Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Black-winged Stilts

I haven't seen a Black-winged Stilt in the UK for many years, not since "Sammy", the resident, and possibly escaped, bird that used to live in and around RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk (see article here). When I spotted on Birdguides that 3 birds had turned up in WWT Slimbridge, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to catch up with this species again.

I drove down on Sunday (with family), and got excellent views of 3 different birds feeding about 10m away in front of one of the hides. Here's a couple of photos and a link to a bit of video (here).

Black-winged Stilt

Other birds seen around the site included: Common Crane (4 birds), Ruff (6 birds, including 2 males in breeding plumage), Avocet, Oystercatcher, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Mediterranean Gull (1 2cy bird), Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, (with 5 goslings), Little Egret, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Gadwall.

Gadwall (male)

Year List update:
142 – Common Crane
143 – Black-winged Stilt
144 - Ruff

Monday, 24 April 2017

Starling Nest Update - 5 Chicks

Last time I blogged about the Starling nest in my nestbox was the 8th April, when I noted incubation had begun. Since then, the nest has gone from strength to strength, and we now have 5 healthy chicks, that can be heard cheeping very loudly every time the adult birds return with  a mouthful of food. Here are a couple of pictures. The first shows a full clutch of 5 eggs on the 8th April.

8th April 2017

The chicks hatched on the 19th April, after 11 days of incubation, and the second photo, taken yesterday (23rd April), shows the 5 healthy chicks.

23rd April

I'll keep an eye on them over the next few weeks, and ring the chicks as soon as they're ready. The details of the nest developments have been added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge Scheme.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Birthday Lifer

It was my birthday this weekend, so I travelled up to Teesdale and RSPB Bempton Cliffs with my family for a couple of days. High on my wish list was a bird that I've looked for before - Black Grouse. This year luck, and a bit of research, paid dividends, and I got to watch an amazing 22 males and 19 females at a lek site in Upper Teesdale. The birds were seen (and heard) from the road, with the birds about 500m away. After the lekking was over, a female bird and 2 males flew closer to me, allowing a couple of reasonable shots from the car.

Black Grouse (female)

Black Grouse (male and a Curlew)

Driving back down to our hotel in Barnard Castle I managed a couple of lovely photos of 2 other moorland birds; Lapwing and Snipe.



Other birds seen in Teesdale were: Red Grouse, Common Sandpiper (1 on the Tees in Barnard Castle), Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Curlew, Swallow (5) and Red-legged Partridge (year tick).

After Teesdale, we drove across to Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire, and added another 4 species (Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet and Kittiwake) to the "year list", taking me to 141. It was pretty windy when we got there, and the Gannets, in particular, were hovering just on the edge of the cliffs, and dropping down onto the grass to grab mouthfuls for  their nests, allowing some decent photo opportunities.


Other species seen here were: Guillemot, Tree Sparrow, Skylark, Fulmar and Herring Gull.

Year List update:
136 – Black Grouse
137 – Red-legged Partridge
138 – Razorbill
139 – Puffin
140 – Gannet
141 – Kittiwake

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Three New Birds

I was up at Carsington Water for a couple of hours on Tuesday evening (18th) walking around Stones Island. I was on my annual "wagtail hunt", as this site is usually a good place to catch up with passage Yellow and White Wagtails. As it was, I dropped lucky with White Wagtail, but "dipped" on the Yellow.

The White Wagtails (a minimum of 3, possibly more), were feeding around the back of Stones Island, along with several Pied Wagtails. Here's a picture of a male and  a female.

White Wagtail (male)

White Wagtail (female)

Unfortunately, White Wagtail can't be added to the "year list" as it isn't a species, it's just the European race of the British Pied Wagtail, but I did manage to add another 2 species with a Common Sandpiper and a beautiful breeding plumaged Dunlin being seen.

Common Sandpiper

Other species seen included: Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Great Northern Diver (breeding plumage, but distant), Black-headed Gull, Coot, Mallard, Canada Goose, Great-crested Grebe, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Dunnock, Oystercatcher (2) and Redshank (2).


Year List update:
134 – Common Sandpiper
135 – Dunlin

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Linacre Nestboxes - an update

I spent three and a half hours down at Linacre this morning carrying out the second check of the nestboxes. See here, for the details of my last visit. The number of nests had increased from 29 to 35, and included our first Mandarin Duck of the year.

