Thursday, 23 May 2013

Besthorpe, etc

Here we go, a week late, a trip report from last Thursday in the Trent Vale north of Newark. 

I went to do some voluntary work with the Wildlife Trust as I hadn't been down to Besthorpe to do any work or ages so thought I'd check out what was going on. We were working out on the buffer lagoon at the Meering end of the reserve, and while there, a pair of Oystercatchers lazed about on one of the Islands. It was apparent they were nesting so hopefully there'll be some success there. One Little Ringed Plover was also present throughout the day. Round the pools were a lot of Warblers, mainly Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, but there was the odd Garden Warbler about too. I also saw around 4 pairs of Yellow Wagtail around the lakes too, my first in Notts this year, Besthorpe is always a good site for these beautiful migrants.

In the afternoon, once all the work was done, I stayed on with my bike and explored the rest of the reserve, before embarking on a ride down to Collingham Gravels just to the south of the reserve, and then onto RSPBs Langford Lowfields reserve and then back to Newark.

On the way down to the southern end of Besthorpe, I spooked a flock of Linnets, which were dustbathing and drinking from puddles, there must have been around 30 birds, good for a declining farmland bird this time of year. 2 Bullfinches were also noted on the way down as well. On Mons pool there was the usual thin scattering of geese, grebes and ducks, including 10 Shelduck, another species which does well here. The main focus was on Oystercatchers however, as a group of 4 birds were seen flying around, displaying and generally causing a commotion. Three birds were displaying on the islands, and periodically chasing each other around in flight, while the other bird mostly sat quietly. I tried to get some good shots but as I sat down to watch them rainclouds came in and the light was very poor.

I wandered round the other side of the pool, hearing a Lesser Whitethroat on the way down, and popped into the hide on the southern edge. One more Little Ringed Plover was noted, but little else, aside from a Reed Bunting on the bird table, and a couple of Reed Warblers in the reeds in front of the hide. 

I managed over 40 species throughout the day, but strangely didnt note any Hirundines or Raptors, but i had a great bit of birding nonetheless.

On the way down to Collingham Pits it started really pissing it down, but I pressed on. In the fields on the way I got great views of a Roe Deer, but sadly it bolted before i could grab my camera. I'd hoped for some good waders on the pits, but it had changed quite a bit from what i'd remembered down at the pits, as the last time i was here was around 2 years ago when 5 Temminck's Stints were present. The only bit of wader-ish habitat seemed to be very distant so without a scope it was extremely difficult to see much, and the rainclouds kept coming in lower, making visibility even crapper. another Little Ringed Plover, some Shelducks and a few Terns were all I could see so i pressed on towards Langford before the thunderstorms caught up with me.

Sadly the storms did indeed catch up so I only stayed at Langford for about 40 mins, mostly viewing over the Lagoons from the Northern path. Not much was noted really as the visibility was rubbish, but i did manage another LRP, some Oystercatchers, and the first Hirundines of the day, a shedload of Swallows and Sand Martins. There were loads of warblers too. I think it'd be good to return here when I have a bit more time and the weathers a bit better, as the lagoons do look really nice. Maybe a little later in the summer perhaps...

Monday, 20 May 2013

Weekend birding, 11th + 12th May

I spent a couple of days last weekend away, seeing a few friends in Lincoln, as well as having a walk round the Peak District.
Stanage Edge, Derbyshire

Me and my friend Joe went to Hathersage in Derbyshire for a hillwalk, as we hadn't been together for ages, so felt it was time to get the leg muscles working. I also took it as a rare opportunity to check out some upland birds, so was happy when as soon as we got onto Stanage Edge, we heard the evocative sounds of Curlews and were almost constantly in the company of Meadow Pipits. I also saw my first Red Grouse for about 7 years, somehow I hadn't seen them since I was in Derbyshire one time back in about 2006 I think, despite going for walks in suitable habitat on numerous occasions. There were loads everywhere so were pretty hard to miss. 

We took a slight detour to Stanage Pole, which was extremely uninteresting and had no explantation as to why it was marked on the OS map, but I did get to see a Golden Plover after I'd heard its distinctive call, nice to see in its breeding habitat and plumage. 

Joe with Stanage Pole

We wandered up and down the gritstone edge for a while before walking down through the fields towards the village of Hathersage. On the way down I got my best ever views of a male Ring Ouzel, only the 3rd time I've seen one. It was great to see one feeding out in the open and for such a good period of time, it was just a little too distant for a good record shot though. Just need one in Notts now. after reaching Hathersage we walked back up onto the moor to complete the loop back to the car, seeing more Meadow Pips, Lapwings and Curlew on the way. 

The next day I was in Lincoln for a friends birthday and had some time to kill during the day. I decided to get a lift with my mate to North Hykeham while he went to work for a couple of hours, leaving me to walk down to Whisby Nature Park, via the sailing club lakes. I went with the aim of seeing or at least hearding some Nightingales, but by the time i'd walked from Hykeh

am to the areas where i'd be likely to encounter them, I pretty much had to turn back and didn't get to see one. I had a great walk though, seeing loads of warblers, including the Cetti's which had only been recorded for the 1st time here 4 days previously. The only ones missing from the list were Gropper and Lesser Whitethroat.

There were hundreds of Swifts on site that afternoon, hunting lower over the water and the hedges as the rain came in. I tried for some inflight shots but as usual they were very difficult to photograph. 

I also came across my first orchid of the year, this Southern Marsh Orchid.

 I do like this reserve, I've visited 3 times now and have seen a fair bit each time. The highlight for me has to be the warblers, as the reserve holds a great deal of scrubby, warbleer friendly habitat. It must be fantastic for invertebrates too.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Netherfield Lagoons, 8th May

Rode down to Netherfield Lagoons last night to see what was about. I've just got a new 70-300mm camera lens so was hoping to test it out but I didn't really get an opportunity to use it. I was going in hope of getting in a few waders and maybe something a bit special, before the rain that was forecast kicked in later on.

