27 January 2010

Two missed, four gained...

I set out for my morning’s birding on Sunday with just two target species in mind, Whooper Swan and Smew. After 2½ hours moving between various sites in the Trent Valley I gave up, the swans and Smew were nowhere to be seen. The morning did however provide some rather good birding with a total of 52 species being seen.

Highlights from a brief visit to Aston-on-Trent gravel pits were 3 Shelduck, 4 Gadwall, 30 Pochard, 6 Goldeneye, 2 Buzzard and 2 Kestrel, 1 Peregrine and 1 Kingfisher. The three raptor species proved to be the best part of the day with some great views of all 5 birds interacting with each other. Watching the Peregrine being mobbed by the other birds more than made up for the missing Smew!

Next stop was the River Derwent at nearby Ambaston village. Here, I had hoped to catch up with a small group of Whooper Swan that had been in the area since early in the month, again I missed out. My hour-long search wasn’t without some small reward though with 2 Pink-footed Geese, 5 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, 3 Stock Dove, 6 Pied Wagtail and 80 Fieldfare being amongst the 20 species recorded.

The next hour or so was spent driving slowly around the Swarkestone/Barrow-on-Trent area in search of another Whooper Swan that had been reported, on-and-off, for a few days leading up to the weekend - once again, I failed.

With a little over an hour left before I needed to be heading home for lunch I decided to spend the time birding an area that I hadn’t visited for a number of years, the canal and river at Weston-on-Trent. The mix of habitat here - the canal with it’s wooded banks and the river and flooded fields - gave me a total of 30 species, the highest of the morning. The walk from the church, along the canal and then up onto the bridge over the river, gave close views of Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Tufted Duck, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Marsh Tit and Goldfinch amongst the numerous other more common birds.

Retracing my steps back to the car took a little while longer than the outward walk due to spotting a feeding station placed on the edge of a garden, high up on the wooded bank. In the short time I stood and watched the feeding station a total of 14 species visited it. If only my own feeders were so busy. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Jay all put in an appearance but were overshadowed by two species that were new to my “10-Mile List” this year - a male Brambling and around half a dozen Tree Sparrow. The Brambling was the first I’d ever seen within my 10-mile zone, my first in South Derbyshire and my first in the county for almost four years. Maybe I should get out more?

On the final part of the walk, from the canal back to the car, I came across 12 Fieldfare and 24 Redwing. One last scan over the flooded river revealed a total of 44 Mute Swan - but not a single Whooper!

With four new species located during the morning - Shelduck, Marsh Tit, Tree Sparrow and Brambling - the “10-Mile List” now stands at 73 species.

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