03 January 2010

2010 - Here we go again!

On New Year’s Eve, I posted here that I had not yet decided on my approach to birding in 2010. By the time I’d dragged myself out of bed on New Year’s Day it was all sorted. The “10-Mile List” is underway once again! To anyone reading this for the first time, that means I’ll be recording all the bird species I come across within a 10-mile radius of home, which is on the southeast edge of Derby. Just like the past two years, I expect a good proportion of my birding to take place at Willington Gravel Pits but I’ll also be making the effort to try and get to a number of other local sites too.

The new year kicked off in traditional style, a mid-morning start to the day after the previous evening’s food and drink. Lynda and I then went for a walk around Alvaston and Elvaston to clear our heads, and also to get my bird list underway! By the time we returned home, after a walk of just under 5 miles, I had a year list of 30 species. The pick of the birds seen included 2 Little Grebe and 3 Goosander on the River Derwent, a Sparrowhawk, 30 Fieldfare, 50 Redwing and 2 Goldfinch as we walked through the centre of Alvaston and a Great Spotted Woodpecker as we entered the grounds of Elvaston Castle. Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush and Long-tailed Tit were noted close to the new Alvaston by-pass.

The River Derwent.

Walking back towards home gave us an opportunity to check on the progress being made with the new industrial park that is being built alongside the Alvaston by-pass. Although I cycle this route most days it has been during the hours of darkness for a while now. Seeing the site in daylight revealed the progress being made... very little! Apart from a few new access roads, and the associated street lighting and signage, nothing much has happened in the past 16 months.

September 2008.

January 2010.

September 2008.

January 2010. Not a lot changes!

On 2 January I added another four species to the list with Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Dunnock and Jackdaw all being seen from the garden at home.

This morning saw my birding year get into full swing with a visit to Willington Gravel Pits. I was awake by 6:30am, loading my things into the car by 7:30am and in the service area on the A50 eating a full English breakfast by just after 8:00am! In my eyes, there is no better way to start a morning’s birding than with a plate full of sausage, eggs, bacon, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. Two slices of toast and a large mug of coffee just topped it all off! By 8:45am I was walking down the lane at Willington. The ground had a covering of frost, the sky was a beautiful, clear blue and the temperature was a refreshing -5°c. It had the makings of a nice day!

Breakfast awaits!

After walking just a few feet from the car I had my first new species of the year, a Kingfisher. The bird was perched just a couple of feet above the small stream that runs alongside the lane, looking somewhat put out by the ice that covered it’s hunting grounds. Moments later and it was flying off up stream, no doubt in search of open water and the hope of a meal.

A rather frozen Willington.

Lapwings at Willington.

The gravel pits themselves were, as I expected, rather quiet due to much of the water being frozen over. What was lacking in quantity was certainly made up for by the quality of the birding. Ducks were represented by 30 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 10 Teal, 110 Mallard, 4 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 8 Tufted Duck, 1 Goldeneye and 1 Goosander. A Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and 2 Peregrine took care of the raptors. The wader list was made up of 700 Lapwing (yes, I did count them all), 49 Golden Plover and 3 Snipe. A Green Woodpecker spent a while perched in a small willow tree in the middle of the reed bed and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling, but not seen. Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Willow Tit, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and Bullfinch all added to the interest but couldn’t quite make the cut when it came to trying to pick “Bird of the Day”. The three species I short-listed were Bittern, Pink Footed Goose and Stonechat.

The Bittern really should have taken the award for best bird, but it just didn’t want to show itself well enough! For around half an hour it sat in the reed bed giving us views of it’s bill, head, wing, back and even a leg. It point blank refused to show all of the parts at the same time - a point lost.

The Stonechats, there was a pair, showed very well and in some of the best light I’ve birded in for years. Although they never came overly close, the views were superb both with the bins and the ‘scope. But, they lost a couple of points (one each?) due to them not being the scarcest of birds. Harsh, but true!

So, the Pinkies get my choice as “Bird of the Day”. Yeah, I know, “How the heck?” Well, it was just one of those moments... the weather, the light, the sound, the vision, the unexpected. There were 30 geese and they had formed a perfect V formation, they were heading north-west and so I guess they were moving between feeding grounds on The Wash and the Lancashire coast. The sound of a Pinkie calling is one of the true sounds of winter birding for me and that, added to the perfectly clear blue sky and the stunning light made for a truly stunning sight. For me, at least, bird(s) of the day!

By the end of the morning my “10-Mile List” had reached 63 species but there was the possibility of just one more new bird, Bewick’s Swan. A short journey back along the A50 and I arrived at Church Wilne, a small village between Sawley and Draycott. After a very slow drive around a couple of narrow, and ice covered, roads I managed to locate a small group of swans. Sure enough, there was the Bewick in with about 12 or 14 Mute Swan. Another tricky species safely ticked off.

After just one short walk and a separate morning’s birding the “10-Mile List” stands at 64 species.

"You lookin' at me?"

A rather cheeky fox at Willington!

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