Old Moor

As part of what has seemingly been a short tour of South Yorkshire’s nature reserves (back at work tomorrow unfortunately!) I had a trip to Old Moor today. I was hoping some whooper swans had called in, but unfortunately not. Still quite a lot to see – a few pink-footed geese down on the water, snoozing away with a greylag; a ruff, two green sandpipers, five snipe, at least three redshank and a flock of 18 dunlin; ducks including teal, wigeon, pochard, goosander and a shelduck.

Some pics:

Grey Heron
A moody shot of a heron!

Ruff
Ruff

Goosander, Cormorants and Black-headed Gulls
Goosanders (among other things).

Magpie
Magpie

Full list:

Continue reading Old Moor

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Potteric Carr

Today I went on (would you believe) my first trip to Potteric Carr in Doncaster. I went specifically to find water rails, and failed miserably, even though the ones there are uncharacteristically brazen and feed from under the birdfeeders. Maybe next time!

Highlights of the trip included a little egret, a skein of pink-footed geese overhead, large flocks of golden plover and lapwing, a green woodpecker and a great spotted woodpecker, a kingfisher darting past, the (obviously escapee) black swan that seems to be resident there now, and a few small flocks of redwings.

We were just about to call it a day, and popped into the hide on Low Ellers Marsh for one last look and I’m very glad I did, as we were greeted by a gorgeous male mandarin duck, the first “wild” male I’ve ever seen. And to top that, I scoped a patch of white by a bank, expecting it to be nothing in particular, and was greeted with the sight of a sleeping drake pintail! I may have dipped the water rails, but at least I got one off my winter wish list…

Some pics…

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Moorhen
Moorhen

Golden Plover
Golden Plover and Lapwings

Black Swan
Black Swan

Rabbit
Rabbit

And a full list for today (in rough order of sightings…)

Continue reading Potteric Carr

Ramsley and Leash Fen

Yesterday I went to Ramsley Reservoir and Leash Fen, just over the border in Derbyshire. My main aim was to find the short-eared owls that have been regularly seen over the Fen recently, and also try and find some lesser redpolls (hundreds have been ringed at Ramsley over the last few weeks).

I got there about 1pm, a ridiculously optimistic time for finding the owls, so had a bit of a wander round the area. A hunting kestrel was one of the first birds I saw, followed quickly by a pair of stonechats (photographed below – squint and you’ll see them!). These stonechats proved to be the first of a good few sightings around the area of the now-drained reservoir, and there are at least three individuals present.

Pair of stonechats... honest!

At Shillito Wood I found a collection of the usual woodland species, including chaffinch, goldcrest, coal tit, blue tit, great tit and treecreeper, and a redwing feeding with a song thrush in the car park by the wood.

Redwing

Shillito Wood is strange, because it’s a modern plantation, but hiding within is an ancient waymarking cross, which really takes you by surprise when you stumble across it and looks bizarrely out of place.

Shillito Cross

Eventually I caught up with some redpolls – my first of the year – a flock of probably around 30 birds overhead near the reservoir, but I still hope to get a better view of some close up soon.

I was planning to get the bus back, and stood for a good while in the vain hope the owls appeared early, but I got quite disheartened by the sight of birders driving up and waiting just before the bus was due. So luckily I managed to persuade my girlfriend Laura to come and pick me up so I could see the owls, with the bribe of a paid-for-by-me curry afterwards – a big thanks to her, as she had to come and find me in the middle of nowhere after crawling through rush hour traffic!

The owls turned up right on cue as they have been reported for the last week or so, the first showing itself about 4.45pm, and good views could be had of them cruising low over Leash Fen looking for voles, and occasionally scrapping with passing carrion crows. Two could be seen for most of the time, but at one point three could be seen in the sky together – a truly brilliant sight.

Short-eared owls are a bird I’ve never seen and always wanted to, so I’m very thankful to have an understanding girlfriend who’ll come to my aid in times of geeky, birdwatching need!

