Sunday, 31 January 2016

Owls and stuff

Not really been out doing proper birding this weekend, but i've still managed to notch up a few new birds here and there. On friday I was working near home in the morning, so dropped in to HP on my lunch break to year tick the redhead Smew that has been knocking about near blott's pit all week, and got the first returning Oystercatcher in the process, pretty much on cue as they usually return this time of year.

A couple of dog walks around the northern end of the patch resulted in the years first Lesser Redpoll, with a decent flock of around 40 this morning, as well as a Treecreeper, a bird I only managed to see once last year on the patch, so a welcome addition.

Saturday morning, I met up with Rob Hoare to have a look at his Little Owl boxes that have been up for a few years around Barton-in-fabis. I will be checking these this year for any nesting birds and hopefully ringing the chicks. The first box we checked had a roosting bird in it, so this is encouraging. We also had excellent views of a Barn Owl hunting in broad daylight behind Holme Pit.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Glauc in the bag!

Me and my girlfriend have recently taken over the care of her dog, Abbie, who had lived at her parents house, but with the arrival of a new puppy, Abbie needed some peace and quiet so came to live with us. This means that on Saturday mornings I am on dog walking duty. The good thing about this is that she has always been walked down at Holme Pierrepont, so I am able to keep on birding my patch, whilst walking the dog too!

I don't fancy taking her on to the nature reserve as she'll only disturb the birds, and get bored when I stand around scanning the lake, so I'll conitnue walking her where she is used to, which is around the back of the watersports centre and the finger ponds. This is part of my patch I dont come to as regualrly, so it will be nice to get some birding done there and maybe see something different? Sadly the birdng isn't usually especially good round there, but it always seems like it has potential, with loads of scrub and waterbodies, as well as the river.

This morning I took her out and clocked up 39 species in just under 2 hours, including a patch year tick in the form of a Kingfisher and a few Feral Pigeon (get in!). 3 Little Egrets atop a tree near the viaducts opposite Netherfield lagoons were good too. There's some flooded rape fields there which are screaming out to be looked at, but aside from a flock of around 30 mute swans, the best it could offer otherwise were a load of canadas and greylags. 

Next up was a visit to Cotham Landfill, after dropping the pooch off home. I admit now that I am a beginner when it comes to gulling, although i've always had an interest. However this winter I've been reading up about them and perusing various sites, to get more used to identifying them. I ashamedly havent actually seen any of the 3 'scarce' white headed gulls (casp, iceland, glauc), so i'm attempting to remedy that.

Anyway, I arrived at Cotham at around 11:15 and there were quite a few gulls about, but the tip was closed for the day, so numbers were comparitvely low. I set about scanning, starting with a group on the far left hand side and within a few gulls time I clocked a 2nd winter Caspian. With my inexperience, I am still pretty wary when it comes to this species, but the posture of the bird, the head shape and long bill had me pretty convinced, especially as it was next to a load of herring gull and greater black backs for comparison, and it seemed to have a grey mantle, but with quite a few dark juvenile feathers still mixed in, hence my decision on a 2nd winter bird. After this a lot of the gulls disappeard so I focused in on the middle of the spoil heap where a few gulls were knocking about, and luckily, the first bird i focused on happened to be a 1st-winter Glaucous Gull. It remained there for a minute or so, before all of a sudden, all remaining gulls flew up and abandoned the site. I stayed for another 20 mins or so, but decided that must have been that, as I was looking at a gull-less dump. Upon reaching my car near the old railway bridge, I looked back and there seemed to be a load more large gulls flying towards the tip, but unfortunately I had to be back home... typical! Not a bad result though.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A birdy weekend

I decided that, due to other weekends coming up being pretty busy, that last weekend would probably be my best chance to get out to Rufford Park to see the Hawfinches, always easiest at this time of year, especially as every man and his dog are out year-ticking them so plenty of reports come in, confirming their presence. I headed up to join the year-tickers, getting to the car-oark at about 08:15, a little later than i'd hoped, but luckily I wasnt too late. I walked down to the abbey end of the lime-tree avenue, to get a view of the trees from the lawn, rather than stand around the carpark side, and literally within a few minutes, 3 dark shapes appeared atop one of the trees. A nice easy view of the Hawfinches, and much better views of them than I managed last winter. I had a little wander round the woodland and lake, picking up a few easy year-ticks in the form Goosander, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Jay and Treecreeper. What was more unexpected was the distinctive wheeze of a Brambling, heard from somewhere overhead whilst I was staking out for LSW (which didnt show).

