Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Day

Just another note!

On xmas day i decided a nice thing to do would be to go out and have a look around my 'parents house patch' which is a relatively small patch near my parents house. Its where i used to go fishing with friends as a teenager at a small brick pit called bass pit which was extremely popular with the youth anglers of sleaford, and i caught many a fish from there, and once fell in.

The patch itself runs from a farm track off mareham lane which is surrounded by quite intensively farmed arable fields usually growing the usual lincolnshire staple of smelly brassicas and onions. Alongside the track, the farmer has actually planted a mix of native trees all the way down seperating it from the field, so at least he's doing something. These sometimes attract warblers and other small birds in the summer but the trees are quite small and uniformly planted but are a welcome addition to the landscape. Further along quite a nice, if gappy, hedge has been left to border one of the fields which often holds reed buntings and thrushes, and another patch of native trees has been planted along one side. A walk across one of the fields brings one to the railway sidings where a line of tall poplar run alongside a track with thick scrub dominating the other side. This eventually leads along to a large railway pit which has been there for as long as i remember and is bordered by willow and alder carr, with a few large dead willows and islands in the middle. This is a magnet to local wildfowl and must be one of very few local wildfowl habitats, but it only seems to attract a poor diversity of species, probably owing to it being quite shallow and presumably hosting a poor population of fish, as the birds seen on the lake are crustacean and plant eaters, such as tufted duck, geese and loads of coots. Pescivores such as grebes and sawbills are species i've never seen here. The rest of the patch continues along farmtracks surrounded by more arable land bordered by the odd hedgerow before returning to the path which was left to walk towards the lake.

I've not seen much at this patch, and its usually the same species i see here each time i go, but it makes for a nice walk nonetheless. On christmas day i went for a little walk to work up an appetite before dinner, and it was quite good. The first birds i noted were a lot of calling dunnocks from the oak plantation and i managed to see a few, it was notable as there were a lot of birds calling from all over. Meanwhile a mixed flock of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting flew over and landed in an ivy covered tree next to mareham lane, birds which i see here often, its always nice to see Yellowhammers. It was otherwise quiet around the farmland and even on the path down to the lake there was little about, apart from a couple of Redwing and a single Blue Tit, as well as a stoat running across the path.
On the lake itself there were actually a lot of birds, but a scan with the bins didn't reveal much of interest aside from a single Pochard, but there were loads of tufted duck, coot and black headed gulls. Walking through the farmland i noticed a large bird sitting atop a post, and from a distance it had the appearance of a falcon, so i edged closer. It still looked falcon sized as i got closer but i just couldnt make it out too well, and then it flew and revealed itself as a Buzzard! It really didnt look that big when it was perched, but must have been hunched up against the wind... A couple of kestrel were also seen, including one being mobbed by gulls, and a new bird for the patch, a Grey Partridge was also seen, though in particularly un-festive fashion, it was not atop a pear tree, nor were there any turtle doves.... maybe there'd be more festivity going on at home....


happy christmas eh!

End of the year round up

Its been a busy year, and a very busy last few months, so hopefully next year will bring with it a bit more free time and less stress! A new job which allowed me at least one day off a week would be very nice indeed! in the meantime i'll just chin up and power through! haha!

So yes, its been busy, but i've actually managed a fair bit of birding compared with a few months ago, snatching little bits here and there and actually having a couple of days off due to unclaimed holiday pay! Since i last posted way back in october i've had a few good trips out, not necessarily seeing many new birds, but certainly seeing some which have really made some trips unforgettable.

Here's some highlights, made up first of birds which have added to my year list!

We'll start with the best shall we, a bird which i have wanted to see ever since seeing it amongst other exotic looking herons in the pages of various field guides, the Squacco Heron which famously (locally at least) stayed for around 10 days under a railway bridge on the river erewash bordering attenborough on the border of notts and derbyshire. This bird cropped up on birdforum on a friday night and i got ridiculously excited, but then got a bit drunk, and woke up the next day feeling a bit rough around the edges. With work in the afternoon i ended up lazing about and didn't go and see it, and felt very silly doing so. However, excitement in the wildlife trust office midweek revealed that the bird was still there, and a WEEK after hearing about it, i ended up going down on the friday morning and watching it catching fish every few minutes for about 45 minutes, before getting hungry and leaving it to it. An amazing bird though, giving incredible views and looking wonderful in the wintry sunshine. Its piercing eyes and bright green legs, along with its beautiful white underwings in flight definately made this the bird of the year, hands down!

The week after i was doing some work in sellers wood and had a great time, seeing loads of birds, but the highlight was seeing my first Nottinghamshire Ring Necked Parakeet. OK, a naturalised species and a bit of a pest, but hearing it squawking around on a bleak november afternoon certainly brightened up the day. Walking through thick undergrowth in woodlands at this time of year will also bring about a well quoted, almost cliched, avian experience and lo! it happened twice in the space of an hour - a woodcock (or 2!) being flushed from right beneath my feet. A nice bird which i am yet to see properly as they are always flying away through the undergrowth every time i see them! The addition of goldcrests, tit flocks and a few bullfinch, along with incredible amounts of (very late) fungi, made this a very enjoyable walk around the woods!

The latest twitch i've had (one of very few successful this year) was only the week before xmas, when i ventured to Gedling pit to see a juvenile Rough Legged Buzzard, which had taken up residence for about a week. Some excellent shots have been posted round and about (birdforum has a few) of this wonderful bird, but as i got there a little late, the bird had pretty much given up on flying around and had decided to roost in some distant pine trees. I got some reasonably good views of it, although had i just seen it on my own i would have probably just said pale common buzzard! A lifer nonetheless! It was nice to see a flock of lesser redpoll too, which were another tick for the year!

I had a couple of saturdays off in december too which was a lovely treat and on both occasions i decided to go to attenborough in search of bitterns. Unfortunately though, sightings of these awesome herons have been few and far between this winter, probably owing to the mild weather, so i have been unlucky in finding any! Maybe i should look more over the river at holme pit, they're reported there more often, but never when i'm there!
Anyway, when i went on the 3rd, i had an excellent day and saw 52 species which is probably the most i've had in one day. The highlights begun early as i saw my first willow tit of the area before i'd even got into the reserve, flying from the hedge bordering the cricket club and into some of the gardens! It only got better too as i decided i'd go down to the delta wood to see if i could find a lesserpecker, and although i failed in that i did see a further 2 Willow tit, feeding on a bird table with a whole host of other birds. I sat on a nearby bench for around an hour just taking photo after photo and simply enjoying the multitude of birds within a few metres, and best of all managed to add a confiding individual of a personally elusive species, the Siskin, to my yearlist! (i saw a flock of about 10 the tuesday after too! Wait for one bus eh?) Waterbirds were showing well today too, and i saw my first Goldeneye and Goosander of the year, a barnacle goose amongst a massive flock of greylags, quite a few ducks (150 teal!) and a couple of water rail. Snipe lapwing and a little egret too. So yes it was a great day! It proves as well that it doesn't matter if you're really seeing anything particularly new, just seeing reliably returning species like waterfowl and waders that turn up like clockwork each year and hearing the familiar sounds of a wetland landscape can really make your day!
I went again on the 17th and had another great day falling short at still a very respectable 48 species! The day was certainly dominated by Fieldfare, a bird that i have only seen very rarely actually on the reserve with previous sightings restricted to seeing one or two birds in bushes. Today there were a few hundred throughout the reserve, near the kingfisher hide birds were atop almost every tree and this trend continued all the way through past the tower hide and down the path past the wet marsh. With birds flying through all the time i would have put it at around 300 birds. Another highlight was when i noticed a large tit flock near the tween hides, and decided to have a good look. These are always fun to watch no matter what may be seen, but today i was rewarded with a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest amongst the commoner species. A stoat was also seen climbing a dead elder, about to predate a Dunnock, before it saw me and dashed away into the undergrowth - hungry, but i bet the bird was grateful! Once again waterbirds were everywhere (obviously!) and highlights included a Water rail, a Snipe flying through and plenty of ducks. Numbers of winter visitors are on the up, with nearly 20 Goosander and 15 Goldeneye, as well as a lot of Teal and plenty of Pochard. Strangely, numbers of Shoveler, gadwall and wigeon are low, especially the former, as they normally number around 100, today there were 2! The highlight of the day was seeing a female Smew - my first for attenborough and only my second ever - feeding at reasonably close range, a wonderful bird which for a short time was even seen out of water.

So quite a good few weeks, there has been more but they're the highlights. My year list currently stands at 146 which is very nearly at the stage of last year, but i've also been a lot more strict! I think this is pretty good and there's still 3 days to get more!!! off to attenborough again tomorrow and hopefully will go to clifton on new years eve before work. New years resolution.... BLOG MORE!!!!!!!!!!


Friday, 21 October 2011

Golden Plovers

Just a quick update, last thursday i was working at Besthorpe, pulling up some pesky willow saplings which had established on the site of a future wet meadow when i saw a flock of golden plovers. After lunchtime the sound of a large flock of birds was evident, but i didnt see anything. It sounded like distant pink footed geese, but i dismissed it as noises coming from the nearby quarry workings. However, at around 2pm, about 200 plovers flew overhead calling noisily. I got my bins out and followed them and they joined an enormous flock which spanned the horizon, a quick estimate revealed a count of well over a thousand birds. They disappeared into the distance all to quickly, but a few broke off a few minutes later and passed back overhead.

