Thursday, 28 July 2016

An expensive way to get to 140

When I started PWC back in 2013, I had thought 140 species in a year was a reasonable target for my patch at Collingham and Besthorpe; my birding activities there are by no means comprehensive, and I know stuff gets through that I don’t get to see (Redstart and Med Gull so far this year, for example). However, I have struggled to hit that target – I bagged 136 species in 2013, 135 in 2014 and a tantalising 139 in 2015.

However, with five months to go, a Wood Sandpiper on Mons Pool on Tuesday finally brought up the 140 mark. Furthermore, an above-average run of 2-pointers this year (and a 4 point Glossy Ibis) has also helped me reach 169 points, surpassing my previous record tally of 167 logged in 2013 (which was achieved with the aid of a 12 point Pied Wheatear) – a total I never thought I’d surpass.

And why was the Wood Sand expensive? Well, first of all, it took me two visits - there was no sign of it on Mons Pool when I first looked in the early evening, although an adult Yellow-legged Gull was some modest compensation. However, the real expense came on my second visit, later in the evening, after Mark Dawson had called to say the Wood Sand was showing. In my excitement, having seen the bird, I managed to lock my keys in my car upon getting back to the carpark – in slow motion I saw them nestling on the top of my bag, as I slammed the boot... Oh ****. The AA couldn’t open the car (it was deadlocked), the spare key was nowhere to be found at home, and being as it was now 10pm, a locksmith couldn’t come out until the following day.

Not wanting to leave the car overnight with my scope and camera etc. unattended, the AA man passed me a hammer and I smashed the passenger window (strangely satisfying) and retrieved the keys. Being honest, I decided I wouldn’t be claiming on my insurance when I phoned Auto Glass. But when they quoted me a price of £319 to replace (you what?!?) this didn’t look like such a clever idea. However, National Windscreens came in at a much more reasonable £129. 

Still rather a lot to pay for a Wood Sandpiper on the patch, even if it does get me to 140...

Late July on the patch

Small numbers of Green and Common Sandpipers have been frequenting the patch of late, plus the odd Greenshank, concentrated at Mons Pool, and I finally bagged my first Black-wit of the year on the 24th. Other bits of note include a female Red-crested Pochard (another patch yeartick), plus a female Mandarin, both on Mons Pool. 

Perhaps of greatest note is the successful breeding of Avocets at Collingham for only the second time (the first time being around 7 or 8 years ago, but I'd have to check). Two chicks suddenly appeared on the Silt Lagoon on the 12th, when they already looked a couple of days old. Quite where they bred, I don't know; an adult had been coming to feed on the Silt Lagoon, but I'd assumed this was one of the birds from Langford. Given the regularity with which I see Mr Fox on the Silt Lagoon, my guess is that the Avocets bred in the new workings (which has no public access), and walked the young over to the Silt Lagoon when they were big enough. However they managed it, the young are now pretty large and clearly doing well.

Other bits and pieces have included a Marsh Harrier through Meering on the 19th, although less good news from this site was the vanishing of the two nesting Common Terns - presumably the eggs/young were predated. Better news here was a female Tufty with 6 ducklings - an infrequent breeder in these parts, whilst one of the GC Grebe pairs at Mons Pool finally hatched two chicks, after previously being flooded out. Another pair seems to be on their third attempt nesting. Nearby, a pair of Grey Partridges have three chicks at Besthorpe Meadow. 

Away from the patch, Swifts seem to be having an excellent year locally, with some big groups over William Street in the evenings (upwards of 40 birds), whilst a stroll out one night indicated that every street in my part of Newark had Swifts screeching above. A 'drive through' survey down the High Street in Collingham one night logged at least 70 Swifts, whilst at least 60 House Martins were over Besthorpe Village earlier in the week, with active nests on the chapel. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In the churchyard

I must've driven past Collingham churchyard many hundreds of times, without ever investigating. That changed today, when I parked up next to the churchyard to meet someone, and heard a Spotted Flycatcher calling. And better still, after entering the churchyard, I came across two young Spotted Flys sat together in a lime tree. 

In addition, there was a Goldcrest nest low down in a yew, the occupants of which looked like they were about the fledge, and a young Treecreeper

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A nice reward

A look at Mons Pool this morning revealed that most of the waders had departed since yesterday (just 3 Green Sands present), so I headed for the Trent at Meering to pull the Himalayan Balsam growing on the bank there. When I say 'bank', this is a steep slope, almost a cliff in places, covered in dense willow growth. Scrambling about on here, climbing through tangled branches amongst head-high nettles is hot, hard work, but over the last couple of years I have almost managed to get rid of the Balsam. My reward today came when a Quail started singing from just across the river (in Sutton-on-Trent parish), my first Patchwork Challenge bird!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A swift exit

Last Sunday, I found a juvenile Swift dead on the road in Newark, below a spot where they traditionally nest. It looked like it had probably left the nest too soon, as it was rather small. I found another dead juv Swift today, this time on the track down to Meering. It was still warm when I picked it up, and had a bloody mouth. I can only assume it was hit by a car.

The start of July

I've been plugging away at the patch since the start of July; there are a few waders starting to trickle through, and water levels at Mons Pool look promising for the main passage period. Fingers crossed for something good, but birds so far include peak counts of 5 Green Sands, 2 LRP, 2 Avocet and single Redshank (a juv, not bred here) and Greenshank

On the breeding bird front, the Coots and Great Crested Grebes on Ferry Lane Lake continue to do well, with the young growing fast and more on the way (with another batch of Coots just hatched, and another Grebe nest). The picture at Mons Pool is less good, with almost no young waterfowl at all so far - a couple of young Shelduck disappeared fairly quickly, but there were 5 Mute Swan cygnets there today; there are currently two active Grebe nests, but a bit more rain will see those flooded out. However, the Little Egrets have clearly bred successfully (with an incredible 34 nests this year, apparently), with several juvs around, including a CR'd bird today (blue BL), and there are at least 2 young Kestrels in the box.  

Cow-wath has produced a family of Little Grebes (with 4 young), plus several more young CootThere are also plenty of young Coots at Meering, but more exciting are the two nesting Common Terns; one of these had a chick and an unhatched egg today, with the second bird sitting tight, except when it flew up to harass a passing Sparrowhawk. Also there, a female Tufted Duck had five ducklings today.

And finally a word about Turtle Doves; the most I've had this year at Collingham have been two singing concurrently near the Parish Field. One of these, or possibly a third, was purring by the works on another date. However, I haven't seen or heard one at Meering at all this year, which is a bit of a disaster, and maybe the beginning of the end for this species around here, which would be tragic.