Thursday, 27 May 2010

Brackenhurst 21st May

This weekend was an actual heatwave, early may had weather that was more suited to march, with wind and little sunshine making it almost chilly at times, but for about a week, temperatures doubled (right round my exams!) and highs of 30 degrees were experienced.

On friday i had an exam that finished at half 3 (wrote it to the sound of yellowhammers and skylarks in the field opposite, what a distraction!), and afterwards i decided to go and enjoy the sunshine while looking for wildlife.

The weather was quite hot and along with the time of day, it meant that there weren't a huge amount of birds around. The walk down to sheepwalks from the campus which usually results in a lot of birds was actually reasonably quiet, with only a few Crows and Chaffinches of note. There were however lots of flowers about which made the walk quite bearable and there were also various butterflies about.

Sheepwalks however provided a better experience, as there were plenty of birds, as well as some interesting invertebrate life too. A Common Whitethroat was noisily singing on top of a tree in a hedge, and there were lots of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers singing too. The field was awash with dandelion 'clocks' and there was also swathes of Common Vetch, adding a splash of pink to the landscape.

There were several interesting insects noted, including these Sawflys Tenthredo spp.

Buttercups held large concentrations of these pollen beetles

There were also these weevils on some nettles, possibly Phyllobius pomaceus

This is a Drinker Moth caterpillar

And this is a Nursery Web spider which was ambushing prey on a cow parsley plant

I moved onto the pond, where there were loads of Yellowhammers singing, as well as another noisy Whitethroat. Also present was a coot with young, Tufted Ducks, Canada Geese and Mallards. On the other side of the lake several Reed Buntings were spotted and a Reed Warbler kept singing but kept hidden. Lots of swallows were skimming the surface for insects, but when a kestrel flew over, most of them turned to mobbing this, and chased it off into the distance!

A first for this area was a Stock Dove, which was sighted in the owl nestbox, and also nearby Skylarks were heard singing. I then proceeded round the fields, where i heard two Tawny Owls making a racket in a large oak tree, possibly with young. A female sparrowhawk was also seen flying over. The fields looked nice in the sun so i got a shot looking west (a bit edited though!)

The ringing area was closed as the footpath was being redone, so i had to go back a different way. there were lots more yellowhammers noted on the walk back, as well as several Orang-tip butterflies. Back at the campus there were a number of Swallows feeding around the animal unit and i managed to get reasonably close to one atop a lightpost.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Wollaton Park, 15th May

Had another walk down to wollaton to check out the progress of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Not much had changed with them, but they were still busy getting food for their chicks. actually managed to digiscope a couple of pictures of the birds this time, both the male and female.

I've lost my field nots but will try to remember everything i saw.

Did my usual route, going down to the football pitch wood, but today it was quiet and now the trees are in full leaf it was very difficult to actually see anything, although the usual common tits and finches were there. It did look very nice in the morning sunshine though.

Walked across the deer park, where the Fallow Deer flock were chilling in the sun, managed to get a couple of shots. There were a lot of Jackdaw feeding in the grass too, and lots of Song Thrush heard singing. Swifts were noted flying over too,

The woodland looked nice in the sun but there was little action birdwise apart from the usual Carrion Crows and a feeding Mistle Thrush. The other woodland was busy with Great and Blue Tits, and a number of Stock Doves were seen too.
The lake was busy, but there were lots of birds, although nothing really of note. There were some canada Goslings, some young coots and moorhens, a family of Mute Swans with 7 Cygnets, and there were 6 juvenile Herons on the island. Also a partially-leucistic Crow

Finally i made my way to the gardens, where i hoped to see Nuthatches and Jays, and wasn't disappionted as a visit to this area almost guarantees seeing these species. There were lots of other passerines zipping about in the tops of the mature pines. Also saw a very tame squirrel which literally came to my feet!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Wollaton and Attenborough Sunday 9th May

These first pics are from Wollaton, a dryads saddle fungus and a doe Red Deer

After failing to locate them on friday night after a tip-off, i was taken to wollaton by Neil Glenn to view some nesting Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. It was amazing to see them for the first time in my life, and had great views through neil's excellent telescope, with both the male and female popping in and out of the nest, clearly feeding their young. Here is a (poorly digiscoped) photo of the nest hole. There were also plenty of other birds about, including singing Nutchatch, several Swifts being mobbed by a Jackdaw and a Green Woodpecker calling.

