Tuesday, 28 September 2010

September Update I

I'm writing this on the 28th of september, showing exactly how far behind i am with updating this blog as usual. September has been another good month, although signs of migration have slowed somewhat, with not much of interest appearing at my usual patch. However i have seen some good birds, along with plenty of other wildlife.
Coot, Colwick Park

Cormorants, Tufted Ducks and Coot, Colwick Park
The first week of september follows on from my previous week of birding, and i went down to Netherfield Lagoons, as it is now reasonably close for me to bike to. Last time i went i was a bit unimpressed as i didnt see much against the sun shining on the surface of the lake, but this time i went a little earlier on and so the sun was behind me, allowing me to get excellent views of the lagoon. I was hoping to see something out of the ordinary as there has been an almost consistent range of interesting passage waders dropping in over the last few weeks, but i didnt actually see anything like that. It was still good to sit in the sunshine on a bench, with my scope at perfect height overlooking the best part of the lagoon (a well placed bench indeed).
Colour-ringed Racing Pigeon, Colwick Lock

There was a lot of wildfowl on the lake along with many lapwings, so i decided to attempt a count of the wildfowl there. There were around 20 Gadwall, 22 Shoveler, 23 Teal and only 2 Pochard. The shovelers were still in eclipse plumage so i had to pretty much go on bill shape, but this was easy enough in the light. I also counted over 180 Lapwing - a good number - between here and attenborough it provides nottingham with a good population of these red list birds - i wonder where else there might be good flocks.

Otherwise there were loads of Black Headed Gulls, around 10 Lesser Black Backs with a couple of 1st winter birds, and 6 Little Grebe. Away from the lagoon there was plenty of Swallows and House martins, which roost under the railway bridge and hunt low over the trent, and a Kingfisher was heard on the river too.
Swallows, Netherfield Lagoons

I headed back round the 'deep lagoon' to make my way home, and on the way heard a green woodpecker, and a scan of the scrubland to the south produced several Blackcap and Whitethroat. A buzzard was seen circling in the distance as well as a Sparrowhawk, hunting low over the scrub.

After this trip i didnt go birding for a while, and then at the weekend i went down to visit some friends in Bristol. I always get excited at going to different parts of the country though, as it means i might get the chance to see some new birds (haha!). We did actually go down to Portishead on the Bristol Channel, and had a walk down the 'beach'. To my joy, i found that the beach was host to loads of waders! Living in Nottingham, waders are few and far between so this was to be a great oppurtunity.

Portishead 'beach'.
The first thing i noticed was a large wader down at the shoreline, it was far away but after looking for a while and zooming in on a distant photograph, i was able to confirm it as my first ever Curlew (although i have heard them before). Walking along the beach, i was actually able to see a lot more of these birds both feeding on the shore and a few in flight, and i even got to hear their awesome noises too.
A distant Curlew

Further down the beach we disturbed a group of small waders, which turned out to be Turnstone, another lifer and a bird i've been wanting to see for a while (these were the most numerous waders there), and there were a few Little Egrets flying about too. Further along still and there were loads of birds at the end of the beach. More Curlews, lots of Turnstones and a load of Gulls, as well as my years first Redshanks, and a lot more small waders which were just too far away to ID.

Very pleased with how the day went with a load of excellent birds, and a bloody good laugh too (even with a hangover), and the trip away was topped off by a trip to Bristol Zoo where i got some great pics of Little Egrets, Redshank and Inca Terns.
Captive Little Egret, Bristol Zoo
Captive Redshank, Bristol Zoo

Inca Tern, Bristol Zoo

Chiloe Wigeon, Bristol Zoo

Friday, 24 September 2010

Last August Update + Ticklist

After spending a quiet weekend on my own while everyone i knew was away, i took a trip to holme pierrepont on the 30th, to go and collect more fruit from the trees, although i had just made 6 jars of jams and jellies that weekend. Holme pierrepont is a strange one, it has brought a good amount of rarities into the area but whenever i go it doesnt seem great. I guess its because a lot of the 'wilder' areas are more difficult to get to so you cant really see anything. However the 'finger ponds' at the end are reasonably good and there is a lot of scrub there which attracts a lot of warblers and tits. Today there were plenty of Chiffchaffs, Blue tits and Long Tailed Tits. A couple of Gadwall were sitting on the lake and as i looked across the lakes a Kingfisher swiftly zoomed away in the opposite direction. I collected lots of berries and was just making my way back when in a clearing i caught glimpse of a raptor cutting through the air. It turned out to be a Hobby and i got amazing views of it for a short while as it was hunting the numerous dragonflies that frequent the area. I truly believe the Wildlife Trust should buy this area as it has the potential to become an excellent nature reserve.

Hobby - Holme Pierrepont

On the last day of august i had another routine trip to Attenborough. It seemed a lot quieter than usual today but as always i kept patient and ended up getting a good list, and i spent some time with some very friendly birders and we saw some good stuff. A group of 5 Buzzards were circling over branshill wood in the distance, and closer to home, the reedbeds in clifton pond were also teeming with birdlife. A lot of geese dominated again, along with a count of around 200 Lapwing. Winter duck numbers were still quite low, with only a handful of shoveler and Teal on the lake, but there were over 20 Gadwall dotted around, along with a couple of Pochard.

As has been the case over the last few weeks, the kingfishers were very active, feeding from the fenceposts around the reeds and chasing each other down the channels. 4 different individuals were counted. There were a few herons dotted around, with a couple of juveniles feeding in the channels, hunting crayfish. This has been a common sight over the last few weeks. One Little Egret was still present, its bright white feathers gleaming in contrast to the dark water. Also of note were the 2 Snipe which were seen poking their long needle like bills into the soft mud, searching for any invertebrate unfortunate enough to get in the way.
There were still a few migrants about today, including quite a few common terns. This would be the last time i'd see thesee birds until next year. There were a small number of swallows too. One of the guys i was with commented that a couple of the terns that flew in were very small, so we located them on an island very far away and pondered over them for a while. The general consensus was that these two birds were Little Terns!!! Compared to a common tern they were about half the size, and although it was difficult at such a distance, we agreed that they indeed had yellow bills. Amazing, a lifer and a pretty rare migrant for notts!!!

So thats august wrapped up! What a month! New birds for the 2010 list for august include

  • Barn Owl
  • Little Tern
  • Black Tern
  • Snipe
  • Greenshank
  • Garden Warbler
5 out of 6 of them are lifers. And the barn owl is particularly special too. A good months birding - the list stands at 127 - only 23 to go til my target!!!

Monday, 20 September 2010

August Update 3

After the excellent day at attenborough i went to Boomtown Fair festival so no birding for a few days and then the week i got back, i didnt feel too great so didnt do too much birding, although i went foraging a bit instead. Went to colwick park, but didnt really see anything spectacular, and visited holme pierrepont a couple of times but again didnt really see anything worth noting. Did get plenty of blackberries though!!!

That weekend i went back to lincolnshire, and went to my parents house. Went for a drive on the sunday evening with my dad in the open top sports car, which was very nice and we had the pleasure of seeing a Barn Owl close to one of the country roads we were driving down. Over the sunday and monday at my parents house i spent a lot of time in the garden, seeing quite a few birds in the process. There were a lot of House Martins flying over the house over the 2 days often being very vocal, along with a few swallows. At one point a Hobby flew over, presumably attracted by these hirundines. also of note were good numbers of house sparrows and collared doves, and at a single sparrowhawk flew over the house at one point, being mobbed by the martins. A nice birdy stay at the parents!!!

House Sparrow in Sleaford

Collared Doves in Sleaford

Now my bike was fixed it meant i could finally get out and about again so that tuesday i took a ride down to attenborough for the first time since i've moved. It was ridiculously windy and at one point i thought about turning back as i was riding headlong into winds around 20mph! The wind meant that there was not much to see in the air or out in the open, but i still managed to get 39 species that day.

