Friday, 31 January 2014


I decided that standing in the rain for two hours at Cotham Landfill this afternoon wasn't going to be much fun, and with a couple of Smew turning up locally yesterday (Alan Scrimshaw had one at Newark Sugar Factory and a pair were found at Langford), I decided to hit Collingham instead.

No Smew were forthcoming, and even the semi-regular redhead Goosander was missing, but this was made up for by an unexpected wader in the form of a Bar-tailed Godwit on the Silt Lagoon with 8 Redshank; Bar-wit is a species I didn't get last year at Collingham, so a good gain for my 2014 list. 

Other stuff included the 6 Whoopers again west of the Trent with 98 Mutes, 17 Goldeneye on Wharf Pit, and a Green Sand on Ferry Lane Lake.Having hardly seen a passerine all afternoon, I then decided to go to Langford to look for the Smew on the Silt Lagoon, but there was no sign. 

So my Patchwork Challenge list for January finishes on 80; 4 better than 2013. However, I know that John Hopper's list for Hoveringham is 84; He's got Iceland, Glauc, Med and Caspian Gulls over me, plus Mandarin and Knot. I think it's going to be an interesting battle against him this year, but being retired, of course he has an unfair advantage as he can spend all his time on patch...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Birding in the rain

It was wet out this morning, which I don't mind except for foggy optics, and lack of birds... water levels are up all across Collingham Pits, although the birds were much the same as last visit, with 6 Whoopers still in with the Mutes in the field west of the Trent; a redhead Goosander on Mons Pool (although very little else), and 13 Redshank and a Green Sand on the Silt Lagoon. This became the first blank visit of the year in terms of patch yearticks; a half-heard Skylark didn't call again so didn't will have to wait to be added another time.

Ferry Lane Lake, filling back up again

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Double Iceland

Normally as I approach Cotham Landfill gulls can be seen circling over the site from some distance; it was therefore bad news that the air above the landfill looked to be completely empty this morning. I decided to drive round to the front of the landfill to see if it was open, but came across a big group of gulls in the field south of the restored landfill, between Cotham village and the cyclepath.

Lots of gulls...

The flock was compact and many birds were hidden over a ridge in the field, but luckily two good birds were at the front; both Iceland Gulls, an adult (my first adult Iceland of the winter here), and a pale 1st winter - I'm not quite sure if this is the 'usual' bird or another. The rarest bird, however, was an adult Lesser Black-back.

1st winter Iceland Gull
Adult Iceland Gull

Some of the gulls then moved over onto the landfill, where I picked out both the Icelands again, but nothing else. The light was pretty bad so I gave up after a while to go and play hockey. A little later, Steve Dunn had the adult Glauc, as well as the 1st winter Iceland on the landfill, just going to show that birds come and go throughout the day. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

More friday Gulls

Cotham Landfill beckoned this afternoon; with 3 Glaucs reported there on tuesday, and no less than 4 Icelands in the Hoveringham roost on monday, I was hoping for a white-wing fest! However, it didn't quite work out like this. Despite lots of gulls and good viewing conditions, the only white-winger was an adult Glauc that Mike Warren picked out shortly after I arrived (he'd already been there the best part of an hour). No Icelands though. 

I spent a lot of time grilling the Herrings, seeing some interesting birds; a very dark 2nd W, a dark velvety 1st W, an adult (or near adult) with small amounts of black in its tail... but all were seen too briefly and key features were not visible. Another interesting another near adult had a juv Glauc bill pattern, which looked pretty weird. Both me and Mike also had probable adult Caspian's, but again all too briefly. My bird certainly looked good, but I lost it before I was 100% happy. Several pale-tipped 1st W Herrings were present too birds. Always interesting...

Thursday, 23 January 2014


A meeting at Rufford Country Park this morning gave me a late morning opportunity to look for Hawfinches; without too much trouble I came across two in a tree next to the main ride through the woodland, adjacent to the works compound. Another birder had seen five earlier in the main carpark, along with a Lesser Spot. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

January WeBS

One of my New Year's resolutions is to do my WeBS counts on the correct date, rather than a week later as is often the case... and I've stuck to it for the first month, visiting Girton Pits this morning. I failed to find anything unusual, and overall wildfowl numbers were quite low - not helped by flooding on the Fleet off to the south of the site, where many birds had clearly decamped to. Headline totals were 204 Mallard, 124 Tufties, 70 Wigeon, 34 Goldeneye, 32 Coot, 26 Teal and 21 Pochard. There were also 3 pairs of Shelduck on Spalford Pit. 

Inspired by a Jay I'd seen at Girton, I had a quick stop on the way back home at Besthorpe Warren, and duly had a Jay as soon as I got out of the car - number 79 for the Patchwork Challenge list. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014


At Collingham Pits this afternoon, a pair of Egyptian Geese on Ferry Lane Lake were number 78 for the patch yearlist; not a guaranteed species, so got to get this early on. Other stuff on this part of the site included 4 pairs of Shelduck (returning rapidly now for spring!), a Green Sand, and good numbers of wildfowl (c.90 Teal, and several times that number of Wigeon). Elsewhere, 8 Whoopers were west of the Trent with the Mutes, a pair of Goosander were on Mons Pool, and on the Silt Lagoon there were a gang of 11 Redshank, plus 4 Curlew and a Snipe

1 of the 2 Egyptian Geese

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday let down

With some early starts and late finishes, I'd built up enough flexi-time to take this afternoon off, and was looking forward to gulling at Cotham. Arriving, there were masses of gulls around and things were looking good, but no sooner had a set my scope up than they all took to the air, as two guys in hi-vis jacket started wondering around on the landfill. After some circling, a lot headed west, whilst the rest continued to circle. And circle. 

