Saturday, 30 January 2016

January 30th, 2016 - A Walk in the Forest

It's a Saturday morning and I'm on the Sherwood Arrow again, heading north in the hope of knocking off a few embarrassing omissions to the year list.

It's a cold, breezy morning, but the skies are clearing as I head up the A614.  Rain has created some nice puddles in the pig fields between Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe. There's plenty of Black-headed and Common Gulls loafing in the fields, as well as stacks of Rook and there you go-  Lapwing!  I've somehow almost got to the end of the month without getting 'em on the list. 

After 20 minutes, I'm dropped off in the turning circle at Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.  It's 09:15 and I almost have the place to myself, which is the best way to check out the feeders before they're inundated with noisy children and inconsiderate adults.

Before I get to the first feeder, I hear the unmistakable yelp of Pink-footed Geese and I wait, as the calls get louder, and I get a nice flight shot of 20 odd birds moving south west.

Pink-footed Goose

The feeders are well stocked and the standard species are taking advantage of the coconuts and seed-covered tables.  I soon get the next year tick and it's another tarty one, in the shape of Stock Dove, which are coo-ooing from the dead trees.  A Robin perches up nicely and then I set about photographing the tits.


Great Tit

Blue Tit

I continue into the forest and reach the somewhat pitiful-looking Major Oak.  Straight away I hear the 'Pitchoo chaa-chaa' of a Marsh Tit, and I see another one further along, but I don't get  close enough for a photo. The same can't be said of Coal Tit, which deeper in to the forest are abundant, with a minimum of 10 birds around a single feeding station.  However, I get a decent photo without 'cheating.'

Coal Tit

The third table is by the turning to Budby and as I watch the feeder, it's visited by both Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tit.  The latter are fidgety, nervous birds and I just about manage a decent record shot.  


Long-tailed Tit

I have a good old ramble and get two more year ticks, with Jay and Sky Lark and I also see a Common Buzzard on the way back to the visitor centre.  I have a very enjoyable filter coffee and wait for my bus back to Nottingham.  

Saturday, 23 January 2016

January 22nd, 2016 - The Hoveringham Gull Roost

I'd been keeping track of the comings and goings on Facebook, and Hoveringham had been pulling in a good selection of birds and with my year list in mind, I really needed to visit and clear up.

I finish work at 12, but as my Mum's going to Marks & Spencers, I get her to detour and drop me off at my stop on King's Street.

The Pathfinder is now a double decker, and I go straight upstairs at the front, in the hope seeing something good as we hurtle along the A612. Still needing Stock Dove for the year, I keenly watch the fields, but alas there's nothing but Wood Pigeons.

I am set down by the Red Lion and walk to the Sailing Lake, which must be a mile or two, though there's bird potential all the way, so it's not too bad.

I'm first to arrive at the big tree and eagerly set up my scope.  It's still only 2.30, though the sun is now shining and only a handful of gulls are on the lake.  I begin checking the assembled birds, which are mainly Black-headed Gulls with the odd Common, Herring and Great Black-backed.

I watch a few Goldeneye and a Little Grebe as a few more gulls arrive and do another sweep (I always go left to right) and at the end of my sweep, I spot an interesting looking white-headed bird, bathing.  It's a 2nd winter Caspian Gull. The bird shows a single white mirror in P10, but has far too much brown in the coverts for a 3rd winter, so I'm happy with the age.  This bird has a hell of a snout, but before I can enjoy it, it takes flight and heads off.

Shortly, I am joined by a couple from Woodborough and more birds arrive including a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Sam Viles and his father arrive, shortly followed by Simon Roberts and another guy whom is unknown to me, but seems to be a regular.

By four o'clock it's still quite light in the clearing skies and at about 4.15 a shout goes up of 'Glaucous Gull.'  It's a nice first winter, probably a female, as it lacks the brutish appearance of many glaucs.

Hoping it's all about to kick off, we have to wait another 35 minutes for the next goodie.  I'm beginning my sweep and see a bird head on, which looks for all the world like an Iceland, but I don't want to make the call just on head, breast and bill.  After an agonizing three or four minutes it turns, revealing the white primaries and I eventually get everyone on it, in the less than perfect but still easily birdable light.

And that is that.  I get a lift back to Nottingham with Sam and David, for which I am very grateful.

I have a nice glass of white wine, in celebration of a successful trip!

Monday, 18 January 2016

January 18th, 2016 - Patience pays off

It's my lunch time walk along the river at King's Meadow.  It's quieter than normal, possibly owing to the orange-jackets working on a small paddock by the culvert.  I spot a bird atop a lamp post and with the bins spot my Kestrel, which I had seen a couple of weeks ago, when I was without my camera.

