Sunday, 23 February 2014

A sign of spring

Yesterday I saw my first bumblebees of spring whilst at Cotham Landfill, and then found a Peacock back in Newark, which I moved into the sun so it could warm up. Today felt much less spring-like again, but an Oystercatcher at Collingham Pits on the Silt Lagoon was an early harbinger of things to come; soon there will be Ringed Plovers turning up, and then the first LRPs!

Other birds at Collingham today included a mini-influx of Pintail, with 13 present (11 on Ferry Lane Lake and 2 on Mons Pool), 9 Shelduck and 2 Little Egrets, but not much else of note. I also belatedly did my WeBS count at Girton (my New Year's resolution to actually do my count on the correct day not lasting long...), with another 4 Oystercatchers there, but low wildfowl numbers again.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Landfill woes

After yesterday's failure I tried Cotham Landfill again this morning, but once again came away disappointed; there weren't many large gulls present, and no white-wingers or Caspo's (or anything else) were forthcoming. Maybe that's it for this winter there...

Skiing and twitching

When the American Coot turned up on Loch Flemington early in the New Year, I began to plan a trip to Scotland to see it (given that the bird was less then 2 miles from my aunt and uncle's house), and to hopefully do some skiing too... Luckily, the bird stuck, and I managed to tick the coot half an hour after sunset on our first day, and returned for another three looks. 

Not the most exciting bird in the world I have to say, and I wouldn't have bothered to go for it if it wasn't for the skiing as well - we managed three full days (which is good for Scotland!) and the snow on Cairngorm was excellent. No Ptarmigan were seen, but several Red Grouse were in evidence on the mountain.

Our one non-skiing day was spent pottering in Aviemore followed by a half-hearted attempt for Golden Eagles in the Findhorn Valley; this failed, but I did bag Raven and Dipper, and had decent views of a Mountain Hare (with another dashing across the pistes at Cairngorm two days earlier). I also managed a quick look at the sea of Nairn, which was actually pretty quiet but I did add a few Eider and Long-tailed Ducks to my trip list, along with a pure-looking Hoodie (having seen several hybrids). Having done lots of birding up here last May, I didn't feel the need to go chasing after all the other Highland specialties.

So, a good little trip.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Return to the promised landfill

We spent the last six days in Scotland (write up to follow), so today was my first opportunity to do some local birding for a while. Collingham Pits held a pair of Goosander and 3 Pintail (Ferry Lane Lake), 19 Redshank (Silt Lagoon), and 11 Shelduck (Silt Lagoon/Mons Pool). I counted the Wigeon on Ferry Lane Lake and got to 500 before they were flushed by another birder; I reckon there were another 150 to go. 

After lunch I hit Cotham Landfill for the first time in ages; unfortunately this didn't live up to expectations, as I only got about 20 minutes of the gulls on the landfill before they all took to the air, and then circled for the next 40 minutes. Having been in this situation before, I cut my losses and went to look for Short-eared Owls on Hawton Works Grassland. Again I came away empty handed; I think any owls present were hunkering down out of the wind as they certainly weren't flying around. 

Monday, 10 February 2014


Being out and about for work today had its advantages, not least as it meant I was driving past Kingsmill Res, so I couldn't resist pulling in for a quick peek at the Gannet which Steve Dunn found there yesterday. Upon arrival, I couldn't quite believe how close it was, just off the pontoons next to the carpark. It paddled around a bit, looking a bit lopsided and very out of place amongst the ducks and swans, and not entirely well; it came even closer (just a few metres away) when some chopped up mackerel was chucked in it's direction, which it wolfed down. 

Apparently it was taken into care later in the afternoon; hopefully it will pull through.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Hurtle for a Myrtle

I couldn't resist twitching the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in Co. Durham today - unfortunately I had to travel on my own, but it was worth it; only my third American wood warbler, after a Blackpoll at Bewl Water back in 1994 (when I was 14...) and the Welsh Yellowthroat in 2012 . 

The bird showed fairly well during my time on site, coming to fat-filled coconut shells in a hedge on the estate. These were a quite low down so many of the views were obscured through vegetation, but the bird would sometimes pop up higher, occasionally perching up in the trees for periods. It was a very pretty little thing, and my pictures certainly don't do it justice (compared to what others managed); not helped by the fact that my autofocus really seemed to be struggling today - several times I thought I had a nice clear shot, pressed the shutter... and my camera refused to take a picture - very annoying. It was quite a chunky thing, especially in flight, and whilst it was bossed by the local Robin, it chased off the Great and Blue Tits several times, flashing its yellow rump and white tail corners in flight.

Anyway, all in all a good day. I didn't see the Waxwings, but did speak to a couple of the locals who were obviously bemused by what was going on (although I have to say that it was a well behaved twitch), and also bumped into several other Notts birders. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Patching over gulls

Gulls or patch, gulls or patch. Being a bright morning the light at Cotham wouldn't have been great, so in the end I plumped for a visit to the patch, meaning I haven't done the gulls for 2 weeks now... 

Water levels have continued to rise at Collingham since last weekend, and Ferry Lane Lane is now a single waterbody again. Bobbing around on the choppy water (it was very windy today...) were 520 Wigeon, with several hundred Teal and 2 pairs of Pintails also. There were no Whoopers with the Mute clock to the west of the Trent, but the Silt Lagoon held 18 Redshanks and 3 drake Shelduck. A total of 26 Goldeneye were spread across the site, including 16 on Wharf Pit. 

Ferry Lane Lake

Besthorpe SSSI was  pretty birdless, as was Meering, but I did finally bag a couple of Skylarks (absent locally this far), with three in the fields looking towards Smithy Marsh, and another which flew across the access track; species number 83 for the Patchwork Challenge list. 

A flooded Fleet
Besthorpe Warren SSSI

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Lucking in on Little Owls

Hockey prevented any birding yesterday, and most of today was spent out with the Notts BAG Grizzled Skipper Volunteers on the disused railway line south of Newark.

A nice and open disused railway at Cotham

So the sum total of my birding was about an hour and a quarter this evening at Collingham. Nevertheless, this was quite a productive little trip out, adding Pintail (with a pair on Ferry Lane Lake and a drake on Mons Pool) and Little Owl to my Patchwork Challenge list. The Little Owls were particularly pleasing; not unexpected, but a bird I've been looking for. In fact, I had at least three; firstly one calling from the southern boundary of the field west of Ferry Lane Lake, and then two in a gnarly old willow along Trent Lane, beyond the Silt Lagoon, which I have never looked at properly before!

Water levels across the site are rising rapidly, with Mons Pool brimming and the ditch around Ferry Lane Lake over-toping into the pit. This hadn't affected the wildfowl numbers with plenty of Wigeon and Teal around. The only other notable birds were 5 Whoopers in their usual spot on the west side of the Trent (with what was probably the sixth asleep), a Green Sand distantly in flight north of Ferry Lane Lake, and 3 Bullfinches along Northcroft Lane. 

Ferry Lane Lake filling up

Collingham Waterfall, watched by a Buzzard

The source of the waterfall