Friday, 23 January 2015

Friday 23rd January

A brief visit to the site today resulted in 3 new species for the year, house sparrows on adbolton lane, a coal tit singing and finally some rooks!

Otherwise it was pretty quiet on site, with barely anything on the rowing course and the smaller ponds mostly frozen over. 16 mute swan were feeding on the fields near the Finger Ponds, but no yellow bills! 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

First work party of the year

As mentioned before, I have been wardening at Skylarks nature reserve at Home Pierrepont since autumn 2013. I lead a group of volunteers once a month, just doing a bit of habitat management on site.

We've been overshadowed by all the major work going on at the reserve this year. There's new wader habitat, islands and sand martin banks at Blotts pit, and other work going on over at the old skylarks reserve, but we're trying to keep things ticking over with the group too.

A Frosty Start

A new storage container has been put on site which will make life a lot easier, and its somewhere to keep the tea stuff, which is important. It just needs a lick of paint now!

This month I was joined by my volunteers to make a decent sized group of 9 on a cold and frosty morning. We were clearing some birch and sycamore scrub which has been slowly taking over the grassy spoil heaps near to the new entrance to the site. Hopefully it will encourage some more grassland species to grow here, but to be fair there isn't much there anyway and it'll just serve to make it look a bit tidier!

Winner of the 'neatest brash pile' award

The next task was to clear some vegetation from the old pathway leading from the container, which hopefully will become the main thoroughfare into the reserve, diverting footfall away from more sensitive areas and beyond the wildlife trusts boundary.


After... just more sun...

We mainly cleared some sycamore and elder scrub which was beginning to encroach, and just left some brash piles and dead hedges to the sides of the path. It hasn't made a drastic change but certainly looks better and feels more inviting. Hopefully the trust will leave the thick Ivy growth bordering the path as it is great nesting habitat and also excellent for invertebrates too!

We ended the day pulling up tree roots from the shingle on the works pond in an attempt to fight the invasive willow and birch scrub that has been encroaching there. There still plenty to do and its a good workout, so maybe we'll come back to that one some other time...

Also a Redshank flew overhead, so that's another species for the yearlist!

Patchwork begins

I've had a couple of proper sessions down the patch so far this year, and a few others where I've been doing other stuff (while keeping an eye/ear out of course).

My first proper session was on Saturday the 10th, and it was nice to get started with some patch regulars, and its always nice for the first session as every bird is a tick! I finished the day with 34 species which was a pretty poor total for the site but I was pressed for time so couldn't get everywhere. The highlight was certainly 2 Treecreeper in the skylarks reserve with a tit flock. A whole year went by without me seeing one of these and then i get 2 on my first visit of 2015.
     Otherwise a few Goldeneye and some Grey Wags were nice on the rowing course, as well as a Tufty which i thought was a good candidate for a young male Scaup. Upon getting home and having a look at the picture more closely however, the faintest tuft was present as well as a fat black nail on its bill tip. A Song Thrush seen on the way home was nice too, not seen one for a while.

The next day I was with the ringing group, clearing some scrub from the reed-bed where we ring in the summer. A nice day and I was hoping for Cetti's and Water Rail from the reeds, but it wasn't to be. A nice flock of 40 or so Lesser Redpolls was nice, and a Kestrel and Buzzard made an appearance too.

On the 17th, I covered most of the site in around 3 hours, picking up some more patch regulars. Another feral Barnacle Goose has turned up with the canadas, seen on the Trent near the sailing club. I thought it was the same bird as last January but upon comparing photos, it looks like a totally different bird.

This years Barny

Last years Barny... not as much white on face and bigger bill

Wildfowl were a little thin on the ground on Blotts, as they have been most of the winter. No wigeon or gadwall, and only a handful of Goldeneye and Tuftys. A flock of 25 Pochard was good though. On the new islands and wader scrapes were around 500 Black-headed gulls, with a few Commons and Herrings thrown in, but nothing more exciting than that.

Great Tit at Blotts.


   A distant scan of the A52 pit resulted in a big flock of wigeon and a Little Egret, but no Smew, though apparently 6 have been knocking about.
     On my way back I was banking on getting a few more easy ticks in the form of Rook and Fieldfare on the fields opposite to the football pitches. I managed the Fieldfare but weirdly no rooks which is very odd. I did however get a singing Greenfinch for my efforts (scarce on patch!) and a nice Mistle thrown in with the thrushes.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The patch, wardening and other business.

Its a while since I've blogged on here and I have decided to take the blog in another direction. Whereas it started as a log of everything I saw everywhere, I have since evolved into a more local birder (read:lazy). Due to work restrictions (damn work) I no longer have the time to travel around the county on my bike as I wish as I did when working part-time evening shifts. I now am restricted to the weekend, and when spring finally comes, some evenings too. Normal activity for any full-time worker, but after years of birding as I liked (until having to go to my mundane job), its come as a bit of a shock. I can't complain too much though, as I now have a job that I like, pays better and is largely based outdoors! The latter is great as I get to see quite a few birds while I am working, which is on farms mainly in Derbyshire and Leicestershire, but sometimes further afield.
Patch-first, Adult Med Gull, March 2014

So now I concentrate mainly on my patch at Holme Pierrepont, an area I have been birding at for nearly 5 years, but only seriously for a couple. I'm slowly amassing a species list for the site which at the moment stands at a measly 119, but hopefully with a bit of time and effort this will increase. I also take part in the excellent Patchwork Challenge, finishing my first year in the competition on 106 species, which wasn't too bad...  It made me more appreciative of my patch and got me down there a lot more than I have before. Highlights of the year were my first patch records of Wheatear, Arctic Tern, Jack Snipe and Med Gull. There was also some 'dipped' goodies like Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and a host of waders, but maybe my most sorely missed bird was the humble Treecreeper! despite extensive searching I failed to find one all year, despite them usually being reasonably easy...

Feral-ish Barnacle Goose, Rowing Course
There's been a bit of work creating some wader habitat and other bits and bobs, so hopefully I'll do better this year, and keep adding to my patch list. The blog is going to follow my progress as well as serving as a bit of a sightings page too.

Bad shot of one of many Smew in 2014
I also do some voluntary wardening for Notts Wildlife Trust on their Skylarks reserve on the patch, having started in  October 2013. It means keeping an eye on things on the reserve as well as doing some practical conservation work with my team of volunteers. I do some wildlife recording as part of this, noting invertebrates, plants and fungi throughout the year. I'll try and include some of this type of thing on the blog too.