Certainly beats my previous record count of 3 birds at netherfield lagoons last year! hahaha.

Went to the lake district that weekend so i'll do a little report of that soon.

Not really been out since but i'm hoping to go to clifton tomorrow morning to see whats about

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Couple of attenborough trips

At the end of september i had a rare day off, so i had a trip to attenborough. There's been loads reported at this patch of mine of late, so at the moment it seems to be the only place i've really been going as i don't have much chance to get out at the moment.

I wasn't there long but managed to get a good species list, including some pretty good birds. On leaving the visitor centre i walked down towards the tween pond viewing screens, a lot of Lapwing were present, amongst the usual scattering of common wetland birds, but little else. On the wheatear fields new wet meadow (in progress!) a single Meadow Pipit was having a bath in one of the water channels, and there was a flock of around 30 Linnet moving about on the meadow too. Since this new habitat has been created, these finches have moved in and i have seen them regularly down here, a bird i had not seen previously. They re clearly taking advantage of this opportunity, but as it progresses on as a meadow habitat, i think we may see them back of them again.

Out on clifton pond, even more Lapwings were about, being pretty much the dominant species apart from the gulls. Also present were an amazing 6 snipe, small numbers by many peoples standards, but good for this reserve. A Cetti's warbler was also heard repeatedly calling from the reedbeds. Wildfowl numbers had increased, but were still relatively low, with gadwall and teal numbering around 20 each, and a few wigeon and shoveler here and there too. After a while a couple of Black Tailed Godwits flew in, a bird i have missed on countless occasions this year and a very welcome addition to my years list. Amazingly, also present was a Little Ringed Plover, which had apparently been about for a few days, and surely must be ready to leave for africa. (this bird is so late in departing, BTO birdtrack didn't believe my record!) 6 Buzzard and a Red Tailed Hawk were also seen flying in the distance, high over Branshill Wood. On the way back, i looked at tween pond again and saw 2 Black-tailed Godwits again, i have since decided these were the same birds i'd seen earlier that day, but it was nice to get a closer look at these handsome waders, and a Green Sandpiper had decided to make an appearance too, feeding close by to the godwits.

Two weeks later, yesterday as it happens, i returned to attenborough again. A spotted redshank was seen here last thursday, but hadn't been reported since, but i decided i'd go down and have a look anyway! I had an excellent days birding, staying at the reserve for 4 hours and seeing some nice birds. It was very windy and it got worse as the day went on but it was still enjoyable.

I started again at the visitor centre and as soon as i'd locked my bike up, a Cetti's warbler piped up straight from the small reedbed in front of the visitor centre. This shows just how well this species is doing at the reserve having only been recorded for the first time only a few years ago. Now it seems that there are so many that they are exploiting every suitable bit of available habitat in order to maintain their own territories. I don't know if its just luck, or that the management of the reserve is so good, but everyone at attenborough should be very proud of the reserves population of these loud little warblers! Also at the visitor centre was a White-cheeked pintail, most probably the feral bird that i last saw here last february, 18 months ago!

I walked down towards the main part of the reserve, there was little of interest on the windblown tween pond apart from around 70 Lapwing, so i continued. A little egret was seen feeding in the little pond on the wheatear field, looking very at home amongst the reeds, before clocking me and flying up towards the back of the tween pond. Once again the little flock of Linnet were on the wheatear wet meadow.

The sightings board at the visitor centre said that a Ruff had been seen that day, i've never had a confirmed sighting of one of these relatively scarce waders (for nottinghamshire) so was hoping it was still about. I went into the kingfisher hide to check out the tree sparrows and also have a look out on the lake. On a tiny pebble spit on the far right of the lake were several black headed gulls and a couple of starlings, and i could just about make out the shape of a bird slightly larger than the starlings. I got out the scope and could just about make out the rough shape of a sandpiper. Anothr birder entered thee hide and i got him onto the bird and we confirmed that it was indeed the Ruff. The bird moved about the lake for a while, flying up with the gulls every now and again, and for some time was observed being chased away by Lapwings in the central spit of the lake. It was interesting to watch and had a very particular way of feeding, very actively running around dipping its head constantly. A good lifer!!! A snipe appeared soon after in almost the same spot, almost tricking me, and 3 more flew by next to the nearest reedbed.

Over at the tower hide, the most notable thing was the perceptible increase in wildfowl, especially since my visit two weeks ago. Teal were most numerous, here there were nearly 80 individuals and my whole count for the day was a whopping 110+, and there were around 60 Gadwall, 40 Shoveler and a measly 2 Wigeon! It seems my obsessive wildfowl counting season has begun once again!!! Notably, no Pochards or other wildfowl are present yet, although sawbills and goldeneyes don't tend to appear until later in the winter. After a while two little egrets appeared and began feeding amongst the reedbeds, and the Ruff was relocated and was watched by a few of us for a while again.

Also of note were 2 Kestrels in the Nest box, obviously sheltering from the wind, another Cetti's Warbler at the delta along with 2 little grebes (and little else, it was extremely gusty here!). One last look over at the tween pond before i left resulted in a 1st winter gull on one of the spits. I believe it was a Yellow Legged Gull, as it was very pale with grey 'splodges' on its chest, dark primaries and the right 'jizz', another first for the year! pretty good going today i think!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Its Autumn!!

Hello

Been a while, though i didn't realise it had been THAT long! July was the last time i posted, back when i was looking at butterflies to pass the time! Time has certainly flown since then, probably owing to me being extremely busy at the moment, which also would explain my lack of posting, and a little less birding, photography, etc.

I've been on a few trips over the last couple of months, managing to add a few birds to my year list, as well as seeing a good few birds i haven't seen in a while. I've been to attenborough and clifton mostly but the frequency that i have been able to get out has been rather low.

I had a couple of trips to attenborough at the start of August, twice in one week actually, and on both occasions i saw a few good birds. These included my first Greenshank of the year, my first ever Barnacle goose, a presumed escapee that has been knocking around all year in the area, and various other waders such as common sandpiper, ringed plover and growing numbers of Lapwing. Little egret numbers were also high with up to six birds present. On my birthday i saw a juvenile Mediterranean Gull on the works pond, and in general had a good days birding. 3 Kingfishers also put on a good show at the delta hide, chasing one another around the reedbed, and walking near the visitor centre i watched in awe at an incredible array of warblers flitting about in a small group of trees. There were 7 species present amongst the brances including Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and astonishingly enough, a Cetti's too, strange as i didnt expect to see one in such a location!

A few good birds have been seen at Clifton and i've been down a few times. Yellow wagtails have been incredibly frequent here this year, having been present nearly every time i've been. I also finally saw my first Wheatear of the year, after a rather uneventful walk on a friday evening at the end of september. These 2 birds were wonderful to see as i had missed out on seeing them throughout the year, and will most probably be the last ones i'll see til next year now! (Although some greenland-race birds have been passing through this week). At the end of august, another walk around the site resulted in 3 WHINCHAT being seen, these were my first ever sighting of this species and i got excellent views of these birds, all females i believe, as they demonstrated typical Saxicola behaviour - flying low to the ground from a perch on a bush to pick insects from the base of the hedge before swooping back to a higher perch on the top of the hedge. I followed them for some time down the hedge before they decided enough was enough and flew behind me back to where i had begun, leaving me to decide to leave them be, having disturbed them quite enough. Happy with this sighting as i don't see many being recorded in nottinghamshire apart from at clifton!


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The beardy butterflier

Not been up to much birding of late, which comes with the time of year i suppose. July sees my attention turn to other winged creatures, which fly more conspicuously among the meadows and hedgerows - places best enjoyed in the summertime. Butterflies!

We've been doing a fair bit of work on the meadow reserves with the trust, and have been surrounded by all sorts of colourful insects. I remarked a few weeks back that I hadn't seen a lot of butterflies this year, but i now retract my statement, as i have now seen loads of them and they have really sparked up my interest again. On the 14th, we were working at Lambley reed pond, cutting thistles to attempt to lower their dominance on the site. It was that day that the butterflies really caught my attention, especially as i have got my 200-300mm macro lens working again! There were loads flitting about all over the place, but especially over near the pond itself, where the vegetation was thickest. Butterflies were busy drinking thirstily from knapweeds, willowherbs and thistles, while the bramble bushes were also alive with them. There were a good number of species but most dominant were Small Whites, Meadow Browns, Peacocks and a few Ringlets. I tried for a while to get some decent shots, but the best i came out with were of the Peacocks and Whites.

The next week we were at Brierley's Meadow near Besthorpe, a tiny meadow reserve but with a good diversity of plants, and with that, butterflies. We were once again clearing thistles, which is a bit of a shame as the insects love them, but there was plenty of knapweeds and other flowers to keep them going. Meadow Browns and gatekeepers reigned dominant here, but they were joined by a number of Ringlets, Small Coppers and a couple of Small Skippers. Later that day we indulged in a bit of Ragwort pulling but attempted to do it in a sympathetic manner as many of the florets were covered with the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth, a species specialised to eat the usually toxic Ragwort which are a common sight at this time of year. We left plants which were covered with them and made sure we piled other plants nearby for them to eat.

