finished my call to him. When he arrived we spent over two hours looking for it, but by now I had to go to Leicester to play hockey (and I was already very late). I was so angry with myself on the drive down – my views had amounted to not much more than a few seconds; and why hadn't I taken a photo when I had the chance?

I thought that was that – one that got away. Thank goodness then, that John Ellis had seen a missed call from me and had called back, and had then gone to look for the bird in the afternoon; checking my phone in the changing rooms after hockey (we won 5-0), I was elated to see that he had relocated the bird, and that Carl had managed to get some phone-scoped pics, one of which he'd texted through in a message which said 'looks like a pied to me'. Arriving home, I phoned Carl and John to get their thoughts; Carl had sent the pics to Paul French and Tony Critchley, and I subsequently emailed them to Charlie Moores at Bird Information. Consensus from these quarters was it looked good for a Pied... And with news beginning to leak out on Facebook, I decided to put the bird out via Bird Information, with warnings about not entering the quarry. But by now it was dark. 

I didn't sleep well during the night – would the bird still be there? Was it going to turn out to be just a dodgy Northern? (Surely not – I had to keep checking Carl’s pics). Arriving on site at 6:45am, there were already several people present. It was freezing cold, and it had been a clear night – I was nervous. Gradually the sun rose, and light crept across the quarry floor. And then relief; someone located it on the bund, in exactly the same place where I had last seen it yesterday. Silence descended over the crowd. It was clearly enjoying warming up in the sun, and showed well – why hadn't it behaved like this yesterday?! It then became more active, moving along the bund and then more widely, whilst several gaggles of Notts birders discussed the bird’s identity (making me feel less bad about not having been able to nail the ID myself yesterday). Over the next couple of hours, it showed extremely well on occasion, even moving along the bank at the front of the pit, right in front of the crowd. In the strong morning light it didn't look quite as dark as perhaps I would've expected, but its upperparts were quite cold toned and showed subtle pale fringes when at close range, a feature which I hadn't been able to see yesterday. A Pied Wheatear it was!

So, what a weekend, and what a bird. A first for Notts, and apparently the first ever inland county record – I couldn't hope for anything more on my local patch; it makes all those hundreds of visits and thousands of hours on site worthwhile! And a big thanks to Carl and John for not thinking I’d gone crazy...

Pied Wheatear!!

So, thank goodness that yesterday's Pied Wheatear was still present at Collingham Pits this morning. A few photos now, and a write-up to follow...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What's that wheatear?

A full write up to follow, but I found an interesting wheatear at Collingham Pits this morning... I only saw it briefly on three occasions before it vanished, but it looked very promising as either a Pied or an Eastern Black-eared; however, I hadn't nailed the ID. After three hours of searching there was no further sign and I needed to go to hockey. I was furious with myself on the drive down to Leicester for having let this one slip through my fingers (and that I hadn't managed a photo of it), but fortunately John Ellis relocated the bird late this afternoon, and Carl Cornish managed some phone-scoped pics. These have been shown to various people (including a member of BBRC), and the consensus is that it looks good for a Pied. I just hope it's still there in the morning...

(Pics by Carl Cornish)

Friday, 8 November 2013

A bit of birding in Sherwood

Yesterday was the Sherwood Habitats Forum, hosted this year at Clumber Park. After a morning of talks and presentations, we had a stroll round the western end of the lake looking at management issues, which produced 10 Mandarins from the Ornamental Bridge, a fly-over Brambling, and several Siskin. No Hawfinches though.

Today, I had a morning at Rufford Colliery looking at how the heathland restoration there is progressing. Good birds included 2 Ravens, 12 Lesser Redpoll, a couple of Snipe, and plenty of Bullfinches. On the way back into the office I swung via Lowdham, ticking the Glossy Ibis without stopping!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Glossy Ibis

News broke yesterday afternoon of a Glossy Ibis at Lowdham; a mega bird for Notts - only the third county record (previously recorded in 2009 at Langford, seen by just a lucky few, and another 100 years before that). By the time I'd finished hockey and seen the news, it was getting a bit late in the day, and I failed to see it, as a) the directions were wrong (the bird is next to the A612, not the A6097), b) it was almost dark when I got there and c) it had already flown off to roost. So I had another go this morning, with my visiting parents in tow (bribed with the promise of a coffee in Southwell on the way home) - which was much more successful! And it was nice to see a lot of Notts birders there.

No patch birding though this weekend; I feel a bit guilty.