Monday, 31 March 2014

Old Moor

So its the last day of March, and as a result I decided to go to Old Moor after my lecture, to try and find the 3 species I would need to take me up to 100 in 1 quarter of a year.
I arrived in good time, all the connections went well, I'm getting good at this, but the weather was not as good as it has been on previous visits, it was quite foggy. As soon as I arrived I knew I had a chance at getting 3, as the first bit of news I heard was that of a Sandwich Tern on the wader scrape, unusual. So that's where I headed first. I arrived to the bitter news that it had left about 20 mins before, but I stuck around in that hide to see what would be around. There had been avocets on the scrape in recent weeks, but there were none today unfortunately. There were hundreds of Black-Headed Gulls, as well as multiple wildfowl species, such as Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard and Wigeon. There was also a lone Oystercatcher. It was while I was taking all this in that one of the other guys in the hide (Local, Hardcore birders) spotted an unbelievable bird fly in, a Kittywake, this far inland.
I was well impressed and got to watch the smashing bird fly over the scrape, stopping for a wash and moving on. Overall it stayed for about 10 mins, but I got some great views of it, sadly though not really close enough for the camera. I would have to say, were it not for the other birders in the hide I would probably have missed that, writing it off as a Black-Head.
I was left buzzing after that, a very unexpected surprise to say the least. I then received news of a Ruff up on Wath Ings Hide, so I headed up that way, not long after the Kittywake had left. This part of the reserve had much lower numbers of Black-Headed Gulls, but they were still in abundance. There were also good numbers of Tufted Duck and Pochard on this section of the reserve, as well as Lapwing on the island.
The Ruff was not hard to find, as it was feeding on the right hand island. I was able to watch it for some time, but once again it was a little too far for my camera. I managed a few record shots, but not like I had hoped. 
A little closer however were the Little Grebes that started to appear everywhere while I was watching the Ruff. They were fishing along the near edge of the lake and allowed me to get some great views of them, even hunting and eating the fish that they caught.
-Little Grebe
After finding the Ruff, I only needed one more species to reach my target. However, as the day drew on it began to feel less and less likely until at around half 1 I was convinced it would not happen. I kept trying though. I went to the main hide to try and find the Med Gulls but I could not track any down. There was plenty of other stuff around, but nothing new for the day or for the year. I decided to head up to the reedbed hide to see if anything was there. The weather had picked up and as a result there were good numbers of Gulls riding on the Thermals. Among the gulls I found a Common Buzzard Loitering in the thermal. There was also a Kestrel hunting on the roadside verge.
-Common Buzzard
The reedbed hide was quite quiet and as a result I did not stay long. There were good numbers of Shoveler and other wildfowl but overall it was quite sparse. There were however good numbers of coots quite close to the hide, so I improved my coot record shots with this photo of a coot displaying.
I did some more mooching about but to little avail, the highlight being a Redshank on the field pools. At 3 I decided to call it quits, safe in the knowledge that I had done all I can and not managed to find a 3rd species. On the way out I checked the feeding station for a few mins and was delighted to find that a Lesser Redpoll was feeding there. Being pushed for time I grabbed a few record shots and then cleared off.
-Lesser Redpoll
And that was that. It was overall a really good day, with 2 surprise year-ticks and a host of other great species seen. Ultimately, I am disappointed for not getting to 100, but I figured I may as well save the cash than go off on a spontaneous trip to try and find something. In the end 99 species is a record reward for me birding-wise for this year, and I am well pleased
So the only thing left to do is break-down all of today's sightings, starting with Peacock Butterfly...

Sightings List: Starling, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Magpie, Blackbird, Great Tit, Robin, Pheasant, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Mute Swan, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Teal, Pochard, Shoveler, Redshank, Gadwall, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Kittywake, Ruff

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Uni Semester 2 Week 7

On the way into town to pick up a mothers day present I decided to have a quick look at the peregrines on the church. One bird was sat on the box looking rather fine, probably the female, but without the bins I can't be sure. The other adult did not put in an appearance during my cameo visit.

