Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Clifton, 25th Jan

I thought it was about time to get down to clifton for the first time this year, and was going to ride there, stopping off to see the Bewick's swans near Barton, but the bike got a flat tyre so i had to get a bus AGAIN.

The weather was pretty bleak throughout, although the sun did shine for a bit, but i got stuck in a heavy shower while at Holme Pit. Despite this i actually had one of the best days birding i've had in a while.

All was reasonably quiet in Clifton Woods on the path down to Holme Pit, although a few Goldcrest were noted, giving themselves away with their high pitched call, amongst flocks of Long-Tailed Tits (of which there were loads today). A couple of Jay were heard calling loudly too.

Holme pit was quiet, with only a few Tufties, Mallards and Coots along with a single Mute Swan. I stayed for a while, hoping for a sight of a Bittern, but wasn't in luck, although i saw a few Reed Buntings within the Reeds, which was good.

I then turned my attention to the flock of Greylags which had been reported to have contained a Pink-footed goose, but as they kept distant, in an inaccessable field, i couldn't pick it out, although the local feral Ross's Goose was present. Not seen him for a while! While watching, a group of around 40 Skylarks passed overhead, my first of the year.

I decided to go down to Branshill when the Geese flew off towards Attenborough, and on the way was treated to seeing 5 Bullfinch in the hedgerow, along with a few Greenfinch starting to sing (sort of). Over branshill moor all was quiet, except when a Kestrel flew along the woodland edge, causing alarm calls to ring from the local tit flocks. Shortly after a Mistle Thrush began singing for around 10 minutes, its voice echoing over the fields, starkly loud over the relative silence, beautiful.

I went to see what was on the riverside fields, and was pleased to find upwards of 500 birds feeding in the grass, comprising mostly of Startlings and Fieldfares, with the rest made up of around 100 Redwing. I watched and counted these for a while as they restlessly fed, making a lot of noise in the process.

Little else was noted on the way back, other than a Green Woodpecker, and over the Weir field, a flock of around 50 Linnet, sitting on a lonely gnarled hawthorn in the middle of the fields. They soon chattered off as i approached, but i managed to get good views of them through my scope.

I think on Birdtrack, it listed 42 species seen today, which is really good. Very happy with today, although the weather was awful!

Waxwings, 21st Jan

On friday, i had a couple of choices. I could either go to clifton and try to see a bittern, as well as get an easy year tick in the form of the Bewick's Swans which are still there, or i could go to carrington in the city to see if i could catch up with a group of waxwings that had been there for a while.

I thought i'd try both initially, but as i was without a bike and had to rely on public transport, it didn't work out in the end. I messed around for a bit, and then the bus didn't turn up for ages, so i decided to abandon the clifton plan altogether and just have a more relaxed affair with the Waxwings.

I'm glad i did. I got off the bus and the first thing i saw was a flock of the birds overhead. I walked up hucknall road, and couldnt find them, just loads of Mistle Thrush! However, as i walked back down the road i saw some birds going down one of the side-streets, and then i heard them. There in a large plane tree were around 150 Waxwings, making the biggest racket. In groups of only a few birds, they flew back and forth to collect berries from the smallest of Rowan trees, before spooking and flying away when either traffic went by or a Mistle Thrush bullied them away.

There were loads of redwings too, but the Waxwings looked lovely in the clear winter sunshine. I got some shots of them in the trees, and managed a few of them feeding. I've cropped them as i had to take them from across the road.

Satisfied, i hopped on another bus to check out Arnot Hill Park, as sometimes its quite entertaining when there are lots of passerines about. However it was pretty quiet today, so i had to make do with looking at the waterfowl collection. To my surprise they'd added a few Pintail to the collection, which was a nice oppurtunity to get a close look at these handsome ducks.

Also got a couple of shots of this captive Shoveler

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A couple of trips this week

Monday i went on a bikeride on my usual local route to Holme Pierrepont. Not a great deal was about, as the lakes had thawed, so most birds will have gone elsewhere. However i did see a number of wildfowl on the other lakes surrounding the rowing course, they were just a bit more spread out. There were quite a lot of gadwall about today, i counted over 30, as well as the usual wildfowl, mostly tufted ducks. A good number of Goldeneye were about too today, but i couldnt get great views of them, as they kept swimming away,now the ice has thawed (d'oh!). I spotted a bird on the ski-tow lake that looked interesting, it was a lot smaller than the other ducks, but it was in a really awkward position on the other side of the lake and the sun was in my eyes. I went over the other side to try and get another view but it had moved. However, a female goldeneye feeding nearby led me to think it was just her, rather than anything rarer! ( i still love goldeneye though!)