I have since found a butterfly haven which i have visited twice already this summer, with plans to return. It is at one of my usual birding patches near clifton woods. The fields that are farmed nearby are often full of butterflies, but there are a few patches on the way to Barton-in-fabis that are left as set-aside. There are also a couple of ponds nearby, along with the woods themselves. As a result of this mosaic of habitats, the abundance and diversity of butterflies is pretty high.

In the woods and on its edges, it is not uncommon to find Brimstones flying up and down, especially in early spring. This time of year Red Admirals can be seen regularly, sunning themselves on bare ground where the sunlight breaks through gaps in the thick sycamore canopy. On the edges where the sun is shining, especially where there is thick, raised vegetation such as ivy or blackthorn, Comma butterflies can be seen waiting on a leaf, ready to attack any intruding males, or to attempt a coupling with any passing females. To see a pair of males scrapping mid-air, with the sun bringing out their vibrant colours, is a wonderful sight on a bright sunny day.

On the field edges and in the large meadow which has been set aside from farming, there is a different set of butterflies entirely. Thistles are a common plant here and at the moment are filling the skies with their feathery seeds, but where they are still in flower, many large butterflies such as Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells have been seen drinking from the purple flowerheads. It is impossible to walk a few metres without seeing a White butterfly, but i am not entirely confident of identifying species, especially on the wing, as they very rarely rest for long when you approach. Walking through the vegetation disturbs the species that sit low, such as Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are a little more conspicuous, with their brighter colouration and tendency to sit in the open, but meadow browns are more subdued in their colouring and are excellently camouflaged so that you won't see it until the last minute when it suddenly explodes into flight a few inches from your feet. I have found the latter species to be more abundant however, even though the gatekeepers at first seem more numerous. Other species do reside here, but are not seen as regularly, such as Ringlets and Small skippers, and i have not seen many blue butterflies, but i think as i survey the area more thoroughly more species will turn up.

I have only properly looked at a small area of the site too so i will be returning over the coming weeks to see what else there is to find. I'm also attempting to take some good photographs, which is difficult as they always seem to fly away or sit somewhere where some foreground vegetation blocks the cameras view, but i'll keep trying! Their ecology and natural history, as well as their breeding cycles are all very interesting too, as is learning about their conservation and the threats to our native populations. I have been reading an excellent book which describes each species in detail and gives a good account of all aspects of their lifestyle, along with brilliant paintings of each stage in their life cycle, The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by Jeremy Thomas and Richard Lewington (ISBN 978-0-9564902-0-9). I have the hardback, which cost me 25 quid, but it is well worth it as it is more than an ID guide but really delves into the world of our native species, with much passion and knowledge. Its not one for taking into the field though, so i must really get a smaller field guide at some point!

I'll post some pictures as soon as i have sorted through them all. that could take a while!

Summer Time

I have attempted a bit of birding since my last report, i had an evening ride to netherfield again, but it was a very sunny evening and i couldn't actually see anything on the main part of the lagoons without getting blinded by the sun! I didnt stay very long but i did notice that the starlings have begun flocking here to roost in the reedbeds. Numbers will grow over the next few weeks but i don't think they'll peak til october, like last autumn. Still, it is a sight to behold.

Earlier in the week, i had a bikeride to a couple of meadow reserves in nottingham, to see what was growing there, as this time of year also brings out the botanist in me. A lot of plants are turning to seed now, but there are a host of other species which are just coming into flower and will continue to do so until autumn, sustaining the bees and butterflies and anything else that relies on them. I am but a beginner in the realm of botany, and i find just getting out there and sitting in a meadow with a good ID book (i use Francis Rose's The wildflower key) is a great way of getting to know the different species. It can be frustrating separating a specimen from a host of lookalikes, but once you have found out its amazing how much knowledge sticks. Its a slow journey but its good to make some progress.

The first meadow i went to was Kings Meadow, but i didn't stay long, as although there was a good mix of wildflowers, there are some dodgy folks around there and rustling in the bushes, along with shady looking people hanging around didnt make me want to stick around, especially with an expensive camera and lens in my bag. I went instead to Wilford Claypit and am glad i did. I've been here a few times to look at the dragonflies and wildflowers, as well as doing a bit of conservation work. Its a lovely reserve which doesn't look much at first, but once you explore it in finer detail then it reveals some nice surprises. My trip that evening was no exception and i spent the evening photographing a variety of plants, including the weird-leaved but beautiful Yellow-wort and best of all a host of Fragrant Orchids, a wonderful plant with a heady aroma, tall pink flowerheads and individual flowers which are perfectly formed, with a large spur which dangles tantalisingly down from each floret. There were a couple of Twayblades which had gone to seed (i've never seen one in flower) and a few other Orchids which i still haven't ID'd.

While photographing the Orchids, a juvenile Heron alighted on the dipping platform nearby, and i managed to get some good shots of it, my best heron photos yet in fact, and it happily sat preening itself, eyeing me up occasionally while i stood pointing my lens at it.

Last wednesday, me and Michelle went to Attenborough! This was the first time i've been since april! I can't believe its been that long, especially as last year I managed to go 2 or 3 times a week. I have been especially busy this summer so i suppose that's my excuse. We were there only a while, and it was eventful, but once we'd had a circular walk rainclouds had started forming and we were both hungry. We were there in the evening so the hides were unfortunately closed but we saw a fair few birds, including a few Little Egrets which have been seen regularly there over the last few weeks. One was showing especially well, standing alone in the middle of the wet marsh, looking incredible, especially as its breeding plume was at a jaunty angle. A couple of Oystercatchers were seen running around on the island on clifton pond, and there were a lot of Lapwings about. Their numbers peak here in july and august, i had counts of up to 400 last summer. On the river path behind clifton pond we also saw a Weasel, which was amazing. It did the same thing most weasels and stoats do when i've seen them, which is dash across your path before popping out and inspecting you inquisitively for a while before disappearing once again. It reappeared momentarily before bounding down the path, doing a little jump and burying itself once again amongst the vegetation beside the path. A wonderful sight!

Since then i have been very busy, but i have been out a few times in search of butterflies... more on that later.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Netherfield Lagoons 8th July

Had to decide on friday, spend the day in the kitchen, doing menial tasks, finding stuff to do, inevitably getting bored, or go out on my bike despite the frequent heavy rain showers and foreboding looking clouds, inevitably getting wet.

Obviously i got on my bike. Went once again to Netherfield lagoons. I wanted to go to Attenborough this week at some point but it is quite a lot further afield, meaning that if I'm restricted by time, then a shorter ride is certainly more appropriate. So i made sure i packed my raincoat, and headed out.

I got about halfway before the heavens opened so got my coat on. What had begun as a bit of rain soon turned into a heavy downpour, and with a couple of miles to go i was resigned to getting wet. Even the raincoat didn't afford much protection, and somehow the inside of the arms got wet, but i kept going knowing that once i got to the reserve boundary there was a nice big train bridge to hide under while the worst of the weather passed.

I ended up spending most of my visit to the reserve under here. The rain persisted until i got under the bridge and continued on and off for around 45 minutes, but there was an end in sight, as to the west there was some brighter skies, i just had to wait. The wait wasn't actually ever so bad, there was plenty of wildlife to look at while i stayed dry. Sand Martins and Swallows were continually passing through, the former passing by within a few feet, the latter performing breakneck aerial maneuvers chasing each other defending their territories. There's a large colony of these birds which nest each year under this bridge, providing quite a welcome as you enter the reserve.

Finally the weather improved so I emerged from my shelter and made my way to the main paths round the reserve. Upon cresting the top of the steps, i looked behind me and saw that i potentially didn't have long to wander round, as some extremely dark clouds were gathering in the distance. Some i saw were already depositing rain down over Gedling and others had just passed me by and were hanging low over Radcliffe on Trent. Luckily, where i was the rain seemed to pass either side, leaving me relatively dry except for one small shower which lasted only a couple of minutes.

The weather must have been keeping the birds at bay, as walking around there wasn't too much to look at, although there were a few Warblers about and a Song Thrush was belting out its song from the woody areas. The lagoons however were bustling with life, i guess birds which live near water don't mind getting a bit wet.

I stopped soon after i joined the central path which runs between the two main lagoons, as i had heard a Green Sandpiper had been spotted to the far left of the reedbed a few times this week. And sure enough amongst a lapwing, a few Mallard and even a couple of Teal (first i've seen in a while), there was a tiny little wader nipping in and out of the reeds. I have seen these birds before and they just didnt seem so small, in comparison to the Lapwing it was minute. I watched it for a while, making sure of its ID and it all added up, but it was very difficult to observe, as it was in a patch of reeds which were obstructed from view. Still i was happy enough with the sighting as its not a species i see often.

Looking out over the rest of the lagoon, there was a good diversity of birds about, and there were loads of them too. The water level was very low, as is the norm in the country this summer, and as a result, there was lots of exposed mud and aquatic vegetation. On the far left there was a group of Lapwing moving about feeding in the detritus. Further along were a group of ducks snoozing on the waters edge, mostly eclipse plumaged Gadwall and a handful of Pochard. As i scanned further to the right there were groups of different birds all clumped together. There were lots of ducks and coots, and the right half of the exposed mud and shallows was almost completely dominated by Gulls and a couple of Terns. Most were Lesser Black Backed, of varying ages, but there were a few Greater Black backs which were easy to compare when standing amidst some lessers. Black headed gulls of a range of ages were also scattered here and there.

