June 2015 Newsletter
2015 has seen us mainly visiting local sites so far, with visits to Attenborough, Wollaton Park and (a first for us) the nature reserve at Elvaston Castle. This last was on a perfect April morning when a small group of us had the reserve to ourselves. Amid the songs of common residents such as Wren, Robin and Blackbird we picked out several migrants; Blackcap, Chiffchaff and our first Willow Warbler of the year, to me always a sign that spring is really here. We also had good views of Buzzard, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker as well as several butterflies tempted out by the warm weather.
By the time you read this we’ll have been to Attenborough again and be looking forward to a trip to Padley Gorge in Derbyshire, a stronghold of Pied Flycatcher and Redstart. Then we’ll have a summer break and start again in September.
June 2014 Newsletter
In spite of the early and relatively mild spring it’s been fairly quiet birdwise. An April outing to Wollaton Park produced a selection of woodland species, most notably prolonged views of Nuthatch and Treecreeper together with our first spring migrants (Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin). An added bonus was a heron’s nest with 3 well-grown young. Our May trip was to Sherwood Forest and Budby Heath where I had hoped to find singing Redstarts but to no avail. There was plenty of song around us (Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and a distant Cuckoo) but birds were being very shy of showing themselves. Even Budby Heath was alive with Tree Pipit song but we managed only a few brief glimpses. More spectacular was the herd of Longhorn cattle grazing the heath and thankfully the other side of the fence.
March 2014 Newsletter
We planned to kick off our 2014 programme with a gentle amble around Attenborough Nature Reserve. As it turned out we only covered a few hundred yards in the space of a couple of hours – not because we’re all getting too old but because the birding far exceeded our expectations.
Knowing that there was a Smew (a winter visitor from the Arctic) on Clifton Pond we headed for the tower hide, which is where we spent most of the morning. The Smew was proving elusive but immediately in front of the hide a Water Rail, normally a very secretive species, was feeding out in the open and gave excellent views allowing us to appreciate the subtle colouration of its plumage. A shout of “Bittern!” had all eyes swivelling towards the reeds but only 2 of the group managed the briefest glimpse before it disappeared again. Meanwhile the Smew had finally surrendered and everyone had good, if distant, views. But persistence finally paid off and the Bittern rewarded us with a majestic flypast.
13 September 2013
September is the time for migrants. Our trip to Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire was timed to coincide with the southward migration of many of the northerly breeding species that either pass through or winter on our shores and we were not disappointed. Almost as soon as we arrived the alarm calls of swallows overhead alerted us to a Sparrowhawk looking for an easy meal but he was easily outnumbered by the mob and went off elsewhere. At the first hide were more waders than you could shake a stick at; at least 3000 Black-tailed Godwits assembled in the high tide roost many of them stopping off on their way to wintering areas in southern Britain, western Europe or even West Africa, along with Golden Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet and the pick of the bunch, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Also in the mix were Ruff, many of them juveniles, Wigeon and Pintail.
After lunch a gentle stroll produced a few late warblers, notably Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and both Common and Lesser Whitethroat.
Total count for the day was 50 species and it was generally agreed to be one of best days out so far.
New email address
Pete Sadler writes: I have been having trouble with my old email so this is my new address – email@example.com. If you’ve sent me anything in the past month you might want to resend it (I may have received it but then again I may not – such is the joy of modern technology).
13 June 2013
Our Big Day Out on June 12th was to Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast, one of the best places in mainland Britain to see breeding seabirds at close quarters. The long drive was punctuated by good views of a Barn Owl drifting across the road ahead of us and we were greeted on arrival by warm, sunny conditions. The cliffs and sea were alive with thousands (I exaggerate not!) of Guillemots and Razorbills together with Kittiwakes, Gannets and Fulmars. It took us some time to locate any Puffins but we did manage good views of 2 or 3 eventually. A singing male Corn Bunting (a declining farmland species) was an added bonus. I’d heard reports of a singing Marsh Warbler at Flamborough, about 15 minutes drive away, so we decided to take our lunch there and then try for the warbler. No luck unfortunately but that’s birding for you; if we knew what we were going to see there’d be no fun.
June 2013 Newsletter
Well, spring finally arrived as eight of us set off for Sherwood Forest for our April outing. I’d deliberately delayed our trip to the end of the month to maximise our chances of spring migrant and song activity and it paid off very well.
As we set off from the visitor centre Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were singing and showing well. We soon found a Treecreeper gathering nest material and were able to watch for some time as it ferried its load to a crack in the bark of an oak close to the path. I had hoped for Redstart but the late spring had delayed arrival but we were able to get good views of a Tree Pipit performing its “parachute” display and song flight.
After lunch we moved to Budby Heath and a totally different habitat where there were even more Tree Pipits as well as Yellowhammers, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel (3 in the air together) and a brief glimpse of a Cuckoo. We also stumbled upon a pair of Mandarin Ducks in a tiny pond and rounded off the day with the distant song of Woodlark.
Wednesday June 12th. Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Meet 8.00 at Attenborough.
Thursday September 12th. Titchwell RSPB, North Norfolk. Full day leaving Attenborough 8am.
Wednesday October 9th. Attenborough. Meeting at 9.30 am.