Grey Heron, Attenborough

The main thing that i noticed when i got to the tower hide was that there was a lot more wildfowl about and summer migrants were starting to disappear. There were a few common terns about, as well as my first confirmed Black Tern. There were loads of geese, about 400 greylag and nearly as many Canadas, plus one ross's goose. Duck numbers were building too, with around 50 gadwall, 2 wigeon, about 10 shoveler and about 7 teal. There was also around 350 lapwing, 2 kingfisher and 4 snipe!

The usual mix of tame wildfowl were around the visitor centre, but interestingly there was a tame female shelduck, taking advantage of the free seed dropped by the visitors.

Egyptian Goose and Female Shelduck, Attenborough Visitor Centre

The next day was a lot less windy and i made my way down the other side of the trent to clifton grove. I managed to get 46 species today. On the weir field there were lots of passerines in the brambles, mainly chaffinch whitethroat and goldfinch, but there was also a notable number of linnet about too. A look down over the trent produced a sighting of a kingfisher, and then a bird was seen flying quickly up towards the weir. I quickly made my way up to the weir and was surprised to see it was a green sandpiper - only the 3rd to be sighted in the area. I waited around to see if it would reappear but it must have gone into hiding as i failed to relocate the bird. While waiting however i did see a couple of Sedge Warblers in some reeds next to the river.

I made my way across to the woods, and took a walk down to branshill moor to see if i could find a hobby. En route i took a look in the hedgerows between branshill and the rough wood, which is a top quality bit of habitat, often attracting a good mix of species. It proved itself as usual, as in one oak tree which overhangs the hedgerow i was able to see 7 species, chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroat, long tailed tit, blue tit, chaffinch and most interesting of all, my first treecreeper of the area. After this i walked onto the moor and almost instantly spooked a Hobby, which flew away over the fields. I wandered over the moor to try and relocate it, and saw it once again as i got closer to the ponds. It was flying up and down the ponds on the edge of the wood very low, presumably hawking dragonflies. A juvenile buzzard in a dead tree seemed to be watching it with me.

Whitethroat, Clifton

After this there wasnt much else to see so i wandered back down to my bike, stopping off at holme pit where the only thing of note was several reed warblers at the cow-drink end of the lake.

Chaffinch, Clifton

Thursday, 2 September 2010

August Update, Part 2!

After a stressful moving house episode, i had a day to myself. No bike this time as on my birthday i got a puncture and havent had the time or money to buy a new inner tube as the other one was shredded!!

I got on the bus instead and went to my fave patch, attenborough. i actually had an amazing day there, probably the best days birding i've had in months!

It actually started quite badly, i got off the bus and what had been a recently nice day turned nasty as i heard the rumbling of thunder in the distance. I pressed on and had a wander over to the visitor centre, but there wasn't much about. I made my way over the main bridge and headed down to take a look at the tween pond scrape. There were the usual collection of lapwing, geese and cormorants. I caught a glimpse of an odd looking tern sat amongst the lapwings and initially thought it was a Black tern but on looking in my book, i saw that it was just a common tern going into winter plumage, this was confirmed later when i saw some similar birds from the tower hide. However i did get a view of a couple of Shelduck, my first for a while, and a bird i always like to see.

Then the rain came down, it threw it down for about 10 minutes and then it stopped for a bit, so i wandered out from my cover, had a short look across the wheatear field, before it PROPERLY threw it down, the heaviest rain i've been in for a while! I stood under a few willow trees which provided a little cover and waited for it to pass. It eventually did, and i continued my walk. On route to the Kingfisher hide, a glance through my bins resulted in me seeing a group of reed bunting flitting about with some Long tailed tits in a group of trees near the path.

At the kingfisher hide i saw the usual collection of small passerines at the feeder, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue tit, Great tit and about 8 Tree Sparrows. Nothing much was seen across the lake, but in the reedbeds opposite i did see an odd wader, which i thought might have been a greenshank, but it then disappeared, only to be replaced by a Green Sandpiper, cracking views!!!

I then made my way over to the tower hide, where i spent about 2 hours looking out over thee reedbeds. At first it was a bit quiet, with a few Little egrets showing well, feeding in the soft mud, and a few very vocal kingfishers making themselves known! A lad next to me pointed out a snipe to me, which is a bird i've been after for ages - a bit of a 'bogey' for me - so i was very excited to see this wonderful little bird, even though it was mostly just sat around sleeping. The same lad said he saw a greenshank, but i looked through my scope and it proved to be another Green Sandpiper.