Mandarin Duck

Later in the day, Ray and I went back down to ring her. Whilst off the nest, we counted the number of eggs, so we could do a nest record for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. I took a photo, and think I can count at least 29 eggs!! There were only 3 nest records for Mandarin Duck in Derbyshire in 2015 (the last year for which data is available), and only 48 for the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, so every record can help build up information about this species' breeding cycle.

Mandarin nest

The other 34 nests, ranging from N1 (just started), to NL (nest lined), were all either Blue or Great Tit, with the most eggs being a super clutch of 12! Last year, we had one Pied Flycatcher nest, so fingers crossed for one in 2017 as well.

2 other nests that were active today were one each for Moorhen and Coot. The Coot nest was the same one I'd seen on 11th April on the top reservoir, and the Moorhen was a new one, also on the top reservoir. It was about 1.5m up in a willow tree by the boardwalk. Hopefully, it should be safe from the dogs up in the tree! Unfortunately, I couldn't see into either nest to record the contents.

Moorhen nest

As well as nest recording, I also recorded some of the birds on and around the reservoirs. 2 Canada Geese were seen on the top reservoir, and the first Mallard ducklings (6), were on the middle reservoir. 1 Grey Wagtail was heard, an immature Cormorant was seen, and a pair of Mandarin Ducks were feeding around the bridge on the top reservoir.

Mandarin Duck pair

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were heard again, and Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all singing.

Wild Garlic was in flower, as were BluebellsGreater Stitchwort, Lesser Celandine, Marsh Marigold  and Red Campion.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Big Moor Year ticks

Jayne and I had a couple of hours on Big Moor this afternoon. It was pretty blustery, but we walked from the road up to the old reservoir and back again, adding 2 new species to the "year list".

The first species seen was Wheatear, with 2 male birds seen on the fence posts by the house by the reservoir.


The other "year tick" was Red Grouse, with 2 birds seen flying over the moor. Other species seen were: Kestrel (1 hunting by the house), Peregrine Falcon (1 flew over), Meadow Pipit (10+ flying around and singing), Skylark (6 flying and singing), Lapwing (5 displaying), Canada Goose (2 birds on the pools), Curlew (1 heard), Carrion Crow (3), Reed Bunting (1 male) and Linnet (2 birds flew over).

Year List update:
132 - Wheatear
133 - Red Grouse

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Idle Valley Nature Reserve

Today Luke and I met up with several members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group for a walk around the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's Idle Valley Nature Reserve. we spent most of the day on site, and recorded approximately 60 species, including 9 "year ticks".

We started out at the Visitors' Centre, where we saw 2 Tree Sparrows on the feeders, and a Swallow and a House Martin in amongst a big flock of c.100 Sand Martins. We then spent the next 2 and a half hours walking around the area near Bunker Wood and Bellmorr Lake and Ponds. Canada and Greylag Geese were numerous, as were Mallards. We also spotted a minimum of 5 Red-Crested Pochards (2 pairs and a male), 3 Shovelers (2m and 1fm), Tufted Ducks, Pochard (2m), Gadwall, Mute SwanMoorhenLesser Black-backed (a large breeding colony of c.100 birds) and Black-headed Gulls, 1 Snipe and Coot (including 2 broods of 6 and 4 chicks)

Coot chick

Passerines were also present, with dozens of Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps singing around the site. A real surprise was a singing Sedge Warbler (quite an early record), and at least 1, possibly 2 singing Cetti's Warblers (a lifer for Luke).

After lunch Luke and I went off to the far end of the Reserve in Lound, to look for a Great White Egret. Unfortunately, we didn't spot it, but we did spot 4 Little Egrets, 3 breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Avocets, 2 Oystercatchers and a Little Ringed Plover.

3 species of butterfly were also seen: Orange Tip (1 male), Comma (1) and Speckled Wood (1 - my first of 2017).

Year List update:
123 – Red-crested Pochard
124 – House Martin
125 – Sedge Warbler
126 – Cetti’s Warbler
127 – Black-tailed Godwit
128 – Little Egret
129 – Avocet
130 – Little Ringed Plover
131 - Oystercatcher