Monday, 31 March 2008

Beacon Hill spring migrants part one.

After finishing my student placement in Coalville for the day, I checked out Beacon Hill to see if there were any spring migrants about.
Checking out the lower fields opposite the car park, the only notable bird was a superb looking male Wheatear feeding on piles of brown cattle shite.
Over the next few weeks I will try and check this site out on a regular basis, and see if it produces the same number of spring migrants like Ring Ouzel and Warblers like it did last year.
The only other sighting I had on Beacon Hill was strangely two Llamas feeding in the sheep field next to the Wheatear!

Black Scooters at Swithland Res 27th March 2008.

While I was booking my Citroen C2 Loeb in for a service,I got a pager message of about 16 Common Scoters at Swithland Reservoir that afternoon, so I decided not to do my weekly food shop at Morrison's, which I was going to do after servicing the car, but instead headed for Swithland Reservoir.
Before I reached Swithland, I phoned John and Skev, about the Scoters, which there would try to see later in the day after family and work commitments.
Viewing from the stone wall on Kinchley Lane, I scanned across the reservoir,firstly picking up the long staying pair of Smew,then a group of seven Common Scoters in the middle of the reservoir.
Digiscoping the flock I took a few records shots of the Scoters.
At around the same time,another birder came round the corner,and asked if the Lesser Scaup was still showing?
Scanning further right over the reservoir, I saw the Lesser Scaup was close to the dam, and told the birder it was showing from the dam, which he thanked me and drove to the dam.
After taking a few more shots of the Scoter flock, I moved to the dam, to view the Lesser Scaup.
Watching the Scaup, I noted more features of the bird's plumage which I couldn't see on the bird the previous Sunday due to distance and light.
With time pressing, I moved onto the southern causeway of the reservoir to look for the other Scoter flock.
From the causeway, I could see another nine Common Scoter (eight males and a single female) just right of the railway viaduct.
While digiscoping the flock,Mark Skev announced his arrival, with a loud blast of his car horn,to which I reply with the two finger salute!
After showing Mark the Scoter flock, Mark then showed me a couple of moth specialities for Swithland Reservoir, which I could only describe as brown in colour and tiny in size (Sorry Mark!).
Leaving Mark at the causeway, I finally got do to my weekly food shop, two hours after originally planned, but pleased I had seen Common Scoter in Leicestershire once again.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Avocets on my Birthday! 28th March 2008.

After finishing my shift at the General Hospital, I drove over to Eyebrook Reservoir to look for the reported Avocets.
Stopping at the inflow end, I saw the two birds almost straight away after I had got out of the car, feeding in the shallows. As the birds were reasonably close, I took a few record digis shots of the birds.
In the same area, were a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and the now long-staying two Green winged Teals, a single Dunlin and at least eight Redshanks.
At around the same time, Colin Towe and Chris Lythall(Leicester's Top Listers!?!) drove up and joined me watching the birds at the inflow end. Over the next hour, as usual good general banter was talked about, ranging from my new scope to cutting the hedge at Eyebrook!
Just before I was about to leave for home, two Peregrines(male and Juv/female-type) flew over the inflow, sending the flocks of ducks and waders into a panic.
After this sighting I made my way home to get ready for an evening of drinking to celebrate my birthday, but that's another story!

Derbyshire Grouse and bacon butties I've had a few!

