Thirteen of us met at Thornton Reservoir on Sunday 20th January 2019. It was a cold, dull day with little wind. Our walk around the reservoir was uneventful apart from the sighting of a male Carolina or Wood duck. A beautiful bird with well marked plumage, demonstrating its relationship to the Mandarin duck. It's not as common as the Mandarin duck with less than 20 breeding pairs in this country; most are escapees.
Like the Mandarin, the Wood duck favours nesting in trees and as it's name suggests prefers an environment with plenty of foliage. Despite the quietness of the day 40 species were seen or heard, however no raptors appeared and the only wader was the lapwing.
Due to a forecast of lovely weather, we went up to RSPB site Bempton Cliffs which is three miles north of Bridlington, near Flamborough Head. Upon approaching the edge of the cliffs, the noise of thousand of birds was breathtaking, there are 5 or 6 lookouts with excellent views along the cliff top. To the right there were the gannets, we were told they had 4 thousand last year, this year they had arrived later, so no eggs as yet had been laid, but numbers were already looking good, also countless Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittywakes and a Peregrine shown to us on the RSPB assistants scope.
Further to the left we started to see the puffins, flying back and forth. The sea which was calm was covered with birds everywhere, it's a truely wonderful sight and well worth the trip!
Upon returning to the center, a Hawfinch had turned up at the feeder station, first record in 5 years, this presented an opportunity for photographs to the fortunate people there, other sightings on site in...
A grey and overcast day did not deter a large group and did not disappoint on the birding front. Joined on the day by Ken, Dave and his grandson Billy, Graham, Fred and Linda, Vicki, Julie, Ellen, John and Angie, Sue and Beverly we made our way to the first of the two hides on the pond. Up to this point and here we had views of a Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, a pair of Kingfishers, Sand Martins, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and many more (see the bird list). From here we moved along trying to find the best route to dodge the waterlogged sections and the muddy sections. A pleasurable day had by all. I left the group early to check out the Kingfishers again and was also greeted by a pair of Oystercatchers having a squabble. I decided to also test out the new burger van which was delicious!
Today eight of us visited the Hall, which is a gem for birding. The garden is set on higher ground looking out over the flood plain of the meandering River Soar which spills into small lakes, some used for fishing. There are views over the surrounding countryside on three sides of the garden with a wide variety of habitats - fields and meadows, tree-lined river, lakes with reed beds, hedgerows, landscaped gardens, mixed woodland, old buildings. This was the venue for our cancelled walk three weeks ago, when it snowed. What brought us here today was the sighting of three swallows yesterday, increasing to six by the end of the day, coupled with a possible view of boxing hares. The swallows nest in the horses' stables in old red brick barns. Last year, we were told that the swallows arrived on 3rd April, so surprisingly just a few days late this year. Joy had calculated that there must have been over 120 fledgling swallows last year from these barns alone.
On Sunday 18th February, before the Siberian weather arrived, nine of us (Nev, Graham, Dave M., Vicky, Ellen, Terry, Alma, Bev and Madeleine) visited the nature reserve at the northern end of Watermead Country Park in Syston.
It was a cold enough day then, but with lovely, bright sunshine. We did see over 40 different birds, however it felt quiet. We had to search for the unexpected like the lone Siskin; the Treecreeper and Cetti's warbler which we could hear but not see, the latter proving totally elusive; the Water rail scurrying out of the stream to disappear into the brambles and the distant goosanders. However, there were excellent views to be had of a female green woodpecker and a goldcrest behaving as if it was a flycatcher darting out from an ivy-clad tree stump to snatch insects enjoying the sunbeams.
On Sunday 14th January a group of eight (Nev, Graham, Lee, Wendy, Terry, Alma, Bev and Madeleine) braved the cold weather to visit this reserve in the Nene Valley, Northamptonshire. There are a variety of wetland sites as well as grasslands and young woodlands, consequently a wide variety of waterfowl and many other birds arrive with the changing seasons. We were particularly looking for the great egret which had been reported here.
Three of us were lucky enough to see the bird from the Pioneer hide almost as soon as we arrived as it flew leisurely from one end of the lake to the other disappearing out of sight at the back of a reed bed. After a few minutes the other members began to arrive, but the great egret had gone.
However, very soon many other waterfowl began to attract our attention - adult mute swans with juveniles in tow and a wide variety of ducks, but no waders. A peregrine falcon eased its way overhead into a tree on the far side of the lake.
A while ago, earlier in the year, an advert popped up through my Facebook fed asking if anyone was interested in doing an advert for a company called Hive, a subsidiary of British Gas. They sell interactive smart products like light bulbs, thermostats, plugs and a few other items that link together with your smart phone and allows you to control your home from anywhere in the world, providing you have an internet connection.
I contacted them and received a reply asking me about myself and what my hobbies were, well I guess you can guess my hobby to be honest, but I think it was initially drawn them into contacting me further. After a few more rounds of questions they said they would like to come to my home and record me for the day both at home and whilst bird watching.
I chose my favourite location, Brandon Marsh, as you all know it’s close to home and a beautiful location.
All in all it was a twelve hour day, both at home and out at Brandon, but my family and I had a lot of fun.
I'm looking out the window at the depressing, damp, greyness of today and remembering last Sunday's Walk at Rutland Water. In contrast, it was a cold, sunny, crisp day. The drive across Leicestershire's rolling countryside was a pleasure. This day's walk was ably led by Nev and Graham. Angie and John, Bev, Wendy, Terry and yours truly all made the journey. We met in the car park at Egleton surrounded by fieldfare before we set off for the North Arm. Many birds were on the water - mute swans, tufted ducks, shoveler, mallard, wigeon, greater crested and little grebes etc. but in amongst them were a pair of pintails, beautifully marked, showing off their dabbling talents. On the far bank two waders were spotted. After much deliberation it was decided that they must be green sandpiper rather than common or wood sandpiper due to the lack of a white gap in the plumage on the shoulder with a very definite horizontal line separating the belly from the wing and breast. Egyptian gees...
With a misty and cloudy start to the day 8 intrepid birders arrived at Draycote water that was comprised of the following bunch: Neville, Graham, Angie, John, Beverly, Julie, Ellen and I. We were immediately greeted with the view of a Green Woodpecker, was this to be a good omen?
Recent rarity records found via twitter prior to our visit at the reservoir included the Little Stint and the Rock Pipit which we all had an eye for and were all hoping to see.
Guided by the ever knowledgeable Neville, the eight of us set off down the Farnborough bank of Draycote reservoir; within moments of being bombarded by a large volume of birds to see. From the start there were a number of female Goosander, Linnet, Little Grebe, and Meadow Pipit alongside all the common birds you would expect to see in a location such as this like: Moorhen, Coot, Crow, Mallards, Magpies and Pied Wagtails.
We continued the walk stopping multiple times for extended periods scouring the Meadow Pipits for that elusive Rock Pipi...