30/03/2013 – Wheata wander

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Not the most eventful wander round Wheata Wood this morning, with the best on offer being a heard-only crossbill overhead, and a single redwing near the car park. There was also a treecreeper in a tit flock, which posed for a quick photo.

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Other news today is the Sheffield peregrines have laid their second egg – they should have at least three by the end of the Easter weekend.

29/03/2013 – A Good Friday trudge

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I took advantage of the Bank Holiday today and went for a trudge through the slowly melting snow. I met up with Andy Hill (who took all the photos below) in Wheata Wood, where a search for lesser spotted woodpecker was typically fruitless, but there was some light passage of meadow pipits, with a single skylark and curlew passing overhead. A yellowhammer was also singing, and four redwing lingering.

From there we went up Wharncliffe Chase, where a flock of five lapwing also revealed the same number of golden plover among them. Not that common a bird on the Chase, and always good to see.

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Also around were a couple of singing skylark, and at least one crossbill flew calling overhead by the shooting lodge.

Then we walked up to Wharncliffe Res, via Woodhead Road where a flock of c10 fieldfare, 2 mistle thrush and a pair of red-legged partridge were found, and took a detour to check on the tree sparrows on Bank Lane. The snow here was crazy, with piles well over six foot high in places. We found the tree sparrows, still present in the usual place, with around 10 flitting round the trees and hedgerow. Also here was a single male yellowhammer, three soaring common buzzards, and a small flock of 5 common gulls and 8 black-headed gulls.

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On further up to Wortley to Rough Lane, where two lapwing, three curlew, two red-legged partridge, three stock doves, a reed bunting and three yellowhammer were found. Five Canada Geese seen on Wharncliffe Res were fairly unusual, and we finished with a fairly uneventful trip back down the Chase.

 

25 – 28/03/2013 – A week on the lunchtime patch

Rather than daily posts on the week’s lunchtime spots, I thought it may be less repetitive to do a weekly roundup.

The great crested grebes have been present all week on Crookes Valley Park, even engaging in a bit of courtship dancing. It will be very interesting to see if there’s any breeding attempt made.

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Elsewhere in the park there’s been a few other bits and bobs. A small flock of foraging blackbirds has been joined by a song thrush and a single redwing, and a nuthatch was calling from the eastern side of the park yesterday. Black-headed gulls have returned to the park too, peaking at 32 today, and the usual coots are there, starting to get tetchy and territorial, chasing off mallards that get too close.

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The two Canada geese seem to have migrated back to the plastic duck menagerie of Weston Park, holding court with the other iffy waterfowl…

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However the big news of the week is the St George’s peregrines have laid their first egg. They’ve done well to have held on a bit – the Nottingham birds laid before the heaviest of the snowfalls, and the female was quite a pitiable sight trying to incubate through several inches of snow. The Sheffield birds should lay another 2-3 eggs during the next week or so, and fingers crossed for another successful breeding year.

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Next week is Bird Watching Magazine’s “Birding Lunch”, a challenge to see as many species as possible in a lunch hour. This means I may go a bit further afield to see what I can find…

24/03/2013 – The snowy aftermath!

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Today was bitterly cold again, and I only got round to a quick wander round Wheata Wood. This time there was little to see, except for a finch flock on Hill Top Lane around birdfeeders, that included the usual species (including the chaffinch above) and a single female siskin, and another flock of around 20 or so in the wood itself.

Still no bramblings around this year – in the previous two winters there’s been a large chaffinch flock with three bramblings mixed in, but this year the flock never formed any significant numbers. I was half hoping to see one among the birdfeeder flock but no joy.

Apart from that practically nothing. Hard to think in a few weeks the very area I trudged through today will be full of the song of chiffchaff, willow warbler, whitethroat and blackcap, and swallows will be swooping overhead…

23/03/2013 – Wintry Wheata

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Now that was a snowfall. It’s ridiculously deep out there, and I had a bit of a trudge round Wheata Wood this morning.

Highlights were 4 great spotted woodpeckers (including a territorial pair seeing off an intruder, and some drumming despite the weather), 6 redwing, a pair of bullfinches and 3 meadow pipits feeding among the bare patches of grass under the hooves of horses. A kestrel perched a few feet away from me, giving me the odd glance but not really bothered by my presence, before finally sloping off.

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In Grenoside there was a flyover by 20 or so redwing, and another foraging meadow pipit on Hill Top Lane, and a flock of c25 siskin in a garden on Top Side, as well as a mixed finch flock of goldfinch, greenfinch and chaffinch doing the rounds.

No early spring migrants, strangely enough!

20/03/2013 – Grebes again, and the one that got away…

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Not a lot to report on a very cold and generally miserable day. I braved the wintery showers at lunchtime to check if the great crested grebes were still on Crookes Valley Lake, and sure enough they were, with a terrible record shot taken through the sleet. I wonder how long they’ll stay?

Probably the biggest surprise of the day was a report of a rock pipit at Crookes Valley Park earlier in the morning! Instead of getting annoyed at one that got away, I’m going to take it more as encouraging that urban birding can throw up surprises where you least expect them.