The highlight, aside from the Green Sandpiper however, was a Little Ringed Plover, which was seen by chance as the sun shone upon it. It was only really visible when it was dashing across the mud, in its usual style. Its a species i haven't seen at this reserve, and although i've seen quite a few this year, especially at besthorpe, it was still nice to see something a little different. Compared to the other birds this little thing seemed absolutely tiny, its a surprise one of the gulls hasn't picked it off.

I scanned the lagoons a while longer, picking up on a few Grey Herons, and some wildfowl which i hadn't expected to see at this time of year, around 6 Shoveler and 2 Eurasian Wigeon. There were loads of Reed Warblers singing from the reeds and a few were also showing particularly well. Also of note was the sheer number of juvenile birds on the water. A huge family of Gadwall were present, with loads of tiny ducklings, there were countless mallard chicks and the Coots were aggressively defending their young from any birds which strayed too close. It really was very busy on the lagoon today. A kestrel was also seen hunting above the path, always good to see.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

couple of trips

Feeling loads more refreshed after last weekends festivities, and i have been out on my bike a few times too, as well as having a great day volunteering with the wildlife trust on friday (even though it was only Balsam Bashing!)

Earlier in the week i visited Clifton, for the first proper birding trip i've had there in a few weeks. It was all in all pretty quiet unfortunately, but that is to be expected at this time of year, especially with it being so warm. One thing i noticed is that the lush green vegetation that dominated the landscape earlier in the year has faded as the weeks have gone by. Most of the spring blooms have gone over and set seed and the smaller plants have been overtaken by tall grasses. High summer truly seems to have settled in.

There was very little going on around the fields as we walked around, not even many small passerines, obviously the breeding season is over and most birds will be resting up for a while. A group of swallows were seeing feeding just above the wheat crop on the weir field, and there seemed to be a good number of swifts feeding in the skies above. Aside from the odd chiffchaff and the calls of a number of wrens, even the woodland was pretty dead. The only places where there was any activity was near the water. The river had plenty of common terns and gulls flying up and down, and Holme Pit was busy with a family of coots, which seemed to have raised a second brood, chasing off the remaining two juveniles which had almost fully grown. Elsewhere on the pond were a few swans, a scattering of ducks, and lots of singing reed buntings and the scratchy sound of reed warblers was also obvious. A common tern quartered the reeds while we sat enjoying the sunshine, and it was great to see it diving spontaneously into the lake every now and again to attempt to pick off some prey from the surface of the water.

The highlight of the day however was spending an hour (in two sessions) down by the river, at a location where i have noted Kingfishers a few weeks back. Me and Fred sat there quietly, watching a pair of these wonderful birds flying to and fro catching fish and taking them back to where their nest must be. They were sticking to our side of the river, and were only a few metres away, an absolutely fantastic experience, and they would often cross the river to fish over the other side. We were careful not to disturb them and they seemed unfazed by our presence, coming in and out repeatedly. An amazing experience. Some very good photos can be found on Rob Hoare's website, as he went down following my 'tip-off' a few days later and spent a few hours watching them. http://cliftongrovebirds.co.uk/latest_sightings.html

On saturday evening i was perusing the local bird sightings and came upon a report of some Black Tailed Godwits arriving at Netherfield Lagoons. It was pretty late by that time but i decided it would be a nice evening for a bike ride. The godwits had been present in the morning so i wasn't too sure of whether they'd be there when i arrived, and sure enough they weren't.

I spent around half an hour enjoying the balmy evening, despite getting eaten alive by midges, scanning the slurry lagoon with my scope. There were loads of birds on the lagoon, although it was difficult to view due to the sunlight right in my eyes. There were loads of loafing gulls, mainly black headed and LBBGs, there may well have been a med there as one had been reported but i couldnt see one in there! A few lapwings made up the only waders on the lagoon, and otherwise it was mainly ducks and coots. A little egret and grey heron were also seen in clsoe proximity to each other, the first little egret i've seen in notts for a while!

will probably go back again this week, as there seems to be quite a bit being reported. might even go to attenborough too! who knows?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Post Glasto

Well i just got back from Glastonbury Festival on monday night, managed to stay the whole weekend which was a great experience. its a wonderful place with a lot going on, if a little too many people! I'm still a bit knackered from 6 days of partying in the sun and rain (and mud!) but i feel it was worth it!

I kept my birding glasses on while away as it was set in such amazing countryside, so it was therefore abundant in wildlife - surprising as there was so much human activity!

On the way down there were countless buzzards, and as we passed bristol, raptor sightings increased and i even managed a few sightings of several Red Kites! Still as amazing as ever to see. There were also a few Roe Deer seen in the fields, a sight i don't often get up here in the Midlands. What struck me was how much nicer the farmland is here, compared to the bland arable fields which cover nottinghamshire, the farming here is usually livestock, and with this comes a more green and lush landscape. The rolling hills are peppered with large mature trees and woods and even the roadsides are full of a great diversity of wildflowers. On a road we were travelling on on the way back, i saw a verge which was covered in a huge variety of flowers, the most notable being Pyramidal Orchids, there were loads of them! On a roadside!!! I still love nottinghamshire, but this end of the country is a lot more beautiful!

At the festival itself, there were still lots of birds about. There was a constant flock of Lesser Black Backed Gulls filling the air over the site, waiting for an oppurtunity to rifle through the litter that so many people can drop (its disgusting really). Up at my campsite, which was situated in a nice quiet lawn in front of worthy farm, there was an abundance of Swallows which kept me entertained as i sat by my tent. There was a rookery nearby too, and every evening around 9pm, chattering flocks would pass overhead noisily, obviously flying off to a communal roost somewhere to the south. They would pass each day like clockwork, forcing everyone in the area to look up. It gave the feeling of being in the wild, depsite 200,000 people milling around below.

Buzzards were seen regularly over the skys, often being mobbed by rooks and jackdaws. Elsewhere on site there was also a good diversity of passerines. On a busy thoroughfare in the festival, i passed on many occasions a group of trees which always had a singing Chiffchaff, heard clearly over the din of the festival, and goldfinches and Long tailed tits were constantly heard in the hedgerows.

So i had a great time, if very tiring, and managed to see plenty of wildlife thrown in. Just need a couple more days and i'll be right as rain! Off to clifton later to have a wander (hopefully my dodgy knee won't stop me) so i'll write up a report later in the week.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mid June

Its a bit of a quieter time of year in the birdwatching calendar at the moment, although soon there will be some interesting passage migrants coming through. Since returning from Rutland i haven't really had chance to go wildlife watching much, which is a bit of a shame, but i still have been spending most of my time in the great outdoors, just been very busy doing other things!

With the wildlife trust, we have been busy pulling invasive Himalayan Balsam up from Clifton Woods. I've made plans both wednesdays to have a bird around the area afterwards but as usual other things have cropped up! However, a couple of weeks back in did have the pleasure of seeing a kingfisher at very close range while biking back down the trent from the woods afterwards. I was alerted to its presence by its piping calls, and sat on the riverbank awaiting its appearance. It was on my side of the river and i got great views as it repeatedly flitted between some bankside willows and a sunken tree a few metres out. I would like to return with my camera when i have the time! Elsewhere around clifton its been pretty quiet aside from a few nuthatches and woodpeckers calling in the woods and plenty of terns up and down the river.

On thursdays we have still been up at Besthorpe, and there was an open day there on the 11th. I always keep an eye out for whats about but it has been reasonably quiet aside from a few little ringed plovers and some Shelduck which have been confirmed as breeding, although their brood of around 10 has reduced drastically to 3 i think! However on thursday, while putting some reed fencing in, i witnessed something amazing. A hobby had been bothering the large sand martin colony all day, and i was alerted once again to its presence by the alarm calls of the martins. I looked up and the hobby had managed to seperate one sand martin from the main flock, and was chasing it down. It was incredible to see the aerial manoueverability of both birds and the agility the falcon had, stopping and turning at break neck speed. The sand martin dodged a few attempts at it, but the hobby soon won and it slammed into its prey and slowly glided off, devouring it in flight. Not brilliant news for the sand martin, but an excellent display of predation.

Otherwise the only place i've really been otherwise is Holme Pierrepont, as its an easy but satisfying ride. i've been down 4 times this week! i went on monday just to clear my head (bit hungover) and had a lovely time watching swallows, swifts and sand martins, some of which were juveniles i believe. Elsewhere, huge creches of canada and greylag geese were busy feeding on the grass, and there were several common terns about. I returned the next day with some friends but didn't really see too much, as we were concentrating on picking elderflowers, which are now stewing to make a delicious cordial. I went again before going volunteering at clifton on wednesday, at 7am, which was a lovely time to be down there, and at the weekend, returned for a picnic too, where on the river, a creche of canadas swam downstream, with 66 little ones, and a kingfisher was also seen on a number of occasions...

I must get out and about and properly do some natur-ing but i'm exceedigly busy - i'm off to glastonbury with work this week... not for the actual weekend though :(

in a bit!

Monday, 6 June 2011

RSPB Nature count

The RSPB are currently running a nature count survey, similar to their big garden birdwatch which is held in january. I beleive the aim of this one is to get an idea of what birds are breeding in peoples gardens at this time of year, as well as gaining info on other birds such as house martins and swifts which may fly over.

