Sunday, 28 April 2013

Clifton, 24th april

Had one of my best days birding at Clifton the other day. It's funny that sometimes when I go to this site I can struggle to see 20 species, whereas at others it can be a hive of activity. It was certainly that when i visited on wednesday after doing some tree-work at Glapton wood in the estate.

I got a lift with chris from the wildlife trust to go and attempt to find some of the remnant population of Corn Buntings that live in the area but which are threatened by intense agriculture and urban and highway development. We stood facing a windy field near Barton-in-Fabis for some time before a little brown bird popped onto the top of an elder tree and started singing. We could only just make it out over the sound of the wind and the traffic on the a453, but it was good to see my first UK Corn Bunting in 3 years.
Chaffinch, Branshill Moor

I said goodbye to chris and biked through the Clifton patch, stopping off at all key areas to on the way through before riding back to west bridgford. By taking in all the best areas, I managed to see 54 species, the most by far i've seen at clifton, and it even beats my overall record at all my patches, which previously stood at 52, a visit i made to attenborough a couple of winters ago. It just pays to put in the footwork i guess.

The highlights, aside from the corn bunts, was a Greenshank and 3 Little Ringed Plover at cottages flash, both firsts for the year as well as a pair of Oystercatchers on the Riverside fields.  2 Shelduck were feeding in fields nearby while I was unsuccessfully looking for Whinchat. I also managed to finally see the feral/confused Pink Footed Goose that has been knocking about the area with the greylag flock for over a year now. I've always missed it despite searching but managed it today, and even got a rubbish photo.

Pink-footed Goose, Riverside Fields
Warblers were also everywhere and i managed 8 species, notably a Lesser Whitethroat singing at the rough wood, Loads of Common Whitethroat throughout the area (and all the way downriver to west bridgford) and a Cetti's Warbler calling near Barton Island. Sedge warblers and a Red-crested Pochard were also notable at Holme Pit. 1 single male Goosander was also present on the Trent near the grove in the morning, but had gone by the afternoon.
Red-crested pochard, Holme Pit

So a succesful trip, especially in getting a couple of good waders in, although the lack of Wheatears and Whinchat was disappointing, although these elude me often. I should still have some time to catch these on passage though, hopefully...

Thursday, 25 April 2013

More Migrants

I've been out birding quite regularly in the last two weeks, as well as just keeping an eye out on whats around while at my allotment and when walking the dogs. Here's a summary of some migrants that have been turning up finally.

Robin at the allotment
Last week I spent 4 days down at the allotment, where the birds are getting more and more vocal and are becoming more active. I've noticed Great Tits prospecting for nest sites and I'm hoping they'll use the nest box we've put up, and robins and long tailed tits seem to be pairing up too. I heard my second chiffchaff of the year down there last Tuesday while building the pond and since then they have been coming in all over the place and are now singing everywhere, so its nice they're finally here! I put up a seed feeder at the veg patch on Thursday too and within minutes it was being used by some Robins and by the next day I had seen 6 species using it, just hoping some finches start to come and take advantage too, though I have seen Chaffinches using it already.

While working up at Clifton last week there were lots of chiffchaff singing and a couple of Peacock Butterflies were noted. That evening I went on a bike ride down to the rowing lake at Holme Pierrepont and saw 60+ Sand Martins going over, the biggest influx so far this year, and they have now finally arrived at Lady Bay bridge too. I went to Clifton again at the weekend to try and catch up with some more migrants, but left without seeing any more. Obviously they hadn't quite got there yet. I did however see a stunning male Red-breasted Merganser, only my second for Notts and a great county scarcity.
Red-breasted Merganser, Clifton Grove

The very day after I went for a walk round Holme Pierrepont and was greeted by the sound of multiple Willow Warblers. It was great to hear the dulcet tones of these lovely little migrants and they really seemed to have come in in great numbers. I saw my first Common Terns on the rowing course too.

Blackcaps finally entered the scene on Wednesday when I eventually tuned into their song,and I suspect i'd probably heard some several days earlier without realising it as it sometimes takes a while to recognise that song after only a few months without it.

I went ringing on Sunday and really racked the tally up, with a singing Lesser Whitethroat (before any commons) and a Barn owl before I'd even got on site. While ringing the sound of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff was everywhere and it suddenly felt like spring had sprung all at once. We caught some of each of these species as well as some Sedge Warblers and one Reed Warbler so the migrants really had come in in force. We caught a Snipe as well as a retrap Cetti too, maybe the same one i ringed last summer? Only time will tell.

Snipe, Holme Pierrepont

Friday, 5 April 2013

Finally, some migrants! 5th april

Headed out to attenborough again today as an avocet was reported going to and fro over the river throughout the afternoon yesterday. Typically, the bird had disappeared by the time I managed to get there at  11.30 but apparently it hadn't been seen since yesterday anyway. Where do these birds go?

I had a relatively brief wander round the reserve nonetheless but wasn't entirely optimistic as there was nothing of note on Tween Pond and the Wheatear Field was getting a well needed haircut, so not many birds around there. The tower hide produced a mass of Black-headed Gulls, hopefully they will successfully breed here this year as they failed the previous two years (i believe) due to predation. I remember the constant racket the colony caused several years ago when they bred there throughout the summer, and although it was  bit loud, I think I miss it! Interestingly, there was an increase in large gulls, with a couple of adult Herring Gulls which have been knocking about for a while, as well as around 30 1st summer birds, which i presume were also Herrings, but they could have been a mix of species, but I didn't have my field guide with me. They were feasting on something from the water round the island, having a field day.