Not a red-foot, apparently…

Apparently an Amur Falcon... honest!

Remember the red-footed falcon I saw at Tophill Low in East Yorkshire in September, that I took the above, award-winning standard photo of?

The bird was a long-stayer at Tophill, staying for over a month. I was quite excited to see it, as it was a lifer for me a beautiful bird to boot. However, over the last few days it has been reidentified as something even more exciting… an Amur falcon! Once considered a subspecies of RFF, and called the Eastern Red-footed Falcon, it was split into a species in its own right, and is identifiable from the RFF by the males’ white underwing coverts. This bird is the first ever recorded in Britain!

This bird probably fooled hundreds of birders, who all quite reasonably didn’t even consider it possible to be anything other than a RFF. And as soon as it’s been identified as a mega, it seems to have finally passed on, no doubt leaving a lot of frustrated twitchers in its wake!

I’m not too proud to add it to my list retrospectively (subject to BOU acceptance, of course)… although it does mean I still need a red-footed falcon! Bah!

Agden, etc.

This morning I had a trip up to Agden Reservoir, via Rocher Head, Cowell Flat and Agden Side.

The highlights of the morning were 18 redwing between Rocher End Plantation and Rocher Head (including a flock of 16 and two singles), and two ravens heading NE over Cowell Flat. Elsewhere there was plenty of the usual stuff, including nuthatches, jays and treecreepers, a great spotted woodpecker, and a couple of grey wagtails in Low Bradfield.

I stopped for a while at the birdfeeders near the reservoir, hoping they’d be luring something interesting in such as siskins and redpolls, but unfortunately they don’t appear to have been topped up for a while. However the usual coal tits didn’t disappoint and gave numerous photo opportunities as they foraged nearby. There were also a few bullfinches around, but sadly not photographable.

Coal Tit

Coal Tit

Coal Tit

And finally a shot of a bench up at Agden that is gradually being claimed by fungus. If anyone knows the species let me know!

Fungus on a bench

Birding aims for Winter

As I set myself some birding aims for the Spring (and 9 out of 10 eventually got found) I thought I’d do the same for the Winter. Of course Winter straddles the year, so there’s already a good few wintering birds on my year list from January and February, but here’s a few that slipped through the net, and a couple of non-winter birds I need to mop up…

1. Pintail
Now whinchat’s finally been found, pintail can now take the place of my most annoying “bogey”. Pretty scarce in Sheffield, I’ll probably have to think of somewhere further afield to find them…

2. Lesser Redpoll
A bird that I never seem to find very easily – this year’s seen a massive influx into Sheffield already, so this shouldn’t be a problem to find somewhere!

3. Red-legged Partridge
Not really a winter bird, but one that also seems to give me the slip. Mainly a bird of the east of Sheffield, but numbers have recently been seen on Wharncliffe Chase, so probably somewhere to have a look.

4. Whooper Swan
I can’t believe I didn’t get any last winter! Hopefully some will drop in to Old Moor or one of the local reservoirs before too long.

5. Short-eared Owl
A more ambitious one… hopefully some wintering ones will show up somewhere on the local moorland.

6. Hen Harrier
Hopefully a trip to the winter raptor roost at Blacktoft Sands will bring up a couple of these…

7. Firecrest
A very ambitious one! One I may have to twitch should any appear locally…

8. Curlew Sandpiper
Luck of the draw… hopefully one will show up at Old Moor or Blacktoft when I’m visiting…

9. Water Rail
Oh dear, I really am getting ambitious now aren’t I? Mind you, a trip to Potteric Carr may be all I need…

10. Red Kite
Again, not a winter one, but one I’ve not seen yet this year. I’ll have to keep my eyes on the skies while travelling on the Motorway near Harewood!

I’m not too confident I’ll get all these in the time I’ve got, but we’ll see! As always, if anyone wants to point to any regular sites then let me know (perhaps not publicly for birds of prey).