27 – 28/04/2013 – A weekend interviewing

I’ve had something of a busy weekend, conducting two interviews for forthcoming articles.

Yesterday I took the train out to Bridlington to interview Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers fame. We had a really interesting chat about his work and birding outlook, and spent a bit of time in Flamborough, which is Martin’s new patch. There I got to see an Iberian chiffchaff which he co-found a couple of days ago – the UK’s first non-singing bird of this species, plus a first for me in the form of a dark-bellied brent. As I somehow have managed to avoid a coastal trip so far this year, I also got some of the typical seaside year ticks including guillemot, razorbill, kittiwake, gannet, shag and a couple of puffins, which took a bit of work to find among the auk rafts! A handsome peregrine patrolling the cliffs was also a great addition to the day.

A few ropey shots…

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Today I spent the morning closer to home with Jon Hornbuckle. A Sheffield-based birder who has been highly active in conservation work and birdwatching in the area, he also happens to be one of the world’s most prolific world listers, sitting at second place in the Surfbirds league with a not too shabby total of 8,977! It was great to hear his stories of both home and abroad, and we spent some time exploring the nooks and crannies of Sheffield’s post-industrial east end looking for black redstarts. Sadly the search was fruitless, but it showed the amount of suitable habitat in the area, and finding other birds such as singing willow warblers and swooping sand martins in places where birders very rarely explore was really inspiring – surely there’s some black redstarts still lurking in there somewhere, waiting to be found!

So a great weekend spent in the company of two inspiring birders. Got a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to get out onto patch at least once or twice – time for cuckoo, whitethroat, garden warbler and swift on patch! Also keep your eyes on the Peregrine webcam next week – with the first egg laid in late March, we’re about due for some chicks…

23/04/2013 – Redstart, Pipits, Wheatear and Warblers

Tonight I had an evening walk on the Chase, mainly to see if I could find any redstarts. Eventually I did find a female lurking near Wharncliffe Farm, but males have been sighted by other observers and an earlier morning trip should produce some singing! Elsewhere two wheatear were behind Wharncliffe Farm, and singing birds included two tree pipit, nine willow warbler, four yellowhammer, plus dunnock, wren, robin, blackbird, blackbird, chaffinch, great tit, chiffchaff, song thrush and skylark. A single swallow was flying round Wharncliffe Farm, and there were 25+ each of meadow pipit and linnet.

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Not too much to report from lunchtime birding, except for singing willow warblers, blackcap and gold crest in Crookes Valley Park, and nuthatch in Weston Park.

20/04/2013 – Hatfield, Blacktoft and more…

This morning (me, my dad, and Andy H) had a trip out to Hatfield Moors. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a great selection of summer species singing their hearts out in some glorious weather. Migrants seen included sand martin, swallow, blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler, chiffchaff, sedge warbler, wheatear and little ringed plover, as well as other highlights including corn bunting and oystercatcher. Most surprising was a brief view of a hobby darting through, mobbed by swallows. There were also plenty of butterflies on the wing – mainly peacocks, but also a couple of small tortoiseshell and a brimstone – and a fox was a nice mammal spot. Sadly no adders made themselves known.

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After we’d had our fill in Hatfield, we decided to have a look for some dotterel that had come up on BirdGuides at Adlingfleet. After piecing together where they were supposed to be, we found a path that ran parallel and tried to scan from there. However the path ended before we got close, and a heat haze prevented any distant scoping. It wasn’t a wasted journey, as a pair of yellow wagtails were a great addition to the day’s tally, and another fox gave good views.

We had another try from the main road, and a line of scopes were trained on another field where some were convinced they’d found the dotterels in the haze. All I can say is I couldn’t see anything I’d reliably call a bird, let alone a dotterel, but perhaps some had better scopes/eyes than me!

From there we had a very quick and dirty trip to Blacktoft, where the usual species were hoovered up, including avocet and marsh harrier.

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We didn’t see anything super-exciting during our trip out today, but we racked up over 70 species in glorious weather, and a good time was had by all!

