For my final birdwatching trip in Sheffield for this academic year I decided to head off to Swillington Ings for one final look. Obviously I can get here from home, but its far more work due to a change in Leeds. Yesterday there had been 5 black terns so I was hoping for similar today, as well as hobby and grasshopper warbler. I can say right now that none of these birds made an appearance today. Neither did Garden Warbler, though I must have heard about 10 different birds sing all around me at various points. There is little I have found more frustrating than hearing a bird but not being able to see it, so hearing them this many times and still not seeing one... well, words fall short.
On stuff that I did see; Swillington was quite quiet for its usually high levels bird wise, with me being unable to find anything major on the main lake. Obviously there was the usual which is all good stuff; Gadwall, Teal, Lapwing and Common Tern diving right in front of where I had set up. I also had good numbers of Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Long-Tailed Tit on the bank.
On the insect front we were far more successful, picking up my first Banded Demoiselle of the year, and recording Brown Hawker again. The main species of dragonfly in the early stages of the walk were Black-Tailed Skimmer, that were resting on the path in many places.
I decided to miss out 'Gropper Corner' since it was dead last time. Continuing round I failed to pick up much birdwise but there continued to be a multitude of insects, including Red Admiral, Common Blue, Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, 4-Spot Chaser and my first Emperors of the year. One of the Emperors started ovipositing, but as I have seen before it was harassed by Common Blue Damselflies, which tried to nip the wings. This behavior is one of the most fascinating I have ever seen, so to see it again was a real treat.
I continued round to where the Gropper had been calling from previously, but no joy this time. There were other birds calling in the area however; Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Skylark (Which I also got to watch have a rather spectacular dust bath), Meadow Pipit, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler. Continuing along the northern path I got incredibly views of the latter, when it came and moved around the tall plants surrounding the path. Initially when it landed I thought 'what a view' but then it came closer and even positioned itself, best view of a Sedge ever. I spoke to a local birder and he said that he thought it was one of this years young, explaining why it was so fearless. Said birder also had a knowledge of soil hill...
I made my way along the northern path and then turned down the eastern reedbed, hoping for some Black-Necked Grebes with chicks. They did not disappoint. At first I spotted only one bird, a well grown juvenile looking very similar to a winter plumaged bird. But then an adult surfaced right next to the path and proceeded to move behind the reeds and feed a small family that was there. The family then moved out from behind the reeds so I was able to get great views. I assume the bird I first saw was the male since the other bird, presumably the female had a chick on its back. There was an additional chick swimming along side the female, while the male kept on fishing and then feeding the chicks. It was a true joy to watch this, but it was too short as the birds moved off behind some reeds.
- Black-Necked Grebes
After they swum off I decided to settle down on the bench near the main lake to observe comings and goings and see if anything turned up. It was also a chance to get a breather, the last few days had really taken it out of me and I had started to trudge rather than stride.
There was nothing much to add from my vigil on the side of the lake, but I got outstanding views of Common Tern as they moved over the path between the eastern reedbed and the main lake. One settled on the near shore of the main lake so I got a couple of shots of that particular individual, but did not really try with any of the others, content just to watch them.
I had intended to head back with time in hand to listen for some garden warblers and hopefully track at least one down, but they had all shut up when I arrived and failed to find any. I had also intended to stop off at Old Moor on the way back to see if I could get barn owl, but I was such a tired, sweaty mess, that I decided to go home and get some food and water.
So that ended my final Swilly visit from the Stevenson Base. Alas that first year is already over, but looking to the future I now have experience getting to all the sites I should need and am looking forward to second year.
Swillington Ings: Starling, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Mute Swan, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Goosander, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Lapwing, Long-Tailed Tit, Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Great-Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Common Teal, Pochard, Redshank, Gadwall, Reed Bunting, Oystercatcher, Skylark, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Black-Necked Grebe, Common Tern, Whitethroat, Swift, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselfly, Common Blue-Tailed Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Brown Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Common Darter, Four Spot Chaser, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Large Skipper, Small White, Large White, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell,