More harlequins

I’ve seen two more of the dreaded harlequin ladybirds since my last post about them. The first was another ‘spectabilis‘ form individual in the living room the other week, walking across the floor. This one was quite sprightly, so undoubtedly different to the half-dead ladybird I found last time, although I found it (or at least I presume it was the same one) dead around the same place the following day. Sadly for them, my living room isn’t really the place to catch aphids.

Today I found one in a completely different place. I was at work, sat on the floor sorting out a job in the video copying room, when I saw a ladybird move across the floor. And sure enough it was another harlequin – this time of the quite different-looking ‘succinea‘ type. With all the machinery in there it’s a very warm room, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see more rearing their heads soon.

Has anyone else out there seen any harlequins in Sheffield?

Patch update

I had a quick walk as far as Stacey Lane on Saturday. Not too much to report, but saw:

  • Sparrowhawk over Old Wheel Farm
  • Kestrel a few minutes later over Old Wheel Dam
  • 2 goldeneye on Old Wheel Dam – 1 female, one 1st winter male (I suspect I’ve been mistaking this for a female on previous visits). Also six tufted ducks, and a greylag in adjacent fields
  • Bullfinches calling by entrance to footpath near house.

Damflask to Lodge Moor

Today I decided to give my patch a break, and caught a bus to Damflask with the aim of walking a meandering route from there to Wyming Brook. I had two birding aims for myself today – to see green woodpecker, grey partridge and dipper (I’ll tell you from the start – I saw none of them!), and to get to 40 species on the walk.

It’s been a day where winter and spring have dramatically collided – at 8am, as I waited for the bus, it was absolutely freezing, with slippery frost on the ground and my face feeling like it was going to freeze solid before the 62 arrived. My day list started well as I waited, distracting me from the cold – song thrush, dunnock, robin, woodpigeon, jackdaw, carrion crow, blue tit, great tit, blackbird, chaffinch, greenfinch and magpie were all clocked up before I even started! Canada goose and pheasant were got from the bus window too.

At Damflask my face was freezing even more, and I was cursing myself for not wearing a hat. I immediately got mallard and black-headed gull, with cormorant, pied wagtail, goldcrest, tufted duck, long-tailed tit and coal tit not far behind. Great spotted woodpeckers could also be heard drumming, and a greylag had tagged along with some feral geese. Sadly, no sign of the little gull I saw here last week.

I walked up Oaks Lane, which was closed in parts, and therefore very quiet and full of birds. Mainly chaffinches, robins and the like, but also clocked up wren, stock dove, collared dove, mistle thrush, bullfinch, reed bunting and yellowhammer, plus jays shouting noisily in the distance.

At the start of the road I saw a brown hare – one of six that I saw at various parts of the walk. You forget what a large and impressive animal hares are, they’re truly spectacular as they run at high speeds and far more than just big rabbits.

Stopping for a breather on Corker Lane, I watched more mistle thrushes, who were joined by a small party of redwings. I then turned past Hall Broom Farm, and through the footpaths through the fields. Here I saw my only goldfinches of the day. The battle between winter and spring was most obvious here – the grass was a lush green where the now warm sun was hitting, but wherever a shadow caused by a wall fell, it was still covered in a thick frost. I wish I’d have had my camera on me!

I went down Game Lane, down Beeton Green, and down footpaths through fields that took me past Swinglee Farm. These fields held starlings, and an impressive flock of around 80 fieldfare. Then it was on to Wyming Brook and Rivelin Dams, where treecreepers and nuthatches could be heard (and dippers were dipped again!). On the way to the bus stop, I saw house sparrows (it’s a bad sign you can be walking for about 9 miles before you see one), and finally a rook on a television aerial through the bus window as it passed through Crosspool.

So I completely failed to see any of the species I set out to, but had a great walk, and at least made my 40 target day list!

First trip to the coast in 2008

How to cheat to get your birding yearlist up? Take a trip to the coast! It was another beautiful day yesterday, and we took advantage of it by having a trip to Flamborough Head and Filey.

The first thing that struck me at Flamborough was the sound of singing skylarks, and eventually I saw one displaying above the grass. If there’s ever a sound and sight I associate with Spring this is it. Other passerines to add to the yearlist were reed buntings, yellowhammers and a stonechat (poor views had me debating the chance of this being a black redstart, but this seems very unlikely on reflection). There were also many tree sparrows present.

The sea quickly notched up the rest of the more common gulls (herring gull, LBB gull, GBB gull and kittiwake), as well as shags, guillemots and gannets. Oystercatchers were feeding on the rocks.

Filey wasn’t too full of birds – the good weather had brought out so many dog walkers I wondered if I’d managed to stumble across some kind of dog-breeders convention… I did manage to get a small raft of eiders, and a few sanderling flitting around the shoreline. I was a bit annoyed to discover when I got home that a great norther diver was seen there later in the day, but you win a few and lose a few!

Loxley Valley, Damflask, Agden

Is it really only a week since the snow? Today was warm, sunny and springlike, and the perfect morning for a walk.

Not too much of note in the Loxley Valley, except to say that some birds were in full song, especially dunnocks and song thrushes. There was a good mixed flock of birds at Stacey Lane, including treecreepers and long-tailed tits, and a couple of tree sparrows.

I went onwards up to Damflask, which suffered a bit from the amounts of rowers, runners and dog walkers who were also enjoying the good weather. A cormorant was sunning itself on a buoy, and the assembled black-headed gulls had a couple of interesting birds among them. One was a bird I’m chalking up as a 1st winter common gull, and another I’m not 100% sure of, but thinking it could well have been the little gull that has been in the area. It appeared smaller than the BHGs, and had a blackish crown, and was chased off by one of the other gulls. Unfortunately I didn’t get a long look to see any other field markings – has anyone else seen it there today? EDIT – I’m going to put this down as a tentative tick – one was seen there last Sunday, and nothing else as far as I could see would have had the dark crown.

Moving on to Agden, two great spotted woodpeckers were busy drumming loudly, which was a joy to listen to. In the woods every tree seemed to house a singing goldcrest, and two female goldeneye (the same ones as were at Old Wheel Dam?) were on the reservoir. A cormorant was also there.

I finished the walk with a nice cold pint of cider outside the Old Horns Inn at High Bradfield, looking out at the view, and got good views of a soaring buzzard high in the sky – my first of the year.

Full list today (in order of sightings): Continue reading Loxley Valley, Damflask, Agden