So birding doesn't get much better than this. Quarter past nine on a Wednesday evening, playing star wars battlefront, when for the second night in a row I hear a pair of Tawny Owls outside. Last night though I was in my PJ's watching star wars (I love star wars) and did not go. However, today as soon as I heard them I was out like a shot, not even star wars battle could hold me back. I got out and followed the calls about 50 meters down the road into the Endcliffe village. I could hear them getting close when one flew across the path. Boom! I hardly ever see owls so I was very excited. There was another lad there from my course and he was looking for them too. Together we tracked them into the tree on the opposite side of the path before it flew from there too. We got a pretty decent view but the second time it flew a way off and I could not follow it. Either way, its a great spot of a bird I hardly ever see, and 93rd species this year

Setting off for Anglers at some ungodly hour I stumbled across 2 jays in one of the trees at the top of Glossop Road. They did not fly away as I walked on the other side of the road, which allowed me to get pretty decent views of them as they chilled in the tree. It was a great start to the day.

Rivelin Valley on the hunt for Dipper

Since today is mothers day I said I was going to Skype home in the afternoon, which restricted the possibilites of where I could go birding in the morning. I decided to go to the Rivelin Valley to try and track down dipper. It took a while but I eventually found one near one of the bridges. I noticed that it was flying off with moss, so decided to try and track down the nest it seemed to be building. I found it almost straight away, and it was nearly complete, so it was a lovely looking structure. 
I then found the second bird, so settled down to watch them as they hunted and flitted around the river looking for food and material. And as the weather was so nice it really made for a very nice morning. I managed a few record shots, but they were a way away and I did not want to disturb the birds at the nest. 

-Dipper with Nest
That was the 97th species this year. There was plenty of other nice things on the walk too, such as stock dove, siskin having a wash, 5 jays all flying in a line, a grey wagtail at Malin Bridge and a Sparrowhawk calling from one of the trees. It made for a lovely morning, that's for sure.

Species List: Grey wagtail, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jay, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Sparrowhawk, Chaffinch, Siskin, 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Anglers CP