I dodge between the digger and the bushes, but as I creep into the open, the bird takes flight.  I have a sinking feeling, but my hopes are kept alive as it perches up in a tree along the Wilford side of the river.  Using any available cover, I eventually get in the right position with reference to the light and edge closer and closer, until I have this wonderful falcon staring down my lens.  

 Male Kestrel

Male Kestrel

Deciding I had seen enough, he takes to the wing again and flies down the river, perching on a distant tree.  I return to work and grab my lunch, feeling well chuffed!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

January 16th - trams, trains and Stonechats

It's train time again and I set off with the idea of arriving at Burton Joyce to catch stuff post roost, moving through the Trent Valley.  On the Trent between the village and the Ferry Boat Inn, I have a nice party of 10 Goldeneye, including six drakes that are throwing their heads back to the uninterested females.  It's scarcely light (20 minutes before sunrise) but I chance a very fuzzy record shot, as the birds are quite close.

drake Goldeneye

I contemplate waiting an hour for the light to improve, and my hesitation pays dividends as a Pink-footed Goose flies over with a skein of Greylags and I opt to move on, negotiating Stoke village and then traversing the fields to Netherfield Lagoons.  

The year ticks keep coming as I get a male Pheasant and see a Little Egret in the field by the Ouse Dyke.  The light is still appalling (what happened to these promised clear skies - Met Office?!)

Early morning yomp

Little Egret

I walk up the bank listening for the 'ping ping' of Bearded Tit, but no joy.  However, Water Rail are in good voice as are Reed Bunting.  I bump into Peter Smith, who points to the best spot for the Beardies and shares some local gen, but it's a dip.  I take a photo of the reed bed (it's about 10 acres worth, so no wonder they're elusive) and head back to civilization.

There's a Bearded Tit in there somewhere!

I get Kestrel on the walk back to the car auctions and summon a taxi to take me to the railway station, where I grab a much needed breakfast of chicken and chorizo panino, which I figure I've earned after my three mile yomp earlier.

I board the tram and take it to the terminus at Clifton, and just hop on the bus to Barton-in-Fabis before it pulls away.  I'm dumped by the church, where as luck would have it, I see Laurence Archibald, and we have superb views of a pair of Stonechats by the pond adjacent to the main road.

There's plenty of Linnets, stacks of a Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinch but alas no Corn Buntings.

female Stonechat

male Stonechat

We go round the other side of Clifton and explore the farmland around Barton Lane, but apart from some Fieldfares it's all a bit sterile.  Laurence has to meet his wife and daughter and drops me off at the tram stop on Wilford Lane.  I go to check the Peregrines in town but nothing's doing, so I finish the afternoon with a chocolate orange gateaux and coffee in John Lewis.

January 14th - A morning at Attenborough

I decide to take another morning off work, with the aim of giving the year list a much needed boost.  I get an early train from Nottingham station, treating myself to a Froffee from the ATM Coffee Bar.  The train is delayed and scuppers my chances of bagging a Tawny Owl near the Delta but never mind.

I make my way through the village and once on the reserve I connect with a Cetti's Warbler, which is singing near Tween pond viewing screen in the half light.  

Making my way around Clifton Pit, I soon begin to add more year ticks, with Little Grebe, Goldeneye and Wigeon under my belt.

A Blue Tit near the wet marsh is doing its best to sound like a Willow Tit, as a few Fieldfares fly downstream.  

I hear another Cetti's and check out main pond, but it's remarkably quiet. There's some activity on the Delta bird table, including a nice male Bullfinch that I fail to photograph.  

On works pit, I get five Goosanders and a drake and juvenile Shelduck - another new one for the year, but there's no exposed mud for the anticipated Lapwings.

Common Shelduck

With one eye on the clock I press on to the reserve centre and fail to see the Mandarin. Checking Tween pond again and missing Kingfisher, I get the bonus of a perched up Common Buzzard, although with the light all wrong it's a poor record shot, but a nice bird all the same.

Common Buzzard

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

January 12th, 2016 - A quiet lunchtime walk

The sun's come out for my lunch time walk and along King's Meadow, the Bullfinches are showing well, but bolt out of sight before I can get any photos.  Three Redwings along the river are the first here this year and a Mistle Thrush is singing by the outflow.

My hopes that the Kestrel from the previous week will show up, are dashed, so I'm left to photograph the Robin, which obligingly sits up on some scrub and sings his heart out.

On my way back to work, three Great Black-backed Gulls fly over towards town - a nice year tick.


