Monday, 31 March 2014

First quarter report

With an extra hour of light tonight, I was allowed a quick visit to the patch after the weekly Morrisons shop, hoping I might be able to add 2 more species to bring me up to 100 on the patch for the year... maybe a Swallow, or a Wheatear, or a Willow Warbler? 

But no, none of the above. An alba Wagtail on Mons Pool was my first of the year, but unfortunately that doesn't count. And the Spoonbill which apparently flew north along the Trent from Cromwell at half 6 doesn't count either, as I didn't see it (and it certainly hadn't dropped into either Mons Pool or the Silt Lagoon).

The Ibis was still present (I know, yawn), although for the first time I (along with John Ellis) saw it fly off to roost at 1820, watching it dive down into Mons Pool (which is the logical place for it to go). 

So I finish the first quarter of the year on 98 species and 115 points - 10 species up on this time last year, although interestingly (or perhaps not so interestingly), I haven't seen six species this year that I had last (Tree Sparrow, Brambling, Siskin, Med Gull, Bewick's Swan and Grey Plover). 

So we'll see what April brings.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Willow Tit at Girton

After failing to find Willow Tit at Girton yesterday, I had another go today, walking the whole site and initially failing in my quest. However, I did notch up 12 singing Chiffies and a Blackcap, 20 Sand Martins over the Trent, a display-flighting Curlew over Grassthorpe Holme, and what was presumably yesterday's Short-eared Owl again, circling over the site and then drifting west over the Trent.

Digi-binned SEO

I decided to bomb round to Meering to see if I could see the owl from there and get it on my patch list. Foolishly, however, I wound down my window as I passed the prime Willow Tit area in the south-west corner of the site, and decided I could hear... a distant Willow Tit singing. I did rather will to pick this out, if I say so myself, as I tracked it down about 200m away, singing from scrub between the Sailing Lake and the South-west Pit. Just the one bird, but it gives hope that they continue to breed at this site. 

Scrub habitat at Girton Pits

When I finally got round to Meering, I bumped into Trevor and Dilys Pendleton, who were out looking for invertebrates. Needless to say, by the time I started scanning north, there was no sign of the owl, but I did bag a pair of Red-legged Partridges, new for the year. I wrapped things up at Collingham Pits, with 4 Redshank and an LRP on Mons Pool, and the Ibis still favouring the marshy grassland on the southern side of Ferry Lane Lake. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A day in the field

Today was one of those slightly hazy early spring days; warm and pretty perfect. After an absence of a couple of weeks, the butterflies were back, with plenty of Brimstones around, and smaller numbers of Small Torts and Peacocks. I spent all morning at Collingham Pits, covering the whole site and doing a complete count for Birdtrack, notching up 70 species (72% of my patch yearlist thus far); I missed Sparrowhawk, and yesterday's Pochard and Green Sand were absent, so it could easily have been a few more. However, Grey Wagtail was new for the year (taking my 2014 Patchwork Challenge list to 89), and other good bits 'n pieces included a total of 8 Sand Martins, 7 singing Chiffies, a singing Blackcap, a Lesser Redpoll, 3 Egyptian Geese, 2 Oycs, single Ringed Plover and Curlew, 3 LRP's, 4 Goosander, and a Peregrine (which almost took my head off as it swooshed past just a few metres above ground level). Oh,and the Glossy Ibis, showing well along the southern side of Ferry Lane Lake - it's nice having a resident rarity.

