Friday, 30 May 2014

Washout on the patch

Its been about a week since last visited the patch. Things started well there today with a Greenshank on Ferry Lane Lake, which was new for the year. However, at Mons Pool, the water levels were right up, covering all but the very highest parts of the largest islands - everything else was swamped. So not only was there zero wader habitat, but the various nests I'd been keeping an eye on (at least 3 Coot and a Great Crested Grebe) were nowhere to be seen, drowned out. Goodness knows how many other nests in the marginal vegetation have been lost too. Not good. 

Lots of water, drowned nests, no waders

Added to this was some pretty pointless partial mowing of the verges on Carlton Ferry Lane; thankfully, the vast majority has been left untouched - although who knows for how long. And I also noticed that quite a few of the ashes on site were looking pretty sickly, with very thin crowns. Whether there just very late coming into leaf, or it's something more sinister (i.e. Chalara) remains to be seen. 

A verge, cut wider that the width of the actual road. Pointless.
Sick looking ashes

So all in all, it was a slightly depressing visit - although a purring Turtle Dove brightened things up towards the end. I must go and check Meering to see if there are any there this year. 

A Turtle Dove (honest)

Suffolk Days 4-6

More Corn Bunting action around Chelmondiston; a brief reccy on Tuesday confirmed that there were several singing in fields south of the east end of the village, so on Wednesday I got up early and surveyed most of the area, coming away with at least 9 singing birds. Add to this a couple seen elsewhere this week, I reckon that's at least 11 immediately around Chelmo. I'm sure more surveys over a wider area would reveal more, but perhaps that's someone else's responsibility now.

Corn Bunt

The remainder of Wednesday was spent up the coast, and included a nice walk round Minsmere (where I banned the whistling of the Springwatch theme tune in our group). The scrape was full of breeding birds, but a single Bar-wit seemed to be about the only passage wader. There were at least 25 Kittiwakes present as well, not a phenomenon I remember, but I guess they'd not had to come far from Sizewell Rigs. The only notable bird was the female Red-backed Shrike in the dunes south of the Sluice; seen too briefly and too distantly for a photo. 


Thursday was our last full day, and again didn't involve any proper birding, but canoeing on Thorpeness Mere produced a cuckoo and two singing Nightingales in the south-east corner.  

Swan family

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Suffolk Days 1-3

I love Suffolk; I'm biased, but it is great. On Sunday night we took a trip out to Dunwich Heath, after fish and chips in Aldeburgh, to look for Nightjars. We had our first one strike up at 5 to 9 - it was barely getting dark. We then had some great fly-bys, and one bird churred incredibly close to us. Add to that two singing Dartford Warblers, a Cuckoo, and both Bittern and Stone-curlew audible in the distance, and it was a super evening. 

Looking south over Minsmere

Yesterday was biking and barbecuing on the beach, and I counted 5 singing Corn Buntings along Ling's Lane, just south of Chelmondiston. With another bird at Needle Corner in Harkstead, and a bird singing near Hill Farm on Sunday, that's at least 7 locations without really trying. Maybe I'll get up early sometime this week and do a proper count...

Today, zero birding, despite Greenish Warbler and Rosefinch not too far away at Landguard.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Terrific Terek

My flexi-hours took a bit of a hit today, as I left work early and bombed over to Covenham Res in Lincs for the Terek Sandpiper. This is a bird that's been high up on my most wanted list for a while now, but somehow there's never been one in striking distance. But obviously that changed today! It was a little stunner, showing off its mustard yellow legs, black braces and upturned bill, although it didn't really come very close whilst I was present - as a result my photos aren't a patch on many of the others out there... 

It was being kept company by an alpina Dunlin, with Sanderling, Redshank and Common Sand also present as singletons; the latter clearly didn't like the Terek, which it chased on several occasions (despite being smaller), and also stood sideways on and raised its wing a couple of times in what I assume was a territorial display. 

An Osprey off to the north when I arrived was a bonus; I also had a Red Kite on the journey over. On the journey back I swung by Collingham (obviously); the Ruff seen earlier was nowhere to be seen, but I did have one new for year species (more on that later), and the first family of Shelducks of the year with 5 ducklings on Mons Pool. Even since yesterday evening, the water levels here were up slightly, concealing the best wader habitat once again.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Man vs egrets

I joined Jim Lennon and Adrian Blackburn of North Notts Ringing Group today on a Little Egret ringing session at Mons Pool. We arrived at 10am, and they were still going when I made my excuses just after 3pm. There were 16 of us in all, with three tree climbers all kitted up in harnesses and hard hats. People had come from far and wide to help, including Essex and County Durham. Kieran and Harry were two of the Durham contingent, young birders and ringers. The former was the lucky lad who timed his BB-funded stay on Fair Isle last summer with the appearance of the Swinhoe’s Petrels! 