So in order to try to gain extra species in my quest for 100 today I headed to Anglers CP, for the first time properly since before I was with my family and without any proper kit. It has its great reputation and as such I was optimistic of pulling up a few species today, as well as spotting some other great stuff.
The site was great, I arrived at half 10 to Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye on the lake and Black Headed Gulls in the sky. I had a wander down to the hide and watched from there for a while. There was stuff about; Lapwing, Redshank, Common Snipe, Gadwall and Shoveler. The snipe were giving especially good views as they probed along the shoreline.
After spending a while there I decided to head towards Wintersett Reservoir to see if there was anything on there. On the way I passed the feeding station which had good numbers of tree sparrow among other more regular garden birds.
On Wintersett there was not a lot. There were other birders there too and they also commented on how quiet it was. There were Great Crested Grebe, Coots and Black-Headed Gulls, but the highlight was a lovely male Reed Bunting that flew across the front of us.
After that I headed back to the hide for lunch. There were some other guys there too, and while we were all watching the snipe one commented on a jack snipe flying in. I spent a good few hours examining the snipe, a group of around 10, throughout the day, and I can safely say there was no jack snipe in that group. If there was one there it was very well hidden, which of course they have the potential to do.
There was smashing views of a Kestrel though, as it hunted right outside the hide. It had been loitering round all morning but now it was very close and really easy to photograph.
After a stay in the hide I decided to head off back to the top. On the way I still failed to spot any year ticks, though I did spot a Common Buzzard and juvenile Herring Gulls overhead. It was when I saw the buzzard that I decided to stay a little longer, as the weather was picking up and I thought I should give the site a bit more time.
I decided to watch the farmland for a bit, but only managed Lapwing, Carrion Crow and Magpie for my effort. I did though, to my frustration, hear a green woodpecker. Having not seen one yet this year I could have badly done with that be it failed to show up, only mocking me from over the hills.
I decided to head back to the hide to give it another shot. On the way I spotted a Comma Butterfly resting on a sapling. This is probably the earliest I have ever recorded this species, and it added to the Peacock butterfly that I had seen earlier in the day, bringing my butterfly species list up to 2 for the day.
Back in the hide little had changed. There were more Canada Geese around, and more Oystercatchers too. There were also 2 Lesser Black-Backed Gulls on the rocks, another nice addition to my day list. In my time I decided to watch the snipe for a while, since I love snipe and was still not convinced about the apparent jack snipe earlier.
-Snipe, along with Shoveler and Canada Geese
It was while I was watching the snipe that I heard a tremendous racket from the Black-Headed Gulls and looked up to see that the Lesser Black-Backed's had taken off. But one of the LBBG's was not quite what it seemed, for when I saw it now in this new light it was clear that it was in fact a Yellow-Legged Gull.
I had heard rumour that there was one loitering around the site for a while, but since I had not found it or any other large gull for the morning I figured it must be old news, since it has not been on bird guides for a while. However here it was in front of me, and all the characters seemed right, paler, yellow legs. The only thing that made me doubt what seemed pretty obvious was the fact that it was so close to the LBBG, as in they were calling in sync, preening each other and even passing each other sticks. That is not normal between species. However, from what I have gathered from my research it seems that these 2 birds seem to like each other, so that seems to settle it then that I have indeed found my only second ever Yellow Legged Gull
Of course the first time I saw this bird it was at Burnsal Bridge and the sheep scared it away before I had properly checked it out. That was also the at a time before I knew of the existence of Caspian Gulls, so really that was a very dubious record, so to catch up with this confiding individual, and manage to get some record shots at the same time was very pleasing.
-LBBG and Yellow Legged Gull
-Yellow Legged Gull
If I had decided to leave I would never have seen this bird, so I was pleased I stayed. It was nice to finally catch up with one again, and made for an outstanding day.
So, crunch time. I only managed one tick today, meaning I have to muster 4 in 2 days. Its do-able, but we will have to see how it goes. The matter of the green woodpecker is very frustrating but we will get over it. Now all that needs to be said is what a great day I had at Anglers.

Species List: Robin, Long-Tailed Tit, Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Starling, Jackdaw, Goldeneye, Woodpigeon, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Snipe, Black-Headed Gull, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Shoveler, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Tree Sparrow, Blackbird, Common Buzzard, Herring Gull, Bullfinch, Yellow Legged Gull, Greenfinch

Thursday, 27 March 2014

And again at Orgreave

I decided to go today after lectures to see what was about and to try and pull up the numbers ahead of Mondays crunch. The walk was pretty unsuccessful. There were plenty of birds including many nice things but the weather set in soon after I arrived, with sleeting hail and I was not prepped for it. In fact I was not prepped for anything other than sunny weather. However once it cleared up things started to take a turn for the better.
I bumped into another birder also there and we had a chat about the site. While we were chatting I spotted a Sand Martin fly over the lake, 94, though it was a brief view. He then found a flock of 74 Golden Plover on the 'plains'. How he managed this I don't know, since I had wandered all across the plains about 5 mins before and they were deffo not their then, but they had not flown in. We moved closer, to the top of the mound and I managed to get some record shots.
-Golden Plover
The plover were coming into summer plumage which surprised me but did mean that they looked absolutely stunning. That would be 95
On the lake there were good numbers of wildfowl, and also Great Crested and Little Grebe, the latter being quite scarce at the site. That was nice. There were good numbers of Gadwall, Wigeon and Goosander, as well as Tufteds and Mallards.
So that's a brief overview of the days birding. It was spoilt by the weather but it came good in the end. Follows is a concise list of all the days sightings:

Sightings: Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Cormorant, Common Teal, Goosander, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover (Briefly), Wheatear, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan, Mallard, Graylag Goose, Canada Goose, Starlings, Black-Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Sand Martin, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting,

Monday, 24 March 2014

Orgreave Again

The situation is getting quite desperate now, as in I am only 10 birds off my 100 before the end of march. With this in mind I decided to not type up today's notes and go back to Orgreave since I could do it on one bus journey.
I arrived at the site early afternoon, about half 1, and immediately began my hunt. The birds were pretty similar to last time, with the addition of redshank to the list. That was until half way round the western side I heard, and then followed until they landed, a flock of Linnets, my first of the year and reducing the required to 9 species. I was able to get reasonable views but they were not the finest linnets I have ever seen. They were a flock of 5 birds, but I only got bins on 2, a female and a male. Below is photographed the male, the female was partially behind the mound of earth
I continued round, and got some good views of goosander resting on the bank, along with gadwall, tufted duck and lapwings, making for a good day list. I then finally found the bird I was looking for; Wheatear. I spotted one a way off up the road and tried to get close but could not. That one then became 2, and soon they were everywhere, including one which was quite close and allowed me to get some pretty decent shots, at least that I am happy with. They are such stunning birds I was very excited to finally see one this year.
I wandered up a ditch to try and get jack snipe, but failed and the then wandered back down by the river, but that was very quiet, only a long-tailed tit to show for it. 
I made my way back round to the first pool and found 3 Little Ringed Plovers, which was nice. I was pretty happy to see them again, as it seems to me that I hardly ever get good views of this species, and yet here is a site that seems to have them abundance. I did not manage any great photos, just more record shots.
-Little Ringed Plover
There were also plenty of Passerines around the lakes, mainly skylarks and Meadow Pipits, but there was also a bird that would have pushed the wheatears close for most stunning bird of the day in the form of a stunning male reed bunting. It really was a looker, truly fantastic. I was well impressed with the site again.
-Reed Bunting
So at the close of play I had spent a lovely afternoon birding and reduced the gap between my total and 100 by 2, meaning that in 7 days I am going to require 8 birds! Possible? Hopefully... 

Uni Semester 2 Week 6

Its been a very quiet week on the strolling around front, not a lot going on at all. However, there have been odd bits, all here...

In the Stevenson courtyard on the way back from football I spotted a goldcrest fly over me. I did not re-locate it, but did find a small party of long tailed tits which was very nice. It means I have something to write about on whats been a quiet week.

Got back at 3 in the morning and was lulled to sleep by a beautiful blackbird singing outside. So its not only the robins that have been singing in the darkness, its the blackbirds too apparently

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Stanage Edge

Today was less of a birdwatching day, as I decided I would go with some friends from church for a walk in the peaks, since one of them had not been yet. She decided to do a walk from Hathersage to Stanage Edge so that she could get into the peaks.
Of course, Stanage Edge has breeding ring ouzels but it was rather early in the season so I did not see one. On the way up there was not much on the bird-front; Meadow Pipits, Curlew, Common Buzzard and smashing views of a Nuthatch pair, which were the highlights. 
Up on the top the weather, which had started nice, began to deteriorate, and the wind was certainly an issue, especially near the edge. The view was pretty impressive though, stunning views of the whole valleys, and this time I had the correct lens
-Stanage Edge
From the edge we decided to go to the Stanage Pole for lunch on the way we had our best birds of the day with good numbers of Red Grouse on the moors. They were reasonable to approach, but I still could not get that close so I only got a few shots
-Red Grouse
After lunch we began to make our way back home. The weather gradually got worse, the wind picked up, then it started to rain, and then finally it began to snow, and then the snow got worse. It was soon snowing pretty badly, with giant flakes. It made it very atmospheric, but since it had been blue sky when I awoke I was hardly prepped for this. Either way it was the first snow of the year, which was nice...
-Snow on Stanage Edge
After we left the edge though the snow died down and soon it returned to blue sky, which felt rather surreal. On the way down however I did manage to spot my only year tick of the day, a pair of mandarin. I heard a small peep in the valley on the other side of the road, so I wandered over and spotted two orange ducks flying up the river. Initially I thought they were wigeon, but after about a second I realised that was ridiculous and then it hit me what they were. They settled down on the river so I was able to get great views through the binoculars, but I had the wrong lens on so I managed no real record shots. Thats 90 species for the year.
So that was a nice climax for the day, a day in which we had been the victim of pretty much every form of British weather.