On Tuesday, the sun was shining bright so i hopped on my bike and rode to attenborough for the first time in ages. It was a lovely morning, if a little cold, and there were plenty of small birds hopping about the bushes all the way there. I didnt have a brilliant day at the reserve, it was pretty quiet in all.

I sat at the delta hide waiting to see a bittern (or anything else exciting) and as it was the first time i've been there since it thawed, it was nice to see plenty of birds about on this lovely quiet sanctuary. There were a lot of Wigeon and Gadwall feeding on the lake, which looked lovely in the sunshine, along with a handful of Pochard and Shoveler. A falcon of some sort, possibly peregrine, flew from the trees just before i left.... no Bittern though!

I biked past the main pond, stopping periodically to survey the birds, and there were quite a few Goosander about, around 16.

I wandered round the rest of the reserve, hoping to see something good. There were a lot of passerines about today, especially Robins and roving tit-flocks. Despite looking quite a lot, i didnt see anything out of the ordinary in any of them, but it was lovely to see the reserve such a hive of activity. I went to see if there was much of interest at the Kingfisher hide, but there wasn't much about as a cat was there, terrorising a squirrel, these are becoming a nuisance at the reserve and i can't imagine the damage they'll do in nesting season.

It was pretty quiet at the tower hide too, there were some groups of wildfowl here and there, including quite a few Teal on the central island, as well as all the other common ducks. Several goldeneye were also dotted about, as well as a large flock of Black Headed gulls to the left of the lake. Some of these birds were already getting their breeding plumage. On the otherside, over on the Tween Pond, there were around 90 Lapwing, the best count i've had here for a while. The highlight of the day however was seeing a couple of snipe in their usual spot on the spit on the end of the reedbeds.

So not a bad day, all the passerines and brightly coloured ducks looked nice in the sunshine, but i feel it could have been a better day bird-wise.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Smew - Holme Pierrepont

Had a visit to holme pierrepont on my bike on wednesday, as i only had half a day working with the wildlife trust. It was a pretty grim day but there was still a lot to be seen. There was a lot of low lying fog which was especially evident over the water, which made viewing difficult but looked very cool.

On the ride down to the watersports centre, there wasn't much to see apart from common wildfowl and gulls, though i did pick up on a few Common Gulls. I rode over the slalom course to have a look at the lock, and as expected there was a group of lapwings sat on the moorings. I counted around 65 birds, and it was quite nice to see them relatively close up. Not much else was about however, other than a good number of Cormorants.

I then rode across to the Rowing Course to see what wildfowl was about. It was around 70% frozen, with the rest of the ice very thin, so pretty much thawed. This also meant that the birds were a lot more widely distributed. A lot of commoner birds were about, but there were some hidden gems. Highlights included Goldeneye, of which i counted 14 birds, and they don't seem too shy here, quite content with watching you from not too far away, but any sudden movement and down they go. There were also around 25 Gadwall dotted about, as well as a couple of Pochard, but the jewel in the crown had to be a female SMEW which was about as far away as it could have been from me, but i still got some good views. This is my first 'lifer' of the year so i watched for a while, but aside from standing up on the ice to flap its wings, it didnt really do much but just sit there. Still, i got to appreciate it and compare it to my previous experience of other female sawbills. Very similar, but a LOT smaller.

Otherwise there wasn't too much about, i got a final count of around 12 Common Gull, including a nice 1st winter bird, as well as a couple of Greater Black Backs flying over while i was eating a sandwich at the Skylarks reedbed. I also saw a few wagtails including my first Grey Wagtail of the year.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Attenborough - 7th Jan

Had my first visit to Attenborough for the year today. I got up early as i had an appointment this afternoon, so i aimed to be there for around 9ish. However, heavy snow and sleet kept me indoors until around 11, so i didnt get there til gone 12. This proved to be annoying, as it meant i only spent around an hour at the reserve!!! Not enough time at all!

I had a quick scan around the industrial estates when i got off the bus for Waxwings, but there were none about, so i walked down barton lane towards the reserve. In the paddocks next to the road were a flock of Redwing, but it was hard to see how many, but i estimated around 30.

Walking onto the reserve (though from this direction it is more like a building site), i scanned Church pond, which was about80% frozen. In the thawed bits though were loads of Coot, Mute Swan and Mallard, along with a count of 27 Gadwall, and 2 RED-CRESTED POCHARD. I then wandered towards the visitor centre and on the path was a small tit flock. I heard a high pitched noise which i recognised as a Goldcrest, and sure enough, i encountered one flitting between the branches. At one point it was hovering like a hummingbird, which i've never seen before, and it was feeding within a metre of me at times. (Didnt take my camera though as it was so dull - balls!)

I visited the 'willow peninsula' behind the visitor centre today, as a couple of willow tits have been recently recorded there. Unfortunately today i was unlucky and didn't see it, but a good mix of familiar 'garden' birds were present, as well as a couple of Tree Sparrow and a pair of Egyptian Geese.

