Thursday, 27 September 2012

Searching for a Slav

A Slavionan Grebe has been knocking about the A52 Pit at Holme Pierrepont this week. I decided as it had been seen yesterday evening that it would be a good idea to spend the morning around HP and then do some more birding elsewhere. The problem with the A52 pit is that its enormous and is in the middle of privately owned land which is inaccessible to the public, and the range of viewpoints for this huge waterbody is restricted, as far as i know, to ONE place next to a stinky pig farm. I had the joyful experience of dipping on a Red-necked Phalarope there last summer, and was worried about it happening again. I got to the view point and set to scanning the tiny area of water that can be seen from it and lo and behold... no Slav! I waited around for a bit but had no joy though there was plenty of other stuff to look at, including a 'flock' of about 12 Crested Grebes all together in the sun. Very nice but the wrong grebe! Some Wigeon were knocking about on the far bank along with a flock of gulls and some lapwings but all too far for my scope to see properly.

After a while I decided to have a wander round the scrubby grassland at the eastern edge of the site where we do the ringing with South Notts Ringing Group.  There was certainly a lot about in the morning sunshine but nothing to write home about. I did however have a pleasant wander about, seeing some Green Woodpeckers, which this site is particularly good for, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and several noisy Jays. A small flock of Siskin flew over and Goldfinches were knocking about too. In the scrub were lots of Long Tailed Tits, along with a few other tits and lots of Chiffchaff were heard calling as well as the odd Bullfinch. Just as I was leaving the site a Cetti's Warbler burst into song several times in succession.

Moving on from this site I cycled over to Clifton to do my final butterfly survey of the year and to see if any Chats were about. Both Whinchat and Stonechat were here over the weekend but again I had no joy. There's usually a good passage of Whinchat towards the end of august and beginning of september with stonechats a bit later but its not been as obvious this year, though I did get sightings of both species in the spring this year.

I had a brilliant afternoon nonetheless, spending 4 hours strolling around the site. Not much of note was seen on the grove where I did my Butterfly survey (which was awful although I wasn't expecting much at this late stage), aside from common garden/woodland birds including several showy Goldcrest. The area of most interest was Cottages Flash, which was much more underwater than last time I was here. It seemed like a wetland paradise, and seemed to have stolen most of its birds from Attenborough. There were at least 250 Lapwing, some of which were making life hard for a singleton Green Sandpiper. There were 2 Grey Heron and 2 Little Egret (my first for the area!) as well as a load of gulls, ducks and geese. Would have been nice to get some snipe or other waders but it was great to watch so many birds in one place. There were around 200 Starling about too.

It was a day for Finches today though. On Branshill moor 2 largish flocks of linnet went through possibly numbering around 120, and near the rough wood another flock of 30 or so birds were very active, and they didn't go unnoticed as a Sparrowhawk ploughed into them at one point, audibly 'whoooshing' through the air but unsuccessful as far as I could tell. A small flock of the resident Bullfinch were about too in the hedgerow. As I worked the hedgerow at Branshill, several Siskin flocks went over and I was treated to a sight of around ten of these charismatic finches feeding on some Alder in the Rough Wood. A late Blackcap also put in an appearance and several Meadow Pipit were noted flying overhead throughout the afternoon. Some Swallows and lots of House Martin were still in the area.

I got home to find the Slav Grebe was seen about half an hour after I left and again in the afternoon, so I'm going back tomorrow morning! Also a Black Necked Grebe at Attenborough, though I doubt I'll get there before I go away to Bristol on Sunday.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Some nice birds...

Some nice birds are passing through at the moment. None of which I myself have seen I'll hasten to add. Just 2 days after me visiting Attenborough last week a Little Stint turned up, would have been a lifer for me and the first one at the reserve in many years. One has turned up at Carsington in Derbyshire which may be the same bird? Not too far as the stint flies!

I'll have to get to Clifton again soon as there has been a Whinchat and a Stonechat seen along with lots of snipe and other waders still using Cottages Flash. I always look forward to the Chat passage around this time of year though i think the stonechat is a bit earlier than usual! Maybe there'll be some Wheatear about too?

A site I'm yet to visit is Newstead and Annesley Country Park, it always turns up on birdguides with some interesting birds, but I've never actually bothered with it, however this week a Yellow-browed Warbler has turned up, so if it stays about and there's a bit more info I may have to venture up there soon.

So there's still plenty of stuff passig through, so its worth getting out and about. Lets see where I end up this week... 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Attenborough 20th sept

I headed out this morning to Attenborough for the first time since the end of august. I hadn't meant to leave it so long but i've been a bit busy and been to clifton more often getting the last of my butterfly surveys done. Several interesting birds have been knocking about over the last few weeks including 2 osprey sightings, gargeneys and even a sandwich tern, so I was excited to see what was about.

