Monday, 25 October 2010

October Update I

Hello - its the end of october, and i'm only just writing up my notes of whats gone on this month - terrible. I went to bristol at the start of the month, went to cheddar briefly and managed to see a few meadow pipits and skylarks, but not much else. On coming back i had a trip to attenborough, i've decided to start visiting the delta hide more often now, as i've missed out on some great birds and photographic oppurtunities down there over the summer apparently.

We were sat watching the reedbed, with Cetti's warblers singing and reed buntings dipping in and out, when a large bird flew over the hide and into the trees behind the reedbed. Amazingly it was a tawny owl, being very bulky and too large for a sparrowhawk, which it was orginally thought to be. Good sighting. While waiting to see if it would return a Greater Spotted woodpecker was being very vocal in the trees, showing briefly.

Otherwise there were the usual birds about, including 3 snipe (these are a regular sighting nowadays!), a yellow legged gull on the pond near the visitors centre, and i also did my usual wildfowl count - 41 Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, 50 Teal, 61 Wigeon and 8 Common Pochard.

On the 10th of october i was at my parents house and as it was a nice day we decided (i decided!) to go to the RSPB reserve, Frampton Marsh. I'd read about this site and it has been consistently attracting excellent birds, many of which i'd not have the chance to see in Notts. It was very windy on the reserve which meant that there wasn't a lot of birds out in the open, but on walking round the marsh, i saw plenty of species.

We started at the visitor centre, where they have several scopes lined up, but the in-progress reedbed and freshwater pool habitat was a little quiet, with only a few mallards and other wildfowl about, although i did see what i'd anticipated seeing on the reserve, a few dark bellied (siberian) Brent Geese.

We wandered up to the wash, where a large embankment surrounds the reserve with the freshwater habitats on the left and on the right a huge landscape of saltmarsh and big skies. A small number of Redhank were heard flying over the saltmarshes but little else could be seen, as the sun was directly over the marsh.

Walking back to the reserve, more Redshank flew over calling loudly, and as the saltmarsh retreated into coastal grassland, more birds were seen. Around 40 Little egret were seen in the distance, but the real spectacle was the huge flock of Brent Geese, feeding in the grass, moving slowly to the east. There must have been over 1500 birds, and peppered inbetween, in the small pools around about were several small groups of Redshank. It was nice to see these waders, as they only occur very rarely in notts, but here they were abundant.

We went down to the series of hides around the freshwater marsh and reedbed, and there was a huge variety of birds around here. A few brent geese flew overhead, and there were groups of lapwings and lots of Teal and Shoveler from the first hide. Wandering over to the other hides, a greater diversity was seen, there were a lot of Black-tailed Godwits around feeding in the shallow water, as well as lots of wildfowl, redshank, shelduck, more egrets and lapwings.

On the ground just in front of the hide were a few cryptically plumaged birds - very hard to spot, my mum had to point them out to me. A few meadow pipits were there, enjoying a mud-bath, but there was another bird which was causing some id problems, not just with us but with other birders too. I thought it was a bunting of some sort, and when i got home the nearest i got was a juvenile Lapland Bunting. Unfortunately my camera had run out of battery so i couldnt get a 100% positive id, more like 99%!!! Elsewhere there were a number of linnets and goldfinches feeding on seedheads by the paths.

On the way back i had one last look in the visitor centre, where i managed to get a reasonably good look at a reasonably lazy duck - a sleeping Pintail.

Not a bad day then - 35 species, 2 lifers (brent, pintail), 1 possible lifer (lapland) and plenty of other good birds, definately a reserve i'll return too, hopefully with a fully charged camera next time!!!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Good news/Bad news

The end of september really produced some amazing sightings/hearings of birds.

On the 21st i had a routine visit to attenborough, and i had a pretty good day, the wildfowl were still steadily increasing, with numbers of teal exceeding 80 birds, and shoveler and wigeon reaching around 50 individuals. There were 2 little egrets feeding in the clifton pond reedbeds too, as well as 6 red-crested Pochards throughout the reserve.
A surprise Toad at Attenborough

However the really amazing sighting of the day was my first ever Red Kite. I was walking towards the tower hide and had a quick look over the wheatear field, when i saw a large bird of prey. I originally thought it was a buzzard, but a look through my binoculars resulted in a view of the characteristic narrow wings, forked tail and wing patterns of Milvus milvus. A bird i've wanted to see for a long time, especially after writing about them for an assignment at uni, what a pleasure it was to randomly bump into such a majestic creature, albeit briefly, as it slowly glided away out of my vision and over the horizon. Its all very good seeing a new species when you know its going to be there - but to see it at your regular patch compeletely out of the blue is a different feeling - amazing!!!

The Attenborough Red Kite

Reports of a black tern at the reserve brought me back the next week, and on the way i noticed a field had been recently ploughed near the university of nottinghams sports fields in beeston. I decided to have a quick scan across the field to see if any buzzards were about, and was surprised to see a Peregrine sat in the mud. It remained almost motionless while i watched it and took a few distant photos, and i eventually left it, losing patience before it did. There were a few Bullfinch calling from the hedgerows too.

The cold weather had obviously made the wildfowl move on a bit, as there were not as many about, it was a rather grim misty cold day, and numbers were down. However i did see a few decent birds, including my first Common Gulls of the winter, with two birds nestled amongst a flock of black-heads. I went for a cigarette outside the tower hide and looked over the reedbed, when i saw something chasing a kingfisher. The kingfisher managed to get away, and i grabbed my bins and managed to clock onto what was chasing it - a lovely male Sparrowhawk. The bird landed on a post in the reedbed and i got a great view of it - i've only ever seen females properly and this was the best i'd seen of a male, showing his blue and orangey tones off well. He chased another kingfisher and missed again and alighted on another post further out, where i could still watch him when i pleased.

I moved onto the kingfisher hide to see what was on the feeders and was pleasantly surprised when from out of nowhere, the black tern 'terned up' (sorry). It repeatedly flew by the hide very quickly, making photographic oppurtunities difficult, although i did get a few shots before it flew off to the other side of the reedbed, before coming back around again. What a bird!

The best Black tern photo of Monday

I decided the next morning that i couldnt miss an oppurtunity to get some better shots of this bird, as i thought the weather was going to be better. It was marginally better, but still not ideal, but i did manage to get some good shots of this scarce migrant. In fact, as soon as i got to the clifton reedbed from the wet marsh path, i connected with the tern, flying right by me. It came past the little 'headland' over and over, sometimes flying within 10 metres, and even diving very close for food. What added to the experience was a Cetti's Warbler singing loudly from the reedbed, confirming my suspisions of hearing one a few weeks back.
Some (marginally) better shots of the Black Tern

Other highlights of the day were a shelduck, a snipe on the wing while watching the black tern, and a count of over 350 lapwing, what may well be a site record for me!

The bad news in the title relates to what i saw on the way back that day. From the beeston side of the river, i spotted something on the far bank of the trent in the clifton grove area. I thought at first that it might be a sparrowhawk or something resting by the river, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a dead bird of prey. I couldnt really make it out with a photo or my binoculars as the light was very poor, so i decided i'd go back the next day on the other side of the river.

Hard to make out (heavily cropped)

I rode down to clifton grove and quickly located where i had seen the bird, scrambling through some thick understorey in the trees. I then managed to find the bird easily, and it turned out to be a tawny owl. This was not a particularly nice experience, in fact it was rather upsetting, as the bird had clearly caught its wing in a large quantity of fishing line, and had struggled to break free. Becoming exhausted, the poor animal had obviously given up and it had no option but to drown in the water of the Trent, as its weight beared it down on the branch of the tree.

A sad end....

This shows the worst of what can happen when people discard fishing tackle or litter in the countryside, and although it isnt that common a sighting, i have heard of other birds being caught in the same situation. Apparently this image is going to be used on a Wildlife Trust poster to warn anglers of the consequences of discarding tackle, but whether it will make any difference i dont know.
And there we have it, that wraps up september, not exactly on a good note. The year list stands at 131, or 132 if i count hearing a cetti's - but i won't count it properly until i finally lay eyes upon one!!!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

September II

On coming back from Bristol, i decided to go to Attenborough on my bike on the friday. It was pretty uneventful although the wildfowl numbers had risen again, with good numbers of teal (c60), Shoveler (30), Gadwall and a small number of Gadwall and Pochard. Also saw a Yellow-legged Gull and a Shelduck, and over 200 Lapwing were present. On the way down by the trent there was a few birds about including a Kestrel and a Kingfisher at Beeston weir, along with several swallows, Whitethroat and even 2 Jays.

What followed after the weekend was a very 'cliftony' week. I had a busy weekend at work so on sunday evening after work, i had a ride down to clifton. There had been reports of various 'good' birds around the area, so i wanted to pick up on some of these, notably whinchat, redstart and hobby. The nights however are drawing nearer, so i didnt get much time to have a proper look around, although i did connect with several hobbies over the meadow between the rough wood and branshill, as well as a chiffchaff and a flock of over 4o House martins around the same location.
A hobby at Dusk

I was volunteering at clifton woods on wednesday so i decided to go and look for the Whinchats again, covering all the relevant habitats, but once again they remained elusive to me!!! It was quiet in the area, without much flying about, although in the stubble field opposite branshill i did flush 2 Red-legged Partridge and a flock of around 30 Skylark. There were plenty of raptors about too, including four of the resident Buzzard, as well as a couple of Kestrel and 3 Hobbies in various locations.

Somehow it ended up being thursday and once again i was on my way to clifton, this time with a couple of friends who had decided they wanted to go for a walk down there. We had a good day out, seeing loads of buzzards (must have been over 6 birds, many were spotted in several locations but could have been 'repeats'). We also saw 2 kestrel, one hunting low over a field, the other sitting on a telephone wire, being dwarfed by the woodpigeon it sat alongside. The Skylark were feeding in the stubble field again, this time in slightly greater numbers - around 50 birds. A huge flock of geese were seen to rise from the trent and presumably fly towards attenborough or Long eaton gravels, but there were an estimated 800 birds in the flock, awesome to see and hear!
One of Thursday's many Buzzards

Woodpigeon dwarfing a Kestrel.