It was probably due to the time of day that i did mine (1300-1400), that there were not many birds in my result... Normally there's a few coming in and out of the garden, but i didnt see many at all! I was also sat (partly concealed) in the garden which may have had something to do with it...

Oh well a result is a result so here we go...

JACKDAW - 1
COLLARED DOVE - 2
WOODPIGEON - 1
SWIFT - 5 (over)

... and thats it! I was thinking earlier in the day that i hadnt seen the collared doves in the garden for a while, so it was nice that they popped in. I nearly had some more but the birds didn't land in the garden! A chaffinch was singing in next doors tree, a few blackbirds and a dunnock were also heard singing, and greenfinches and goldfinches flew over several times (although these rarely actually come into the garden itself). The great tits and blue tits didnt even bother to show up!!!

oh well, i'll send them in, and it will be interesting to see the results soon!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Rutland Water

I've been planning to visit rutland properly for a while now, and this weekend we did just that. I went last year with uni to see the ospreys, but we weren't there long so didn't get to see a lot. I've wanted to return ever since.

The plan was to go down for a couple of days with a group of mates and enjoy a bit of birding at the two reserves, cycle round the entire lake, and then spend the rest of the time relaxing, maybe playing a bit of football and having a few drinks. Unfortunately not everything went to plan, we weren't there that long, there were some logisitical problems and we wasted a lot of time hanging about, but it didn't mean we had a bad time. I've just got back this evening, pretty tired, but i am pleased to say it was a great weekend.

I only managed to get to one reserve, the Lyndon one. I planned to go early saturday morning, but despite getting up at 6.30, various things happened to delay this, and after having to bike to oakham to get supplies i didnt get down til about 11!!! however i don't feel i missed much by leaving later as i had a great time.

The birding day started off as i awoke, as a Great Spotted Woodpecker exploded out of a tree calling loudly, something obviously startled it, as it sat high in some branches for ages constantly making alarm calls. I had excellent views of it, as did my friends, although i don't think paul fully appreciated it at that time of the morning and he soon stumbled back to bed. There were quite a lot of birds around the campsite, including lots of tits and finches along with some juveniles. A few swallows were flying very low to the ground which looked great in the bright morning sunshine.

As the day wore on and we made coffee and egg butties in a most leisurely fashion, a few other bird species made the list, including a singing Cuckoo, and then we had a trip to find a shop. We ended up going all the way to oakham however which took longer than expected, but it was a very pleasant ride and i added Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Kestrel and Swift to the days list, amongst others. When we got back, while having more coffee, a Hobby flew overhead, and then i decided finally to make tracks and head down to the Lyndon reserve.

I went to the visitor centre first, taking in great views of the lake and checking out the birds at the feeders. Loads of Greenfinch and Goldfinch were present, and another GS Woodpecker was there too, coming to the peanut feeders intermittently. A stunning male Yellowhammer and a few Tree Sparrows were welcome additions too. Looking over the lake there were a few common ducks and geese about, as well as a few Lapwings. As i recalled from last time there were also loads of Shelduck about.

Heading on to the actual reserve, i took the path leading to all the hides, hoping to get as many birds as possible. The paths down to the reserve were nice to walk down, with lots of wildflowers, moths and butterflies to keep me entertained. There were loads of birds singing in the trees, mainly blackcaps, and there was the ever present sound of begging great tit juveniles. A sand martin flew overhead too, the only one i saw all day...

I entered the first hide, the 'deepwater' hide, which overlooked the main part of the lake. I can imagine this can be an interesting one for the winter to watch wildfowl and gulls, but at this time of year it was difficult to see much, as not a lot was on the open water. On the far bank i was only able to see the larger species properly as it was pretty far away, so much so that i thought i saw 5 Oystercatchers flying towards me, but when they got closer it was revealed that they were actually Greylags! duh! Over towards the left of the hide, where the bunds and shallow water begun, there was bit more to see. Loads of Swifts were feeding low over the water and there were some Herring and Lesser Black Backs on the bunds, showing an array of ages and plumage.
While scanning these, i caught sight of a dark bird flying over the water, i got a better view of it and managed to confirm it as a BLACK TERN! Brilliant! This is the first time i've seen one in summer plumage - the jet black contrasted with its white rump, and its paler underwings all added together to make a very smart bird. Its behaviour was interesting too, bringing me back to the time i saw the attenborough bird last autumn, as it flapped lazily around on a set route a few feet from the surface of the water, dipping occasionally to grab some food. A great start to the walk!

I moved on towards the next hide, the walk being largely uneventful, save for a calling Reed Bunting from across one of the meadows. As i approached the hide, a couple of people were standing on a bench looking through their bins. I asked what they were looking at and they kindly pointed my eyes to the direction of a Red Kite, which was having a hard time being mobbed by some gulls. It was a magnificent sight of a bird i've only seen once before from quite a distance, so it was great to get a proper view of one. It stayed in view for a few minutes before disappearing round some trees out of view. I went into the hide after this and while scanning the small pond area a Little Egret flew directly across, providing an excellent photographic opportunity, had I only had my camera ready! Only minutes later, some commotion in the sky alerted me to the presence of one of my target species, Osprey. I had great views of the bird, coming to within about 30m as it was being mobbed by a couple of Herring Gulls. It was able to dissuade the gulls eventually, but only by elevating itself higher into the sky than they were prepared to go. It eventually came back down a little but was only really viewable through my scope, but i managed to follow it for some time, before it flew east out of view. An amazing raptor, and much bigger than i remembered (although i missed them in flight last time i saw them). There wasn't much else to see at the hide, other than a pied wagtail juvenile sunning itself on an island, and a Garden warbler flying low into a willow beside the pond, so i decided to move on once again to see the Osprey Nests.

On the way to the first Nest hide (waderscrape), i managed to get a shot of a singing willow warbler which was perched only a metre or so above me in a tree. I then entered the hide, which is very open with lots of light (and wind... and people...). This is the main 'visitor' hide where volunteers are on hand to provide information and views of the nesting ospreys. One lady kindly told me that the female was on the nest looking after 3 chicks. The bird i had seen previously had been the male, who had flown the nest before i got there. It was nice to see the osprey again at the nest, although it wasn't that exciting as she didnt move much! Another osprey moved in at one point, causing some excitement, especially as it moved in towards the nest, before flying higher up again and moving around nearby. It was decided that this was not the nesting male, but another interloper, who decided to move on, rather than risk agression from the parent birds. We all got some great views of this.

Elsewhere from the hide, there were plenty of reed buntings and Sedge Warblers in the reedbed, along with a nice pair of Gadwall. Out in the water, amongst the bunds however, there was not much to be seen. There were loads of swifts catching insects from above the water, with a few House Martins interspersed, and on the far bank, a little egret was seen feeding, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. I also missed a Kingfisher that everyone else seemed to see, right in front of the hide!!!

Finally, i moved on to the last hide, the Shallow-water Hide. I hoped to see some interesting waders here possibly, and i definately heard something while i was walking down the path to the hide, but in there i was unable to find anything of interest. However i did have a good time watching the Lapwings which were busy defending their territories from Jackdaws and other lapwings. They were agitated all the time, running about and chasing off the corvids. I managed to get some reasonably good shots of these birds, and really enjoyed watching their aerial displays. There wasn't really much else to see from here that i hadn't seen from the other hide though, so after looking at some rather cute Egyptian goose babies, i decided to leave.

It seems i left the hide a minute too soon, as when i was walking away, i came across a couple of birders looking through scopes. I asked what there was, and the male Osprey had finally returned with a fish and was feeding the mother and chicks, i managed to get an OK view of them, but without much detail, as i only used my bins, but it was good to see them together. Walking away, i noticed 2 birds singing loudly from within a hedge, thinking they must be Garden Warblers. This is a species i have struggled with as they are notoriously difficult to see and i often overlook their song as Blackcaps, but i persevered and was finally rewarded with a view of one of them. It was good to finally get a proper view while hearing their songs so clearly.

And that was that, now I was pretty thirsty and tired, and had to navigate my way all the way back, the only problem with this reserve i think, is that it is a linear path so you simply retrace your steps back (albeit on a more direct route!). Though it wasn't unpleasant so never mind!

I had planned to go to the other reserve, but we didnt really get to. When we actually got there, we found we had to pay to get in. I had no problem with this, but as my other friends were not as interested, we decided against it. I will have to go another day and have a proper look around. As a great bonus to the weekend however, a Red Kite flew overhead as we were packing away our campsite, pretty low down showing its size and beauty, as well as its graceful flight. An excellent end to the weekend.

I managed 63 species in total for the weekend (though i was aiming for 100! this may have been nearly managed if i had gone to the other reserves!), which was great, and i cannot wait to go back again and hopefully achieve what i wanted again!!!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

hmmphatt

Not been out properly for a while, mainly due to the fact my bike has broken so i can't just go out whenever i like to any reserves, unless i want to spend money on a bus ticket and wait for said bus! poor excuse really but never mind! Been quite busy too i suppose.

I did however have a wonderful two days volunteering last week. On the wednesday the NWT's hebridean sheep were getting their annual shear, and we were on hand to round up the sheep and help where it was neccessary. The weather for the day remained poor, drizzly and windy, but we had a good day nonetheless. The highlight was definately sorting the lambs from the ewes, i've never thrown so many lambs over a fence before...