Coming up... A morning at Attenborough NR

Sunday, 10 January 2016

January 10th, 2016 - Some tea time birding rounds off a nice day

The sun has been shining all day and it looks like a lot of the Notts Birding FB Group have been in the field.  

After some concerted desk tidying and filing, I do a brief mid afternoon vis-mig in the garden, but it's clear there's nothing doing, apart from a local Pied Wagtail doing the rounds.  However, as I sip my coffee, six Blackbirds descend on the garden and a nice male perches up in my cherry tree.

By half past three I decide to go back out to check the pre roost flight of gulls, which assemble on the nearby playing fields.  I'm hoping to get a Great Black-backed, which has yet to make its way on the year list.  There's a precession of Herring Gulls, a few heading straight through, while others wheel round and ditch down on the fields.  

I can hear lots of long calls of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and there's a big push as a lot of birds are flying over and just to the east of the garden.  Suddenly I see a bird with the naked eye, about 200 metres away that immediately grabs my attention.  Through the bins I can see that it's a Yellow-legged Gull.  I watch it as it glides through and just manage to scramble my camera in time to get one record shot.  A good ending to a great day.

male Blackbird

4th Winter Yellow-legged Gull

January 10th , 2016 - A perfect morning

Given the forecast I was planning to do a chunk of the 2014 Annual Report and maybe have a potter around noon, when there is meant to be a window of clement weather.  I'm just starting Willow Tit and the sun is pouring through the window.  I've been waiting for some proper sunshine for weeks and discontent with dodgy record shots of the local Common Gulls, was intent on getting a nice flight shot.

I'm booted in two minutes with the camera newly charged and I'm out.  The newly created Hadden Park pool has been getting quite a few nice gulls in the pre-Christmas period and today doesn't disappoint, with several birds bathing and others chasing around skua style, the Carrion Crows in on the battle.  I get a few action shots and then focus in on a particularly smart adult Common Gull, which shows all the plumage details in the perfect light.

A squadron

Adult Common Gull

I move on, checking out the Pied Wagtails that are bathing in the puddles by the boxing club, but don't manage anything but semi-sharp images in the shade.  I divert my attention to some Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which begin to patrol the abandoned tennis courts.  A few are perched on the flood lights, but they take off and I get a number of decent shots, including one of a nice adult with its wings in the forward beat, which shows the primaries nicely.  I'm on the lookout for a Great Black-backed Gull, always the rarest of the five here, but no joy.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

Being more wary, the Herring Gulls tend to concentrate on the playing fields adjacent to the Bluecoat Academy - the third incarnation of the formerly failed schools of Glaisdale Comprehensive, and Hadden Park High.  The fields are double fenced for some reason and this is the best spot for Yellow-legged Gull in the late summer and early autumn.  Initially the birds are loafing distantly on the grass and the goal posts, but at length they take flight and I get a half decent shot of a Herring Gull, overhead.

Adult Herring Gull

I make my way back through the park, with the idea of giving the Pied Wagtails another go, as the sun had moved to a more advantageous position.  I have a go but they're flushed by a dog walker, so I decide to pack in and go for the Sunday papers.  As I'm walking down the main road, a Pied Wagtail perches up in tree below the school at close quarters.  I get one shot, but I'm not quite back to the light.  Just as I prepare to get a stonking image, some tosser drives by and sounds his horn, scaring the bird off.  Cheers mate!

Pied Wagtail

So that would have been that, but just as I'm about to turn the corner up Grayland's Road, something catches my peripheral vision or it's sixth sense, I don't know.  I look up and see a Raven circling overhead!  I've not switched off my camera and reel off a few record shots of this spectacular bird.  Now that's a species I hadn't banked on for the year list!


Friday, 8 January 2016

January 8th, 2015 - a morning off work

I'm owed two half days, so decide to use one and head to up to Rufford Country Park on the Sherwood Arrow.  It's a cold morning with clear skies, just the weather for Hawfinch, I muse.

I kill some time in town by getting an Americano from cafe Nero on Milton Street, while being treated to Mozart in the background.  Nice.

I'm soon hurtling up the A614, before the bus begins its tortuous way around Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe.  We pick up and set down no one.

In Clipstone it seems every school child in the village gets on and I'm cursing the valuable lost minutes when I could have been watching birds.  Eventually I'm set down opposite the park and I contemplate the suicidal proposition of the Ollerton road in the rush hour.  I pick my moment as there is a gap in the traffic and within five minutes I hear the distinctive 'tick'of a Hawfinch.

There's already seven or eight birders on site, including a familiar face - Richard Dakin in one of his famous woolly hats.  I go for a pee and that's the cue for three Hawfinch to appear in their favoured trees along with a mixed finch flock.  Richard kindly lets me look through his scope and I get a record shot with my camera.  It's five minutes after sunrise, so not top quality but you can see what it is, plus a nice Mistle Thrush in the same pic.

Hawfinch & Mistle Thrush

After 10 minutes the birds disappear into a little group of Yew trees and I hear a Hawfinch call but they're down and out of sight.  

I head back on the next bus back and with the sun still shining I connect with one of the city centre Peregrine Falcons.  It's best when they perch on one of the lower ledges, but I risk a dodgy record shot before a much needed breakfast in the shape of a bacon and cheese wrap from Gregg's.  

Peregrine Falcon

Next it's off to Highfields Park.  My Genie card is saying 'corrupted' on the driver's console but she kindly lets me on, saying I need to ring the office.  The first bird I get on site is a female Sparrowhawk, which puts up a flock of pigeons and it calls once before flying into the distance. 

On the lake I spook a drake Shoveler, which was minding its own business under the bank. It soon heads for deeper water but not before I get a fairly decent shot.  There's a handful of Goosander here, and a nice Grey Heron but not the usual Teal.  I also see Green Woodpecker in the adjacent science park.  With the 2014 annual report in need of attention and the Rare Breeding Birds panel breathing down my neck, it's going to be next weekend before I can have a proper trip again.

drake Shoveler

Grey Heron

January 5th, 2016 - Frustration!

I learn a lesson today, which I should have learned years ago - 'totally disregard the weather forecast.'

Based on the premise that it was going to throw it down, I don't bother taking my camera to work.

Big mistake!!!

Come lunch time I decide to have a walk along the River Leen at King's Meadow.  First bird is a Bullfinch and then a few Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow along the river, otherwise fairly quiet.  As I pass the entrance to the nature reserve I spot a Kestrel on a lamp post just past the turning to town.  I get decent views in the bins and decide to get closer.  Now down to 100 feet, I can see all the feather detail.  I realise I would have got a pretty darn good photo but such is life.

I get a bit closer.  Okay it's going to fly off now.  It doesn't.  Now I'm 50 feet from the bird.  I can see the shadow in its nostril.  I edge closer;  surely it will fly off now.  Nope.  I kick myself, it would have been a fantastic image.  I'll never listen to Carol Kirkwood's again.  I'll just look.

I console myself with amazing views of this beautiful bird.  And at least it's a year tick.

January 3rd, 2016 - A spot of luck

First trip to Wollaton Park.   I'm hoping to add Wigeon to the year list, but have to make do with Gadwall and Pochard, which were guaranteed.  I'd had a Wigeon here on Boxing Day, but to be fair they are more of an autumn species here.

As I'm scanning the ducks, seven Goosander fly in and immediately divide into two groups; five heading for the reed bed end and two - a drake and redhead preferring the island area.   To my surprise the drake begins to swim towards me, diving intermittently, as well as sifting the surface.

Camera at the ready I hide behind a tree and reel off a few photos.  It's the closest I've ever been to a Goosander and in the bins, the feather detail is remarkable.  What a beautiful bird.

I enjoy this rare spectacle and then bag a pair of Red-crested Pochards before heading home to begin inputting the December 15 Notts data.

drake Goosander

Red-crested Pochards

January 1st, 2016. A New Year, a new list!

So, my totally uncompetitive year list has begun with a walk down Old Coach Road under the steely grey, Bilborough sky.  

First off, a few basics take the list off zero, as Magpie and Great Tit are seen along the forlorn hedgerow adjacent to the Old Park Farm allotments.  I say hedgerow, although the once healthy thicket has now been reduced to the odd Elder and a razor wire fence.  

Nailing Robin, Blue Tit, Song Thrush and similar megas, I arrive in Wollaton, where the single Redwing that I discovered on Boxing Day is still picking at the Hupeh Rowan on Lambourne Drive, along with a Mistle Thrush and two Blackbirds.

Across the road at Raleigh Pond I soon add three Goosanders and a Shoveler (scarce here) plus the local Nuthatch and Treecreeper are in full song.  Continuing to Martin's Pond (I'll get a Little Crake there one day!) I quickly add Black-headed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard and Tufted Duck.  In the bushes are Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch and Siskin.  Not a bad start to say I'm only 500 metres from my house but with a dinner to cook it's back home for a coffee and a well-earned mince pie.

On the way back, I pull in four of the five basic gull species.  Cooking on gas!

A drake Mallard at Martin's Pond