Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Chat show

An errand for work took me to Collingham village this afternoon, which fortuitously allowed a couple of hours on patch this evening without the ordeal of having to get around/out of Newark in peak traffic. As I approached Collingham, the first of several windy, sleety squalls blew through, the second of which hit whilst I was at Mons Pool. I decided to check the sprayed-off field immediately north of Mons, next to the Trent, as I have been doing over the last couple of weeks. Today I hit it lucky, with first a super little male Whinchat, and then 2 Wheatears. Both new species for the year on patch, presumably downed by the weather, given that I have seen the sum total of zero in this field prior to today.


There were also hundreds and hundreds of hirundines at Collingham most feeding low over Ferry Lane Lake. I always struggle to estimate numbers in this sort of situation, but I'd guess there were at least 500 individuals, mainly Sand Martins, but also reasonable numbers of House Martins and Swallows. Two Yellow Wags continued a theme of this species being thin on the ground locally so far this spring. 

Back to the weekend, and the highlight was a Ring Ouzel that Mark D found in the sheep field at the northern end of Langford Lowfields - the same field that has also held Redstart and Cattle Egret so far this spring! The most interesting thing in my sheep field at Collingham (south of Ferry Lane Lake, and actually part of the same holding) is a deceased sheep. Mark also tracked the aforementioned Cattle Egret down at Girton Pits, in the sheep field at North Pit, which necessitated a second off-patch foray on Saturday!

Ring Ouzel
Cattle Egret

Collingham failed to produce any Ouzels or Redstarts, but 2 reeling Groppers were new for the year (with another this evening reeling from the opposite bank of the Trent at Mons), as were 3 Reed Warblers

Monday, 17 April 2017

Patch birding to mid April

From the 1st of April I managed 11 consecutive patch visits. The best bird I found during this period was the already blogged about Cattle Egret, but it was good to monitor the increase of migrants during this period. However, the only migrant addition between the 4th and the 10th was Lesser Whitethroat on the 9th (when 33 Fieldfare were also lingering). 

The 10th saw the first big gathering of Sand Martins, with 100 over Ferry Lane Lake, increasing to 150 on the 13th when I had my first Whitethroat of the year. The first Yellow Wagtail of the year flew over on the 14th, with it (or another) on Mons Pool later in the day, and four Sedge Warblers on the same date were also new for the year. My first patch House Martins of the year were present today. 

The only other birds of note have been a Black-wit, which turned up on the 13th and was still present today, and a male Pintail

Saturday, 15 April 2017

How my mum almost found a Red-rumped Swallow

Easter for me normally means a trip back to Suffolk to visit my parents, and this Easter is no different. They had booked us a meal out at lunchtime today, but had left it too late for their first choice in Southwold, so we went to Orford instead. The table was booked for 12:15, earlier than they'd wanted, but this meant we got out onto an afternoon walk earlier than we otherwise would have done. Various options for a walk within the vicinity of Orford were discussed, including Staverton Thicks, but I'd managed to steer us towards Boyton Marshes (in the hope of some migrants).

Upon arriving I had very brief and frustrating views of a ringtail harrier as I rounded the end of the barns by the parking area at Boyton, just before it flew over a hedge and dropped out of sight. My impression was that it looked quite narrow winged, but the views were such that I couldn't ID it. It had been heading NW, so when we reached the sea wall I requested that we turn left, in that direction. Had we arrived a few seconds later, and I'd missed the harrier, the plan had been to turn right...

But turn left we did, walking as far as the foot ferry, turning back inland towards Butleyferry Farm, and then retracing our steps. Just before getting back to the sea wall, my mum asked 'is that a Swallow?'. Raising my bins, the bird I saw was indeed a swallow - a Red-rumped Swallow! It cruised overhead, no more than 20 feet up, before drifting south. It then became apparent that my mum was watching another bird - but her's was House Martin, and in checking it out I lost the RRS - but at least it meant she hadn't beaten me to a self-found tick..!