Best of all though in the distance to the far left of the reedbeds I noticed some hirundines flying about. I wandered round to the peninsula to check them out, and found several Sand Martins flying about, as well as a couple of Swallows. Fantastic. We've all been waiting for some migrants, and to see a Swallow was an added bonus. Shortly afterwards I heard a Chiffchaff, but failed to locate it. 1st of the year again.
You're Late!

There were still some winter birds about, including around 10 Goldeneye, 14 Goosander and about 90 Wigeon, and before I left I witnessed 2 Oystercatchers mating on the Tween Pond scrapes. Very interesting and the first time I've seen any breeding activity from this species on the reserve.

Some southerlies are coming next week, so I predict an influx of migrants in the next few days. Let's see what they bring (apart from the forecast rain.)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Attenborough, 2nd April

With reports of Sandwich Tern, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Pintail and LRP on Monday, I headed out to Attenborough Tuesday morning to see if I could connect with any of these birds. Unfortunately, as seems to be the norm at the moment, I failed to get any of my target birds, although I wasn't particularly surprised about the tern, as I didn't expect it to stick around. It would have been nice to get my first Pintail for the site though, as I have failed on seeing these on several occasions here.

I began at the visitor centre where I got some nice shots of Red-crested Pochards, feeding amongst the usual waterfowl. Crossing the bridge the first of many Dunnocks was singing from the scrub, and over on the Tween Pond scrapes were a pair of Shelduck amongst the gulls. A scan of the wheatear field failed to produce the reported LRP or Stonechat, so I carried on round to the river, stopping briefly at the Kingfisher Hide, to check Cottages Flash.

I saw an Oystercatcher on the flash while searching for the Tern, and it flew over my head towards clifton pond, before turning back and landing in the riverside field over the river again. Little else was about on the flash or the river, but there were very good numbers of Dunnock singing in the scrub on the Attenborough side of the river, with birds flying everywhere and seemingly singing from every bush.

Some Goosander and Goldeneye were present on the Main Pond, but despite searching, there were no Pintails present, so I headed down to the Delta Hide to see if they may have relocated there. Sadly not, though a Little Grebe showed very well, feeding just in front of the hide, and a Cetti was singing from the reedbed. One more Oystercatcher flew overhead too.

I finished off walking back to the tower hide, via the works pond and the village, but nothing exceptional was seen on route. On the wheatear field were several Teal and a very showy Water Rail, feeding out in the open for ages. I didn't actually go into the Tower hide as it was chock full of birders, all looking at a Bittern which was putting on a show on the near bank. I'd just missed it swallowing a large pike, but I still managed to get some stunning views of the bird, but no decent photos, before it climbed the wire fence surrounding the reeds and disappeared to digest its meal. Thats the 3rd time I've seen a Bittern there in my past 3 visits to the reserve, so not bad going really!

So I didn't see any of my target species, but still had a great time watching some winter birds on my first birding trip of the 'British Summertime'. Just waiting now for the southerly winds to come to provide some warmth, and more importantly, Warblers!

Last week of March

The winter is only just leaving us now, as I write on the 2nd of April. There has been some unseasonal heavy snow which carpeted the county at the end of march and due to freezing winds, wouldn't bloody melt. The cold 20mph gusts coming from the east have resulted in  a cold wintry landscape, making spring seem a long way off indeed. To back this up, spring migrants are very scarce. As i write, Chiffchaffs are a week or so late, their absence marked by a distinct lack of their disyllabic song, which should be everywhere by now. Sand martins are well over 2 weeks late, and I should be expecting the first sylvia warblers and cuckoos to be returning, but without some favourable conditions i think we're in for a wait.

Last week, between snowstorms and other things I managed to get out for a bit on thursday evening to Netherfield Lagoons. It was a nice sunny evening but cold winds made it very chilly. I was rather hoping to see barn owls but the biting wind was too much to stick around til dusk, so I missed out on that sadly. The site was reasonably quiet actually, with very few birds singing and not even a great deal on the water, but I still had a nice wander. Some Redwing were about on the ouse dyke path on the way into the site, as well as a Little Egret, seen catching fish in the dyke. Out on the wader scrape were 14 Gadwall and several Pied Wags, but none of the reported LRPs. A Snipe was flushed from the banks of the deep pit, my 90th species for the site, and a couple of Water Rail were heard from the reeds. Wandering back, a glance over to the gravel pits resulted in a Kestrel and around 10 Wigeon in the distance, and another look at the scrapes produced a single male Goldeneye, but still no LRPs. On the dyke on the way back, a Kingfisher was seen several times flying downstream.

The day after, I had planned a trip to the Allotment, but a look on twitter in the morning changed my decision, as a Cattle Egret had been reported at Hoveringham. Having not seen one in the UK before, i thought it was worth a look so I biked there instead. Despite searching, as well as the efforts of several other birders, the bird was not relocated. Perhaps someone misidentified a Little Egret, as one was on site when i visited. I hadn't been to Hoveringham for ages before this so was happy to have a wander round the railway pit and saw some nice birds while i was at it. 2 flocks of Wigeon, totalling 132 birds were notable, as well as about 10 Goldeneye. My first Oystercatchers of the year, a pair,  were on the islands near the woods, as well as several Greater Black Backed gulls, the first i've seen in ages! No bloody cattle egret though, and STILL no migrants!