17 November 2008

Deep water birding...

Apart from the, very enjoyable, few hours that I spent birding at Blashford Lakes back on 22 October my binoculars and ‘scope haven’t seen the light of day for almost two months. On Sunday, I decided that it was high time I got back out in the field so to speak. After much deliberation over where to go, and what to go in search of, I chose the obvious - Willington Gravel Pits! I could easily have headed off to Carsington Water for Scaup, Common Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Ring-billed Gull and Waxwing but that would have taken me out of my 10-Mile Zone, so Willington it was.

As I parked the car and started the walk down the lane the rain started to fall, with it came the birds. It was literally raining thrushes! At first it was just the odd Redwing or two that were landing. The cloud thickened and with it came a small group of Fieldfare, a few more Redwing and then another group of around 30 Fieldfare dropped into trees in the lane. A little later 24 Redwing flew low over the reserve in search of a suitable place to rest. By the time the rain had eased around 100 Fieldfare and 40 Redwing were feeding on berries in the bottom half of the lane. The resident Blackbirds, and a single Song Thrush, tried their very best to protect their food supply but the Scandinavian invasion was just too much for them. The weather may not have been that nice to be out in but it was interesting to see how it effected the birds on what was clearly a good day for passing migrants.

The next hour or so was spent on the viewing platform at the end of the lane. After all the rain we’ve had over the past few weeks the water level was, as I expected, way too high for anything but ducks on or around the two main pits. With very little happening out on the water I set about doing a few counts... 30 Wigeon, 15 Gadwall, 10 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 45 Pochard and a single male Goldeneye! There were also good numbers of Mallard and Tufted Duck, but I didn’t feel as though I needed to sink so low as to count them too - maybe next weekend!

Other birds of note amongst the 43 species recorded during my visit included 4 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Mute Swan, a Common Buzzard, around 100 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, 2 Willow Tit and 6 Bullfinch. A single Yellowhammer, which was seen in the lane, was my first on the main part of the reserve since 2002 - that's around 60 visits without a sighting of this species.

On the way back home from Willington I stopped off for a short while at Barrow Gravel Pits - more deep water, more ducks. The public pit held 150 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 44 Tufted Duck and a few Mallard. I may have lowered myself to Tufted Duck but I still wasn’t ready to count Mallard! There were also 2 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Mute Swan. A small group of Lapwing and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull were on the gravel workings along with a Grey Wagtail. A count of 34 Red-legged Partridge was my highest ever for the species at any location - I couldn’t find a single Grey Partridge though, a species I still need for my 10-Mile List.


  1. Good luck finding that Grey Partridge. Whenever the weather gets bad around the Great Lakes up by Michigan we get seaguls in the Wal-Mart parking lot. There were a lot of them on Monday. Nothing new at the feeders but there were 10 deer in the field. The irony of that is our friend was out and about hunting the day before and saw nothing. By the time we called to let him know they were here it was too dark, by law, to hunt. Deer aren't stupid.

  2. Nic (Birdnerdblog)25 November, 2008 12:09

    Sounds like you had a great day! All those Redwing...they are such a pretty bird. Oh and can we have more photos please lol your pics are really good! Take care, Nic