Friday, 21 March 2014

University Peregrines

After finishing at Orgreave I decided it was about time I paid a visit to the Peregrines on campus. I can't really say why I have not been yet, but yesterday they had laid their first egg so I decided why not. I turned up on site and found the box with relative ease. Once that was achieved finding the bird proved not issue, as it perched handsomely on the perch on the box. This was the female bird, but as I approached she made a retreat into the box, leaving me to wonder what next.

-Female Peregrine heading into the box
I spent about 15 mins watching the box, along with another birder who was there to watch them too. He was a local and said he had been down last year to watch them then. He then left to see if the male was on the other side of the church. He was obviously not because the birder turned up on the side of the graveyard about a minuet later.
However, after about 10 mins of him being there he started clicking his fingers and pointing, telling me that the male bird was flying in. It came right overhead and landed on the perch that the female had been on. He lasted there about 10 seconds before the female rushed out to chase him off. But that at least brought the female out of the box so we could see her again.

-Male Peregrine
-Female Peregrine
However, the male was persistent and came back round allowing me to try and get some photos of him in flight. I did not pull it off well mainly because of the trees all around which made it difficult to get a clear shot, and when he was out of the trees he was too close and therefore difficult to get a great focus on. I still managed a couple of nice shots to show just lovely these birds are.
-Peregrine Male
So that was a lovely end to the day. I will certainly be coming back to see them again. I had to leave in order to make it back for football, but I will certainly be back.

Orgreave Lakes

I decided that after my lecture today I would go to Orgreave Lakes to see what all the fuss was about. Orgreave, for anyone who does not know won the inland patchwork challenge last year and has been described as one of the best new nature reserves, though it is in fact a development site, so I dunno how long its going to remain  like this.
Its convenient to get to, only one 40 min bus journey and then your there, hence why I had enough time after lectures. The weather was fluctuating but for the whole time I was there it held out and was a rather nice day. As soon as I arrived I spotted my first year-tick of the day-Skylark, singing up very high, hence it took a few moments to locate but I managed it.
I followed the path round the two lakes and found more and more skylarks and meadow pipits too, all in good numbers. The real birds I wanted to see were ringed plover and so I was checking all the shorelines. There were Cormorants, mallards, gulls, coots, moorhens, Canada geese and mute swans, as well as Gadwall. I made my way round to the second lake following a small group of Mipits and managed to track down some skylarks that were less flighty
The second lake was bigger but still had a good variety of wildfowl on offer, including tufted duck and goosander. There was quite a big goosander flock and they drifted in quite close so I was able to get a record shot.
I followed the path but it lingered nearer the river now rather than the ponds, there was less here, but still stuff to be had. The highlight was a pair of teal, as well as gadwall and mallards.
I reached the point at which the lakes stopped but the site carried on, and as I had never been before I decided to carry on going up the river. I did not get very far, but on that bit of the walk I spotted lapwings on the far fields and there were a lot off bumble-bees next to the path. But the highlight of this part of the walk as that 3 hirundines flew over me. They were not swallows and seemed quite dark so I reckon house martin, though only sand martins were recorded from the site today. Either way its my first Hirundines of the year so that was very exciting.
I then turned back and continued walking around the lakes. I continued to scout the shores and eventually got lucky when I spotted a small brown bird feeding on the water edge. I got closer and was please to find that it was a ringed plover, no less than the bird I had wanted. However, there was a twist in the tail because as I approached I began to realise that this was not actually a ringed plover but a little ringed plover, a species I am very unfamiliar with. I only realised what it was a few mins before it took off. They had not been recorded at the site yet this year, so I wondered if I was the one that had found the first, but when I got home I found that somebody had been earlier and found them first. I say them because they spotted 2, whereas I only found the one.
-Little Ringed Plover
I continued on the way round and added to my list oystercatcher, wigeon and actual ringed plover. I found a pair of ringed plovers on the far side of the first lake, so that was nice, actually finding the birds I had wanted to see. This time there was no doubt, the orange on the bill was unmistakable through the bins. They were quite flighty and there was a dog running around so I was unable to get particularly close. But either way I managed a record shot.
-Ringed Plover
I decided to wander back so that I was not late for football, and I had seen the site and wandered round. I was well impressed, even as I was leaving I spotted another teal on the river which was quite close, or at least close enough for me to get a record shot.
-Common Teal
I was almost out when I decided to check out a marshy area for jack snipe. I found none but did flush a female reed  bunting which was nice, another species for the day. But that was not the highlight, as I also found my first identifiable butterfly of the year; small tortoiseshell. I realise now though that I had the wrong lens on as I had been photographing birds, and so was unable to get a great shot of it, either way I still managed a shot to record this, my second butterfly of the year.
-Small Tortoiseshell
And that was that. I was pretty impressed with the site and will defiantly be coming back multiple times due to the ease of getting there. And I had recorded 4 year ticks for the day, bringing me to the bumper score of 88!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Endcliffe Park through to Forge Dam