Grey Wag

After lunch I headed for Girton Pits, there were plenty more singing Chiffies and another Blackcap, a Green Sand, a total of 37 Shelduck (of which 35 where on Spalford Pit, 5 Sand Martins, and a high-flying Short-eared Owl which came across the Trent and flew east through the site, being harassed by Crows. John Ellis had singing Willow Tit and Willow Warbler here yesterday, but neither was in evidence today. I'm going to have another go for Willow Tit tomorrow. I wrapped things up at Besthorpe, where c.30 Fieldfares were hanging around on the western side of Besthorpe Meadow.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Another flexi-friday

It's becoming a bit of a habit, taking friday afternoon off to go birding. And why not? I had high hopes, with it being a nice spring day; there were plenty of bird around, and a female Merlin was new for the year. Other things included a couple of Sand Martins over Ferry Lane Lake, 2 LRP's and 2 Ringed Plovers on the Silt Lagoon, a Green Sand on Northcroft Pond, and the Glossy Ibis still loitering; it showed very well today, perhaps becoming more accustomed to people like me peering at it. 

I also tried to count the Cormorant nests on Mons Pool island; this is harder than it sounds, as some of the nests are partially obscured, and there are quite a few other big black birds on nest which aren't Cormorants (they're Rooks). Nevertheless, I reckon there were 50 active nests (i.e. occupied by adult Cormorants). It was interesting that at least 3 nests had large young in them, whilst others still appeared to be being built.

Back to the 25th

I managed some after-work birding on the 25th. This was actually quite productive, with two patch yearticks in the form of a silent male Blackcap along Northcroft Lane, and a female Marsh Harrier which flew north over Ferry Lane Lake, and then back south again a short while later. Other stuff included 2 Whoopers on Mons Pool, and 3 Ringed Plovers, 3 Redshank and a Dunlin on the Silt Lagoon.

Friday, 21 March 2014

It's hotting up

Today was the first day on the patch when it really felt like spring was happening. 2 Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and  Curlew on Ferry Lane Lake and my first LRP of the year on the Silt Lagoon (first seen yesterday by John E) were evidence of wader passage, whilst my first hirundines of the year, in the form of 3, and then another 4 Sand Martins, were chattering over Ferry Lane Lake; four patch yearticks in a couple of hours. 

The Glossy Ibis was still in residence on Ferry Lane Lake, and gave a couple of good fly-bys. Wildfowl numbers were noticeably down, with only a handful of Wigeon left, and not many more Teal, but Shelduck numbers were up to 21 across the site.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

More Ibis action

Another look at the Glossy Ibis at Collingham Pits was in order yesterday; it was in the same spot as it was on friday, feeding on the muddy patch at the western end of Ferry Lane Lake; three Whoopers (two adults and a 1st W) were also present.

Today involved some mountain biking with a couple of mates around the Dukeries; plenty of singing Chiffchaffs and Siskin, as well as single Crossbill and Woodlark were the best birds. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Patch gold!

A few months ago, Glossy Ibis was a major county bird; now, everyone in Notts has seen one. Nevertheless, I had that thrill of excitement which comes with finding a rare bird when I located a Glossy Ibis at Collingham Pits this afternoon, happily feeding on a muddy area at the western end of Ferry Lane Lake. A top quality patch bird. After grabbing a few photos (having learnt from the last time I found a rare bird at Collingham) I phoned it into Bird Information; as I gave the details, it transpired that the bird had just appeared online, reported 5 minutes earlier - although it hadn't appeared in my Twitter feed. I couldn't see anyone else, but clearly there was another birder on site! A few minutes later Jason Reece pulled up in his car - he had called into the site on the way home, and had found the bird from the double gates further round (out of sight from my position), maybe 5 or 10 minutes before me. He generously suggested this was an independent co-find; whether it is or not is important (for me), as it's the difference between 4 points and 12 points in Patchwork Challenge! Based on self-found rules, it's a self-find, but I may seek clarification from the Patchwork Challenge organisers... But well done Jason!

Just after Jason left, John Ellis arrived, and became the only person to have seen all the modern records of this species in Notts, assuming that the fly-over at Holme Pierrepont a while back related to the Lowdham bird, which is still present (although now hanging out at Gonalston). There is no doubt the bird at Collingham today is a different individual, being an adult with a nice metallic green glint to its wings, and showing fine white streaking on the head. The Lowdham/Gonalston bird is a youngster, which when I saw it last week was showing contrast between its glossy mantle and brown wings (see here); and furthermore, was reported as still being present today - so two birds present concurrently in the county! This bird becomes the 4th or 5th county record depending on how the Holme Pierrepont record is treated.