On Tuesday,with John Hague and Brian Moore we went to Derbyshire and South Yorkshire for the day to do some birding.
Leaving at six in the morning from Leicester,we started birding in Chesterfield about an hour later to look for four Waxwings in Cutthorpe which had been around for a few days.
As we got out of the car, a couple of local bird ringers told us that the Waxwings had flew off just a few minutes before we had arrived.
So we waited for the next hour to see if the birds returned, but as there was no show of the Waxwings during the hour so we moved onto Cutthroat bridge, near Ladybower Reservoir to look for Ring Ouzels.
Walking onto the moorland, the first bird we saw was a nice looking male Red Grouse calling not too far from the footpath. Scanning the surrounding area, we counted at least another ten Red Grouse.
Moving up a small gully in the valley, we saw more Red Grouse on the moorland, a fly-by Curlew and a pair of Stonechats feeding on the nearby vegetation.
Maybe we were a bit early for the returning Ring Ouzels, as there was no sign of the birds in the surrounding moorland.
Getting back to the car, we then stopped at the nearby Ladybower Inn for a bit of breakfast.
Although breakfast had finished being served when we got there, the Inn staff did provide us with a few bacon baguettes and a nice cup of coffee. As you can imagine the baguettes were consumed pretty quickly!
After our breakfast pit stop we moved onto "Windy Corner" watchpoint next to Howden Reservoir to look for Raptors.
Parking the car by "Windy Corner",opposite the Reservoir,we started to scan the nearby moorland and forestry. After about ten minutes of scanning, John picked up a male Goshawk flying over the reservoir, and then I picked up a couple of Peregrines in the same area.
Over the next hour or so, we saw at least five Buzzards, another two Goshawks, a Raven, a single Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels in the surrounding area.
After the hour watching raptors the weather changed, from bright sunny intervals, to cloudy conditions with the odd snow flurry, so at this point we decided to move down to the Fairholmes visitor centre by Derwent dam.
Walking around the dam area, we saw good numbers of Siskins and had a poor view of a couple of Crossbills feeding in the larches above the dam.
After a brief stop to eat a very hot derbyshire pasty and cup of coffee, we moved on to Strines and Midhope, to look for some more moorland species.
Driving slowly down Strines road, we excellent views of a few Red Grouse standing on the roadside posts, and as you can imagine we took a few photos by the roadside.
At Midhope we saw more Red Grouse, and strangely a small group of three Pink-footed Geese feeding in a field next to the watchpoint.
Our last but one stop of the day was at Beeley Moor,were after a brief search of the surrounding moorland we had good views of a pair of Merlins.
The last stop of the day was at Ogston Reservoir to look for a couple of Common Scoters which had been reported earlier in the day.
We find the Scoter feeding off the dam, but then while scanning the reservoir I found what I thought was a distant male Scaup. To which John commented about the size of the bird, and it looked more like a Lesser Scaup! After checking on the features of the distant bird, we gave Birdnet a ring about the sighting, as something did not quite match up with the bird.
We were told that a good looking Aytha hybrid duck had a been around for a couple of weeks, and looked like a Lesser Scaup.
So we decided to take a closer look at the bird from the hides. Viewing the bird from the hide, after a few agonising minutes, we all decided that the bird showed just to much black on the bill, and the head shape was not right for a Lesser Scaup.
At the end of the day, a slight disappointment about the hybrid duck, we all commented about how excellent the day had been and the quality of sightings we had seen during the day.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Anything for the weekend Sir? Let it snow, Let it snow... Lesser Scaup!!...

Just once in a while the weather forecasters get it right, and as I got up in the morning, a good covering of snow had occurred overnight. So I decided to get out early before work in the afternoon to take some photos of snow in Leicestershire.
I took a few photos between Bardon and Beacon Hill as I know this is the highest point in Leicestershire and was bound to have snow on the ground.
After taking a few snaps,I moved onto Blackbrook to see if the two Little Egrets were still around, as I thought it might make a nice photo of two white birds on a white background!
However there was no sign of the Little Egrets feeding in Blackbrook brook,
but only a token drake Mandarin duck trying to hide in the snowy background.
Moving onto Dean's Lane,Beacon Hill I took a few more snow photos. I noticed by now that most of the snow was melting, so I decided to move onto Swithland Reservoir to do a bit of birding.
As I drove down Kinchley Lane,I saw Ben Croxtall was scanning the water with his scope, so I stop my car and got out to have a chat with Ben. The first thing Ben said was "I think I've got a Lesser Scaup out in the middle of the Reservoir!"
Looking quickly through Ben's scope the bird looked like a Lesser Scaup to me.
At this point a controlled panic occurred, as I got my scope out of the car and started to view the bird,I then phoned John Hague to tell him about the sighting, and left a message on his mobile.
As by magic, John drive down the lane towards us, less than a minute after I had left the message, to which Ben commented about the film Back to the Future, and John must have a Flux Capacitor in his car!!
In reality, John had in fact just turned into Kinchley Lane, as I sent him the message about the bird.
We then all viewed the bird, and came up to the same conclusion, that it was a Lesser Scaup.
By this time, other birders had started to arrive including Steve Lister, who aged the bird as a first-summer Drake, due to the bird showing a few juvenile features in its plumage.
Watching the bird for the next hour or so, I took some notes as I knew that I would probably have to submit a record to the BBRC, as the second observer.
As I had to be at work in the afternoon at the General Hospital, I congratulated Ben on his find and then drove home to get ready for work.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Female Scaup at Watermead C.P. Birstall, Hooray!

