Those Asda be waxwings…

I’m not usually so keen as I was today to do a bit of Saturday afternoon food shopping, but after seeing a few pager reports from Handsworth this week I thought it would be a good chance to catch up again with Sheffield’s roving waxwing flock, this time in their natural habitat of a supermarket car park.

They were very easy to find, flying straight over the car as we came off the Parkway, and sat in a tall tree on the corner of Handsworth Road opposite Asda, moving en masse to feed on the berries on the roundabout. I’ve counted the flock in the photo below, and make it 198 birds! Sadly the light was a bit too bad for anything other than ropey shots, but I’ll post them anyway…

Waxwings

Waxwings

Waxwing

Waxwings

In less wildlife-related news, I popped a certain question last week and Laura actually said yes, despite my geeky ornithological obsessions. It’s nothing short of a miracle and I’m a happy man indeed!

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London

I’ve just come back from a family wedding in London, but being the relentless birder I am I managed to notch up four year ticks while I was there…

The first was a nice peregrine over Westminster, cruising close to Big Ben. You wonder how many of these brilliant raptors pass over the throngs below without a single person noticing. I also visited St James Park, and really wished the red-crested pochards, mandarins and barnacle geese they have there weren’t such untickable captives!

On Friday I managed to persuade my long-suffering girlfriend that we should visit Richmond Park, which turned out to be a much longer tube and bus journey from where we were staying that I originally thought. My target was ring-necked parakeets, and several showed minutes after we finally entered the park, and proved to be a noisy and colourful sight as we walked through. It’s lucky for me they were such charismatic birds and well worth the journey!

Ring-necked Parakeet

Ring-necked Parakeet

Also in the park was another year tick in the shape of a green woodpecker, and various other birds along the route included Egyptian geese, pochards, treecreepers, nuthatches and jays. There was also an impressive herd of red deer in the park.

Egyptian Goose

Red Deer
Finally on the way home today we got good views of a red kite while driving up the A1 near Rutland Water. I probably wouldn’t have got such an impressive tally of year ticks if I’d gone out proper birding over the weekend!

Winter wasp

Today I found quite a surprising visitor while at work – a rather large wasp was buzzing around the room I was working in. I’m guessing it was a mated female, ready to start a new colony – I’m no expert on insects, but is this rather early?

Pinkfeet and Potteric

I’ve had a good morning at Potteric Carr today. The day started off well before we even got there, with a large skien of pink-footed geese flying over the Parkway at Handsworth, in a flock numbering at least 500 individuals. There seems to have been quite a movement of them today, and we got another skien at Potteric, numbering at least a few hundred birds.

Much of the reserve was still iced up, but there was still plenty to see. I started the morning by staking out the Willow Pool hide for water rail, and was instead treated to reed bunting, willow tit, great spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, coal tit, robin, jay, moorhen, pheasant etc. I was just about to leave the hide when I noticed something fly into the reeds out of the corner of my eye, and a scan with binoculars revealed a bittern doing a very good job of hiding in there! There were also good numbers of siskin in the trees by the cafe, and plenty of bullfinches around.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting

Willow Tit and Blue Tit
Willow Tit and Blue Tit

Chaffinch
Chaffinch

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Bittern (honest!!!!)
There is a bittern in this photo. Honest!

We walked up to Huxter Well to see if the Caspian gull was around, but we were probably a bit early in the day for it (even though I tried very hard to string a herring gull into it – note to self, I must learn the rarer gulls a bit better). Also around were ducks including gadwall, shoveler, shelduck, pochard, tufted duck and teal, an oystercatcher, a cormorant and a kestrel.

Shoveler
Shoveler

A final look in the Willow Pool hide on the way back finall turned up an almost blink-and-you’d-miss-it turn from the water rail, which walked in from under the hedge, had a quick drink, and disappeared as suddenly as it appeared!

Water Rail
Water Rail

Full list today:

Continue reading Pinkfeet and Potteric

Patch update 11/02/09

I was a bit annoyed this morning, I had a day off work and a driving test booked, which was cancelled due to ice. So instead I had a nice leisurely walk around the patch, and I’m very glad I did as I got a couple of year ticks and had some good photographic opportunities.

The first highlights were a couple of jays on Black Lane, the first of at least six I saw over the course of the morning, and I finally managed to pin down a couple of photos of them.

Jay

Jay

A half iced-up Old Wheel Dam has the usual collection of mallards (c40) and Canada geese (c60), plus a drake teal and three lapwings in the adjacent fields.

Mallards on ice

Lapwings

Teal

At this point the heavens opened and it started sleeting heavily, but while I was sheltering in the woods I got good views of a treecreeper on the trees nearby, and a single lesser redpoll sheltered in one of the derelict factory buildings nearby. (The treecreeper shots were taken in the same place on the way back).

Treecreeper

Lesser Redpoll

I trudged on in the sleet, which finally eased off when I got to Stacey Bank. In that area I got the first year tick of the day (and indeed the month!) in the form of this rather showy grey wagtail.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

A bit further up I finally got the chance to take some semi-decent shots of a dipper, as I managed to sneak up on one that was preening by the riverbank. Its colour rings were showing well, and this is one of the same individuals I reported seeing at this stretch of river in July.

Dipper

Dipper

I watched the dipper bobbing about and diving into the water for a bit, and then walked back, getting a grey heron and some more jays at the Fisheries. Near to Olive Dam I caught sight of a medium-sized brown bird with broad wings disappearing silently into the trees and realised I’d finally made contact with the year’s first tawny owl!

One of the best walks I’ve had in the Loxley Valley for a very long time, and a wintry post like this wouldn’t be complete without a pic of one of these…

Robin

Nature In Focus

I got a link swap request about two weeks ago from Richard Ashbee, webmaster of Nature in Focus and co-founder of the Woodhouse Wildlife Group. Unfortunately, for reasons best know to itself, WordPress decided this was spam and sucked it into its spam filter and I’ve only just seen it – apologies to Richard if he thought I was ignoring him!

The site’s great with some excellent photography, and well worth a look, and it’s also great to hear from fellow Sheffielders with wildlife sites and blogs.

Patch update 07/02/09

Finally had a snowy look on patch – highlights were:

  • Dipper and 22 x jackdaw at Stacey Bank
  • 56 x Canada goose and 70 x mallard at Old Wheel Dam (sadly nothing more interesting!)
  • Great spotted woodpecker calling at the Hepworth Site
  • A flock of 200+ jackdaw over Low Matlock Lane
  • A bullfinch calling on Black Lane
  • 11 x redwing in the trees on the path opposite the house.

A few pics…

Dipper
Dipper

The top of Stacey Lane
Stacey Lane in the snow

Olive Dam
A icy Olive Dam