01 March 2009

In and out of "the zone"...

After a somewhat difficult week at work I was more than ready for my two days off this weekend. I ought to have treated myself to a few hours extra in bed, to try and catch up on lost sleep, but sacrifices had to be made if I was to get my target birds this weekend! On Saturday I was out of bed at 6:00am; this morning it was 6:45am - no rest for the wicked as they say.

Saturday’s first birding site was Allestree Park and I was in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Last year I had been lucky enough to locate two birds at Allestree so I was reasonably hopeful of success again this year, especially as other local birders have reported seeing them over the past week or so. It took me almost two hours but in the end I did manage to track down a male Lesser ‘pecker and it showed well for around 5 minutes, drumming away at a dead branch all the while. I tried for photos of this tiny little woodpecker but failed miserably! I blame the wind for moving the branch, and also my ‘scope, around too much. The cloudy conditions didn’t help either, as there was very little light getting through to the camera lens - enough excuses yet? Last year's photo wasn’t great, but it was better!

A very blurred Lesser Spotted Woodpecker!

Allestree entertained me for almost four hours in the end and I managed to locate a total of 35 species. I wouldn’t normally spend so long here but I was hoping to find a Jay in the woodland, a bird I also need for my “10-Mile List”. Once again, I failed to see one. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been thinking that there is a distinct lack of Jay in the Derby/Trent Valley area and, having spoken to one or two other birders, this is looking to be true. Next weekend I plan on trying a site that should almost guarantee me a sighting - we’ll see.

Of the species seen at Allestree the more notable included Great Crested Grebe (a pair displaying to each other), 10 Mandarin Duck, Sparrowhawk, 8 Stock Dove, 4 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and a flock of 20 Siskin. The Mandarin showed well for a change and the Siskin gave views down to less than 15 feet at times. A Green Woodpecker was calling for much of the morning but never showed itself. Seeing it’s little cousin more than made up for that though.

Mandarin Duck.

Having taken a few hours break back at home for lunch, and a quick sleep in front of the TV, I headed back out again for the last 2½ hours of daylight at Foremark Reservoir. Yes, I know, on Monday I said that I’d not be returning there any time soon but the thought of adding that Iceland Gull to my “10-Mile List” was just too much of a draw for me and I had to give it another go. I was the first birder to arrive at the reservoir so at least I had the pick of the benches - not that any of them are comfortable or warm - and I started to scan the gulls that had already started to settle on the water.

I’m pretty sure that there was a Caspian Gull in with the Herring Gulls but, almost as soon as I got the bird in my ’scope and in focus, it took flight and I never relocated it. As the afternoon drew on more birders arrived and more eyes meant more birds located in the 1000’s of gulls that were now in the roost - I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was enjoyable but at least there was lots of birds to look at!

At 4:35pm the “excitement” started... someone had spotted an Iceland Gull flying over the reservoir! As the bird was called out I actually felt my heart rate increase slightly; was I getting excited about a gull? Surely not? The Iceland Gull settled on the water some distance from us but due to it’s size and colouring it still stuck out like a sore thumb amongst all the other birds. A short while later and we were treated to a second Iceland Gull - it too was some distance from us but showed better as it landed on a sandbank.

By now the light was starting to fade and I was getting ready to pack up and head for home. Luckily, I held on until just after 5:30pm and was able to add one more new bird to my count, a Red-necked Grebe. The grebe has been on the reservoir since early February but has proved tricky to locate at times, so I’d never bothered. On Saturday evening it appeared out of nowhere right in front of us! Although not yet in full summer plumage the grebe was still a very smart looking bird, much better than any gull in my opinion. Not counting the possible Caspian Gull, I recorded a total of 19 species at Foremark.

Today, I have been birding outside of my 10-mile zone. I had planned on going to Willington but was talked out of it by my birding friends Mike and Chris. We went off twitching some of the local Derbyshire goodies. It was an enjoyable morning and, thankfully, I’ve not heard of anything special turning up at Willington in my absence!

We met up at 8:00am at Cromford, near Matlock, with the aim of seeing Hawfinch. I’m pleased to say we achieved our goal. In recent days and weeks up to 15 Hawfinch have been reported at this location but this morning I had to make do with just three birds. If just one of those birds could relocate itself to somewhere closer to home I’d be more than happy!

Cromford also provided good views of Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Goldfinch. The highlight for me of the 20 species seen here wasn’t the Hawfinch but a pair of Dipper. Okay, Dipper isn’t a particularly scarce bird when compared to Hawfinch but not only did they show very well they were both heard singing on a number of occasions too. A great start to the day.

The river at Cromford.

From Cromford we moved on to Carsington Water. Here I noted a total of 34 species in what proved to be a rather quiet 2½ hours. The reservoir held all the usual suspects such as Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye. A female Scaup was seen from Paul Stanley hide and a single Great Northern Diver was seen from Lane End hide. The walk to the bay overlooking the wildlife centre gave sightings of Nuthatch, Bullfinch, and Tree Sparrow.

A total of 46 Barnacle Geese were grazing in one of the fields by the reservoir and 7 Ruddy Duck were doing their best to blend into the background - just in case someone decided they needed culling! Don’t get me started on that one! A single Buzzard was soaring over a distant hillside and a Curlew was heard calling but was never seen.

At 12:30pm I left Mike and Chris to continue the day on their own as I needed to be back home in time for lunch. The birding had been okay but Lynda’s homemade lasagne was always going to take priority, even if I’d been birding within my 10-mile zone! A text message from Chris late this afternoon revealed that I’d missed out on a further 2 Great Northern Divers, a Common Scoter, Curlew, Little Owl, 3 Stonechat and a male Hen Harrier. All good stuff but they missed lasagne!!!

With the addition of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Iceland Gull and Red-necked Grebe my “10-Mile List” now stands at 97 species.

1 comment:

  1. Nic (birdnerdblog)03 March, 2009 22:17

    HAWFINCH?? I am so jealous haha! They are smart little birds!
    On a more serious note, there is a distinct lack of Jay around our area too. We used to have two regulars in our garden, and I used to see them on the "heath" near our house, but it's ages since I saw any around. Ditto Nuthatch - we had two daily visitors to our feeders, but I haven't seen or heard them for months. Odd.