After receiving a quick phone call from John Hague at around 11.30am in the morning to inform me about a female Scaup down at Birstall, which Andrew Cliff had found the previous day.
I rushed down to the site as I had to be at work at the General Hospital by 1.00pm.
Parking at the Meadow Lane Car Park,I walked down towards to the Key Lakes,and started to scan the first lake on the right, which upon the first bird I saw was a female Scaup!
I phoned John straight away and let him know that the bird was showing very well, which he would try and get to see it after he had finished work.
I took a couple of record shots of the bird, and then went straight to work.
Thinking about the sighting,looking back at my records in the Soar Valley area,I think this bird was my fourth Scaup in the area over the last fifteen years, and a nice year tick to boot!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Team of the Six Nations Championship.

As the Six Nations has now finished, here is my team of the championship.
15:Lee Bryne (Wales)or Georghan Murphy (Ireland)
14:Vincent Clerc (France)
13:Gavin Henson (Wales)
12:Tom Shanklin (Wales)
11:Shane Williams (Wales)
10:James Hook (Wales)or Chris Paterson (Scotland)
9:Mike Blair (Scotland) or Mike Philips (Wales)
8:Ryan Jones (Wales) Captain
7:Martyn Williams (Wales)
6:Alasdair Strokosch (Scotland)
5:Ian Gough (Wales)
4:Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
3:Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy)
2:Ross Ford (Scotland)
1:Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
Subs: Rob Kearney(Ireland),Jamie Noon(England),Danny Cipriani(England),Allan Jacobson(Scotland),Leonardi Ghiraldini (Italy),Nathan Hines(Scotland),James Haskell(England).

I realise that there are a lot of Welsh players in this team,but there are the form team in the championship,and maybe I'm bias against England,as the majority of the time I think there play crap Rugby!
Although I must admit I do think England have got some decent players like Dave Strettle,Tom Croft and James Haskell,to name just a few.
I think Ireland was poor in this championship, and its probably time Eddie O'Sullivan dropped on his sword!
But all in all, I thought the Six Nations championship was great again,especially for the Welsh!?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Anything for the weekend Sir? Spring migrants please!

Over the weekend between watching the rugby,I've actually did a bit of birding.
On Friday,I went down the Soar Valley,to see if the Great White Egret was still around, but as usual with Great White Egrets in Leicestershire at the moment,there was no sign of the bird in the surrounding area.
Although a pager message stated that the Egret was showing well from Plover Hide at Wanlip Meadows,when I got there I could only find a Little Egret on the scrape. Somebody had made a mistake!
After taking a few record shots of the Egret I moved onto Eyebrook Reservoir, and finally connected with the elusive Green-winged Teal, which was feeding at the inflow end.
Also it was good to see the Eyebrook crew (Mick,Phil and Peter),and good general banter of the local birding scene was discussed over the next hour or so!
The only other sightings I saw during the hour at Eyebrook was four Dunlins and a single Ringed Plover.
On Saturday before the rugby(that another story!),I visited Cropston Reservoir and Swithland Reservoir in the morning. As usual there was not much of note at Cropston, except for a couple of Mandarin ducks.
At Swithland Reservoir,the two Smew were still around near the dam,and actually showing quite well, but like Cropston there was still no sign of any spring migrants.
On Sunday, I did the same thing checking out Swithland and Cropston Reservoirs,but this time around,I finally connected with my first spring migrants with at least 50+ Sand Martins flying around the reservoir. It was great to see, and just think these birds were probably in Africa a couple of months ago!
Moving on to Swithland,highlights included the long-staying Smew,a Raven calling over the reservoir and at least 20 Sand Martins.
Taking a break for a nice cup of tea and a peanut muffin around Ms Mole's house,I returned to Swithland Reservoir in late afternoon to see an adult Mediterranean Gull in the gull roost, which Steve Lister had find earlier.
So I have finally seen my first spring migrants of the year,and over the next six weeks I should find a few more!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Wales Grand Slam!!!