Tame Nuthatch - Rufford

Robin, Rufford

I left the park about 10 and headed slightly north, to check out the gulls at the pig fields near Ollerton, as a few Casps has been seen of late. A scan in one field off Whitewater Lane revealed about 2000 gulls, mostly BHG, but with good numbers of common gulls, but not many large gulls at all. I drove back to the layby and parked there, and walked up to an empty field which held a good few thousand gulls in it. There were slightly more large gulls here, but nothing that remotely looked casp, but again it was mostly small gulls and again decent numbers of common gulls. A scan round the pig sheds failed to produce anything either, Definitely a site worth keeping an eye on though, I just wish it were closer to home.

On the way home, I stopped at Arnot Hill Park in Arnold to try for the reported Firecrest, but despite finding a large mixed flock, I failed to find it.

I was busy chainsawing trees all morning Sunday, down on the patch, so didnt get to have a proper look round, but did drop in just before dark later on for a wander round. There were a lot of gulls knocking around Blotts Pit, including an interesting looking large gull with a clean white head and what looked like a dark eye, making me think Casp, however, after grilling it for some time, I decided it just didn't tick the right boxes and made me lean more towards an adult YLG. Other than that, there were decent wildfowl numbers, but nothing new for the year.

Goosanders, Rufford

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Another year list?

I'm sat here wondering whether its worth trying once again to start my blog again. I try to kick it off every new year. It must be the excitement of starting afresh and beginning new year lists, where every bird is a tick again, but I wonder whether it'll just be another case of 2 or 3 posts, then me getting bored again and giving up? Who knows but I'm going to give it a go.

Last year I concentrated on my patchwork challenge list, spending most of my time birding the patch at Holme Pierrepont. It was the second time i had done PWC, and after a pretty dismal year in 2014, which only saw me getting 106 species/115 points. I'm sure plenty of decent stuff was seen down there, I just had a crap year and didnt see nearly as much as I'd hoped. However in 2015, I hammered the site a lot more and it paid dividends, and i ended up seeing 115 species, with a much better 129 points. (Anyone not familiar with PWC must be scratching their heads!) This better total was down to more coverage on my part, as well as it being the first year in which the new habitat on blotts pit, consisting of islands and scrapes, was put to the test. It came up trumps, as it attracted a lot more birds to the site, and as a result it is a lot more interesting site to work. Waders especially were well represented, and I managed to get 12 patch ticks that year. Highlights were American Wigeon, Sanderling, Wood sand and Spoonbill. It slowed down a bit in the winter but a Great Northern Diver in December kept things interesting.

So I have decided to do it again, and thus far have racked up 61 species. After a stinking hangover had me pretty much housebound on new years day, I got out on my bike and spent a couple of hours at the patch in the late afternoon of the 2nd. I intended to cover most of the site, but the light failed quickly, but I still managed to get round the whole of blotts pit and get in a few scans of the A52 pit. I was happy to get a few decent birds, including some Red-crested Pochard on the A52, as well as an adult Yellow-legged gull which was gathering with a few herring gulls and greater black-backs to roost as the light was fading. A little egret on Blotts pit was good to see too. Nothing spectacular, but a species list of 47 was a pretty satisfying start.

Last weekend I went up on my bike again on the saturday and covered the Watersports centre and finger ponds first, where I knew I could reliably get Little Grebe (with a decent count of 10 birds) and Grey Wagtail, but not the hoped-for pink footed or egyptian geese which were possible! I then spent an hour or so covering Blotts pit with fellow patcher Alan. There were plenty of wildfowl about but not many gulls, but I was happy with picking up the first Cetti's Warbler of the year, as well as a few Snipe and a flock of 22 Golden Plover were a long awaited site-tick. I had an hour to spare the next day, so popped down the A52 on my bike, stopping to scan the pit from the pull-in near Gamston island, but with little joy. However I did manage an Egyptian Goose on blotts, still not that common on the reserve, but little else was noteworthy!

I'm keeping a Notts list as well, but as with last year, I'm not going to go mad with it, it'll mainly be a list of birds I happen to see throughout the year, rather than something that sees me dashing round the county to tick off every single thing. I'll go for stuff nearby, especially if they're county ticks, and the odd trip to rufford or the dukeries to get a few specialities up there, but i'll not cross the county to tick off something I've seen before. I did have a cheeky Stonechat twitch the other day though, at Barton-in-fabis, but thats only 15 mins from work! Weirdly its a bird i've not caught up with much in Notts, I think i've only seen them on 3 previous occasions!