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...

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!!!