And after an hour they still hadn't resettled, so I cut my losses and left. It wasn't a complete disaster, as I did have a 1w Glaucous Gull overhead when the birds first took flight, but it does illustrate the frustrations of watching a landfill, especially when your time is limited. Even when the gulls are decked, they can be difficult to watch, constantly reshuffling in response to the movements of the bulldozers and refuse trucks - the work 'melee' always springs to mind. And with an early start for hockey tomorrow, it's at least another week before I'll have the chance for another session at the landfill. Frustrating!

So after wasting the best of the afternoon, it was off to Collingham. The highlight were 22 Whooper Swans; 10 (including 1 juv) in with 85 Mutes in the field west of the Trent, and a group of 12 in flight off to the north (with at least 1 juv amongst their number). Elsewhere there were 7 Redshank and 2 Snipe on the Silt Lagoon (the latter patch year tick number 77), a redhead Goosander and at least 5 Shelduck (2 pairs) on the Ferry Lane Lake, and 2 Chiffchaffs at Mons Pool, where the Cormorants are already thinking about spring.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

More patching

Yesterday, an hour and a half at Cotham Landfill proved fruitless (the 1st W Iceland Gull was reported from nearby at Cotham Flash at about the time of my visit), although I flushed another Woodcock from along the southern boundary of the restored landfill. After hockey, I then went owling at Collingham, eventually getting male and female Tawnies calling near the Silt Lagoon, but no Littles. 

Today, I managed two visits to the patch. This morning, Collingham Pits and Mons Pool were fairly quiet; a Green Sand was on Ferry Lane Lake, and there were 2 Whooper Swans (adult and juvenile) in with 100 Mutes in the field west of the Trent, later moving onto the Silt Lagoon - where the regular male Shelduck had been joined by a female. I also enjoyed watching a party of 15 Goldeneyes on Wharf Pond, the drakes in full display mode; always great to see. 

A super Whooper

This afternoon, a walk round Meering produced a few patch yearticks - Feral Pigeon, Golden Plover (largely absent in this part of the Trent Valley at the moment, so good to get 130 flying over) and Pink-footed Geese (2 in with a few Greylags on Smithy Marsh). 

This weekend's four additions bring me up to 76 for the year on the patch (already equal to last year's January total). There are still plenty of things to go at, although birds like Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling seem very thin on the ground this winter around here, so we'll see if they materialise...

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Beaten into second!

Well, the results of the 2013 Patchwork Challenge best find competition were announced today; I was delighted that my Pied Wheatear at Collingham Pits in November was one of the nine shortlisted species. In the end I just missed out on the top spot (by 2% of votes, having been in the lead at several points during the voting process...), with the Hampshire Semipalmated Plover taking that accolade; the Mourning Dove on Rhum came third! So I'm not too disappointed not to have won - both of those a true mega finds! My only regret is that I'm highly unlikely to ever be in contention for best find again... unless perhaps if move to the coast!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Another two

A quick late PM spin around Collingham produced two patch yearticks, Meadow Pipit and Barn Owl; the latter was especially pleasing as I saw only one bird last year, and they're always a pleasure to see. Other birds included 5 Whoopers (4 ads and the juv) with 90 Mutes west of the Trent, and a Redshank on the Silt Lagoon. On Mons, the Kingfisher performed well, as did one of the Chiffchaffs.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

That's what I'm glaucing about

Another day, another visit to Cotham Landfill, this time in the morning. The adult Glaucous Gull appeared again, this time sat up at the back allowing me to photo it, unlike yesterday. A super bird, with a bit of blotching on the neck but otherwise unsullied. It then vanished and I couldn't find it again (hopefully it reappeared for Tom M and Dave H who arrived after I'd been there for an hour). The 1st W Iceland Gull also made an appearance, again showing well for a time - John H had an incredible 3 Icelands in the Hov roost this evening (two 1st W and a 2nd W).

1w Iceland

After lunch, it was off to the patch. I added 5 species (Green Sand, Grey Partridge, Little Egret, Kingfisher and Green Woodpecker), bringing my total after two visits to 70 species. In addition, there were 3 Whoopers (2ads and the juv) in with the Mutes (numbering 87) west of the Trent, and both Chiffchaffs at Mons Pool.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Doing the double

After some DIY this morning, I paid a visit to Cotham Landfill this afternoon, locating an adult Glaucous Gull and the 1w Iceland Gull (again) - unfortunately I couldn't get a photo of either. Not that I need another distant blurry picture of the Iceland, but one of the Glauc would've been nice; however a refuse lorry stopped in front of me just as I was lining up for a shot, and it had gone once my line of sight was restored, not to be seen again. And still no Caspo's; John H had another on New Year's Eve in the roost at Hoveringham (along with the adult Glauc,and both 1w and 2w Iceland).

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Patching, 2014 style

After a non-birding day yesterday, I spent just over 5 hours today visiting all parts of my patch. Starting at Besthorpe Warren, I went off-piste and flushed a Woodcock out of a patch of bramble in the woodland to the south. A walk round Meering didn't produce much, so it was then on to Collingham Pits, where I was greeted by a Peregrine. I couldn't find the usual Green Sand anywhere, but there were 5 adult Whooper Swans in the Mute flock. Mons Pool produced first the hoped-for Chiffchaff (silent today, in contrast to New Year's Eve when it called constantly), and then a fly-through Goosander. I finished the day on 65 species; there's still plenty to go at during the rest of the month.