Wednesday, 30 March 2016

March 30th, 2016 - A schedule one morning

It's the first of two days off and I'm out early and on the train again.  I purchase my tickets at Nottingham Station and grab a bacon and cheese slice and coffee, as I wait for the clock to tick round to 7am.

I'm soon trundling along the line and alight after a few stops in the company of Norman Hayes, who had jumped on after me.  We start birding straight away, listening to Sky Larks and Yellowhammers and I see a crest briefly, as it flies across the path.

We begin scoping the water and count at least 15 Common Snipe around the edge, before Norman picks out the first Black-necked Grebe of the morning.  This beautiful and rare breeding bird has established a small population in the county and we're so lucky to have them.  I have a go at digiscoping, but it's a lot harder than I thought.  I get one record shot, but it's not that good, because of the early light.  I'll have to come back at a later time.

Black-necked Grebe

We position ourselves at a good vantage point and meet up with a regular observer at the site.  There's plenty of Meadow Pipits moving and a few Pied Wagtails.  Norman says he's got a wheater and we scope the area where he's looking and sure enough, we see a nice female Northern Wheatear on the far side of the pit.

As we continue to log the mippits, my friend gets on to a Swallow and we watch it move through the site.  This bird certainly lives up to the adage of not making a summer, as my hands begin to feel like I've got frost bite in the bitter winds.

All too soon, I have to walk back to get my train, but pause for a while to watch a pair of Little Ringed Plover.  Again, I manage a record shot, before heading back to the station

Little Ringed Plover

Arriving back in Nottingham, I check out the Newton Building and a Peregrine is perched on a ledge.  Thinking it's not a day for photos and it's way up high, I simply enjoy the bird, before getting my bus home.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

March 29th - Scooting after a Scoter

I break up for two days today, and I get a notification just before 4pm that a female Common Scoter was a present at Wollaton Park at 3 o'clock.  That's just round the corner, so there's no choice but to hot foot it straight from work.  

I arrive 40 minutes later and check the lake from the Alders where the Siskins congregate, but don't see anything but the normal ducks and Coot.  Despite a slight concern that I've got here too late, I continue round to the back of the lake, where there's a full view of the water between the rhododendra. I do a quick sweep with the bins and there it is!  The bird is about a third of the way into the lake and has it's head tucked in its back.

The light is pretty naff under the thick ashen clouds, but I get an adequate record shot, so at least you can see what it is.

  Common Scoter

A nice after work twitch and a good one for the year list!

March 28th - Bank Holiday dash

I have to work on a Bank Holiday, and I sigh in frustration at lunch time as all the notifications of Little Gull come through.

As it's a Bank Holiday and nothing's doing for her, I persuade my Mum it would be a nice trip to Holme Pierrepont.  She picks me up at 4pm on the dot and it's a short trip, with the roads eerily quiet.

We stop just past the tennis courts, where the A52 is visible through the edge, but I can't see any Little Gulls.  However, I get a Sand Martin over head and four Little Egrets appear on the far shore line.

Moving to the lay bye near Blotts, I leave my Mum reading her news paper, as I go to check out the pits from the viewing screen.  I get another year tick as an Little Ringed Plover does its best to avoid the harassment of a Lapwing, and then my attention is caught by a  large bird on the tree line.

I get the bird in the bins and see a raptor and it's something interesting, but before I can get another look, it's gone behind the trees!  Fortunately the bird pops up a little further to the left and I get it in scope, as it drifts on a shallow v and flapping occasionally on elastic wings.  It's a 1st summer female Marsh Harrier, with very dark wings and body and a somewhat contrasting paler head.  I watch the bird as it drifts east and then goes down and out of sight.  A very nice consolation after dipping on the Little Gulls.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

March 25th - 100 up!

Hearing that three Corn Buntings had been seen by Rob Hoare at Barton-in-Fabis the previous day, I decided to check out the area after work on Good Friday, straight after work.

Getting to Clifton from Lenton, ought to have been a simple matter, but I hadn't factored in the incompetence of the Net Tram company.

I reach Nottingham Station on the midday tram from Lenton.  So far so good!  There's no sign that anything is awry, but on boarding the next service to Clifton, we're informed that we will go only one stop, owing to a broken down tram at Wilford.  To cut a long story short, I have to board another two trams, amid misleading announcements and tram drivers who aren't sure where they're going. Farcical.

I eventually arrive at the Clifton terminus half an hour later than scheduled, where Rob is waiting for me.  We check out the wires along Barton Lane, but we only see Meadow Pipits and a a couple of Buzzards on the thermals.

Moving to view the flash beyond the balancing pond on the old A453, we hear a Common Redshank overhead, as Lapwings display over the fields in front of us.  The flash looks superb and will surely pull in some good stuff as spring advances.

