Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March ends

I had two visits to the patch over the weekend. Saturday's visit produced a NFY Feral Pigeon heading north, but not loads else; the previous day's 38 Goldeneye had reduced to 18, and the 2 Ringed Plovers were on Mons Pool, but there was no sign of the LRP. 

Sunday saw a good little selection of waders around Collingham, including a single Dunlin (a rather short-billed bird, presumably an arctica/schinzii) on Mons Pool, and an LRP and 7 Snipe on the Silt Lagoon. Other bits 'n pieces included a 2CY LBBG, 100 Fieldfare and 5 singing Chiffchaffs. Meering hosted at least 4 singing Chiffchaffs also, and 2 Sand Martins battling into a strong westerly wind were my first since the 13th March.

Today, I had a brief end-of-the-month visit to Mons Pool; there wasn't much of note and my visit was curtailed by driving sleet/hail, so my first quarter score for Patchwork Challenge is 97 species and 104 points, with 33 complete lists and 1193 records for BirdTrack. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Spring birding

Back to Tuesday, and after another failed attempt for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, I had a quick wander on Budby Heath, bagging my first Woodlark of the year - no Crossbills though. The rest of the morning was then spent at Brierley Forest CP on a Willow Tit workshop led by Carl Cornish; we even saw one later on!

Today, and I managed two county yearticks. One is sensitive, but the other was an LRP at Collingham Pits, on Mons Pool this evening. As well as the latter, the female Common Scoter, found earlier this afternoon, was still on Ferry Lane Lake (despite a dog walker doing her best to flush everything off by chucking sticks in the lake for her dogs to fetch). In addition, a Green Woodpecker here was my first patch bird of the year - so three patch yearticks in the space of an hour. 

Common Scoter

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Scaup at Collingham

Saturday, and I didn't get up quite as early as planned, so my visit to Collingham was a bit rushed, before an 11am meet for hockey. Mons Pool was looking good, with the 2 Avocets still present, plus my first patch Dunlin (3) of the year; at least 3 Chiffchaffs were also in song. 

I'd envisaged giving Ferry Lane Lake a cursory look on my way out of the site, but noticed a sleeping duck with a grey mantle; it looked like a Greater Scaup (which it proved to be), but due to the distance and windy conditions (scope wobble), I had to dash down the track to get a bit closer to double-check it wasn't a Lesser... I managed to get to my hockey meet only a few minutes late.

Today I did my WeBS count at Girton Pits - late as ever. Wildfowl numbers were low, as expected, but there were at least 3 Green Sands around the site. Most annoyingly, I had been specifically checking for Kittiwakes, including at Spalford Pit - only to be rang up by Graham Gamidge (once I was at Sunday lunch with the in-laws) to be told that he and John Ellis had just found one, at Spalford Pit! My only consolation as that a) it flew off so presumably wasn't twitched by any yearlisting rivals, and b) it wasn't at Collingham. Collingham was much the same as yesterday, except the Scaup was nowhere to be seen. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Bittern bagged

Two additions to my Notts yearlist yesterday, after work: a Bittern (which was booming, intermittently, so I suppose I ought not say where it was...), and Cetti's Warbler. This puts me on 120 species, eight off the pace. I've still got a couple of bankers to get (Woodlark, Blackcap, LRP, Dunlin), but now I've cleared Bittern off my target list, I really ought to see a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker now... And with Rock Pipit and Common Scoter at Kilvington today, I should go and see those too, if I can be bothered...

Postscript: I did indeed go and twitch the Rock Pipit and Common Scoter at Kilvington, also adding my first Dunlin of the year. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Spring comes, then goes

Friday morning and I was down to Collingham for my first patch birding for a while; it was almost warm out of the wind, and the birds had a distinct spring taste to them - my first Sand Martins (4) were over the western side of Ferry Lane Lake, a Chiffchaff sang briefly from the patch of woodland next to the Parish Field, and a pair of Ringed Plovers on Mons Pool looked like they had already got a nest scrape. The Oystercatchers had increased to four, and other stuff included 5 Redshank, 2 Curlew, 2 Egyptian Geese and 4 Goosander

Saturday and most of Sunday were spent back in Suffolk, battling a bitter cold wind, with no migrants to be had; best were a couple of Woodlark at a site in the Sandlings. I wrapped Sunday up at Hawton Works Grassland, in another attempt for Short-eared Owl (with one reported in that area earlier in the week); there was no sign, but two Barn Owls put on a good display. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Hybrid headache

It feels like ages since I did any proper birding - last weekend was occupied by a stag do up in Newcastle, which did at least allow me to yeartick Kittiwake between bars...

Anyway, onto the purpose of this blog post; a friend and colleague, Chris Jackson, visited the Valley Road Washlands on the Day Brook in Nottingham (near City Hospital), on Wednesday. As well as a few Teal, he noted another duck, which he realised was something different.

It's clearly got some Pintail in it, judging from the bill pattern (albeit not so neat as on most male Pintail, and possibly showing a break in the black just behind the nail?); rounded brown head; dark eye; grey vermiculated flanks (and 'shoulder') and yellow ventral patch. But what else has it got in it? Pochard has been suggested, with the bird shown on this blog provided as support for this theory. However, I can't see much resemblance between that bird and this one. The Nottingham bird is surely too dark on the upperparts for a Pochard x Pintail cross (or vice versa), and I can't see any other particularly pro-Pochard features either, except the blackish breast and rear end (which certainly aren't unique to Pochard). 

So what about Red-crested Pochard..?? I know the head doesn't suggest this species (nor Pochard), but the dark breast patch is large, and the black extends quite far up the neck, curving round the bottom of the head -  both of which are rather RCP-like features. The brown upperparts would also support RCP, and the pale shoulder patch is in the same place as the white patches which RCP's sport... But maybe I'm way off! 

Whatever it is, it's an interesting looking bird. As for it's origin, Valley Road Washlands is pretty close to Arnot Hill Park, where various unusual wildfowl frequently turn up (most recently a pure white male Mandarin, sporting a blue ring). I'd guess this hybrid comes from the same source in this locality...

Hybrids, don't you just love 'em!

Postscrip: See the Hybrid Birds blog for similar thoughts on this bird!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Bin-less birding

Whilst on an unscheduled site visit this afternoon at Rampton (where I saw both Barn Owl and Peregrine), I had a phone call from Steve Dunn about an Avocet that had been reported at Collingham earlier in the afternoon; soon after I also had a tweet from Rob Hoare about the same thing. Thanks to both for the tip-offs!

Wraping my site visit up as soon as I could, I bombed down to Collingham, with the sun fast heading towards the horizon. Being in a borrowed car, I didn't even have my emergency car binoculars with me, let alone my usual optics with me; but I needn't have worried as the Avocet was still present at 17:40, clearly visible with the naked eye, on the muddy islands in Mons Pool. A good patch bird to get under my belt this early in the year, and useful for the Notts yearlist too...

A horrible phone picture - spot the Avocet!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Last week

So, last week; I had another failed attempt for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on Thursday, back at Rufford Country Park, with Carl C, before a meeting. Again, no joy, but 2 Hawfinches and a Marsh Tit were in evidence. 

Saturday was a morning of patching before hockey; my first patch Oystercatcher of the year was on Mons Pool, whilst other stuff at Collingham included 2 Curlew, Green Sandpiper, 5 Redshank, Goosander and Kingfisher.

Windy conditions on Sunday made birding a bit tricky, but I kicked up my 4th and 5th patch Woodcocks of the year at Besthorpe Warren. There were 7 Whooper Swans on Meering Fields, but no sign of the 2 Bewick's there, or along Trent Lane at Besthorpe. 

In conclusion, the pre-spring doldrums continue. I'm looking forward to hearing my first Chiffchaff...