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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Summer visitors


This weekend I have spent all my available daylight hours, apart cooking my mum breakfast in bed today as it is mothers day and I am a good boy, I have been down at Pitsford Reservoir doing my daily checks and an obvious movement of birds is starting to take place.

There has been quite a fair amount of gull passage occurring over the last two weeks or so and Friday was no exception. I was round the dam area of Pitsford Res in the evening after school and there was no gulls or very few birds to be seen at all from here, then in one big flock, at least 300+ Herring Gulls dropped in with about 50+ Lesser Black Backed and a handful of Greater Black Backed Gulls. I thought my luck had changed for a white winged gull but my hopes didn't come to much at all.

Yesterday was a bright but windy day with a strong northerly wind persisting through most of the day, however this did not deter a female Osprey to fly in from the south at around 11 O' clock and fish for about half an hour in the Scaldwell Bay before it continued its journey north without a fish, but with a Red Kite chasing it till it was out of sight. Interestingly, this bird was bearing a green colour ring and was originally ringed at Rutland Water in 2004 as a female. This makes it 13 years old if it reaches to the summer, imagine the number on miles that bird will have covered in its life! Other birds noted include the White Fronted Goose, two Oystercatcher, a Snipe, a Redshank, two Lapwing, three Green Sandpiper, a Marsh Tit and a few Little Egrets. I then went up to Harrington Airfield to feed the birds were I flushed two Grey Partridge and a male White Wagtail was along the concrete track with Pied Wagtails and Yellowhammers.

Today was the day of patch year ticks, I managed to catch up finally with the Nuthatch in the Moulton Grange Bay which has been present for nearly two weeks now as it was singing refutably as was the Willow Warbler in a neighbouring tree, this was my first of the year. Then, after walking less than 100 yards, a Curlew went over calling wildly as it was flying south, I was able to repeat its call and it started to circle above me, this was when I found out I had left my camera battery at home. Ah well. After five minutes of it circling, it continued its journey south. The Slavonian Grebe was still present in its winter plumage in the Pintail Bay and other birds included the three Green Sandpipers, two Oystercatchers, six Snipe, a Pintail and what could possibly be my last Fieldfares of the year. Its weird seeing winter and summer migrants on the same day.




White Fronted Goose


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Third time lucky!


Today I set off to go and see the male Pine Bunting in Dunnington, North Yorkshire and third time lucky seems to tell the truth! Andrew Tyrell and myself set off at 6am this morning and we reached Cunnington at about half 8, we were then pointed in the direction of the bird by two teenagers who probably thought we were all a bit mad, all flocking to see one bird but never the less, we had arrived. After waiting around for 20mins or so after observing some Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and Siskins, I scanned the top of the trees through my scope and what was sitting on top of the Silver Birch was mind blowing. The male Pine Bunting, finally after three attempts to see this species, and everyone around me got onto it as it sat quite proudly in the same place for about five minutes before flicking down and into the field.

A record shot of the Pine Bunting

We then moved onto Acaster Malbis where a Great Grey Shrike had been seen however we had some confusion as Birdguides where calling it Acaster Malbis and Rare Bird Alert were calling the site Acaster Selby so after stopping a cycling birder we found that it was in-between the two villages. However, once we found the bird it was showing incredibly well around the Ebor Trucks compound.

Now we had ticked Great Grey Shrike for the year, we moved south, heading to Willow Tree Fen, Lincolnshire for the male Bluethroat that has been performing excellently there for the last few weeks. We arrived and the hour long wait began but that wait wasn't worthless as I managed to pick up a Water Pipit calling with some of the Meadow Pipits which were gathering there. Other birds included a Peregrine and a female Marsh Harrier. Then the Bluethroat stopped playing games and hoped out of view but it seemed to be struggling with swallowing something, probably some of the Mealworms that its being fed. However it was showing incredibly well down to four feet! 

Then, our last site of the day was Frampton Marsh RSPB which seems to be an excellent site holding very large numbers of Golden Plover, around ten thousand. Also big numbers of Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal and other common waterfowl but some of the less common birds included a Barnacle Goose, ten Ruff, three Spotted Redshank, a Merlin, a male Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine, four Whooper Swans, quite a few Pintail but we didn't catch up with many of the birds with Sand Martins, two Common Cranes and a Dotterel being seen there today! 




Brent Geese

Golden Plover

Great Grey Shrike



Meadow Pipit


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Ringing and a County Tick


Yesterday I spent the day ringing in a very muddy wood on the Kelmarsh Estate called Sunderland Wood. This wood has had a lot of clearing done inside the wood and is now pretty much a natural mature Ash woodland. This seems to have helped the birds inside the wood and we noted many common woodland birds including quite a few Marsh Tits and a minimum of three Woodcock, one I watched fly in off a nearby field and come into roost in the half light. There was quite a sizeable flock of thrushes on some nearby fields, mainly consisting of Redwings which came into the wood at the end of the ringing session.

We ended up catching 69 birds consisting of two Nuthatch, seventeen Great Tit, four Robin, two Coal Tit, two Chaffinch, five Marsh Tits, twenty five Blue Tits, two Goldcrest, two Wren, two Treecreeper, three Long Tailed Tit and a Blackbird. Two of these birds were interesting, firstly, one of the Blue Tits was incredibly old for this species, ringed there on the 27th November 2010 already as a adult making this bird at least eight years old if it survives till this may. This backs up my, and a lot of others theory that once these small birds survive their first winter, they can last for a considerably longer even though the life expectancy of a tit is shorter than year, especially in a considerable harsh winter which we haven't had over the last few years, probably the reason for a few older birds still kicking around. The other was a Blackbird which had clearly had a run in with something else as it had lost all of its tail and its secondaries, tertails and 10th primary on its right wing. Please see the below image:


Today was spent birding the whole of Pitsford Reservoir for the monthly WeBs Count and the highlight has to be a Jack Snipe which was intact a county tick for me and a healthy two points for Patchwork Challenge 2017, another new bird for PWC was a day calling Tawny Owl, which only hooted once but thats all it needs! Now third in my midlands mini league but who knows what other people will get during the time I am at school over the coming week. Today leaves me at 93 species and 108 points. Other birds noted were the Red Necked Grebe north of the causeway in the 'middle section' of all the bays, the Slavonian Grebe in Yacht Bay but had been seen in Pintail Bay earlier in the day, two Great White Egrets north of the causeway, a drake Pintail, two Redshank, two Green Sandpiper, a Woodcock, ninety Snipe, two Willow Tits, two Marsh Tits, two Kingfishers, four Grey Wagtails, two Stonechat (one by Holly Tree and one south of Dam along fence line), two Ravens carrying food in Scaldwell Bay, a 1w Yellow Legged Gull was flying around south of the causeway during the day but wasn't visible in the roost and a 1w Mediterranean Gull in the roost. All in all, I think this is the most species I have recorded in a day on-site with a total of 82 recorded!

I also had a male Brambling in my garden first thing this morning...



Sunday, 19 February 2017

Half term patch birding


This last week has been my February half term from school, I have spent the majority of it, down on my patch of Pitsford Reservoir as I regularly try and find new species down there to add to my year list of the site for Patchwork Challenge 2017.

Sunday, the 12th, wasn't the most pleasant of days, and probably the reason why it didn't result in any new sightings to the year list however it held a few long stayers including the adult Caspian Gull in the roost from the sailing club which now typically roosts away from the main flock as it regularly is chased by some of the larger gulls, the Slavonian Grebe in Yacht Bay, two Redshanks, two Marsh Tits and two Ravens.

Monday, I had other commitments so no birding could really take place but I did note two Lesser Redpolls on my silver birch tree in the garden. This happened to be the day a first winter Red Necked Grebe was found off the causeway so as you can tell, that was all I was thinking about for the ball part of the day!

Tuesday was a four grebe day as I finally managed to catch up with the Red Necked Grebe off the south of the causeway, showing reasonably well in poor light and I also managed to catch up with the Slavonian Grebe which was showing not swell but in better light, this was again off Yacht Bay. During my wanders round I managed to locate, at distance a Great White Egret in the top of the Walgrave Bay, two Little Owls which were heard during the day calling to each other south of the causeway in some ivy covered ash trees, two Redshanks, a Raven, a Marsh Tit and two Grey Wagtail. A pair of Red Crested Pochards had been seen off the dam, one a smart male, these are still present today but I haven't managed to catch up with them yet.

Little Egret

Slavonian Grebe

Red Necked Grebe

Carrion Crow


Wednesday, the 15th, and I managed to make one of my best finds of the had term, a White Fronted Goose in the Scaldwell Bay, regularly associating with Canada and Greylag Geese. I also noted the Red Necked Grebe, two Great White Egrets in the Walgrave Bay, two Green Sandpipers, a returning Oystercatcher which was a new addition to the year list, three Pintail, two Marsh Tits and a Raven. Neil McMahon and Neil Hasdell checked the large nest boxes on site and found two roosting Tawny Owls.

White Fronted Goose

Thursday was nothing new apart from just birds seen before, these include the White Fronted Goose, the Red Necked Grebe, three Pintail (two drakes), a Raven and two Marsh Tits. I did note a large accipiter, but couldn't manage to get much on it and long distance.

Pied Wagtail


Little Egret


Friday came and I completed some bird ringing at Pitsford Reservoir's main feeding station which is based at the bottom of the Old Scaldwell Road, birds caught amounted to 70, these include 4 Coots, 6 Long Tailed Tits, 5 Great Tits, 3 Blue Tits, 10 Tree Sparrows, a Robin, 8 Dunnocks, a Greenfinch, 14 Yellowhammers, 4 Goldfinches, 4 Chaffinches and 10 Reed Buntings. Birds noted whilst I was ringing include 8 Pink Footed Geese which flew south at 08:05 and were an excellent addition to my year list, 4 Pintail, all 4 grebe species, 74 Common Snipe and the White Fronted Goose.


White Fronted Goose

Cormorant (ssp sinensis)

Saturday and there wasn't really anything to note apart from the Red Necked Grebe, two Great White Egrets and a Green Sandpiper in the Holcot Bay, a Oystercatcher and two Redshanks by the dam. First thing while emptying my garden moth trap of my first moths of the year (Spring Usher, March Moth and Pale Brindled Beauty) I had a Siskin and a Redpoll fly over my garden.

Sunday, today, was an excellent end to my half term. I had a new bird to my patch life list in the form of a House Sparrow and has always been a species I have wanted to see on my patch. I have seen hundreds of Tree Sparrows, but never a House so you can imagine my surprise when I can hear one calling amongst the other birds! Today I also noted the two long staying rarities, the Red Necked Grebe showing distantly south of the causeway and the White Fronted Goose with the geese flock in the Scaldwell Bay however I couldn't find the Slavonian Grebe this evening. Other birds today include a Green Sandpiper, a drake Red Crested Pochard, a drake Pintail and a 2nd calendar year Yellow Legged Gull briefly this morning in the Scaldwell Bay, two Great White Egrets were mobile north of the causeway also four Marsh Tits and five Siskin were scattered around. Two Redshanks were by the dam in the evening.



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Norfolk Birding


Today Luke Nash, my dad and I visited the North Norfolk coast and we were rewarded with quite a few good birds. On the way to Norfolk, in the dark, my dad and I saw a hunting Barn Owl along the side of the road outside Mawsley village.

We started off at Holkham Gap where I watched my first Shorelarks being highly mobile after half an hour of eluding us. They were flying around the salt marsh and occasionally landing infant of us on the sand, very close but I didn't take my camera. There was also a Black Brant hybrid with the Brent Geese and a female Merlin here.

We then arrived at Titchwell, which was our most productive part of the day. The sea was full with Scoters, Luke estimated that there was at least 650 Common Scoters and I reckoned a minimum of 80 Velvets in a separate flock, there was also two Long Tailed Duck and a few Goldeneye with the Velvets and a Black Throated Diver and Red Throated Diver flew past. Along the beach, there was a flock of 50 or so Snow Buntings, regularly going into the sand dunes and a female Marsh Harrier was present. There was also large numbers of coastal waders like Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Ringed Plover and Dunlin while at the visitor centre a female Brambling was taking advantage of the feeders and a sharp eyed birder had found a Woodcock feeding on the ground, the first time I had actually seen one on the deck...

Luke and I then had two dips, we missed out on the Twite at Thornham which we reckon where out on the salt marsh at the time we were present as they had been seen after we left, a smart male Stonechat kept us from boredom though. We also missed out on six Waxwings which had been seen at Hunstanton Petrol Station however we quickly moved onto Wells-next-the-sea and managed to pick up the female type Black Redstart on the quay opposite the sailing as it was feeding on the ground and in bushes.

The three us then finished at Warham Greens where we were treated to excellent views of four Hen Harriers including a first for all of us, a superb grey male which showed the most briefly out the lot.

I would like to thank Luke for joining us today as I know I would have been very lost on the roads without him and supplying us with his excellent local knowledge and my dad for actually getting me to Norfolk and driving us around. Please see our attached pictures below.



Black Tailed Godwit 


Black Redstart



Luke's capture of Shorelark

Monday, 23 January 2017

Patch birding


At the moment, I have spent the beginning of my year going to Pitsford Reservoir on a regular basis in order to get my Patchwork Challenge year list off to a healthy start. I have enjoyed many good birds over the last couple of weeks including up to eleven Pintails, two Green Sandpipers, two Redshanks, a few Red-Crested Pochards, two White Fronted Geese, Yellow Legged Gulls, Caspian Gulls, a first winter Mediterranean Gull, a Slavonian Grebe, a Stonechat, five Bewick's Swans, one or two Little Owls, a Brambling, a Goosander and a Peregrine. So all in all it hasn't been a bad start to the year with 79 species and 88 points.

I have also been on a failed twitch this year to look for a Pine Bunting at Venus Pool, Shropshire however, I did end up seeing my first Corn Buntings in a year or so. However that was the only notable species for the day even though we were waiting for five hours or so in a field.

On January 7th and 8th I and a few others completed two Short Day Counts, one in the 10km square, SP55 and one in SP54. We completed SP54 on the 8th and it really came into its own on that day. We recorded a total of 73 species in a matter of 8 hours however this was mainly of common species and the best birds of the weekend were seven Waxwings in Woodford Halse in the square SP55.

Then yesterday, I spent the morning help complete a bird ringing demonstration at Stanwick Lakes. We had a good turnout of birds and people and the public seemed to be very interested in what was going on and seeing the birds up close for the very first time. Highlights of the session included a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldcrests and Redwings but there was still plenty of the more common birds. Birds on-site included four Goosanders, a Brambling, a Siskin, a Kingfisher, a Chiffchaff, a Snipe and a few Water Rails. We then ventured to Fined where Short Eared Owls have been seen, we waited for a good couple of hours then to our amusement as we left I got a phone call saying that six have just came out of roost, yet another dip!



Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Thank you to everyone who has been viewing my blog over the past year. This year has been excellent for birds but I have had my personal ups and downs. I am trying to concentrate on the positives which include:

  • Making some great new friends, for example, Eleanor Morrison who I met at the beginning of the year at Stanwick Lakes who I now do a lot of my birding with in and out of the county and who has helped me a lot this year but really there is a long list of young birders who I have made friends with but to name a few they include Paddy Lewin, George Dunbar, Ellie Zantboer, Harry Witts, Frank Osterberg, you all know who you are if you read my blog ha ha. 
  • Twitching this year has been fantastic, I have reached my end of year target of 250 birds on my life list which was the Dusky Thrush in Beeley which I saw with a couple of my friends Ben Moyes and Toby Carter. 
  • Young Birder of the Year competition in September at Spurn was fantastic. I didn't win but I lost to good competition, George Dunbar, who I am now incredibly good friends with and I think that competition really helped start that friendship off. I have also been to Spurn in October and with a bit of scrolling you can find the post I did on that.
  • Doing the Patchwork Challenge this year for Pitsford Reservoir has been great. It has really made me focus on the beautiful outdoors I have on my door step. I really have enjoyed doing this and rivalling with my friends over the year. It gives you a massive high finding a good bird on your patch which you have spent so long on. The highlight for me this year has to be Honey Buzzard but others include Black Tern, Glaucous Gull, Goshawk.
That has just been some of the highlights of my year and I would like to thank everyone that has contributed to it in making it one of my best years. 

Now back to the present, today I was at Pitsford Reservoir south of the causeway, doing my rounds and I found a 1st calendar year Caspian Gull in the Narrows while I was searching for the Slavonian Grebe which was 200 metres east of the Holly tree. Other birds seen today include a Kingfisher, a Raven and a male Stonechat.

Merry Christmas, 


Slavonian Grebe