The A453 Flash 


Driving round to the village, we park up and continue to explore the area adjacent to the river.  We put up a single Common Snipe by a small inlet and then walk a curve to avoid putting up anything that's on Barton Flash.  Two Mistle Thrush fly over, followed by a Fieldfare. On the flash, there's a mixture of gulls and dabbling ducks, along with Greylags and a single Barnacle of dubious origins.

Just then, Rob finds a drake Mandarin that's grazing among a small gaggle of Greylags by the river.  We get a few distant record shots, but this is significant, in that it's my 100th species in the county in 2016.


Returning to the main road, we have a final check for the sound of jangling keys, but the birds are obviously having a day off.  Checking the tram terminus, it seems all services are suspended and Rob kindly takes me to Beeston weir, where I can continue my afternoon's birding.

The pub just past the lock is packed and I negotiate my way through drinkers and cyclists on to the nature reserve.  The weather is too clement to hope for anything spectacular, but I have a pleasant walk, seeing Little Egret, Kestrels in the box and on the Clifton Pit, a nice raft of Goldeneye.


Making my way slowly to the reserve centre, the Wheatear field is looking good, with a nice selection of ducks feeding in the shallows.  As I cross the bridge, I'm treated to the sight of the family of Egyptian Geese, swimming up the channel and then a Lesser Black-backed Gull flies over at close range.

Egyptian Geese

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Finishing off at the visitor centre, the Red-crested Pochards are showing particularly well in the afternoon light and I get a nice image of a drake, which is patrolling between the swans as families throw grain for the ducks.

Red-crested Pochard

Finally, I enter the centre, to find out I'm too late for refreshments, but remember I have a carton of orange in my rucksack.  Out back, a Tree Sparrow is chirping and stays still for long enough to allow me a record shot, rounding off a very enjoyable afternoon!

Tree Sparrow

Post Script: Thank you to Mark Whatling, who has spotted that I haven't ticked Black-headed Gull on Bubo.  That means the title of this Blog should be 101 up!  Not got the same ring to it though. Hey ho!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

March 19th, 2016 - Collingham and Langford

It's the earliest start this year and I'm up before the lark and get to the railway station as it's just getting light.  I get the first train to Collingham, which takes all of 42 minutes, probably quicker than a car and I get off at the lonely station near the Lincolnshire border and head through the village.  

As I find Carlton Ferry Lane, a single male Siskin sings from the trees across the road and I make my way towards the gravel pits.  It's just about properly light now, but with the steel grey clouds, you would hardly know! Suddenly there's the rattle of Fieldfare and a whole flock gets up from the hedgerow and the birds land in the large grassy field before Ferry Lane Farm.  I count the birds and there's just about 200, give or take.


I continue to the footpath by the farm and view Ferry Lane Lake, where there's stacks of Goldeneye on the water and Wigeon grazing on the edge.  There's a couple of Curlew feeding among the Wigeon, which is nice and these are the first a of a procession of year ticks, with Common Snipe, a brace of Kingfishers and a singing Chiffchaff in quick succession.  The light is awful, but the birding good, with Reed Buntings skipping along the hedge, Great Crested Grebes courting and a single Little Egret flies over.

Great Crested Grebe

Little Egret

I check for the Great Northern Diver, but no joy, but locate the Chiffchaff in the hedgerow, as a pair of Oystercatchers 'kleep kleep' nearby.

Relatively satisfied that I've not overlooked the diver, following another scan of the lake, I continue to the road and then take a track to the river, where I get more Wigeon  and a few Cormorants.  As I turn the bend in the river there's a clear 'theeest' overhead and I locate a Rock Pipit, as it bombs through, calling again as it heads over towards Cromwell Lock.  This is a really good bird and a species that's far from guaranteed in a year, in the county.  A Sky Lark gets up and sings low overhead, allowing me to get a record shot of the bird in flight.

Sky Lark

Continuing towards Langford Lowfields, I see a herd of swans through the hedge.  At first I'm thinking they're all Mute, but I scope the birds and to my delight, count five Whoopers, and suddenly I'm having a good day.  I take the footpath on to the reserve perimeter, where not all the birds are in view, but I can still see about 60 Mute Swans and three Whooper Swans and I get a passable record shot, without disturbing them.

Whooper Swans (rear centre) and Mute Swans

In the same field, there's a roosting Pink-footed Goose with the Greylags and I see a Kestrel here before heading on to the reserve proper.  It's pretty quiet, it has to be said, but there's some cracking habitat, and I'll be coming back here in April and May.  

I take a couple of ambient photos and then on reaching the reserve car park, talk to a farmer, who obligingly snaps me next to the reserve sign. 