17/04/2013 – Waxwings and Warblers

It’s been a real day of seasonal transition today, starting brilliantly with a flock of waxwings on Netherthorpe Road. After spying one in the cotoneaster bush by the petrol station from the car window, I had a wander down before work, and found a nice flock of 31. Even though these were very confiding birds, sadly the gloomy morning meant I couldn’t get anything other than rather bad record shots.

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If the morning was about the last remnants of the winter visitors, lunchtime was about summer visitors, with an unexpected two singing willow warblers in Crookes Valley Park. One was showing well, but was very flighty and refused to stay still long enough for a photo. In Ponderosa a chiffchaff was singing too – but still no blackcaps.

In lieu of a willow warbler photo, here’s a picture of some snoozing Canada geese in Weston Park, which were a bit easier to get a snap of.

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I did make it out yesterday, by the way, for a quick walk on Stanley Hill, but the high winds led to a rather bird-free trip, with the only notables five meadow pipits on Hill Top Lane, and a couple of linnets on Stanley Hill. Not really worth a whole blog post!

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The best spot yesterday was actually on the way home from work, with two swallows feeding over the Don near Neepsend.

 

15/04/2013 – Lunch by the river, Evening on patch

This lunchtime I had to make a trip into Sheffield Centre, and combined it with a quick look at the River Don between Blonk St and Effingham Street. Highlights here were a couple of sand martins, a grey wagtail, and recent fledglings for both a pair of mallards, and a pair of the manky feral geese that frequent the River. No kingfishers today, sadly.

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This evening I had a walk through Wheata Wood, and on to Wharncliffe Chase. The highlight was four wheatears in one of the fields near the car park, which was a pleasant surprise. On the Chase there were a couple of chiffchaffs on the edge of Wharncliffe Wood, two tree pipits at Wharncliffe Farm, three singing yellowhammers, a flock of 30 fieldfare, and a nice flock of 30+ linnet on the wires and in the hedgerow around Hallfield Head Farm.

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Finishing off, a tawny owl was calling in Wheata Wood on the way back.

14/04/2013 – South Anston

Today I had a trip to the Tropical Butterfly House at South Anston. I won’t go off topic and write about the captive animals, but it was great to see decent numbers of tree sparrows on the feeders (and more photogenic than the hedge-hugging Wortley birds!).

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The pond there was also stuffed with spawning frogs.

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This morning I also found the sad sight below – an unused nest had blown into the road in front of the house after high winds. I’m thinking probably a greenfinch nest, but if anyone thinks differently let me know.

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13/04/2013 – Migrants!

A good patch walk today which actually saw a good selection of migrants – while the early migrants have been very late, it’s good to see everything else seems to be arriving as scheduled.

I started the walk in Wheata Wood, where green woodpecker, 4 x lesser redpoll and a pair of yellowhammer were the highlights. Then on to Wharncliffe Chase where I was met with a flock of seven siskin (below)and my first migrant of the day – a singing tree pipit. Two others singing later, along with one calling over, shows these have well and truly arrived.

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Onwards on the Chase I met up with Andy, and we added willow warbler and chiffchaff to the migrant list, as well as singing linnet, yellowhammer, reed bunting and stock dove. A watch over the Crags for a while turned up a couple of overhead curlew, a small flock of fieldfare, and in the distance we could see at least 7 buzzards (including one striking pale morph)displaying sparrowhawks over Morehall Res, and a flock over 300+ golden plover at Peat Pits.

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A hunt for wheatear on the open part of the Chase (the top part is currently closed for lambing) sadly turned up a blank, and I bid farewell to Andy and went down to  check on the Bank Lane tree sparrows. On the way I picked up two swallows on the path between Woodhead Road and Bank Lane, and at least four tree sparrows were present and correct, as well as a singing chiffchaff nearby. A quick look at Wharncliffe Res, typically, only turned up a single moorhen (last week’s teal was just a fluke!).

On the way back a large flock of 120+ fieldfare flew over from the Chase into Bimshaw Wood, and three lapwing and a feeding flock of 70+ starling were at Hallfield Head Farm. Back in Wheata a couple of chiffchaffs fed on the edge of the wood, and a fieldfare or two could be heard in the trees overhead.

All in all a great walk – and signs that finally the spring is proceeding as normal! Hopefully next week will see redstarts arriving in the area, and the rest trickling in before the end of the month.