Cycling downriver there were loads of warblers, mostly Whitethroats, with a few Garden Warblers thrown in for good measure and a flock of around 50 Swifts were seen overhead, making it feel very summery even if the weather was a bit crap.

Down at the lagoons themselves, there were many Swallows flying around their favourite nesting site under the train bridge over the river. Nearby a Sedge warbler was singing from within some bushes but wouldn't show itself.

Out on the deep pit were around 14 Common Tern using the nesting platforms with others overhead, but the wind meant not much else was noted around here. Down near the gravel pits amongst the scrub were loads of warblers, again mostly Whitethroats but with many Sedgies and even a couple of Lesser Whitethroat. 

I headed to the viewpoint overlooking the wader scrapes and met another birder with his son and his dog, who eventually pointed out a Ringed Plover amongst 4 or so Little Ringed Plovers. I wouldn't have been able to point it out as it was quite hard to pick up its features while it was surrounded by gravel but I got a good view of it through his scope. Little else was about on the scrapes but while we stood there a Grasshopper Warbler started reeling from the scrub on the slopes down to the gravel pits, my first of the year, although it couldn't be located.

The weather soon started to close in so I decided to make my way back, but not before adding Willow and Reed Warbler to the list, making 9 out 10 possible warbler species in just over an hour. The cetti's decided to keep quiet.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Rutland Water, 2nd May

Had an incredible day's birding yesterday at Rutland water. Without doubt one of the best I've had, due to the amount seen as well as the excellent weather and the beautiful bike ride round the reservoir. 

I'd been planning to go for a while as it really is a great place for birding, and i've always wanted to go at this time of year to take advantage of the spring wader passage that occurs there. Michelle had a day off so we got on the (wrong) train and headed to Oakham, via Leicester (for an hour- due to wrong train, but allowing for slap-up cooked brekky). We finally got there at around 1pm, 2 hours later than hoped, but once I got birding I was happy.

We explored the Egleton reserve mainly, as i had only been here once for birdfair, and although i had seen a fair bit during the fair, I really wanted to delve deeper in. The first thing that struck me was the amount of birds in the trees. It seemed to be completely alive with bird song and before we'd even got to any hides we'd heard numerous Whitethroats, Blackcaps and other warblers, as well as 3 Lesser Whitethroats. 2 Oystercatchers near the visitor centre provided some early excitement and there were some shelducks on the lagoon out the back too. 

In the 1st hide we were amazed at the sheer numbers of sand martins, swarming above the artificial nesting sites, as well as the general busyness of the reserve, with huge numbers of all sorts of birds to look at everywhere. Once again, warblers were very much evident, with Blackcaps and chiffchaffs very showy in the woods between the first set of hides, and I managed my first Garden Warbler of the year too. Inside the next hide there were several of these wonderful birds and Michelle also got her first proper look at a very bold Sedge Warbler, singing in the open a few metres from the hide. 

The part I was most looking forward to though was the Wader-magnet that is Lagoon 4. In the 1st hide we were a little too far away to see much, though lots of Common Tern and Shelduck were present, as well as several Lapwing and a couple of Teal. Some birders were pointing out waders but without a scope it was difficult and I only managed to see a Redshank and a distant Ringed Plover. I noticed a bird flying in on the far left bank so we decided to go round to the next hide to see what it was. When we entered the bird in question flew right in front of us, a wonderful Curlew, the first i've had in ages. The highlight was a couple of avocet though, both sleeping on the closest island to us, and a UK tick for me, having only seen them previously in Spain 4 years ago. They were very inactive, although one put its head up to call loudly several times when we were there. Other waders were a very neat looking Ruff, the Redshank and the Ringed plover all of which showed very well. 

When we left the hide, 3 Little Egrets flew over, and while we sat on a bench for a while, some Linnets were seen feeding on docks alongside the path. We visited lagoon 3 briefly, just one hide, but here we added Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler to the list, amongst others. Once we'd finished there it was time to leave the reserve as time was getting on and we still had the reservoir to bike round.

We saw loads more as we cycled round the water, adding more birds to the list including 2 Kestrels, a Buzzard and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. I'd heard that Yellow Wagtails had been seen near the Dam so we stopped for lunch at the southern end and were treated to a flock of about 30 of these wonderful bright birds feeding on the banks of the lake, amongst the sheep, as well as a pair of Little Ringed Plover on the margins of the lake. 

I'd hoped to go the the Lyndon reserve too but we hadn't enough time, but by the time we'd biked round the rest of the lake and stopped for a well earned pint, after seeing a Yellowhammer, we'd racked up 70 species and I said that only one thing would top the day off and that would be an Osprey. We left the pub in Manton with species number 71, a singing Mistle Thrush, to see us off. Biking back up to the reserve at Egleton, we stopped off at a roadside bridge as i'd remembered it was a good viewpoint for one of the Osprey nests, and there right on cue was one of these wonderful raptors, perched above the nest. We watched it for a few minutes, along with myriad swallows feeding on the surface of the lake, before riding back to oakham, to catch the right train home.

Like I said, it was definitely one of the best days birding i've had, with a lot of birds I wouldn't normally see frequently back home. I feel it is an excellent area for birds, even outside the reserves, with ample habitat for a broad range of species. Looking at the nature reserves themselves, it can be seen that a huge amount of effort goes into the management of these sites to not only cater for an abundant and diverse bird population, but also for the enjoyment of visitors, as the whole site is very aesthetically pleasing and well designed.

72 species in one afternoon. Can't say fairer than that :)