Climbing the first tree
Processing the first batch of Egrets

The ringing was slow going, as the Egrets (unlike the young herons, apparently) leave their nest (which are small and rather pigeon-like) and start clambering around in the tops of the big hawthorns as soon as they're approached by the climbers; trying to catch them then proved very, very tricky, as they were surprisingly agile, using legs, wings and bill to scramble around. Some proved just too hard to capture!

Checking a ring
Processing some more
A gratuitous cute Egret picture
Little Egret on the left, Grey Heron on the right

I ringed one bird, with a metal BTO ring on its right leg and a blue darvic ring on the left; my bird was AF, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can find this individual around Collingham later in the year.

Me and AF
Another gratuitous cute Little Egret picture

Needless to say, I didn't see much else bird wise, although I happened to glance up through a hole in the canopy just as yesterday’s Red Kite drifted lowly overhead.  

Saturday, 17 May 2014

More skippers

After birding this morning, it was butterflying this afternoon. I concentrated on the Cotham Landfill area again, and found Grizzled Skipper at all of their 'known' sites in that area, albeit not in huge numbers.


I also located two (in different locations) on the Sustrans route a little to the north of the main area of their distribution at the landfill, but most excitingly, located four about 1.5km to the north of these, immediately south of Bowbridge Lane - one on the cyclepath itself, and four in the grassy margin of the field immediately to the east (three of which were just to the south).

3 GS here - a new site!

These are, to my knowledge, now the most northerly 'natural' Grizzled Skippers in Notts (the other populations, e.g. at Annesley Pit Top, I'm pretty sure are introductions), and among the most northerly in England. 

A red raptor

If I was going to find a raptor with red in it's name today, a Red-footed Falcon would've been nice, with a couple elsewhere. Instead, it was a Red Kite (so still pretty nice), which I clocked off to the north as was driving up Carlton Ferry Lane from Collingham (i.e. off-patch). Fortunately, I was still visible when I got to Ferry Lane Lake, and showed nicely despite being hassled by a crow. Looks to me like a 2nd calender year bird, and was moulting its inner primaries. 

2CY Red Kite
With a pesky crow

Nothing much else at Collingham; the Whooper was still present on Mons Pool, but no migrant waders. So off I went to Girton Pits to do my WeBS count; nothing unusual there either, and I failed to locate any Willow Tits (although midday in mid May is probably not the best time to be looking for them). Actually the most interesting (odd) thing I saw was a Rook's head, with part of a small Grass Snake's body stuck to it. No idea what had gone on there... And there was a huge amount of willow fluff blowing in the wind and drifting in places, I've never seen so much!


Friday, 16 May 2014

Skipper surveys

A nice day out of the office was had today visiting some of the sites worked on as part of the SITA-funded Grizzled Skipper project, and looking for the butterflies themselves. At Cotham Station we notched up at least 11 Grizzleds, plus lots of Brown Arguses and a few Common Blues. Two more Grizzleds were on the disused railway line adjacent to the station site, with another further north. 

Grizzled Skipper
Pretty optimal GS habitat at Cotham Station

Heading round to Flawborough Footpath we located 6 Grizzleds in the 'triangle' at the southern end of Flawborough Footpath, with 3 along the footpath itself, plus at least 4 eggs and 3 larvae on cinquefoil leaves trailing across some of the new drystone walls. There were also loads of Common Blues on the wing here, and a couple of Small Coppers.

GS egg
Two GS larvae with remains of eggs
Drystone wall
More optimal GS habitat at Flawborough Footpath

Walking along the disused railway back up to Cotham we failed to find any more Grizzleds, so another visit may be on the cards this weekend... However, a Whimbrel did fly north calling from the direction of Kilvington Lakes. Could do with one of those on the patch.

No GS here...

I wrapped the day up with a quick look at Collingham Pits. No Whimbrel, although an adult Whooper Swan on Mons Pool was a surprise. 

Whooper with a Mute


Yesterday, I came across two Dingy Skippers at what I think is a new site for them in Sherwood, south of Vicar Water CP. Nearby, quite a few were in evidence on Rainworth Water LNR. 

Dingy Skipper

I attempted to complete the scarce skipper due by looking for Grizzled Skippers at Saxondale Disused Railway on the way home; I failed to locate any adults (it was pushing 6pm by the time I  got onto site), but I did locate an egg on a creeping cinquefoil leaf trailing across one of the 'drystone walls' created as part of the recently completed SITA-funded project - so good to know these features are proving successful. 

Grizzled Skipper egg

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Another Sherwood Redstart survey

Yesterday I hauled myself out of bed at 5am for my second Redstart survey of the year in Sherwood Forest NNR (the Visitor Centre site). I spend four blissful hours criss-crossing the site, seeing only two other people. On the western side I stood with my eyes closed and the sun on my face, and all I could hear was the wind in the trees, a singing Redstart above me, a distant Cuckoo, and other woodland birds announcing themselves. 

Earlier I'd come across the Longhorns grazing quietly, and could easily imagine that they were aurochs or wisent. I never cease to be inspired by this place; thank goodness it survived.