On Saturday,Wales won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations Rugby championship.Beating France 29-12 in Cardiff, the welsh team was superb in defence, and were worthy winners through tries scored by Shane Williams and Martyn Williams.
Warren Gatland,Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley have turned round a poor team in the World Cup to become the best team in the Northern Hemisphere, and I congratulate them for doing a great job.
Next up for Wales is the Boks in South Africa in June, and hopefully Wales will push them all the way?

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Great White Egret at Birstall nature reserve!

Whilst counting ducks down at Watermead CP North I found an adult Great White Egret sitting in trees at Birstall nature reserve.
When I first saw the bird,I thought it was an Egret, but what species?
Viewing the bird through my scope I confirmed my suspicions that it was a Great White Egret.
After that I was straight on my mobile and phoned a number of birding friends of my find.
First to arrive was Allen Pocock who congratulate me on my find, followed by Steve Lister the county recorder, and then local birder Pete Jessop.
We watched the bird for the next hour or so until I decided to finish the wildfowl count and to get some dinner.
Please that I had find the bird,it got me thinking that probably this bird was the one seen earlier in January 2008 at Cossington Meadows LRWT, and maybe even the bird seen as far back in the Soar Valley area circa 2005!?
Hopefully this time around the Egret will not been so dam elusive, and show for the local birders this weekend.

Thanks to Jim Graham for supplying the Egret photo.

The week that was? Parking Nazis, Leicester Beer Festival,and Duffy.

During this week,I have done a few things,firstly I went to this month's Leicester wildlife group talk about Amphibians(Newts, Frogs and Toads)at the Firebug pub. As I have never seen any Newts in Britain, the talk was a good learning experience, and noted that I will look for some Newts in the near future.
After the talk me and John Hague went down to the Criterion(recently voted the best pub in Leicester),and I had a couple of excellent Czech beers.
Returning to my car, I found that I had been given a parking ticket at 19.45pm at night!
OK, it was my mistake as I had parked next to a disabled space,but getting a ticket at that time of the night was a bit extreme?

The next day,meeting up with John, Skev and Dave Mack, we visited the annual Leicester Beer Festival. Although I'm not renowned for being a large ale drinker, I did find a couple of excellent continental style beers, Hair Repie from the Poachers Brewery and Lager Bier from the Bridgnorth Brewery.

Finally over this last week I have been listening to Duffy via my i-pod, and must admit she has got a great voice and it looks like Wales have produced another great singer!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Anything for the weekend Sir, Mad March Hares please!

Over the last two of days I have seen two species of Hare not too far from my home.
Firstly whilst looking for the Green winged Teal at Eyebrook Reservoir (which I didn't see!) on the Saturday, I notice at least four Brown Hares sitting in fields opposite the feeding station.
There was no real action from the Hares but a couple did try to shadow box for a few minutes.

The other Hare on the agenda over the weekend, was that I finally saw a Mountain Hare.
Although I know that the Mountain Hares in Derbyshire/South Yorkshire were introduced into the area in the last century. I have always wanted to see a Snow White Mountain Hare in its natural habitat.
So I set off on Sunday morning to look for Mountain Hares around Ladybower and Derwent Reservoir in the Peak district with my friend Margaret.

After finding a spot in the crowded car park, we walked slowly passed the dam at the bottom of the valley. Birds in the surrounding area included good numbers of Siskins, the odd Brambling and the usual woodland species.

After walking along the reservoir track for a couple of miles passing Derwent and Howden Reservoirs, we decided to take the track up to Howden Moors and on to the surrounding Moorland. Walking up the steep track we stopped a couple of times to view the magnificent landscape and took a few photos.