We then made our way to Attenborough for the 'sunflower sunday' theme day with Notts Birdwatchers manning the hides.

There were plenty of birds to be seen, including some Blackcaps singing in the carpark and some Swifts flying over. At the visitor centre, the Coot brood had hatched, and there were some Reed Warblers singing in the reeds. Plenty of Swallows and Common Tern were flying over the lake too.
The path over the bridge held a few Whitethroats and a couple of Sedge Warblers, which were singing loudly, as we made our way to the Tower Hide. The main attraction here today was the wheatear field, which was heaving with warblers. It was mainly Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers, although there was a singing Grasshopper Warbler there too. Strangely, there were lots of Starlings around the field too, which i've not really seen there before, so it was good to see. Got a good sighting of a kingfisher in the distance sitting in the reeds on the small pond, which looked great in the sunshine.
Over the other side of the hide, the escaped Ross's goose was still there, seemingly pairing up with a greylag and there were a lot of reed warblers singing. Several ruddy duck were around the reedbeds too. Just in front of the hide, a blue tit was feeding and i managed to get a couple of shots.

On the tween pond there were a couple of Little Ringed Plover, as well as a Common Sandpiper, but little else of interest. Apparently a Dunlin had been on the island on the main pond but i dipped on that one!
Finally i made my way to the Kingfisher Hide, which was reasonably busy, but some good birds were about. A reed bunting was sat swaying in the reeds, and at the feeding station there were Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches and a couple of Stock Doves. A whitethroat was seen dipping in and out of the nettles too. I managed to spot a lesser whitethroat in a tree behind the kingfisher hide too, a first for this area.
I located Neil for my lift home, and on our way back spotted two Common Buzzards circling overhead. One was particularly pale, causing some speculation that it may have been a honey buzzard, but it was agreed it was just a pale common.

Had another great day at attenborough with a good 40+ species seen, and i met some nice folks too. Cheers! Have a Blackbird.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Hoveringham Gravel Pits

I've been meaning to go to this place for a long time, as it is on the way to uni, but for some reason i only visited for the first time today. It is known for local rarities popping up there, as well as national rarities too. Species of note recently have been Little Egrets, Great Northern Diver and a host of Waders.

I only managed to get round the railway lake today, although it is massive, and took 3 hours to walk around, including stops!

The first thing i saw was a Kestrel hunting over Thurgarton railway station, and i got some cracking views before it flew off towards the village. I then made my way into the reservem where there were Willow Warblers singing loudly, along with other passerines. There was a small wet-meadow with cuckooflower growing in abundance.

At the lake, i got the scope out and scanned the water and the banks, not much happening, except a couple of Great Crested Grebes displaying to each other, and some Tufted Ducks sitting around as usual. A wander round to the next bank however produced a better view and there were a lot of Common Terns calling and feeding over the lakes, as well as plenty of other waterfowl. I also spotted an Oystercatcher, restlessly probing around on the far bank, as well as spooking a couple of herons, which scared the shit out of me by flying out of the reeds honking as they went. There were also plenty of Reed Warblers singing in the.... REEDS!

Further around the lake there were a few islands which looked promising, along with some muddy banks. There were a lot of Swallows feeding over the water, and the islands were mainly in use by Canada and Greylag Geese and Grebes, some of which were nesting. A sweep around with my scope revealed a Common Sandpiper, as well as 4 more oystercatchers, 2 of which looked like they were getting readu for nesting. There were also plenty of Pied Wagtails feeding on the banks.

