Saturday, 23 March 2013

Two good birds in two days

Tuesday, while digging a vegetable patch to put my broad beans in when this snow disappears, down at my allotment at St Annes, I was enjoying the sound of lots of birds in song. The weather was marginally better than it has been recently, even with a bit of sunshine, so Greenfinches, Thrushes and other birds were belting out their songs. There was, as usual, the constant chatter of magpies and crows but at one point I thought I heard something a little unusual, a Raven. I passed it off as my imagination and kept on digging. Then a while later, while eating my lunch, I heard it again, as clear as day, calling from within Coppice Park, only a couple of hundred metres away. That was the last time i heard it throughout the day, but i'll be keeping an eye out from now on! This is the closest to the city centre i've heard a Raven and only the 3rd or 4th time i've recorded one in notts. They seem to be becoming more regular though so we'll see what happens.

The next day I noticed there had been some records of Short-eared and Barn Owls at the Hook, next to the Trent on Lady Bay. This is a stone's throw from Michelle's in bridgford so it seemed ridiculous not to go check it out. I have seen Barn Owl here once before, 2 years ago, around the same time of year, but Short-eared owl remained a long desired gap in my life list! I cycled down at around 5.15 and biked up and down the river path when at around 5.40 I noticed the Short Eared Owl hunting over in the distance in the large wet meadow next to the Sailing Club. Amazing. It quartered the fields for around ten minutes but with approaching dog walkers I knew it wouldn't stick around. It didn't, the dogs got within a couple of hundred metres and the owl disappeared behind the trees not to be seen again. I was really pleased though to see such an amazing bird so close to home, and it has been a target of mine for some time! I went down the next day to see if I could get a photo but it didnt appear sadly, probably due to the wind being quite strong that evening.

Mid March

After a few busy birdless days, I had an afternoon free so headed on down to Clifton to chase up some reports of a few waders which had been seen on Cottages flash, most notably a Black-tailed Godwit and a Dunlin. As usual though they had disappeared but I still saw a fair bit, including a Little Egret and around 50 Wigeon on the flash, both being species I rarely see in the area, although as with anywhere the egrets are becoming a more familiar sight. Otherwise it seemed a quiet day, the weather as poor so not many birds were in song and about the only other area where there were more than a handful of birds was around the rough wood hedgerow and the hills facing it. Here, a flock of around 50 fieldfare were present, as well as a few Redwing thrown in, the first winter thrushes I've seen for a while. A Water Rail was also heard calling from amongst the reeds on Holme Pit.

Blue Tit, Attenborough
The next day, I was back in the area again, though with the Wildlife Trust this time, planting Oak, Field Maple, Hazel and Holly to restock Clifton Wood up at the top, to increase the range of tree ages and understory of the wood, which is certainly lacking in places, especially at the eastern end of the wood. It was a good day and there were a few birds about, including lots of Siskin in the Larches  and a few Lesser Redpoll in the plantation at the western edge of the wood. Goldcrests, nuthatches and GS Woodpeckers were present too as usual. When I got home I found out there had been a flock of 30 or so Whooper Swan in the area which I missed. This would have been a great sight but luckily they had roosted at Attenborough, where I have yet to see this species, so obviously I had to go in the morning to catch them before they disappeared.

Mallard , Attenborough
I awoke to a beautiful windless day, the sun shining, and knew my chances were slim of seeing these swans, as it was perfect flying whether and I'm sure they were itching to migrate north to their breeding territories. What didn't help was that I missed my train to the reserve, making it even less likely that I'd see them. And I didn't! I scoured the whole reserve and the river, and there wasn't any sign of them. I saw a great deal of other stuff though, getting a respectable list of 50 species throughout the 4 hours I was there. It was nice to see some winter ducks hanging on, including around 20 Goldeneye, 10 Goosander and a flock of 80+ Wigeon. 2 Shelduck were also on Clifton pit island, having ben here for a while. A few pairs usually stick it out for most of the summer, but I've never seen evidence of breeding. The highlight however was my best ever views of a Bittern, which was creeping around in some sedges on the near bank in front of the Tower Hide. I watched it for a long time, thanks to it being pointed out by a fellow birder, David. It was amazing to see it in such detail and it even had a potential altercation with a Grey Heron, but they decided to keep it clean and wandered past each other with no problems! A couple of Snipe were seen flying from the reedbed too. No Sand Martins or Chiffchaffs yet, though with the snow and cold weather, I don't blame them. The morning was nice an warm however, and was warm enough to warrant my first butterfly of the year, a beautiful Red Admiral, seen basking on some flowers in Attenborough village.

Grey Heron, Attenborough

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Wollaton 5th march

Well, after a relatively busy february in birding terms, it seems now that its come to a near standstill, as since I went to attenborough at the end of the month I have only been out birding once. This is partly due to being busy with other things, as well as not having the use of my bike. The weather has been quite crap too.

I did however manage to get to Wollaton last Tuesday, as March is the best time, so I'm told, to see a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Once again I was unsuccessful but it may be due to the time of day (Mid-afternoon isn't a classic birding time). I did, however, have a pleasant walk round in cold, wintry sunshine, racking up a list of the usual suspects seen in winter (early spring?) at the park.

Highlights included the wildfowl still hanging on at the site, made up of several Gadwall, one pair of Shoveler and 12 Pochard. These numbers are significantly lower than recent visits, and shows that a lot of birds will be leaving for the breeding season. This was further bolstered by the lack of any Wigeon or Teal. Interestingly a group of 9 Red-crested Pochard were present, the biggest count I've had at the park, some of which seemed to be displaying. It will be interesting to see if they stay on over the summer. 

The Grey Herons were on their nests, as they have been for a while, and were busy noisily having some territorial disputes. The Mute Swans and Coots seemed to be getting territorial too so I expect there'll be some new arrivals at the park in the coming months.

Otherwise there was little else of note, apart from small numbers of Siskin heard overhead and some Mistle Thrushes in song. The total of 32 species was about average for a visit this time of year.