Wild Hawfinch Chase

Clumber Park

Today I had a bit of a run around some sites in Nottinghamshire, trying to find a few species and, it has to be said, dipping spectacularly.

The first stop of the day was Lound Gravel Pits. Recently it’s seen such good birds as smew, red-crested pochard, whooper swan and little egret, none of which seemed to be around today. It’s a great site and worth a visit, with loads of waterfowl on show including goldeneye, goosander, shelduck, teal and wigeon, plus great crested and little grebes and cormorants.

Next stop Clumber Park, where the main target of the day were hawfinches. From the title of this blog post I think you can guess how successful we were. I did manage to see a marsh tit feeding on some peanuts, though – believe it or not a lifer for me. Clumber’s tricky as willow tits are also present in some areas, but this one was showing well, clearly displaying a thinner neck and clear demarkation between white and buff on the cheek (these are in no way definitive identifiers, though, but I have it on good authority that the birds by the Chapel are nearly always marshes).

Marsh Tit (terrible shot!)

Other birds around included plenty of nuthatches and some ridiculously tame chaffinches. The mandarin ducks that have been present recently weren’t around either.

And finally a trip down the road to Rufford Country Park, where hawfinches have been seen in the car park over recent weeks. Predictably we dipped these too! Maybe one day…

Despite the lack of targets connected with it was still a good day out, and I’ve discovered some great new sites that will be well worth a repeat visit.

A lunchtime twitch

Waxwings (record shot)

Last night I got a tip-off from Roger B that he’d seen a flock of waxwings in Crosspool at 4pm yesterday. I was starting to worry that despite the waxwing-heavy winter they may escape my 2009 list due to recent sightings being too far away for a lunchtime dash (such as the recent flock at Hackenthorpe), or me not knowing about them until after they’d gone (the 100-odd by Mecca Bingo on Penistone Road a couple of weeks ago would have been ideal!).

It didn’t take me long to find them today – there were about 40 in a tall tree on Coldwell Lane, close to the junction of Manchester Road. Not showing too well for photographic purposes – as the photo above shows!

That brings the year’s total to 99. I also heard my first tawny owls of the year hooting close to the house last night, but I’ve made a decision not to let heard-onlies on the list this year, and I’m sure  it won’t be too long until I see one perched on the telegraph pole outside the bedroom window. I may be cursing this self-imposed rule when it’s time for the cuckoos and grasshopper warblers, though!

Beeley

After my Big Garden Birdwatch this morning I had a walk round Beeley Woods at Middlewood. Highlights included a kestrel, sparrowhawk, long-tailed tits, a treecreeper, a nuthatch and heard-only jays, bullfinches and a great spotted woodpecker.

Sadly I didn’t make the yearlist 100 today – I had hoped to pick up green woodpecker and grey wagtail, and there was a chance of lesser spotted woodpecker. At least the nuthatch was one first for the year, bringing the total to 98. To make this post a little less boring, here’s a pretty ropey picture of it.

Nuthatch

My Big Garden Birdwatch

I’ve just done the Big Garden Birdwatch, and here are my results…

Robin – 1
Great Tit – 4
Jackdaw – 4
Blue Tit – 2
Long-tailed Tit – 2
Bullfinch – 2
Magpie – 5
Goldcrest – 1
Woodpigeon – 2
Blackbird – 1
Dunnock – 1

Not a bad tally – and it was interesting to see the bullfinches and goldcrest actually using the feeders, which was a first for me. I must spend more time sat watching the garden! Sadly it was too dingy for any photos this morning.

Old Moor

I was volunteering at Old Moor today, as part of their Big Garden Birdwatch events, and a good day it was too. Here are a few pictures from the birdfeeders, where I was stationed for most of the day sharing some ID tips with families.

Long-tailed Tits
Long-tailed Tits

Chaffinch
Chaffinch

Robin
Robin

Despite the largely sedentary nature of my day, I still managed six year ticks, way more than I expected today. The first was a little owl, that was showing well in the education garden, despite being harrassed by magpies.

Little Owl
Little Owl

Little Owl and a mobbing Magpie!
A stand-off!

In the same area there were a couple of visits from a couple of stock dove, and staking out the feeders meant I got a yellowhammer that made a brief appearance. A quick walk round the reserve brought up a group of goosander, three ruddy duck and three soaring buzzards over the Wader Scrape.

It was also good this morning to finally put a face to Dean of the Mostlymacro blog, who popped in to say hello and shared the views of the little owl. It’s a shame his first impression has to be of me wearing a comedy porn-star-style fake tash – my consession to the Big Garden Birdwatch 30th anniversary 70s theme that staff and volunteers were sporting!

So the yearlist is up to 97 already… I’ve got plans tomorrow that may tip it to the century. Will I manage it?!

Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend

 Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow

Just a reminder to everyone that it’s the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend (24th/25th Jan), a very simple survey of garden birds that is nonetheless very useful in gaging trends in bird numbers. All it requires is an hour spent taking a note of the number of birds in your garden or local park, at any time over the weekend.

For more details see here. I’ll be doing mine on Sunday, as I’ll be spending Saturday at Old Moor helping out with their Big Garden Birdwatch event, which should be worth a visit if anyone’s around!

(Note – the photo above wasn’t taken in my garden… I’m not lucky enough to get tree sparrows!)