Thursday November 14th. Rutland Water. Leaving Attenborough at 9.00 am.
March 2013 Newsletter
A small but select band of hardy souls gathered on the 13th February for our second visit of the season to Rutland Water. A bitterly cold wind and ice covering large parts of the reserve did nothing to dampen our spirits as we ventured forth. The walk started quietly with just a few distant Coot together with Teal, Shelduck and Cormorant on the water and brief views of a Little Egret. However we were soon rewarded with the first of 3 Barn Owls giving us excellent views as it quartered the fields; Louise voted this her “Bird of the Day”. The deeper water proved more productive with several Goldeneye, many of the males performing their head-tossing display in a bid to attract a mate before their northward migration for the breeding season. Other deep water species included Tufted Duck, Pochard and Great-crested Grebe.
After lunch we went in search of Bittern and Smew, the former proving most elusive, but we were treated to excellent views of a drake Smew, surely the smartest of our winter wildfowl. Two more Barn Owls and a Green Woodpecker completed the line-up before we retreated in the face of the advancing snow.
Wednesday March 13th 2013. Attenborough. Meet 9.30 at Attenborough.
Thursday April 25th 2013. Sherwood Forest. Meet 9.00 at Attenborough.
Tuesday May 14th 2013. Attenborough. Meet 9.30 at Attenborough.
Wednesday June 12th 2013. Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Meet 8.00 at Attenborough.
10 January 2013
The day of our January field trip to Attenborough dawned foggy, but no matter! This would be an ideal opportunity to focus on some close quarters birding and to use our ears to hone our identification skills without being distracted by distant dots on the horizon. You might be forgiven for thinking that all ducks quack and that’s all there is to say about it but there are subtle (and not so subtle) differences between the species. The familiar quack of the Mallard is different from the more “wooden” sounding call of Gadwall; and did you know that Mallard also whistle? Wigeon also whistle (“weeoo”) whilst Teal chirp (“prrip”); and all this before we’d left the car park. As well as the rather vague-sounding song of Robin we picked up the soft single-note call of Bullfinch and the repeated phrases of a Song Thrush who had clearly decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer for spring. The commonest sound of the walk was the “Teacher teacher” song of Great Tit and although we missed out on what I thought would be a “guaranteed” Willow Tit at the Delta Gate feeder we did hear Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and managed views of Snipe through the mist. It all went to show that with a bit of positive thinking even the most adverse conditions could be turned to our advantage.
NOTE: The venue for February’s field trip has been changed to Rutland Water.
11 December 2012
I was a little unsure as to how productive our scheduled trip to Shipley Park would be but I needn’t have worried. A clear, crisp winter day meant that even if we saw no birds we’d at least enjoy the walk. We started at Straw’s Bridge between Ilkeston and West Hallam sorting out the finer points of gull identification with Black-headed, Common and Herring Gull before moving on to Peewit Carr nature reserve where, apart from a couple of Robins and a rapidly departing Bullfinch, things were decidedly quiet. But in my experience a quiet start is usually a good sign and, sure enough, things soon started to pick up when we stopped to scan an apparently empty field (empty that is apart from a few grazing ponies), for in amongst the livestock we found Redwing, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Jay. Moving on we soon found a mixed finch flock with Goldfinch and Siskin feeding in the Alders followed by closer views of Redwing and Fieldfare before returning to the car park. Our next outing is on January 10th at Attenborough.
December 2012 Newsletter
Our November field trip was on the 7th to Rutland Water when 9 of us turned out. For most of the group this was their first visit to what is arguably one of the best inland birding sites in the UK.
We restricted our attention to just a part of this huge reserve in order to better focus on the species available and started with good views of Pintail, Wigeon and Little Grebe along with some of the commoner residents. We followed up with Sparrowhawk, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Great black-backed and Common Gulls, Kestrel and Fieldfare before ending with a good selection of waders and more waterfowl including Redshank, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Red-crested Pochard, Goldeneye and a vocal if somewhat secretive Water Rail. On the walk back to the car park those of us at the front flushed a Green Woodpecker but everyone managed good views of a couple of Jays.
December will find us in Shipley Park which even I am not familiar with so watch this space.
Tuesday 11 December 2012. Shipley Park. Meet 9.30 at Attenborough.
Wednesday 13 February 2013. Blacktoft Sands RSPB (Entrance fee). 9.00 at Attenborough.
Wednesday 13 March 2013. Attenborough. Meet 9.30.
Thursday 25 April 2013. Sherwood Forest. Meet 9.00 at Attenborough.
Tuesday 14 May 2013. Attenborough. Meet 9.30.
Wednesday 12 June 2013. Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Meet 8.00 at Attenborough.
11 October 2012
We held our first outdoor meeting on 11th October at Attenborough with an encouraging turnout of 13 members. Heavy rain was forecast but not a drop was seen during our 2½ hour walk around the reserve. Many members were new to birdwatching so some time was spent discussing the basics but without distracting from the main business of the day. It was fairly quiet birdwise but a briefly glimpsed Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Kingfisher whetted the appetites and good views were had of several common species including Cormorant, Heron, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Lapwing and Tree Sparrow. Several Cetti’s Warblers announced their presence but, as ever, proved impossible to see. Our November trip will be to Rutland Water, one of my favourite inland birding sites.