Viewing screen at Langford Lowfields

Yours truly

Post Script:  As I write, Nick Crouch has tweeted that the Great Northern Diver is back at Collingham.  You win some, you lose some.  Maybe next week...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

March 12th, 2016 - A Morning in the Dukeries

The forecast was set fair, and at last it looked like a good weekend to go for the Goshawks.  I had already decided to incorporate these into a longer morning ramble and had two options. I toyed with the idea of walking to the Watchpoint via the Major Oak, and Sherwood Forest etc, but in the end plumped for the longer route, walking from Langwith, via Cuckney and Norton.  That's a six mile hike, but having already seen Wood Lark two week's earlier, it seemed like a nice idea.

I begin at Nottingham Railway Station, and board my train fuelling the day ahead with some peanut cookies and coffee bought from the station shop, a saving of £15 compared with the Costa Coffee equivalent.  All is going well, until when 10 minutes after the departure time, we - (I say we),  I was the only traveller in the carriage - haven't budged. Finding the conductor I am informed that the driver hasn't turned up!  Things were so much better when we had British Rail and Greenshield stamps.  

Breakfast on the train

Eventually the driver turns up, and we set off north.  After 45 minutes, I alight at Whaley Thorns, which is an anagram of Thanley Whores.  The place is oddly deserted and I get my head down and hurry through the village until I reach the border at Nether Langwith.

Back in Notts, I take a few snaps and head east where one can see Cuckney Hey Wood to the 
right and the picturesque edifice of Langwith Hall - now a residential home, on the other side of the road.

View of Nether Langwith with Boon Hills Wood in the background

A pony

Langwith Hall

The area is all rather pleasantly bucolic and I amble up the A632 towards Cuckney, where I inadvertently flush a flock of thrushes that are feeding on the ground behind a hedge.  There's about 20 Fieldfare and 5 Redwing, and I watch them for a few minutes, along with a few Pied Wagtails, before moving on.  I continue to the edge of Cuckney and take a detour through Mill Hill wood, where about 50 Rooks are circling round and calling.  This takes me to Cuckney Dam. There's a few Tufted Ducks and a Common Shelduck, but nothing else of note.

Mill Hill

Footpath through Mill Hill Wood

Walking down to the village, I hear both Siskins and Redpoll.  There's about 15-20 of the latter and I get a decent record shot of a Lesser Redpoll, but then see a bird that bothers me.  It appears to be rather frosty but I never see the upper parts. I contact Ian Cowgill, who I know needs Mealy for the year, but warn him I'm not 100% certain.  He checks it out later and gets no better views than me.  

Lesser Redpoll

I go through the village and cross the A60 at the Greendale Oak and head into the Dukeries proper.  The countryside here is very pleasant with Lapwings calling and a nice population of Tree Sparrows and I have at least six singing males around the hamlet between Cuckney and Norton.

Tree Sparrows

Entering the picturesue village of Norton, I think I have a Willow Tit, but the habitat is all wrong. I track the bird, which keeps calling although something isn't quite right and the voice isn't really harsh enough.  It's a Blue Tit!  One to watch out for there.

I dodge a load of cyclists and head for Welbeck, having a nice male Reed Bunting singing by the stream on the way.  I turn past the entrance to the estate and see there is already a good gathering of birders by the Watchpoint.

Milnthorpe Lodge, Welbeck

As I join the group, all the bins go up and there are two Goshawks circling below the buzzards. What timing!  Far too distant for photos, but nice views in the bins ancd scope and I watch them for up to a minute.  I say hello to David Came, Derek Tinker and John Ellis, and a few buzzards come close enough for an ambient record shot, with one bird displaying and it does a full stoop.

Typical view of Common Buzzards at WRWP

Common Buzzard

I need to get my bus and head off, hoping to pick up Mandarin from the feeding station.  I fail to do so, only finding out later from Sorrel Lyall that I had over-looked them there, but get a nice snap of common birds on the bird feeders and a few shots of the woods. 

Blue Tit and Chaffinch

Corunna Hill Plantation

I get my bus with minutes to spare and try for Mandarin at Castle Marina, when I get back to Nottingham.  I miss them too, but get a nice photo of a Cormorant.  At Sainsbury's I go for a spot of shopping and there's a few Siskins in the alders, rounding off a nice day's birding.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

March 3rd, 2016 - Buzzards!

Lenton at lunch time - I'm walking back from the staff restaurant and three Common Buzzards are soaring around over the office.  I panic as I realise I left my camera under my desk.  I rush in, grab my camera and come outside to find the birds nowhere to be seen.

Crestfallen, I scan the skies and see a single bird distantly over Radford, then suddenly the three birds reappear, one showing particularly and affording excellent views.  The light isn't perfect, but I get some nice record shots.