In the middle of the railway path, there is a patch of woodland which was nice to walk through, where there were plenty of wildflowers as well as a sighting of a Whitethroat. Another Oystercatcher was seen through the trees. Past the woodland was more islands and banks which looked promising once again, but surprisingly there wasn't anything apart from a Little Ringed Plover, which was a nice - and tricky to spot - sighting!

Everthing quietened down as i walked round to the other side of the lake, but as i walked along the southern path, i saw a displaying Lapwing, making a lot of noise. Another lot of noise was a group of about 15 swifts, screaming as they went. More Swallows were seen over a field on the way back to the road, and there was a very loud chaffinch making its one-note call repeatedly. I also saw some spring mushrooms which was a surprise - which have been confirmed by the very knowledgeable Chris Yeates as Agrocybe praecox.

i saw around 40 species here today which was good, and its worth keeping an eye on due to its rarities. it was good to see LR plovers and common sandpipers again too.

April ticklist update

Before starting on may, i'll summarise what april had to offer.

The end of march had given plenty of signs of spring, and in april they really started appearing in earnest. Invertebrates and wildflowers were appearing everywhere, trees were coming into leaf and most importantly, the spring migrants were appearing. As i write, i have seen most of the common spring migrants now, and most of the trees are now in full leaf, bar a small proportion.

At the end of march the year list stood at 84, not bad for 3 months, but thanks to the influx of migrants, and a lot of visits, the list now stands at 105 - thats 21 new birds this month!

Here are the april newcomers, spring migrants marked with and M, lifer marked with an L-
  • Muscovy Duck (escape), White Wagtail (L), Swallow (M) and Sand Martin at colwick park on the 1st
  • Oystercatchers (L) and ruddy ducks at Attenborough on the 4th
  • Willow Warbler at Sherwood on the 11th (M) - these have been noted at most locations now, probably my most frequently heard warbler, apart from perhaps chiffchaff
  • Blackcaps at Brackenhurst on the 16th (M)
  • Osprey (M L) and Shelduck x Ruddy Shelduck at Rutland on the 21st
  • Warblers galore at Attenborough on the 22nd - Whithroat (M L), Reed Warbler (M), Sedge Warbler (M), Grasshopper Warbler (M L), as well as Ross's Goose (Escape L), Little Ringed Plover, Swift (M) Common Tern (M) and Common Sandpiper (L)
  • Lesser Whitethroat (M L) and Wheatear (M) at Clifton on the 26th and 24th respectively

So not bad at all then! Especially as it includes 8 Lifers!!! it helps being a novice really! The highlight was certainly attenborough on the 22nd but there have been loads of other great days, especially

  • Buzzards displaying at Brack
  • Migrants galore
  • Multiple wader sightings

May will be a good one, hopefully with plenty of visible migration, but the influx of migrants onto my list has probably finished now, so they'll probably just start dribbling back on again!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Double Clifton

Went for a couple of walks round clifton on the 24th april and the 26th. The website for the area had reported some interesting birdlife and i was keen to have a look for myself

I had an evening walk in the hazy warm sunshine on the saturday, but couldn't stay too long, as i had to get a train to my parents house. It was a pleasant walk however.
I started off by walking down the river a little bit, a direction i don't usually take. There wasn;'t much to be seen bird-wise, but the trees were mostly in leaf and there was plenty of plantlife on the ground, as well as a lot of invertebrates. There were a good amount of butterflies by the path, including Orange-tips and my first Comma of the year, but they wouldn't stay still for photos except this Peacock.

I made my way back to the woods, where there was plenty of birdsong, and i saw my first Blackcap of the area, as well as the other usual woodland birds, including a calling Greater Spotted Woodpecker. The woods looked amazing with all the vegetation cover so i stopped to get a few shots.

Holme Pit was reasonably quiet, which is usual for this time of year, as most of the waterfowl have moved on, but there was a pair of Coots with 5 chicks, and a pair of Canada Geese guarding their nest on the island. I sat by the lakes for a while and managed to see a few Reed Bunting and there were lots of singing Reed Warblers.

