Wednesday, 20 November 2013

autumnal birding

Its been a fantastic few weeks for me birding, with a trip out to Spurn for 3 days, lots of birding at my now regular 'patch' at holme pierrepont, and some quality notts 'ticks'.

I was lucky enough to be asked by my friend and fellow ringer, Ian, to go ringing/birding at Spurn for a few days at the beginning of October. Obviously I said I'd go, with the opportunity to pick up on some new birds, due to my lack of previous coastal birding trips, as well as the chance of seeing some vagrants too. I've not done any ringing outside of the group too, so it was an exciting chance to potentially ring some new species, as well as hopefully getting more experience by catching large numbers of commoner migrants.

Spurn sunrise

Unfortunately, lady luck wasn't on our side and we were greeted with a few days of windy weather, with the winds blowing from the west, the opposite direction that we needed if we were to get a fall of migrants. The conditions were good for visible migration, and there were decent flocks of Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows passing over the whole time, but the birds just weren't dropping in, instead using the weather to their advantage and flying over. Other finch species were seen passing overhead, including a handful of Siskin and a singleton Brambling, and a Lapland Bunting was a nice bonus. Meadow Pipits and the odd Rock Pipit were also present, but in small numbers.

The winds were too strong for much ringing at the Warren, allowing only for a couple of sheltered nets to be opened at best. The day we got there a Sparrowhawk was caught, the first I've seen in the hand, which kicked the trip off nicely. Our first days ringing gave me my first Meadow Pipit in the hand, and good flocks of Tree Sparrows, but only a few found the nets. The 2nd and third days were much quieter, with only a few Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow being handled. I still learnt a fair bit, mostly on ageing and sexing Goldies, but it certainly wasn't the 'observatory ringing' experience I had dreamt of.

Female Spawk

We did have a nice bit of birding otherwise, with Yellow-browed Warbler, and several Firecrests putting in an appearance, and it was nice for a couple of Midlands birders to have some wader flocks to look at. In fact for me it was great as I was treated to my first ever Knots, Grey Plovers and briefly, Bar-tailed Godwits. Just to sit and watch flocks of waders pass the Warren in the morning as well as watching huge flocks massing on the sands futher up the point was great and gave us some experience in identification. I also had my first Merlin, seen chasing a few late swallows about, albeit unsuccessfully. Seeing some Brent geese was nice, and I also saw my first UK Gannets, with several seen over the sea throughout the 3 days.

Back at home, there has been some birds to add to my Notts list, inlcuding at the beginning of September, a Juvvy White-winged Black Tern at attenborough. It was present for several days, at the same time as a Black Tern juv, providing the chance to get some identification comparisons between these two similar species.

Next up on the local rarities list was a Hoopoe, which was seen by some dog-walkers at annesely pit top on the 20th October. I headed over there the next day and spent several hours wandering about in the wind and pouring rain, with nothing to show apart from a Life Tick in the form of 3 Black-necked Grebes... No Hoopoe though, but I was still satisfied, if a little wet. The bird played ball though and stuck around for a couple more days, allowing me to return on the Wednesday, with the sun shining. The bird was seen almost straight away, feeding around 15 metres away from me and the half dozen or so other birders. It was seen well for about ten minutes, before some people walking up the path flushed it. We searched a little longer to relocate the bird but it wasn't to be. It disappeared the next day, presumably using the much better weather conditions to its advantage and hopefully finding the right direction home.

Finally was this weeks bird, the Glossy Ibis. This bird was present for about 2 weeks, not sure if its still about, and showed ridiculously well (for some), in a cow field next to a Peugeot Garage on the a614 out of Lowdham towards Southwell. I did a 27 mile round trip on my bike to see the bird on a gloriously sunny but cold monday morning and was reward with decent views, though the bird was favouring the mid to far side of the field. I believe it has been showing very close for some people, judging by some of the excellent photos i've seen, but unfortunately this wasn't the case for me and I only managed some 'record' shots. Still, a fantastic Notts record, (only the 3rd) and an excellent looking bird to boot. Incidentally, I saw it exactly 2 years on, to the day, from when I saw the attenborough Squacco in 2011. Which is cool.

Otherwise I've been hitting the patch at Holme Pierrepont pretty hard, with building wildfowl numbers being the main highlight. Counts of up to around 150 Gadwall and Wigeon have been made so far, with smaller numbers of other ducks seen, and the first few Goldeneyes in residence, up to 7 so far. Other than that its been reasonably quiet. Numbers of redshank usually build up throughout the winter with a singleton seen on Blotts in October and one on the rowing course a couple of weeks ago, more should be about when the weather turns nastier.

Rowing course redshank

Reed Bunting

 Other recent highlights include a skein of Pinkies seen near lady bay, and flocks of Redwing here and there and the first arrivals of Fieldfare, as well as some flocks of Redpoll and Siskin. I'm hoping to find something interesting on Blotts or the rowing course before the year is out, maybe a Great Northern Diver? Who knows, but i'm happy just birding anyway, no matter what I see.

1st winter male Goldeneye