This was at about 15:30. Lack of mobile signal meant I couldn't get news out straight away, but 10 minutes later the bird reappeared, heading north with a handful of Swallows and House Martins, and I scoped it until I lost it over Burrow Hill. This time I managed to find some signal and tweeted the news out, although getting my geography slightly wrong in the excitement (and autocorrect on my phone amusingly changing rumped to 'rumpled'). Unfortunately there was no chance of digiscoping it.

It just goes to show how much chance can go into finding a decent bird. Who knows what I may've found had we had a table booked in Southwold at 1pm and then gone for a walk on the Blyth... probably nothing at all.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Darvic'd Gulls at Cotham

A few details of Darvic ringed gulls I recorded at Cotham Landfill over the winter:

The Norwegian bird is obviously the most notable - it's come a long way! I had no idea where Vardo was - it's here.

Norwegian-ringed GBBG

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Cattle Egret at Mons Pool

I almost decided not to go out birding last night; I’d been to the patch three times over the weekend, and was aiming to go again today (Tuesday). However, having got an earlier bus home and had some food nice and promptly, I decided I had nothing to lose from going to Collingham – after all, I need a Wheatear for Patchwork Challenge.

No Wheatears were to be found, but the first sizable gathering of Sand Martins of the year, around 35, was over Ferry Lane Lake. On to Mons Pool, where I walked up the western side of the reserve, flushing a Little Egret from the pond near the path. A scan of the wader scrape didn’t produce anything, and I noticed what I assumed was the same egret stood on the mud in the north-west corner of the site. However, something about it looked a bit odd, and through bins, I quickly realised that it wasn’t just a hunched up Little Egret – it had pale greyish legs, black feet, and a yellow bill. A Cattle Egret!

I called a couple of people and tweeted the news out, before getting some record shots. After just a few minutes, it had a fly around, perching up on one of the posts around the reed plots along the northern side of the site. It remained there for a couple more minutes, before flying round the southern side of the heronry island, then turning back north over the island and appearing to drop in amongst the trees to the middle. If I’d arrived at Mons Pool just 10 minute later I would’ve missed it.

I couldn’t relocate the bird in roost (although a few Little Egrets could just be seen), and nor could Mark Dawson, who’d arrived. Mark managed to get the bird leaving roost at 0640 this morning, when it flew south-west. Next stop Langford Lowfields?

This is presumably the bird that was photo’d at Lound the day before, although with the numbers at large in the country at the moment, who knows. A first for the patch, and a self-found tick too – I don’t get many of them in Notts. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Summer meets winter

Summer migrants seem to have arrived en masse in the last few days; I had a visit to the patch on Thursday, in t-shirt weather, and only heard Chiffchaffs. Two days later, on Saturday, there were several Willow Warblers and Blackcaps at Collingham and Mons Pool, with more today (and at Meering), plus my first two Swallows of the year. Mark Dawson also had a Sedge Warbler at Mons on Saturday, but I couldn't find it a couple of hours later, nor on Sunday, so it was presumably just passing through. 

Also on Sunday, I did a breeding bird survey at Meering for Notts Wildlife Trust. No surprises, but a little party of 7 Lesser Redpoll flew west (and I had another later at Mons Pool), having only had my first of the year last weekend, along with 13 Fieldfares - perhaps a last taste of winter. 

I  amused myself this weekend counting the Cormorant nests on Mons Pool island. There are always a few nests low down hidden in among the Rooks, so I may have missed a few, but I came up with a figure of 57 active nests. These included several with large young in them, which looked not far off fledging. Another pair were only just starting to build there nest - maybe young birds..?!

Back to last weekend, and as well as the aforementioned Lesser Redpoll, a calling Siskin at Mons Pool and Little Owl were new for Patchwork Challenge, as was a female Scaup on Mons Pool on Tuesday and a Ringed Plover there on Thursday.