Monday, 30 March 2009

Anything for the weekend sir?.... 40th birthday, EDF semis and a spot of birding!!

Gloucester v Ospreys

Gloucester v Ospreys again!

Cardiff Blues practicing tackling!

Drake Scaup at Swithland Res

Grey Heron at Cossington Meadows

Well over the weekend I celebrated my 40th birthday, watched a bit of rugby and did some birding on the Sunday.
Firstly on the Friday night I spent a few good hours in The Orange Tree celebrating my birthday and would like to thank my friends for all the cards and presents I received.
On the Saturday in the morning I felt like death warmed up!! and was in two minds if I should go to the EDF semi finals in Coventry due to me feeling so ill.
But after have a bit of breakfast which didn't come straight back up I decided that I might be OK to go.
So in the afternoon I joined the good numbers of different supporters at the Ricoh Arena.
The first match of the day was Gloucester v Ospreys and I must admit it was a rubbish game, loads of handling errors, defences cancelling each other out, and a number of injuries to players who might be going on the Lions tour of South Africa. The only highlight of the game for me was seeing Shane Williams do a couple of great runs from his own half and evading most of Gloucester defence. The game ended disappointingly with Gloucester winning 17-0 against the Ospreys.
In contrast to the previous match, Northampton Saints v Cardiff Blues was much better game and at times some outstanding running rugby was seen.
I thought Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins were excellent with there tackling and running with the ball at the Northampton defence. Although it was a tight game, the Blues ran out comfortable winners at the end 11-5 to the Northampton Saints.

On the Sunday I did a bit of birding at my usual local patches in the Charnwood area and Soar Valley complex.
The first site I checked out was Swithland Reservoir and the summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe was still around but a little distant from the dam wall. A little bit closer was a pair of Scaup (male and female), so a good start to the day!! I took a few record shots of the pair.
Other noteworthy sightings included a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and good numbers of Goldeneyes still around the reservoir.
Moving on to the Soar Valley complex, Wanlip Meadows was pretty quiet, so I drove over to Cossington Meadows, the final destination of the day.

At Cossington Meadows the sightings included 2 Little Egrets, a nice female Wheatear and small numbers of the usual spring waders. It was pleasing to see the Wheatear at the Plover meadow as this area is starting to become a regular spot for this species.
On the whole it wasn't too bad a day and it was pleasing to see more spring migrants had arrived at my local patch.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sightings over the last week 15th to 22st March 2009.

Although the weather has been nice for the last few days, a small trickle of spring migrants has occurred in the county.
For most of the week I have spent a lot of time down at Shawell tip and the Balancing Pool watching the gulls.
Including the Kumlien's Gull I have also seen another 1st winter Iceland Gull at the tip and pool from the previous birds at Stanford Reservoir and Albert Village. Other gulls recorded at this site have included the usual suspects and a nice looking adult Caspian Gull.
In the surrounding countryside I have recorded up to 14 Buzzards, a small population of Tree Sparrows and a couple of Shelducks.
Away from this site I've started to check out a few sites in the Soar valley and Charnwood again with a few spring migrants recorded.
These have included a couple of Sand Martins over the scrape at Wanlip Meadows on the 15th and a single bird over Birstall Meadows on the 22nd. I have also noted Chiffchaffs singing at Swithland Reservoir, Cossington Meadows and Watermead CP North.
On the water bird front someone tried to a string a Lesser Scaup at Swithland Res on the 21st, but in fact it was actually a nice looking male Scaup, which had been around since the previous Wednesday!?, and as usual for the time of the year I have noted that at least three Little Egrets have been seen in the Soar Valley.
Over the next few days as the wind has changed back to a northerly airflow I would imagine we will have to wait a few days before the next wave of spring migrants arrive in the county?

Monday, 16 March 2009

White-winged Gulls in Leicestershire this year.

2nd Winter Kumlien's Gull at Shawell.

Another shot of the Kumlien's Gull.
1st winter Iceland Gull at Shawell Balancing Lake.
Another shots of the 1st winter Iceland Gull.

Over the last couple of months it has been a great winter for seeing and finding white winged gulls like Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull.
As I normally recieved most of the local bird records for the fieldnotes in the LROS newsletter, it has been interesting reading over the last month or so.
Up to the present day so far at least ten Iceland Gulls, 1 Kumlien's Gull and maybe 3 different Glaucous Gulls have been recorded in Leicestershire?
With hopefully a couple of more weeks to check the local tips before most of the gulls disperse to there breeding grounds I would imagine a few more white-winged gulls maybe found?

Saturday, 14 March 2009

It's not an Iceland Gull but a Kumlien's instead!!!.....12th March 2009.

2nd Winter Kumlien's Gull-Shawell Balancing Lake.