Over the footbridge i went, noting down a pair of Goosander, one of which was seen at very close quarters (didnt realise they were so big!). I recorded a few more of these and a handful of Goldeneye later on on Coneries too. In the trees on the path through the ponds was a large mobile tit flock, and surprisingly i stumbled upon 2 Treecreepers (new for me at the reserve). Again, one fed within a metre from me, and again i kicked myself for not having my camera, NOT an easy species to photograph and what a missed opportunity!!!

My next mission was to see some Bitterns, as they have recently been seen on the stream behind the fields that runs out onto the trent. However they were absent today, but 4 Grey Heron were fishing there, along with...bizarrely... 2 Pusscats. I moved onto the river path from here to see if i could see the 1st w male Smew, but again was unlucky. However, a group of c100 Wigeon were seen feeding over at cottages flash, and 3 very noisy Fieldfare flew low overhead.

Not much else was noted, and it began to rain. Feeling a bit wet and deflated, i decided it was time to go, especially as i had that appointment. A flock of around 100 Goldfinch sitting atop a few trees were the last thing i saw in the reserve. I was 15 minutes late for my appointment.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Hoveringham 4th Jan

Another day, another birdwatch! i couldnt resist getting a train to Lowdham today with my bike so i could bike to Caythorpe and Hoveringham to look for the Great White Egret and Whooper Swans which were reported on rarebirdalert.

I set of on my bike from lowdham, and found the spot where i thought i had to be. No egret, no whoopers. I did find a small group of Mute Swans in a field, so got the scope out, but couldnt see any whoopers. Feeling dejected, i got on my bike again and went down to hoveringham.

On the river, i heard the sound of Wigeon, and sure enough, there were about 200 of them on the river, and a few feeding on the banks. On the opposite side there was a group of around 300 Canada Goose too.

Moving on towards the Hoveringham gravels, i saw a large flock of Fieldfare feeding in some stubble, possibly around 100 birds. Later on my way back, these had been joined by more and the final flock numbered around 300! I've not seen many around my usual patches, so the farmland around here must be a lot more suited to their needs.

Approaching the gravel pits i soon noticed they were frozen over. I had a quick glance through my bins and noticed that there were a few birds congregated over towards the middle of the Railway pit, so i decided seeing as i'd come all this way, that i might as well walk round and have a look. I got my scope out when i got down there, as there was an area of open water which was crammed with birds. There were several gulls about, mostly black headed, but there were also 6 Herring Gull, 16 Great Black Backed and a handful of Common Gulls too. There were also a few hundred ducks, including around 150 Mallard, and over 100 Teal. On one of the islands, there was also a Grey heron, and on the grassy banks in front of me were several Pied Wagtails and a single Meadow Pipit.

Not bad then, i thought, although it was a bit annoying that i'd gone all that way for not that much of interest! However, on the way back i was scanning the fields as i rode, and noticed in the distance a small group of white things.... They looked a bit like sheep at first, but i decided to get my scope out, and was rewarded with the sight of 9 Whooper Swans!!! Amazing!!! I only saw these for the first time on new years eve, when i saw 2 feeding in a group of Mute swans, along with 4 Bewick's. To see 9 was great, especially in notts, as they are not frequently seen. Made my day.

On the way back to the train station, i noticed a white blob in one of the fields, and closer inspection resulted in me seeing a Little Egret! My first winter record of this species, and also the first i've seen in ages. Not quite a Great white, but an excellent sighting nonetheless.

So it was all worth it in the end... not to mention a beautiful day in picturesque rural nottinghamshire :)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Colwick Park, 3rd January

Another update on the day i went out - i wonder how long this will last...

Not much to say unfortunately though.

Watched a Song Thrush feeding in my garden, which was nice to see. I've been putting oats and bread and the odd apple out over the last few weeks, with only a bit of interest from a robin and some blackbirds, i need to get some hanging feeders for all the Tits that are constantly about. The thrush was happily pecking away at the last of the breadcrumbs, so when it had finished i went out and topped it up.

I then went out to Colwick Park, as i haven't been for ages, to see if there were some interesting wildfowl out there, but the lakes had completely frozen over, so all there was was a few black headed and common gulls. The woodland was reasonably busy though with all the common birds about, but the highlight was a couple of Goldcrest feeding amongst a large tit flock.

When i got home i did some washing up, and noticed a group of around 10 Redwing in next doors tree, 9 flew off leaving one which sat for quite a while, before following the rest when it realised it was alone.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

First trip out 2011

Yesterday was a bit of a write off as i was at work most of the day, i did however see a flock of c30 Redwing, which were my first birds of 2011. By the end of the day i had 5 species on my year list!!!

