Tuesday, 24 May 2011


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.