I moved on from holme pit with only about half an hour to make my way back to the bus into town, so i had to rush a little. I saw the years first Wheatear, perched atop a telegraph pole, giving very good views and across the field there was a hunting Kestrel. I then wandered across the middle of the weir field, rather than round it, which was a nice route, where i managed to get great views of singing Skylarks, of which there were many, and plenty of displaying Lapwing. I saw a large flock of tiny little birds, but unfortunately had no idea what they were...
Walking back round i had good views of a Common Whitethroat singing in the brambles by the trent, and while i'd have loved to have stayed, i really had to go!

I couldn't keep away however, and returned on monday morning at 10AM. I took the route down round the weir field first. Blackcaps were once again present in the wood, making the 'chack-chack' alarm call, and there were plenty of Whitethroats singing in the same area as i'd seen them on saturday, along with some Long-tailed Tits and a Dunnock. I stayed on this side of the weir for well over an hour, as there was so many warblers to see. Whitethroats certainly dominated, but there were also Sedge Warblers in abundance too, as well as a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. I saw some that i couldn't identify, which looked finch-like, but they remained elusive!

The invertebrate life was interesting around the fields too, and i saw plenty of butterflies, including a Green-veined White, as well as some interesting beetles, including these mating Gastrophysa viridula on a dock leaf.
Plant life was interesting too, and i was surprised to see some sort of Inckcap mushroom, although the habitat was good, a big pile of manure.

The weir was busy with birdlife, with plenty of Black headed Gulls and Cormorant about, but the highlights were Sand Martins and Common Terns, both of which were abundant. The weir field was as usual dominated by Skylarks and Lapwings, and i also saw a Grey Heron laying very low in the field, when i scoped it i was wondering what it was, as could just see its head, and was very surprised when it stood up and stretched its wings. There were more Whitethroat singing away in the brambles behind the riverside villas. While scoping, a strangely coloured Pied Shieldbug landed in my tripod, so i got a shot of it too.
I wandered across the fields towards the woods again, not really seeing much of interest, but someone drove by letting me know that there were Buzzards about over the trees. I got to the rough wood and while looking for warblers in the trees, looked up, and right above my head was a Buzzard, which for a short while was accompanied by a Peregrine, but the latter soon flew away.

I walked down the hedgerow towards branshill wood, where there were plenty of birds in the bushes. One hawthorn bush held Greenfinch, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Long tailed tits. I heard plenty of Lesser Whitethroat and was rewarded by the views of two of these birds fighting around the end of the hedgerow. Song thrushes were in full song too.

I stopped for a while at branshill ponds, but there was little to see aside from yet more Whitethroats! Ring ouzel and Redstart have been seen around this area of late but i was unable to locate any. I made my way to cottages flash, where i have not been before and it took some finding but i eventually got there. There wasn't a lot there, but there were a pair of Little Ringed Plover, as well as the Ross's Goose that i'd seen at attenborough last week, along with a herd of inquisitive cattle.

On the way back i noticed a piled of feathers in the middle of the path in Branshill wood, and as i got closer there was a very distressed woodpigeon which had a terrible wound on its back, near the base of its wing. Obviously the victim of a Sparrowhawk attack, and not a very nice sight. The thought of euthanising it did cross my mind, but i thought i'd let nature take its course, i'm sure the sprawk wasn't very far away, waiting to finish the job.

I stopped off at holme pit before leaving, just to observe the Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers again which was nice, and i did notice that the Coot family had lost one of its chicks.
I spent 7 hours there today, a very long session, but it was a great walk and i managed to see loads, looking forward to going back.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Attenborough 22nd April

Had the best day birding i've had this year today, me mums birthday :)
I'd just got my telescope so it was its maiden voyage today, and i got up bright and early to get there at 8.30, had hoped to be even earlier but it was fine. the reserve looked beautiful in the early morning light and the surface of the lakes were as calm as could be.