More views of the Kumlien's Gull

Following info via text message from John about Neil Hagley had found a Kumlien's-type Gull at Shawell Tip and Balancing Lake the previous day, I knew were I was going birding for the next few days.
There had been a bit of a discussion on the gull via birdforum and by the locals about the photos of the bird.
So arriving at the tip just after 9.30am I met up with Neil and Tim (from Warwickshire) who were watching a large group of gulls on the tip face.
Neil had seen the gull around 8.30am feeding on the tip, but it had disappeared for the last twenty minutes into a large dip opposite the tip face.
As Neil had to go to work, myself and Tim then walked down the nearby footpath opposite the gravel works entrance to view the tip. Scanning the tip for a few minutes we still could not see the Gull, so we then decided to check out the nearby balancing lake.
Driving round to the balancing lake opposite the Newton turning off the A5, we soon pick up the Kumlien's Gull in a small group of Lesser BB Gulls.
Viewing the bird you could see the distinctive features of this subspecies, Snow-white in appearance and I noted the grey primaries were much in evidence. The structure of the bird was much more chunky and not cute which is normally associate with Iceland Gulls. The other major feature I saw well was the dark tail-band when the bird flapped its wings on a few occasions.
The only feature which was slightly out of character was the pale colouring of the eye which is 'rare' in this form according to the Gulls bible by Klaus Malling Olsen's Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America.
Knowing that was this was quite a rare bird for Leicestershire as you can imagine I took a few record shots of the Kumlien's Gull and then let Birdnet know about the sighting.
As usual due to work commitments at the general hospital in the afternoon I was soon on my way back to Leicester but was pleased that I had seen a very interesting gull in the county.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

It's a dipping day Monday 9th March 2009.

Sometimes you think why did I bother going out Birding as this was one day when nothing went to plan?!
The plan of the day was originally for myself, John and Brian to go to Norfolk, but as John had a bit of man flu we decided that it wasn't the best idea to be stuck in a car for two hours with someone coughing up there guts!!
So me and Brian decided instead to check out a few sites in Leicestershire. Well to cut a long story short, we dipped on any Jack Snipe in the Soar Valley, there was no interesting Gulls at Albert Village Lake, no sign of any Corn Buntings at Oakthorpe and to top off a great day absolutely nothing of note at Swithland Reservoir!!!
Hopefully as spring is approaching this day will be a distant memory when I'm chasing the spring migrants all over the county in the next few months?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Bittern at Switho.... 4th March 2009.

Following info via the LROS website and John Hague's text message, the destination for most of the day was Swithland Reservoir as the reported Bittern had finally become viewable from the causeway.
The Bittern had been around for at least month but had been skulking in the private sections of the reservoir, so I expected a bit of a crowd for most of the day to view this delightful Heron.
Although I got to the causeway around 10.00am I met up with Ben Croxtall and disappointingly he said that there was no sign of the bird!
So after about two hours of staring at the same clump of reeds I decided that maybe the Bittern wasn't going to show and also I had to nip into University to sort out some plans for my final assignment so I drove home for some lunch and then onto University.
After my tutorial I decided to return to Swithland Reservoir to finally see if the Bittern had shown in the afternoon.

Arriving back at the causeway I met up with Allen Pocock and Norman Hall who had just re found the Bittern which was in a small patch of reeds looking right from the causeway.
Over the next hour or so the Bittern showed on and off but it was amazing how it's camouflage worked so well when it stood still.
Joined by John and Ben a bit later the Bittern finally performed for the crowd and an interesting behaviour was noted.
A Grey Heron flew in and landed near the Bittern. With this threat the Bittern walked over towards the Heron and started to raise its wings and puffed out all its head and neck feathers very much in the style of an ancient ninja warrior, and then started to dance on the spot!!?
All I could say was that I was totally amazed of what I saw and I think most of the group was as well.
As it was getting dark by now the afternoon performance of the Bittern was a great end to a slightly frustrating day to say the least.

Sightings over the week West to East.....26th Feb to 3rd March 2009.

Six Scaup at Rutland dam

Tawny Owl at Great Easton

Record shot of a Short-eared Owl at Great Easton.

Over the last week I have checked out Albert Village lake on a number of occasions and nipped over to Eyebrook Reservoir and Great Easton for the owls.
Sightings at Albert Village have included an adult Caspian Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull but no sign of any of the recent white-winged gulls.
It seems that later in the week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) is probably the best days to visit this site as the gull numbers seem to increase over the week until the Sunday when the local tip is closed.

Moving onto Eyebrook Reservoir which I hadn't visited for a couple of months I finally connected with the long staying Green winged Teal at the inflow end. Other sightings on the reservoir included two nice looking drake Smews by the island, a flock of 50+ Dunlins at the inflow end and at least 30+ Tree Sparrows at the bird feeders.
The last destination of the day was the fields just east of Great Easton which now seem to be the wintering capital for Owls in Leicestershire.
Over the last few months up to four Short-eared Owls have been recorded in the area along with the resident Little Owls, Tawny Owl and Barn Owls.
So over the period of an hour in the late afternoon after visiting Eyebrook I saw three Short-eared Owls quartering the fields but surprisingly no other Owls in the surrounding area.
The final sighting of the day was of a Little Egret flying along the River Welland towards Great Easton village which may or may not have been in the county boundaries?