Thursday, 15 March 2012

A nice weeks birding - March 15th

The weather this week has almost been the same everyday. Cloudy and a bit grim in the morning, then gradually getting sunnier throughout the day. I've been lucky enough to spend every day outside which is really nice.

On monday , following reports of several Rough Legged Buzzards around Nottingham, I decided that i'd go to Gedling Pit Top to see if there were any there, as reported. Sadly there were no rough-legs, although some close scrutiny on a common buzzard revealed it to be quite pale, but a common nonetheless! It was really quite wonderful on the top of the pit though, with the sun shining and countless skylarks singing from all directions, and showing quite well as they sang so low down. Several Meadow Pipit, my first of the year, and a number of displaying Lapwing, made it worthwhile visiting this site. A single Teal was also noted on one of the ponds at the bottom of the site.

On tuesday i visited a very similar habitat, Annesley Pit, or Bentinck Void, or Bogs Farm Quarry. Its hard to tell which was which, as i'm very unfamiliar with the area. Much the same birdlife was noted, with more skylarks and meadow pipits enjoying this type of terrain, much as they do across similar nsites in the county. Another couple of buzzards were seen, and again scrutinised (damn variable birds!), resulting in them being Common Buzzards once again. There are some large waterbodies at the bottom of the pit which were being used by a variety of waterfowl, including a couple of Pochard, a Little Grebe and several other species. The highlight of the day however was hearing my first singing Chiffchaff of 2012, always a wonderful start to the warmer months, letting us know that spring has arrived. I was thinking i may see some migrants this week, but was rather expecting Sand martin to be first, as it was the year before, but no the chiffchaff took the glory this year and a whole 9 days earlier than . Several butterflies were also noted, also my first of the spring, a red admiral and some small tortoiseshells.

Today i was out at Besthorpe again and the day didn't begin promisingly, as there was a thick blanket of fog across the county, and at the reserve the visibility was terrible. However as the day wore on, the sun broke through and the fog dissipated. There were loads of birds about today, including 20 Shelduck (looks like it could be a good year for them here) and quite alot more waterfowl. The poor visibility, mixed with a lack of bins when observing them, made me think i'd seen some little ringed plovers, as a few little birds were zipping about on some of the scrapes. However, once i got some bins on them when the fog had lifted they turned out to be Pied Wagtails (!). In the late afternoon a noisy oystercatcher flew high over to the north, and about an hour later another 3 landed on one of the islands, piping away. It looked like a pair which were dealing with an interloper, and the single bird soon got chased off and the other 2 quietened down. A Little Egret was noted, the first one i've seen here for a while, and the heronry and cormorant colony seemed to be taking shape with lots of noise and nest building activity in evidence.

Passerines were well represented too, again with Skylarks taking centre stage, providing a backing track for the entire day. Several meadow pipits flew over, and on the newly ploughed land on the north bank of Mons Pool, there were up to around 30 Reed Bunting, obviously finding something to snack on. Small flocks of fieldfare and redwing were passing west all day, but there were some flocks of near to 100 birds at times - there's not going to be long before these winter visitors are a distant memory, until they reappear to cause excitement once again when the autumn arrives.

As i said before, Besthorpe is an exciting reserve at the moment, as it is developing into a more mature site. The amount of birds being seen and the diversity of species show that it has some potential, so hopefully the rest of the year will bring some interesting sightings.

Off to attenborough tomorrow :)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A sunny day at Besthorpe 1st March

As if on cue, the weather, which had been gloomy at best the last couple of days, stepped up the game when it realised it was the first day of March - arguably the first month of spring! I was working at Besthorpe nature reserve, clearing some of the trees around the hides to allow better views of the newly landscaped Mons pool, and the sun was shining all day!

The birds seem to be enjoying the new habitat here which is a re-working of the old lake, complete with new muddy scrapes, shallow banks and islands. Its been a good spot for birds for years, but hopefully now, with a bit of management, more will be attracted to the reserve at all times of the year.

Shelducks were the stars of the show today, i counted 18 across the reserve, a personal record for me, the site last year held a few, but 18 was brilliant. They looked lovely in the sunshine with their stunning plumage and bright red bills. Hopefully the majority will find it suitable here to breed. Other ducks were present too with small numbers of Teal, Mallard and Gadwall, and my first Nottinghamshire Pintails. I've been after seeing pintail in notts for ages and finally have caught up with them, a pair which were quite elusive but again looked resplendent in the sunshine.

The reserve is a good one for attracting passing waders and although the majority don't stay long, the summer months can bring some surprises, while longer stayers include Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover. Today they were represented by 7 Redshank, probably wintering birds as they are often noted here over the winter months. Small flocks of upto around 100 Lapwing passed overhead intermittently too.

Recently a small feeding station has been set up near the main bird hide, and this was busy with bickering Goldfinches, a few Great Tits, as well as good numbers of Reed Bunting. With reedbeds establishing on the reserve, its good that this species seems to be doing well, and it's encouraging to see them so happily using the feeders.

I'm excited to see what drops in over the next few months, and hopefully we'll get some nice breeding birds too. What the reserve needs now is a bit of vegetation, as the reprofiling has left a lot of it looking a bit barren, so we'll have to see how the young reeds we planted last year do, as well as anything else that happens to grow.

Clifton 25th February

Following reports that a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been seen near the churchyard at the top of clifton grove, I got the bus on saturday morning to the area, for a couple of hours' birding before i went to work.
Sadly, i didn't catch up with the lesserpecker, but it had been seen, it seems it just made itself scarce for when i was there! However, i did have a very productive walk and the sunshine really made it feel as if spring was in the air!
I walked across the top of the grove, where loads of birds were singing loudly. Dunnocks, Great tits and Chaffinches made up most of the chorus, but there were a few Greenfinch, Song Thrush and various others chipping in. Walking down the grove i noted 5 Goldcrests in seperate locations, one i observed feeding within 2 metres of me, hovering from branch to branch in a horse chestnut, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Again, sadly... NO CAMERA!!
I scanned the tree tops for some time around the car park and churchyard but couldn't place the woodpecker, although on the way i had seen 3 of its Greater Spotted relatives! I wandered down the hill to the riverside paths, noting a Coal Tit, and the 6th Goldcrest of the day. More birdsong filled the woods as i progressed onto the weir field. There was nothing of interest on the river, but walking across the fields produced 4 Skylark, two of which were busy pouring their beuatiful sounds down upon from the heavens. My first singing skylarks of the year, and how awesome they are!
With time pressing on, I finished off by walking round Holme Pit and on the way i flushed 2 Grey Partridge, an uncommon bird in this part of the area. A Little Grebe was heard at the pond, before being located close to the reeds, and an invisible Water Rail was also noted, squealing from within the vegetation. Wildflowers were just poking through, with the ubiquitous Dogs Mercury adding a splash of green to the woodland floor, along with patchy clumps of Snowdrop and a few leaves of Cuckoo Pint. The weather and the wildlife, especially the singing Skylarks, made it feel very much like spring. Bring on the butterflies and migrants birds!!!