13 April 2009

The Easter break...

Friday... The forecast was for a dull, cloudy start and then rain by late morning. It turned out to be just so. I decided against any birding and instead took a trip to the garden centre with Lynda. Garden wise, it turned out to be a reasonable choice as we picked up some cheap bedding plants (that need growing on) and also a few rather nice alpine plants too.

By the time we returned home the rain had started and we then spent the next hour or so potting the plants up whilst trying to shelter from the worst of the rain under the open garage door! Any normal people would have taken the car out of the garage so that they had room to work inside or, better still, left the job for a dry day! I guess we’re not so normal!

The alpine tub.

Bedding plants.

Bird wise, the garden centre trip cost me dearly! Osprey, Avocet and Tree Pipit were all seen at Willington Gravel Pits during the morning, the place I’d have chosen for my birding if I had gone out!

Saturday... Lynda had an appointment with her chiropractor mid-morning so that meant I would be left without the car for the morning. I could either stay home or be dropped off somewhere en route and be collected later. I chose to be kicked out of the car at Long Eaton Gravel Pits for a few hours.

I spent just over 3½ hours strolling around the old gravel pits and also along the adjacent river recording a total of 50 species. Birds of note included Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall and Goldeneye; Sparrowhawk and Kestrel; Great Spotted and also Green Woodpecker; around 30 Sand Martin and a single Swallow; Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff; 2 stunning male Yellowhammer, numerous Goldfinch and also 3 Linnet.

New birds for the “10-Mile List” were Blackcap (3 singing males), a single Swift and also 2 Common Whitethroat. Just a few hours after I left Long Eaton I received reports that a Little Tern had been seen there, twice! Another bird missed!

Sunday... I started the morning off at Long Eaton Gravel pits in the vain hope that the Little Tern may put in another appearance - it didn’t. I spent just over an hour waiting for the tern before moving on to Aston-on-Trent Gravel Pits. This was another “just in case” stop off as the wandering Avocets had been spotted here late on Saturday evening. Of course, by Sunday morning they’d wandered off again! I did hear my first Grasshopper Warbler of the year though so that was some consolation, and also species 115 on the “10-Mile List”.

Species 116 was both unexpected and rather welcome - it was a Jay! Yes, after more than four months of trying I finally found the elusive Jay! Well, to be honest, the Jay found me - I was driving along the A50, heading for Barrow-on-Trent, when it flew across the road and landed in a roadside tree. I was overjoyed but I somehow think the moment was lost on the bird - it didn’t even wave as I passed by.

Barrow kept the year list ticking along by providing me with my first Wheatear of the year. Wheatears are common enough in the north of the county but within my recording zone they are only passage migrants - next stop the Derbyshire moors or somewhere even further north. I spent 2½ hours at Barrow, recording a total of 42 species. Notable sightings included 12 Shelduck (my highest count of this species here), 2 Buzzard, a Red-legged Partridge, numerous Sand Martin, 2 Swallow, 2 Chiffchaff and a female Blackcap.

The only minor downside to the day? Two Avocet turned up at Aston-on-Trent Gravel Pits late evening just as I’d settled down to watch the golf on TV! Three days in a row I’d missed out on birds within 15 minutes of home!

Monday... I started off with a very quick visit to Aston, just so I could be certain of not seeing the Avocets. I succeeded in my task, the Avocets had moved once again. I did manage to get brief views of the Grasshopper Warbler that I had only heard the day before though so that species is now a full tick on my list and not just a “heard only”.

The rest of Monday morning was spent at Willington Gravel Pits. I was on the reserve for almost 3½ hours, much of it on the viewing platform at the end of the lane. All the expected resident birds were to be seen along with a good number of migrants. Sand Martin and Swallow were over the pits whilst Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were in the lane. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling close to the viewing platform for a while whilst at least four Sedge Warbler were singing and displaying in the reed beds. One bird was particularly showy and constantly returned to the same bush to sing, that was until a Sparrowhawk flew by causing the warbler to turn its attention to staying alive! The Sedge Warblers were species 118 on the “10-Mile List”.

Sedge Warbler, in full song.

The Sparrowhawk flys over!

Just as I was about to leave a pair of Jay flew low across the reserve... I wait four months to see one and then they start turning up everywhere!

So, that’s the Easter break over with. All I have to look forward to now is another week at work and I can’t say I’m too excited about it. Still, if you look hard enough you can just about see next weekend on the horizon!

"I can see the weekend from here!"


  1. Nic (Birdnerdblog)16 April, 2009 22:26

    Great photos!! And I love the caption for the last one! :-)

  2. I love the last picture. It almost looks like a painting. I can't wait to read about your adventures this weekend. I hope all went well with Lynda's appointment.

  3. I agree with Sarah, it looks like a painting or the last scene of a wildlife commercial. Awesome shot.

    *I Donate to Cornell Ornithology!*