I logged a total of 11 singing male Redstarts, three more than last visit, and including two on the western side of the site, but once again none along Redstart Alley... And this time, I saw a female - just the one! Presumbaly the others are all sat tight on eggs. Other things around the site were my first Spotted Flycatchers of the year, a pair prospecting a nest site; at least 9 singing Tree Pipits; 3 or even 4 Cuckoos; and a supporting cast of Siskins, Garden Warblers, Bullfinches and Mistle Thrushes. 

After a restorative All Day Breakfast at the Round Table, the remainder of the day was spent pulling Himalayan Balsam on the north side of the visitor centre, coming across a couple of Common Lizards in the process. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A late Goosander

After an enjoyable yomp round Sherwood Forest NNR this morning (more on that in another post), I yomped round Collingham Pits tonight. Of greatest note was a tardy drake Goosander on Mons Pool, 4 alpina Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plovers on the Silt Lagoon, and a distant Dunlin on Ferry Lane Lake. In addition, the drake Shoveler on Mons was with a female (suggesting a failed breeding attempt), but all the Teal appear now to have gone, and the first three baby Coots  of the year were with their parents on Ferry Lane Lake. 

A snoozing Goosander
3 Dunlin and a Ringo
Northcroft Lane

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Birding in the wild west

This weekend was spent in Liverpool, enjoying some birding and my mate Dave's stag do; so on Saturday he took me round all the hotpots on Merseyside. We began at Green Bank Park with a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets, before moving onto Garston Coastal Reserve, where we came across a few waders including 3 Sanderling, 2 Whimbrel, 13 Ringo's and 10 Dunlin. Hale Pools held single Redshank and Black-wit, and there were around 12 Wheatears in the fields and on the grazing marshes nearby.

After a couple of other brief stops, we headed on to Seaforth/Crosby Marine Park - one of those site you know by reputation, even if you've never been there. Best were a big group of c.140 Common Terns with one or two Arctics amongst them, as well as 2 1st summer Little Gulls and another 3 Wheatears.

We finished the day on Plex Moss, looking for Dotterel. We failed to find any (but did meet a chap who checks the area twice a day for them during spring!), but did get around 12 Whimbrel, 2 'northern' Golden Plovers, a pair of Grey Partidge, a couple of Corn Bunts, and big numbers of Wheaters - maybe 30 (or more) in a single field, with others dotted around (bring our day's total to over 50); we scrutinised these, and concluded that at least some looked like leucorhoa, as may've been expected, including some very peachy-washed females.

Plex Moss - a lot like Gringley Carr
Not a Dotterel

And then it was out into Liverpool...

Friday 9th

Back to Friday, I had a morning in Sherwood (locating several singing Tree Pipits and Garden Warblers), and then bombing round Collingham before driving over to Liverpool; there was a Common Sand on Ferry Lane Lake, and 4 Ringed Plovers and 3 Dunlin on Mons Pool, as well as a total of 28 Gadwall around the site (26 of which were males). Worryingly, a dead Shelduck was on Mons Pool - I'm not sure how it met its end...

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Some evening wader action

A better patch visit this evening; 1 Sanderling, 4 Dunlin,19 Ringed Plovers and 2 Common Sands were on Mons Pool, whilst a further 7 Dunlin were on Ferry Lane Lake. A Wood Sand or a Temminck's Stint would've been nice, but you can't have everything. Onward to Meering, there were no waders, but I counted 20 Smooth Newts in the pond and listened fruitlessly for a Gropper. 

Sanderling and 2 Ringed Plovers

Monday, 5 May 2014

Early Purples

Unfortunately I managed to leave my camera at home today, but counted 18 Early Purple Orchids in the road verge at Kneesall Wood, and another 23 at Kirton Wood. At the latter site, the Variegated Yellow Archangel looks to have been all but eradicated following treatment by NWT; I pulled the final few plants up. No Marsh Tits though.

Then it was to the patch, where the best were 5 Ringed Plovers and a Common Sand on Mons Pool, but not much else; earlier I'd seen 4 Swifts over Wellow, and a couple more over Newark. Still none over Collingham though. 

Redstarts and Red Foxes

Yesterday was my first Redstart survey of 2014 in Sherwood Forest NNR; I located 9 singing males, a decent number but slightly disappointing as I didn't find many at all in the western section of the site, which has normally been their stronghold. However, whether it was the fact that it was later in the morning by the time I arrived in this area, or the birds here had already paired up and stopped singing, I don't know. Hopefully some further surveys will clarify. Other stuff included 8 singing Tree Pipits, 2-3 singing Cuckoos, and a few other bits and pieces including a Tawny Owl which I flushed out of some bracken. 

Later in the day, the patch beckoned. I didn't find masses, but scoped good numbers of Swifts and a Hobby off to the south over Langford, and found a female Fox with no fewer than 11 cubs; however these appeared to be from two separate families, as there were 7 larger ginger cubs and 4 small brown ones. They were great to watch playing!