Saw a bit of wildlife though not lots, the field we were shearing in had a good number of Skylark nesting in it and there were plenty singing from the heavens, and there were plenty of yelllowhammers singing away too. At newstead where we were sorting the lambs, we disturbed a Hare which ran across our path while we were attempting to sneak up on the flock.

Thursday we went for the annual volunteer 'jaamboree', a yearly get together of all us vols, this year up at the Idle Valley near Retford. It was a pleasant day where we rounded up 19 Dexter cattle, which took ages, as we had to shift them round a large lake. On this lake there were apparently some Avocets but i didnt see any, although there were plenty of other birds around. Once we had done this we headed for the visitor centre to enjoy a barbecue, before heading out on a short walk around the lagoon closest to the centre. It was interesting to see the work being done here and there was a beautiful stretch of the river Idle (which didnt live up to its name!) complete with a small shoal of trout swimming in a riffle on a river bend. Didn't get to see much birdlife as we were going at some pace, though an Oystercatcher was a welcome sight, and there were warblers singing everywhere. A very nice reserve indeed, and certainly one i need to visit properly at another date.

Not been out since then, the weather has turned incredibly windy over the last few days and i'm still without a bike. I've spent a lot of time in my garden though and have been enjoying an intimate experience with a family of great tits. I have only seen one adult although i doubt the male is far away, and there are definately 2 juveniles and quite possibly a 3rd. A blue tit or 2 keep visiting my feeder too, so i beleive they are raising a family too, hopefully the juveniles will show themselves in my garden as well. Glad my feeders are sustaining the birds!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hoveringham, 13th May

I awoke with a whole day ahead and nothing planned. A fishing trip had been on the cards but my friend pulled out and i didnt really fancy going on my own. I hadn't been on a good long bikeride for a little while so i decided to do a bit of a long circular route with a bit of birding on the way.

I started off going down the river to radcliffe on trent before carrying on to Gunthorpe. On the way i heard and saw many birds, the most notable being singing yellowhammers near shelford, and over the amazing view from the top of radcliffe, a Buzzard being mobbed by a couple of Jackdaws.

At gunthorpe i stopped off for a little rest by the river, at a beautiful spot with a mature bit of woodland on the far bank. There were green and greater spotted woodpeckers calling from the wood, and on the riverbank i watched a restless Heron moving up and down. There were lots of fry boiling up the shallows so i think the birds had plenty to feed on. I then biked down the river for my half-way destination - Hoveringham.

I haven't been to hoveringham since the end of January when i went down to see some pinkfooted and white-fronted geese and a Great white egret. A few bits and bobs have been reported here of late but i wasn't here to see anything in particular, though a few waders would be nice.

I set my scope up and stopped periodically to scan the water and the far banks. The vast expanse of open water was a little empty really owing to the time of year - much better covered in ducks and gulls in winter! However the far bank was what i was really interested in. However there wasn't much to be seen - until i got about a quarter of the way down the lake and i spotted a single Oystercatcher at the waters edge. A bird not often seen by me and one of my favourites so this was good. Otherwise my views over the lake didnt really reveal much else, but i did see something interesting fly over the water towards the islands in the middle. I decided it would be better to go and view these instead. On the way i briefly saw a Stoat watching me before it dashed for cover into a dry ditch along the path, causing alarm amongst some reed warblers within.

Over at the islands there was a hive of activity. There were a lot of nesting canadas and greylags and a few goslings about too. Also present were many ducks and a good number of Great Crested Grebes, some with little ones riding on top.

Most interesting however were the Oystercatchers. I think the bird i had seen previously flying over was the original oystercatcher i had seen earlier. In total i believe there were 5 birds present, there was an obvious pair on a central island, with what must have been the male standing guard over a more inconsipicuous female. Elsewhere were a further two, one of which waas quite mobile and the other standing on the island to the far right calling incessantly. The 5th bird was one i saw being shunned by the pair on the central island, getting chased to the waters edge before being forced to fly off down to the far end of the lake. These birds provided entertainment for a good while for me, even while i sat down to enjoy my lunch.

I scanned the area to the right hand side of the islands too, a grassy penisula which reaches out into the lake. There were a few lapwing milling about in the grass while on the waters edge i noticed a group of 3 small waders running along. They were very difficult to see as they were well camoflauged and in the distance but i believe they must have been Little Ringed Plovers. This species soon became more obvious as i watched the area with the Oystercatchers again, up to 5 LRPs were seen flying about the islands, chasing each other and running up and down the waters edge. They were extremely mobile, not staying in the same place for more than a minute or so, and proved highly interesting to watch. Along with the other birds my final count came to around 8 of these tiny little waders, which is great, i hope they manage to nest successfully.

This proved to be an exciting birdwatching trip and was finally topped off by seeing a couple of drake Wigeon on one of the islands. I thought this was quite odd and wondered what they were doing here so late, but apparently it isn't too late for them to be heading up north. It was nice to see them though and I look forward to watching them come the winter once again.

After this I cycled back through the village, through Lowdham and on to Lambley. It was a pleasant, if a little tiring route. Much of my cycling around nottinghamshire doesn't involve a single hill, so around here its a bit of a change, I got my breath back at the small Notts Wildlife Trust reserve in Lambley, seeing a couple of Red-crested Pochards, which i wasn't expecting, and it was also interesting to watch a small group of Swallows divebombing the surface of the pond, presumably collecting water for building their nests.

I ended the ride cycling out of lambley and back to town via mapperley top. A thoroughly enjoyable day!

Netherfield Lagoons, 9th May

After the brilliant evening watching the stints, i went to Netherfield Lagoons on the monday morning. It was beautifully sunny when i woke up without a cloud in the sky so i left quite early, but by the time i had got half way there, the sun had started to disappear behind the increasing clouds!

However, I had quite a pleasant walk around the reserve, especially noting that the flower and insect life had sprung up a lot more. I spent quite a long time taking photos of some of these, including attempting to get some decent damselfly shots, but i was unsuccessful as they were extremely wary, flying off when they sensed even the smallest movement.

Bird wise, there was lots about, especially little songbirds. There was a lot of noise coming from the warblers, mostly Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Along the path running between the two main lagoons a Cetti's warbler's song exploded from within the undergrowth, and either side of the path were many Sedge and Reed Warblers. A chiffchaff singing loudly from some distant trees brought the warbler count to 7 out of a possible 10 species at this reserve.

I scanned the slurry lagoon for quite some time, hoping that a wader of some sort may decide to comply and drop in for me but i was unlucky, until a single Lapwing dropped in as some sort of consolation! Otherwise there was little of note on the lagoon amongst the loafing Black Headed Gulls and various ducks. Around 10 Gadwall were present however.

When doing my final scan of the lagoon, I heard something i had not heard in 2 years, a noise i have been anticipating all spring... a Cuckoo! I walked round to the bench overlooking the lower gravel pits and was instantly able to see the bird in question calling frequently from the top of a large willow tree. I watched for quite a long time before it outlasted me and i moved on. Brilliant! What's more, as i was down at the new pond dipping platform, watching shoals of roach in the crystal clear water, i heard another Cuckoo calling from within some scrub. It called for some time before falling quiet. Minutes later, i noticed a bird flying from the same direction, first thinking it was a sparrowhawk! It flew right overhead and i managed to get a good view of the bird, my best ever in fact! 2 Cuckoos in one day! Not at all bad.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Temminck's Stints

over last weekend there was excitement in the local birding communtity, as a group of Temminck's stints decided to pay the area around besthorpe a visit.

They dropped in a mere 12 hours after i had finished working down at besthorpe on thursday, with 4 being spotted on the new scrapes at Besthorpe south. This is great news as it means that something has been done right to attract a good diversity of birds to the area. Unfortunately i was unable to go down again so i had to hold on and hope they stayed a while.

The next day i checked rarebirdalert, and noticed that 4 now had been seen at collingham new workings. This was encouraging, obviously they'd moved on from Besthorpe but at least they were still in the area. I was at work til 5 but i had planned to go straight afterwards. I eneded up popping home first but managed to be on atrain t collingham by 18.15, and arrived in the village at 7.

I went down towards the quarry site, enjoying the balmy summery evening. It looked like rain and was quite overcast, but was lovely and warm and quite humid so was enjoyable to cycle in, and it was very peaceful after a day in the office. Farmland birds were everywhere, especially Yellowhammers, which are particularly abundant in this part of the county, birds were constantly singing from every hedge. I disturbed a large flock of what were most likely Linnet and a mix of other finches from a stubble field too. There was also plenty of warblers about, the most notable being many Whitethroats whose songs exploded from within the well managed and mature hedgerows along the roads.

I got to the first part of the quarry, with a terrible view point between the hedge, although it did give a good comanding view of a new pit which had recently been dug and was now full of water. A male shelduck was snoozing on a spit, and there were a few lapwing moving about too. It didnt look too promising but i set my scope up anyway. After a glance through my bins, i suddenly realised there was a couple of small birds on the near side of the water. I looked in my scope but with it being cheap and the light being poor now, i stuggled to make them out apart from being very small waders. I soon lost them and set about scanning the rest of the pool.

A couple of plovers were noted on the far bank, with one feeding near the shelduck, but it was difficult against the ground and from such a distance to work out the species. I kept on looking and then, just as i was looking back at the shelduck, the little waders turned up again. I got out the collins guide and flicked to temmincks, but still i couldnt clinch an ID. These birds were too far away for my rubbish scope and the only thing i could go on was their size. They looked to me like a mix between a common sandpiper and a dunlin, but smaller than a ringed plover (in comparison to the birds nearby. It was terribly frustrating.

