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!!!!!!!!!!