When I opened the curtains at 7 o clock the weather nearly put me off as it was raining and very dull but I was determined so after doing some household tasks set off on my bike just before 9. I arrived at the reserve about 10 and went in the Delta Hide first where 3 Little Grebes and a fly past Gadwall and a singing Cetti's Warbler were the only notables. I ventured on and parked up the bike at the visitor centre. On the tween pond were the usual mix of geese and lapwings, along with quite a few Teal. On the wheatear field lagoon a Ringed Plover was seen feeding, a bird I've only seen once at the reserve and one which obviously was keen to keep the wader passage alive, as there weren't any other waders present today.

Duck numbers seem to be increasing, which is great as my favourite winter pastime at the reserve is counting the numbers of wildfowl using the reserve. Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall were abundant with 50-60 of each species present across the reserve, and there was even a Wigeon present, my first of the autumn. Numbers will swell significantly in the next few months and i'm looking forward to the first returning Goosanders, and maybe even my first Red-breasted Merganser for the site?

Passerines were notably more abundant too, compared to the relatively silent few visits I had towards the end of August. Chaffinches and Tit Flocks were everywhere and there were a few nice looking chiffchaffs about in some of the flocks too. Gulls were also here in greater numbers, mostly black headed gulls, but there were several Herring Gulls knocking about as well as an adult Yellow Legged Gull.

Signs of winter are coming, what with these ducks flocks and gulls! Looking forward to seeing more ducks coming in and the first winter thrushes. And let's not forget the Bitterns!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Late Summer Birding 2012

Been birding quite a lot recently inbetween going away to festivals, birdfair (where I saw heaps of waders, a Black Tern, and dipped on a Little Stint), working and doing butterfly surveys. Somehow i've managed to squeeze it all in.

As is the norm this time of year one of the highlights has been the increase in waders around the country, and while Notts usually misses out on rare 'yank' waders and other vagrants, we do get an influx of passage birds dropping in at our wetland sites. I've managed to get to Attenborough a few times throughout August, picking up a few of these birds which you don't see often in our landlocked county.

Cottages flash, over the river from Attenborough, actually on the Clifton site, has been attracting waders throughout the summer, due to it being inundated through the heavy rains we've had all summer. The Trent has also kept it topped up by breaching its banks a few times early on. At the end of July a Greenshank and Common Sandpiper showed well when I paid it a visit on the Clifton side.

At Attenborough itself, several visits throughout August revealed a Common Sandpiper kicking things off on the 4th, and a Greenshank showing splendidly on the 22nd which stayed for around a week around the wet grassland on wheatear field, along with up to 4 Little Egrets. Things got a bit busier the week after with 3 Common Sandpiper across the reserve, several Snipe, 2 juvenile Ruff and a few Black tailed Godwits, although the latter found it more comfortable spending time over the river at cottages flash. I haven't been since but judging from records there's still a few birds dropping in and moving through.

Obviously songbirds are less obvious around this time of year and its been starkly obvious when walking around, barely hearing anything and only getting the occasional view of a skulking warbler here and there. However duck numbers seem to be slowly swelling, especially at Attenborough, where Teal and Shoveler are trickling in to join the Mallard and Gadwall to create a big mass of confusing brown birds while the males are all in eclipse plumage. Bring on the Wigeon!

In more recent weeks, raptor numbers have been on the up as migrating birds and juveniles have been taking to the skies. I missed out on seeing a Hobby all summer until while working at Clifton on the 22nd of August, one showed itself incredibly well while chasing House Martin up near the farm near Branshill. After that there were several seen within a couple of weeks, with more being seen at clifton, one on a bike ride near Shelford and while working at Skylarks in Holme Pierrepont a male bird was seen hawking dragonflies giving amazing views. Buzzard numbers have increased too which is usual at this time of year as the juveniles are being persuaded to disperse by their weary parents. A visit to Clifton produced at least 10 birds one morning, and counts of even more birds have been recorded in recent weeks. Most interesting however was a Red Kite seen at Holme Pierrepont being mobbed by crows on the 9th of September, only my second record of this species in Notts after seeing one at Attenborough in september 2010.

Other highlights include my first ever Spotted Flycatcher which was seen atop a dead oak tree on Clifton Grove while I was surveying butterflies on the 8th. I'd visited the area a few days previously with the sole intention of finding a Spotted Fly but failed miserably, so I was really pleased to have finally caught up with one after missing them in previous years. Also a very brief and early record of a Bittern at Holme Pierrepont was very exciting and is the first i've seen in notts since winter 2010/11.

So its been an incredible few weeks really. I'm keeping an eye out so hopefully i'll see some more interesting stuff, autumns on its way so let's hope for something a bit special.