Luckily a couple of other birders turned up and confirmed the ID for me. One of them had an excellent scope which all of us got a good look through. The birds were easily seen and although they looked quite non-descript, the gentleman pointed out the mottling to its feathers and the general pale colouration. This along with the size and the fact that the main confusion species, the little stint, were unlikely at this time of year, being more an autum passeage migrant, confirmed the ID. the scope revealed the ID of the plovers too, 1 was ringed the other little ringed. This was great as i have never seen a Ringed Plover either, so two lifers in one sitting.

They soon left to get their tea, and left me waiting as i still had a while to wait to get my train. I continued watching the birds, and managed to see 5 altogether, one feeding by the ringed plover, and a further 4 feeding over by a little ringed plover. I left after about half an hour and made my way back to the village. On the way back i checked to see if the barn owl was at Brierleys Meadow, a little reserve managed by the wildlife trust, and was pleased to see one of them as soon as i biked up to the gate. It soon glided over but looked amazing and ghostly in the failing light. I didnt disturb it any longer and moved on promptly.

One final thing of note is the path which leads past brierleys and eventually ends up at besthorpe south is a yellowhammer hotspot. Flocks of 50-100 birds are often present and birds can be seen up and down the lane. I'm planning at some point to go down and take some photos - hopefully setting up a feeding station and hide. As always though, the best laid plans... - i often plan things like this but never act on them.... we'll see eh?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Besthorpe - 5th May

I have been volunteering with the Notts Wildlife Trust for quite a while now, and we have been doing work over the last few months at Besthorpe Nature Reserve, near Newark. Huge amounts of re-landscaping have been done to attempt to create a better habitat for birds and other wildlife, including creating shallows and wet grassland around the large pit in the southern part of the reserve - as well as creating a sand martin bank and several islands. In the northern part of the reserve, we have been planting a new reedbed and hopefully in the future this area will be a haven for wetland wildlife.

While working there i have seen plenty of wildlife, but today we had a wander around the reserve before embarking on more reed planting and fencing, and over the day i saw so much birdlife, showing that it already is a great place for birds and will hopefully improve over time.

On the southern edge of the reserve on 'mons pool', there were lots of geese, but in the distance were several Shelduck pairs. Walking further round we noticed a few Little Ringed Plover which were running about on a small island. On further inspection it turned out there were as many as six birds, the most i've seen at once (well it beats ONE haha), as well as my first Dunlin of the year (and only my second ever!). We continued to walk round to look at the Sand Martins which i have seen a few times already here, and there were hundreds of them flying about like a swarm, going in and out of their nests in the sandbank that had been created for them only months before... there is apparently around 500 nest holes which is incredible.

We then moved to the northern part of the site to start work, and while working there were plenty of Warblers to be heard. This has been the case every week recently, as there is good habitat surrounding the new reedbeds. There were lots of whitethroat singing from the scrub, and in the woodlands that surround the reeds there were the sounds of willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap all day. New for me here though were the many Reed Warblers which could be heard singing away from the patch of dry reedbed, as well as a Grasshopper Warbler which had been reeling intermittently throughout the day. I also heard my first Turtle Dove of the year on two occasions...

Not many birds were noted passing over, though sometimes a lot do, but the highlight of the day was a Yellow Wagtail that flew overhead and landed a few metres from where we were working. It soon clocked us and flew off towards the arable land to the east.

I don't normally see too much when i'm out with the trust - but today was really exceptional - 2 year ticks (Dunlin and Turtle dove) and a brilliant host of other birds!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Clifton, May 3rd

Had a bikeride to clifton today - i've been meaning to for a while as i've wanted to photograph the wild garlic once it had come into flower. I wasn't disappointed, as it was literally in flower everywhere. The smell was lovely and it was quite a sight to behold too. I'll post some pics tomorrow.

The birding around clifton has been great by the looks of things, according to Rob Hoare's website www.cliftongrovebirds.co.uk. All sorts has been seen over the last few weeks, although when i go down i always seem to miss most of what i go to find. Over the last few weeks there has been Brambling and Ring Ouzel (which i failed to locate a couple of weeks back), hordes of wheatear (which have eluded me this year), and recently, continental races of Yellow wagtail, white fronted goose, a CRANE and loads more. Keep an eye on his site it really is an excellent resource.

I had a short walk around the grove today to see if i could pick up on anything. My main aim was to see what was around at the weir, as yesterday 2 dunlin, a common sandpiper and a green sandpiper were seen. On the way i saw a peregrine flying high over the trent, gliding on the thermals as well as quite a few Common Terns, feeding with a small group of black headed gulls.

Down at the weir, I sat by the river for a while scanning the banks, but all i saw were swans mallards and a grey heron. I was about to give up when somehow i managed to spot a Common Sandpiper sitting motionless on a concrete pillar which was half submerged in the water. It was difficult to identify at a distance, but i managed to get a little closer and peek at it through some bushes. It eventually clocked me and flew off, clinching its ID. first of the year!

I was also rather hoping to pick up on some swifts today as a few had moved through over the weekend but was left disappointed, although there were a few swallows about at the weir, and as i was walking down a path 2 sand martins passed me within a metre away which was cool. I ventured over the 'weir field' towards the yellow gate pond, where on the way i counted around 25 Lapwing in a cow field. They weren't displaying and seemed quite stationary, leading me to believe that they may be guarding some eggs, as i also didnt see any chicks about. Around the group of cows and calves i also saw 3 Yellow Wagtails, a first for the year for me, and 2 more passed overhead. Also in the field were around 100 Starling and several Linnet.

Warblers were everywhere today. In the wooded areas blackcaps were noted everywhere, but the real stars of the day were the Whitethroats. I probably noted around 20 birds today, more often heard than seen, but a few were being particularly showy - especially when there were more than one bird in a tree, chasing each other around and being very vocal. At Holme pit there were reed warblers singing and i even managed to see a couple pretty well, as well as hearing the more scratchy song of the sedge warblers. A couple of reed bunting were noted too.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Starting over!

Right i've fallen behind again, but with the fact that a few people have started reading my blog again, i'm going to try to keep up. I had begun writing a LONG post detailing everything i'd done over the past few weeks, and even though it was a good few weeks, it seemed a mammoth task trying to remember everything, even with the help of BTO birdtrack.

So, i will start from here, although when i get home i'll do a little highlight post, as i have seen some good birds and taken some good photos over the weeks. I'll try and keep it up (my brother does a music blog EVERY day - too much time on his hands haha!)

So today i went out for a brief visit to Netherfield Lagoons, it would have been nice to stay longer, but against the theme of the last few weeks of lovely warm sunny weather, it turned out to be very windy and cold. In my shorts i didnt last long, so just did a recce of the reserve, concentrating on the slurry lagoon, before heading off.

The reason i visited today was the fact that there had been a drake Garganey sighted over the weekend, so i rushed down after seeing a report at 8 30am that it was still present. I got to the slurry lagoon and set my scope up on a fencing post and scanned the water. Lots of gulls, a scattering of Gadwall and a mix of coots and mallards... hmm...

I moved further down the path and scanned again, and then noticed a small group of Teal nestling in the reeds, out of the wind. Having only recently discovered that Garganey are of a similar size, i scrutinized the patch of reeds, and was rewarded finally with a little duck, chestnut brown, with a pale midriff and that tell-tale white eyestripe. Well... sort of. It all added up eventually, but as the bird was so far away, asleep and tucked in the reeds, it was difficult to match up all these features in one, but once i had confirmed it, it was obvious and my first ever sighting of this rare visitor to our shores.

Elsewhere was a bit of birdlife but the wind made viewing difficult, though there were lots of hirundines about. In their conspecific flocks were Swallows, mainly swooping low over the deep pit and over the trees by the lower path, Sand Martins, sticking closer to the river, and high over the Slurry Lagoon were my first House Martins of the year - easily recognised from sand martins by their more forked tail, lack of neck band and white rump (it would have been difficult to tell from the colour as they were against a grey sky.

I actually went on saturday to the lagoons, so i wasnt too bothered about sticking around, as i had seen plenty then, and it was lovely and sunny that day. The highlight of that day was definately my first Hobby of the year which appeared over the scrubland as i sat on the bench overlooking the gravel pits. It quartered the area for a while, allowing me some excellent views, before dropping into some trees not to be seen again. 2 reeling Grasshopper Warblers and a massive amount of Sedge and Reed Warblers also made the day special, as well as seeing a kingfisher fly downriver while watching the hirundines under the railway bridge.

What a great reserve!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Toads!

After volunteering with the Wildlife Trust last thursday at Farndon Willow Holt, we stopped off at Ploughman's wood near Lambley on the way back. It was wonderful walking through the wood with lots of Wood Anenomes and other woodland flowers carpeting the ground. We checked out the small pond on the southern edge of the wood on our way out, and was greeted with a huge congregation of mating toads. There must have been hundreds of toads in the pond making a massive racket and fighting against each other to attatch themselves to the females. It was a true spectacle to behold, with the toads allowing us to get ridiculously close to observe them.

The next day i finished work early so got on my bike and cycled to the reserve again with my camera, stopping off at another reserve in Lambley to see if there were any more amphibians there, but there weren't that many... At Ploughman's however, there were still many toads about and although the light was failing, i still managed to get plenty of shots.