Elsewhere around the site, highlights included my first singing Chiffchaff of the year at Mons Pool, as well as 4 Oystercatchers, 2 Redshank, a Snipe, 3 Whooper Swans, 2 Little Egrets and a couple of Little Owls. There was no sign of the Ibis just before 5 as I left the site, but whether it had moved off elsewhere or gone to roost nearby isn't clear. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014


A quick post-work call-in at Hawton Works Grassland produced a single Short-eared Owl - I've been meaning to go and see these all winter, so I'm glad I hadn't left it too late! Always cracking birds.

A digi-binned SEO
What a SEO actually looks like (from 2012)

It was also interesting too see that the area which was ploughed and covered in green waste at the end of 2012, whilst still sparsely vegetated, has some huge patches of creeping cinquefoil on it now... maybe ideal Grizzled Skipper habitat..?

Loads of cinquefoil

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Birds, butterflies and bees

Wow, what a day today - gorgeous weather, and plenty of signs of spring; I had a total of 8 Brimstones and 6 Small Tortoiseshells during the day, and plenty of bumblebees. The birding was good too; I began in the Dukeries with a displaying Goshawk and singing Woodlark and Siskin. I was then going to try for the putative blythi Lesser Whitethroat at Hallcroft, but decided I couldn't neglect my patch on a day like today. 

This proved to be the right decision. Ferry Lane Lake hosted 20 Whooper Swans and 3 Goosander, there were 3 Oystercatchers on the Silt Lagoon, and Mons Pool held 5 Redshank and 8 Little Egrets. Best though were 2 flyover Avocets; I had been dozing in the sun at the viewing screen at Mons (listening for singing Chiffchaffs... there were none), and happened to stir myself just as they flew in, silently, from the south - they then doubled back and I lost them from view. A quick sweep of the site suggested they hadn't landed anywhere on site, so maybe they'd gone to Langford. 

I also enjoyed watching some agro between one of the Little Owls and a Stoat which was investigating it's willow tree. The little owl wasn't impressed, but was clearly weary of the little mustelid, raising it's wings but keeping its distance!

Back to yesterday, a quick walk round Meering finally yielded my first Lesser Redpoll of the year on the patch; I'm still waiting for Siskin and Brambling...

Friday, 7 March 2014

After work

I enjoyed a wonder round Collingham this evening for an hour after work. Nowt unusual, but lots of nice stuff - Barn Owl, redhead Goosander, 2 Whoopers, 3 Little Egrets, 2 Oycs, 2 Redshank, 7 Snipe, and a colour-ringed LBb Gull - just too distant to read the ring (but a patch year tick); also plenty of singing Song Thrushes. Very pleasant - apart from the wailing of two distant scrambler bikes, which slightly spoilt things. 

Birding before work on Wednesday

Wednesday was the Notts BAG Annual Forum event, conveniently held at Brackenhurst College, near Southwell. I took a slight detour and got the Glossy Ibis at Thurgarton on my yearlist; I couldn't get a decent picture of it though, although I was only there for a matter of minutes...

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A little bit of birding

Birding was fairly minimal this weekend; today was spent doing voluntary conservation work, and I only managed a late afternoon thrash round Collingham Pits yesterday (with hockey taking up most of the day). It was actually quite a productive visit, with 8 Whooper Swans (7 adults and a juv), 6 Pintail and a Green Sand  on Ferry Lane Lake, an Oysercatcher on the Silt Lagoon, and a pair of Egyptian Geese on Mons Pool; I stood at the screen here as the sun set, recording 6 Little Egrets flying into roost and enjoyed the corvid roost, almost deafened by the noise of the Jackdaws.

7 of the 8 Whoopers
Ferry Lane Lake
Jackdaws roosting at Mons Pool