Walking slowly over the moorland, we flushed a couple of Red Grouse from the surrounding heather,and then it started to snow in bright sunshine!
We decided that possible it was not a good idea being on an exposed moorland in the middle of snow storm, so we changed direction and walked down towards Howden Clough, which was not too far away.
At this point we suddenly flushed a snow white Mountain Hare almost below our feet, and then watched it sprint off to right of us. I punch the air and shouted "Yes", as I had seen the target of the day.
After that sighting we decided it was good time to return to the car park.
Walking slowly back to the car park via the Reservoir forest track, I picked up the distinctive calls of Crossbill in the nearby conifer plantations. Listening to the birds I concluded that there must have been a small group of five or so birds in the surrounding trees.
After a quick cup of coffee and pasty at the visitor centre, we made our way home, for hopefully an Indian meal back in Leicester to celebrate the sighting of the Mountain Hare!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Oh Happy Days!!

Just once in a while when everything goes right, and as Hannibal Smith of the A Team would say, "I love it when a plan comes together". Yesterday was just that day, firstly Manure got knocked out of FA cup by Pompey, then Wales win the Triple Crown in Ireland, by beating Ireland 16-12 at Croke Park. Following this game England lose to Scotland at Murryfield, as England lack direction and drive and are Jonny Wilkinson's days number in the England team?!

Then Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-0, With El Nino(Fernandos Torres) scoring his 25 goal of the season, and finally on the sporting front, Chelski also get beaten in the FA cup by the socialist republic of Barnsley, by one goal to nil.

Maybe there is a god, after all, or maybe not!!!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Anything for the weekend sir? Frogs and a Smew.

Although I spent most of the Saturday kicking my heels at the LRI, waiting for a non-arriving taxi, Sunday was totally different from the previous day.
I met up with Andy Smith and John Hague at Thornton Reservoir to check out a few local sites for Little Owls.
Although we didn't see any Little Owls in the brief search, the surrounding habitat looked excellent for Little Owls, and I will probably check the sites out again over the next few weeks.

Andy then invited me and John for a coffee in his garden. Andy's garden probably has one of the best views in Leicestershire, as it looks over the reservoir and surrounding area.
Just below Andy's garden, was a small pond in his neighbours garden,which probably had the most frogs I have ever seen in such a small space. I counted over 200+ Frogs in it!
After leaving Andy's, John and me checked the feeding station by the boat house at the reservoir, with a good number of Chaffinches and Reed Buntings the only birds of note.
At this point myself and John parted company as John returned home, and I moved on to Cropston and Swithland Reservoir.
As usual, Cropston was mostly bird less except for the odd Great Crested Grebe!
Moving on to Swithland Reservoir, I looked for the two reported Smews first from Kinchley Lane, but then I was told by another birding mate Dave Mack who was driving by at the time, that the Smews were next to the dam. Moving onto the dam, and after a brief search,I spotted the male Smew which was close to the dam, but strangely there was no sign of the female in the surrounding area.
Also at around the same time I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling in the trees next to the dam.
As there was not much else on the birding front except for some Goldeneyes, I decided to call it a day and returned home.
Ps Thanks to John for the Frog photo!

The week that was,Quake,Richard Rogers, and a Green winged Teal in Leicestershire.

Over the last week, a few things have been of interest to me, last tuesday the East Midlands had an Earthquake, which woke me up with a jolt, as I thought somebody was trying to break into the house. It also reminded me of my days spent at Gateway Sixth Form College, trying to learn the basics of A' Level Geology.
Other things which caught my eye during the week was an excellent tv programme on the acclaimed architect Richard Rogers. When it comes to Architecture, I'm very much in the modernist camp and the total opposite of what the future monarch of this country thinks about Architecture.

Great buildings designed by Richard Rogers included the Lloyds Building in London, The Pompidou centre in Paris and the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff.

Finally,on the birding front, Eyebrook Reservoir hosted a Yankee Green-winged Teal for a few days during the week.I didn't have time to see the bird but maybe it was the returning bird from the previous year?