Here's a selection of the best images.















Sunday, 27 March 2011

This week (march 21st-27th)

The weather this week has been absolutely fantastic, meaning that i've been able to get out and about on my bike, even wearing shorts and t shirts!


On monday, i went to wollaton with a few friends, but didn't really do a lot of wildlife watching, but i did bump into a wildlife photographer named Wolf (www.wolf-photography.com) who had spent the last few days down there photographing the local wildlife. He was most interested in photographing aggressive coot behaviour and i have seen some excellent results of his patience. We spent some time watching herons in their nests too. Otherwise there was still a few Gadwall on the lake, and lots of noisy geese, but little else was noted.


I left early(ish) on tuesday morning for a bike ride to Attenborough, the sun was shining and i had a great day. On the way down i heard my first Chiffchaffs of the year, probably counting around ten throughout the whole day. Also of note were a grey wagtail at Beeston weir, and over the river i could see lapwings displaying over the farmers fields.


I was going to spend some time in the Delta Hide today, but the padlock has been changed so i had to press on. I parked up my bike after glancing over to the main pond, counting a few Goldeneye and Goosander amongst the gulls. Walking round, it was clear spring was in the air as lots of birds were singing loudly and there was quite a lot of activity on the water. I got som swan photos that i'm pretty happy with, of an obliging bird near the path. Nesting herons were everywhere in their massive treetop nests, and there were lots of singing finches tits and thrushes.


I walked through the little wooded area next to the village green, where there were once again plenty of passerines, and it was here that i layed eyes on my first visible Chiffchaff of the year, it was flitting about restlessly on top of a willow tree, and was lovley to watch.


Moving on, i looked over the tween scrapes to see if there was anything of interest. There were handful of Lapwing and a few teal amongst a throng of gulls, as well as the trusty pair of Shelduck, and once again, feeding in the same place as last time, a Redshank. I then moved on to the kingfisher hide, where lots of birds were using the feeders, although no Tree Sparrows this time. A couple of Oystercatcher also passed through over towards the island on clifton pond, but were lost from view shortly after.

There were still a few ducks about when i sat watching out of the tower hide, mostly Shoveler and a few Gadwall, as well as a couple of Goldeneye. There were also plenty of Lapwing about amongst the masses of gulls. The highlight however came when i left the hide and heard the loud tell-tale call of a Cetti's Warbler, my first of the year, ringing out clearly from the brambles on the wheatear field, i heard another one too on my way through the wet marsh and back home.

On the way back i decided i'd go and have a look at the Lapwings displaying over the river at clifton. En route i heard even more Chiffchaffs singing in the sunshine, and even chanced upon 8 Goosander and 4 Goldeneye, clinging on near clifton bridge. The lapwings didnt disappoint, and i saw around 20 birds on the field, although viewing them was quite difficult. The farmer was ploughing the field so hopefully this has been done early enough not to deter them from breeding. While there, i did see a few birds in display, and even a few mobbing corvids, so this is encouraging behaviour. A small flock of Linnet passed overhead when i was there too.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent volunteering with the Wildlife Trust, on two absolutely stunning days in the sun. It felt almost like midsummer! Birding wise, i didnt get much done, but there were once again a lot of Chiffchaffs singing loudly, and on the thursday at fardon, 3 Buzzards were seen displaying in the morning, and then at dinner time we were treated to a displaying sparrowhawk, the first i've actually seen doing this. It was after this that we went to ploughmans wood, to see the toads breeding away.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bristol Trip

Almost exactly to the day, i visited bristol a year ago. I went again for a long weekend, and have just come back. Socialising was the main point of going, but whenever we go down there, i always manage to get a little bit of birding done too.

On the friday i went to Clevedon with my friend as he works in a tattoo shop there. We had a wander down to the seafront to have a look for some coastal birds. The first thing i saw was a collection of gulls on the sea wall, with 3 Oystercatchers, my first of the year. Shortly after i had a scan of the rocks below the sea wall, where i found 7 Turnstone, a bird that is very much a bird of the shoreline, so not recorded very often in landlocked nottinghamshire! I also got myself a lifer down there, looking cross the rocks, i heard a pipit, and there standing on a large boulder was my first ever Rock Pipit. A wonderful little bird, and i saw another one a little later too.

I returned to the seafront when the tide had gone out, exposing the large mudflats. Wehad a good viewpoint across the mud, and there were a few birds about, including 2 Curlew, another year tick, and a bird i still haven't chanced upon back home.

Later in the weekend, we took the dog out for a walk at the National Trust's Leigh Woods reserve on the edge of avon gorge on the outskirts of Bristol. It was a beautiful day and the woodland was one of the best i've ever visited, with a good diversity of mature trees, and evidence of excellent forestry management, with a brilliant understorey dominated by coppiced hazel. The woods are known for ravens and peregrines, and while the former remained absent, a peregrine was seen to fly overhead at one point. 3 Buzzards were also seen riding the thermals above the gorge, looking wonderful as they turned in the sunshine. The commoner woodland birds were evident everywhere as well, singing away happily in the early spring sunshine. Found some delicious wild garlic too!

Apparently some spring migrants have already arrived in nottinghamshire including chiffchaff, swallow and sand martin, so i will be out and about later in the week, expect more to come!!!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Attenborough 8th march

FINALLY a bit of sunshine. its been glorious this week, and thanks to some half days at work i've been able to go appreciate it. I was going to go to Clifton on monday, but a friend was over, so we ended up walking to holme pierrepont instead, seeing a Barn Owl on the way back at dusk.

On tuesday i finished work at 12, got home and had some food and headed to Attenborough. It was still nice and sunny, but a little bit more windy,making it harder going on the bike. It also meant i couldn't hear much while cycling along. I stopped at beeston weir to see if much was about, and was treated to the sight of a couple of grey wagtails, which i dont see all that often.

I continued on to attenborough, not stopping at the delta today. I stopped to view over the main pond where a large flock of gulls were, and in the distance spotted a couple of Goosander flocks, numbering around 25 birds.

After locking my bike up, i walked round tween pond toward the visitor centre. It certainly felt like the transition of winter to spring was underway, as it was still a little fresh (cold) but the sun was shining and the birds were a lot more noisy and active. There was a lot of activity by the green bridge, where various tits and finches were singing loudly, as well as a few dunnock. I walked through the wooded area which leads to the church pond and car park, stopping to photograph birds at the ol' stump again (see last attenborough post). I couldnt take many as yet again it was very busy and people kept disturbing the birds. A glance through the trees resulted in a view of a Goldcrest, its bright yellow crest shining brightly in the sun. It moved through the trees and perched at eye level, and i missed photographing it in perfect light by a millisecond, before it flew off and everntually was lost from view.

I was excited/anxious to get to the tween scrapes and clifton pond, as there have been some good birds spotted around these areas of late. I checked the water around the scrapes and there was a huge colony of Black Headed Gulls. These birds breed in abundance at the reserve, and already there were displaying males and some aggressive behaviour being portrayed. The raucous sounds of these birds dominate the reserve all year round, but particularly in the breeding season. Also seen were a few Herring Gulls, birds which are not often seen here. On the far scrape was a pair of Shelduck, asleep amongst the noisy gulls, probably the pair which return here each spring, although i've not seen them with young. The highlight however, was when i got my scope out to check the teal which were milling about near the lakebank, and came across a Redshank, the first i've seen at the reserve. I was really hoping to see something special, especially a wader, so i was really chuffed to get such a good sighting of this red-legged bird.

I was keen to move on quickly as i wanted to get back before dusk so i could watch for the barn owl near holme pierrepont, so i decided against going to the kingfisher hide, and instead went straight for the tower hide. I spent some time counting wildfowl as usual, and obviously due to the time of year, many had departed. The main species were Shoveler, of which there were aroud 60 birds, closely followed by teal, which numebered around 30. Wigeon were completely absent, which is odd as they have been so abundant over the last few months, but i guess they have decided to depart back to their breeding grounds. I'll look forward to hearing their whistling once again in the colder months.

Otherwise there were yet more gulls, moslty on the islands, where the vegetation has been cut down. This is good for the breeding gulls and terns, but a little sad as the snipe always liked it in there, but it'll be covered again come autumn. There were also a good few goldeneye about, mostly females, but otherwise it was reasonably quiet. I'm looking forward to spring and summer to see what waders start dropping in on the ponds.

Over the other side, there was a male Kestrel in the nest box, for the second year in a row, hopefully the pair will once again raise young successfully. Most exciting however, was news from a fellow birder that there had been a Cetti's Warbler in the brambles in the wheatear field. I studied the area for a while, but all i saw were Long Tailed tits and was fooled by a wren at one point, but didnt hear a peep from the warbler. It wasn't until i was leaving the hide that all of a sudden, the bird exploded into its sudden burst of song, only a few metres from me, but i didnt manage to see it (as usual!)

On my way back, there were a few birds in the trees on the wet marsh path, and i thought i heard a marsh tit-like sound. However i located the bird, and it was another Goldcrest. Good to see that these birds have fared reasonably well through the winter, along with the Cetti's.

So in all a good day, i didnt, unfortunately, see the barn owl again in the evening, but as its only a few minutes ride from my house, i'll have plenty of oppurtunity to see it again hopefully.