Then the rain came again! It threw it down for about 15 minutes, moving the snipe on, and making it hard to see anything, although the large flock of canada and greylag geese (with the escaped ross's) seemed to enjoy a shower. However, after the rain, everything suddenly woke up. The egrets fed frantically, and i saw 8 out all together at once, which was excellent. The snipe made a reappearance in the next channel along, this time feeding in full view. The green sandpiper also reappeared, feeding in the same spot as before, but best of all, i finally got my first confirmed sighting of the Greenshank which i thought i'd seen earlier on. It fed for well over 20 minutes out in the open in the channel to the right of the hide, swallowing crayfish whole and giving excellent views.

At one point, i had my scope lined up so in a horizontal 180 degree arc i could move it along and get a view of a couple of egrets, then a kingfisher, then the snipe, then the sandpiper, finishing off on the greenshank. Best 180 degrees i've ever had in that scope!!! The kingfishers remained vocal and i counted 3 seperate birds across the reedbeds.

I soon grew hungry and fancied getting out of my wet clothes, so i decided to leave before the rain started again. On the way back i got my first ever view of a Garden Warbler, feeding in a hawthorn bush with a willow warbler.

What a Day!!!

August update, part 1

As i haven't updated for the whole of august, i'll be doing a month update in seperate parts, as there's quite a lot! here goes then, part one!
My first trip out this month was to clifton grove on the 3rd of august. Had a good bike ride down the trent to get there, and i stopped about half way for a rest next to the river. As i was sat by the river, something caught my eye, a female sparrowhawk. I got my best ever views of one of these birds, as she hovered and dipped over the river, obviously trying to catch something, before landing on the opposite bank briefly, only to be chased off by a group of common terns. I got some shots, but as she was so quick i had to use manual focus and they didnt turn out very well... this is the best one (cropped and tweaked!)

At the patch itself there was a fair bit to see. In the brambles and on the seedheads of all the summers flowers, there were plenty of passerines, most notably whitethroats and reed buntings. On the crops (potatoes i think) which now cover the weir field there was a single juvenile yellow wagtail, which was making a racket, and again this is the best view of this species that i've had.

There were lots of birds in the hedges near the riverside chalets, mostly finches and sparrows, and as i walked round the field, there was a large group (50+) of swallows feeding over the field and coming to rest on the telephone wires. Also on this lane were a charm of goldfinches, feeding on the fluffy seedheads of the thistles on the verges. There must have been close to a hundred.

Walking on towards the woods again, i heard the unmistakeable caw of a Buzzard, and a large adult bird was located in the middle of a field on a hawthorn bush, calling loudly. I soon found out why, as there were 3 juveniles in the area, and another adult was seen on the ground amidst some long grass, presumably hunting for worms. I got great views of one of the juveniles flying above me, and experienced for the first time an odd contact call which sounded not dissimilar to a gull.

The next day was my birthday! I decided as everyone was at work to go on another bike ride, so i went to attenborough in hope of spotting some more passage migrants. I havent actually got much of a record of what i saw today so will have to try and remember. The highlight of the day was probably coming across a common tern on the overflow bridge which had decided to alight there to get out of the rain. it stayed put long enough for me to get a couple of decent shots, despite it tipping it down.

All was reasonably quiet down at the tower hide (apart from unruly kids closing all the windows and a very laissez-faire nana, who wouldnt tell them to calm down). After these left however i managed to get some peace and quiet and managed to finally get some decent views of a green sandpiper! There were also several little egrets about, and also a juvenile heron which has been seen on every visit recently, feeding on crayfish in the shallow water. There must be thousands of these as everytime i go down the egrets herons and gulls seem to be gorging themselves on these invasive crustaceans.

After my birthday i didnt go birding for over a week as there was celebrating to be done (mine and my friends birthday) and then i was moving house, very very stressful!!! Part 2 coming up!!!