Today though that number has shot up to 40. boosted in the morning when i was greeted with 7 species in my back garden, including the resident Coal Tit, which is always great to see. I topped up the food rations out there and then hopped on my bike for quite a cold ride to Holme Pierrepont.

I was hoping to see a smew or two, but unfortunately i was unsuccessful. I did however have a nice ride down there, and managed to see a nice set of species. On the moorings near the canoe course, there were 30 Lapwing, which i sort of knew were going to be there, but the expected Redshanks were absent. However, once i'd gone around the regatta, one flew overhead calling loudly as it went. Thats a good start to the year list, i didnt get Redshank until october in 2010!!!!

I thought i'd go and increase my list by visiting the reedbeds which i had been working on a few weeks back with the Wildlife Trust at their Skylarks reserve. I hoped to hear a water rail and even maybe see a Bittern (ha!) but i was unsucessful, however i did manage my first Greater Spotted Woodpecker of the year, and a handsome Common Buzzard which was sat in a tree. It may have been a juvenile or maybe just typically variable, as it had pale streaking on its chest, not unlike a female hen harrier. When i flew off i also made my exit, and went to check out the wildfowl and gulls on the regatta.

There were no smew, which was disappointing, but it was made better by the 2 drake and 8 female Goldeneye which showed well, amongst a host of other ducks, including 4 teal, 2 gadwall and several Pochard. The gulls were mostly black headed, but there were a few Commons inclusing a large 1st winter bird which had me guessing.

I'm currently at work, and i got one last tick of the day as i was walking in, the peregrine which roosts in town, lovley.

2010 IS OVER

I have got hopelessly behind on my blog for 2010, so i am going to give it up and start fresh for the new year. I will however do a little round up of the year.

2010 was my first year PROPERLY birdwatching, in that I recorded pretty much everything i saw, wrote a blog, and generally watched birds a lot more seriously and often. I've made some friends and contacts along the way, learned a LOT about birds and the local area, and travelled to places that i otherwise would not have visited. It has also provided me with a source of regular exercise, in the form of my bicycle, without which i wouldn't do much birding at all (or it would cost me an arm and a leg). So in all i think its a pretty good hobby.

As i haven't recorded stuff properly before, this year gave me a whole host of lifers and year ticks, and a lot of birds which now seem familiar were new ones for me, even though i've more than likely set eyes on them before, just without taking an interest. Species as common as Whitethroat, Stock Dove and Hobby were all lifers for me this year, along with many others. Even birds like swifts and swallows now seem a lot more common to me, as although i had seen them before, i never noticed them quite as much as i do now. The same goes for birdsong, learning the calls of birds has switched me on and now it is something i notice every time i leave the house, even hearing pied wagtails on the rooftops in the city centre. Its made me a lot more perceptive!!!

So 2010 was a great year, with a grand total of 147 species on my year list, which although it contains a few dodgy escapees (ross's goose, white cheeked pintail, etc), Isn't a bad number at all, but not quite my 150 target!!!!

Highlight birds for me are
  • Bittern - Saw loads early in the year at various sites, and then have seen them return in the autumn at Attenborough and Holme Pit
  • Wildfowl - I regularly counted the wildfowl at Attenborough NR and a few other sites and will continue to do so, also seeing Goldeneyes and Sawbills (including a Red Breasted Merganser!!!) were particularly special.
  • Red Kite - A distant flyby at Attenborough, but a contender for bird of the year
  • Waders - Attenborough provided a good list of waders throughout the year for me, a group of birds i haven't really seen before, particular highlights were Greenshank, Little Ringed Plovers, Snipe and Common Sandpipers. the flock of lapwing at attenborough deserves a mention too - sometimes numbering 350 birds.
  • Brent Geese - I saw around 1200 of these at Frampton Marsh in October
  • Wild Swans - on NYE i managed to see my first Bewick's and Whooper Swans
  • WAXWINGS - After weeks of searching treetops, i finally connected with a small group (8) of these amazing birds in december. There's loads about so i'm hoping to see more.
  • Black Tern - A juvenile bird stayed for over a week at Attenborough this autumn, providing good photo oppurtunities. Also a couple of little terns earlier in the summer were great.
  • Raptors - i saw numerous Hobbies this year, which are incredible little birds, as well as nottinghamshires first recorded Breeding marsh harriers, Incredible. Peregrines kestrels buzzards and merlins all require a mention too, not to mention the Sparrowhawks i've seen.... thats nearly all of the common ones hahah!!!

theres loads more to mention and i can't pick a best, but its been a great year for me. I'm looking forward to what i'll see this year, especially as i am now a much more experienced birdwatcher and know where they might turn up.

i'll DEFINATELY get 150 this year!!!