Even though the weather was not great, it had been so long since I went birding that I decided to go for a walk in Endcliffe park to use the afternoon productively. However, I had a great time and saw some smashing birds, so here it is in full, rather than an add on to a weekly update.
No sooner had I arrived at the park that did a treecreeper fly right by me and land on a nearby tree. I was very excited but by the time I had gotten the camera out the bird was already some way up the tree and I was unable to get any really good shots
I wandered around the ponds in the park before wandering up the river bu there were only really mallards, moorhens and black-headed gulls. There were reports of a mandarin but I never found it.
Next I wandered up river, away from the park in the hope of finding dipper. I did not find any dipper but I did find 3 Grey Wagtails, including one that was in stunning plumage, possibly the most vivid and striking grey wagtail I have ever seen. Sadly it was too dark to get the photos I really wanted given how close I was but those I got still came out OK with Photoshop!
-Grey Wagtail
On one side of the path was the river, and on the other is a stagnant ditch, and it was in this that I spotted a very large Carrion Crow catching things in the mud. I was able to get very close to it before a dog walker scared it off, but its a bird I rarely stop to watch and as a result my library is pretty bare of them, so to be able to have views like I got of this individual was pretty special.
-Carrion Crow
I made it to Forge Dam on the outskirts of the peaks where there was a cafe and a rather impressive rookery, with about 30 pairs, and a male blackcap, though it was very flighty and I managed no photos. While I was wandering around the dam itself I heard a Chiffchaff calling, my first of the year. I decided to carry on the walk in an attempt to find it. I did not find that individual but further up I found another that was flighty but I managed to track down and get some shots of my 84th bird of the year and first Chiffchaff.
I also flushed a song thrush in the same place, as well as spotting a Long-Tailed tit, though there were many of the latter on the walk at various points. 
-Long-Tailed Tit
Once I lost the Chiffchaff I decided it would be idea to head back to try and get some work done. On the way back I decided to take some shots of the rookery, since its the first rookery I have found this year.
On the walk back through Whitely Woods I found a mixed tit flock feeding in a cluster of holly trees. There seemed to be a mixture of random birds rather than a tit flock; a great tit, a robin, a blackbird, possibly another chiffchaff, a nuthatch, though not strictly with the flock but in the same vicinity and a goldcrest, which was very nice to find. 
There was not as much on the walk back, only one grey wagtail, but just before the park I found a goldfinch having a drink which was nice to see since I had been hearing them all afternoon
So there we got then, it was nice to get out of the flat and get back birding again, and I had gotten more than I had bargained for