The visitor centre had its usual ruckus of waterfowl, although not as much as usual, perhaps they were just waking up. Highlights here were 2 Egyptian Geese perching on the rails of the visitor centre, a swan which looked great in the morning light, a pair of Gadwall, and the Coots were still sitting on their nests. There were a lot of Swallows and Sand Martins feeding over the lake too. The passerines were vocal, with Wren, Willow Warbler and Dunnock all adding to the cacaphony.

Walked over the bridge to view the Tween pond, where i was greeted to the sounds of my first Sedge Warbler of the year. i couldn't hear the first but located another one, singing loudly from the brambles. it was also a pleasure to see the first Bullfinch i've seen here since december i think, shining brightly in the sun as well as some singing Chiffchaff. There was a carrion crow which was silhouetted against the bright blue sky, but as i took the shot it flew off, but created quite an interesting image.

The tween pond was full of Black Headed Gulls and geese, but i thought i'd get my scope out to see if there was anything interesting. i was rewarded with my first lifer of the day, 2 Common Sandpipers, feeding on the drift, as well as my first Little Ringed Plover of the year, excellent!
On the wheatear field there were a Reed Bunting, a feeding Mistle Thrush, and i missed out on seeing a Snipe which had been there that morning - its definately my bogey bird. 3 Oystercatcher were screaming their heads off while flying round the lakes at speed.
The kingfisher hide produced the usual birds at the feeders, including the resident Tree Sparrows, as well as a nice pair of Stock Doves. They all disappeared all of a sudden, and most didn't return, so i think either i or a predator must have spooked them.
Upon leaving the hide, i had the joy of watching and listening to my first ever Whitethroat, as well as photographing a male Reed Bunting, perched atop a tree.

I made my way to the tower hide, keeping an eye on the wheatear field as i went. I was rewarded with the sight of the escaped Ross's Goose that has been seen over the river at Clifton, causing a bit of aggro between a flock of c30 Greylags. Several starling were also present, which oddly, i've not seen before at this patch. The brambles near the towerhide were a hive of activity, Chiffchaffs were seen collecting nesting material, there were more sedge warblers making a racket and more Whitethroat, and another Lifer was heard - Grasshopper Warbler! I made my way up to the hide, where i got excellent views of the 'Gropper' (cheers neil!) Also seen from the hide were several Lapwing, my first Common Terns of the year. Some Swifts were seen over the river too. Neil saw some Med. Gulls, but i missed out on them, as they were blending in with the distant Black-headed gulls.

I also got an excellent view of a Chiffchaff, which was singing atop a tree which was level with the windows of the hide. I was only a few metres from it, and was able to get some good shots as it sang away oblivious to my presence. I also managed to get some good views in my scope of a pair of Kestrel sitting in the raptor nest box, and i tried my hand at digiscoping, but the results were disastrous! ok as a record shot though!

Some Reed warblers were heard in the main reedbed, and a few were briefly glimpsed. As i made my way to the delta area, there were more warblers on the trent path, mainly Whitethroat and Blackcaps. There were plenty of butterflies around too, Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Brimstone, among others. A little grebe was present at the delta hide, as well as more singing Reed Warblers.

The walk back was largely uneventful aside from a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, as well as loads of Goldfinch near the cricket pitch.
So... a very good day, warbler-tastic! Got some nice shots and pushed my attenborough 'list' way up! 49 species seen :)

Rutland Water - 21st April

Had a uni trip to Rutland Water on the 21st. didn't stay long, but i'll definately go back. i didn't really get the chance to take many photos either, but it was good.
The reason we went was to see the Ospreys, and see them we did. There was a female on the artificial nesting platform, while the male kept vigil in a nearby poplar tree. Got this record shot, but with only 200mm to my lens, its a bit crap.

Also seen was an odd Shelduck Hybrid - possibly a Shelduck x Ruddy Shedluck Tadorna tadorna x ferruginea - from the visitor centre, where on the feeders there were chaffinch, yellowhammer and greenfinch.

There were lots of warblers in the trees, mostly Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, although something else was heard, not sure what though! There were plenty of Swallows about too.
From the hides on the water were lots of Shelduck, Gadwall and Wigeon and there were also cormorants and lesser black backed gulls.