06/05/2013 – Stanley Hill and Dukes Road

A couple of trips out this morning – firstly an early(ish) morning walk through Wheata Wood and on to Stanley Hill and Stubbing House Lane. Wheata contained the flock of lesser redpoll as yesterday, plus a yaffling green woodpecker, a drumming great spotted woodpecker, and a couple each of chiffchaff and willow warbler.

Stanley Hill housed at least six singing willow warblers, and three whitethroat – the latter seems to be much more plentiful than last year. There were also 10+ linnet, a kestrel, a couple of swallows and a few meadow pipits about.

Walking back up towards Grenoside two more whitethroats were present on the path between Stubbing House Lane and Skew Hill, and four swallows were on wires on Skew Hill. Passing back through the village, more redpolls were around, probably part of the Wheata Wood flock.

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A lunchtime we enjoyed the Bank Holiday sun by having a quick picnic on the bench at the start of Dukes Road (near Bradfield). Highlights there were (again) two singing whitethroats, a calling cuckoo heard from not far to the south of the area, three curlew, and the obligatory chuckling red grouse.

05/05/2013 – Wood Warbler on patch, and Peregrines hatch!

A good morning on patch today – a walk through Wheata Wood, the south of the Chase, and up to Bank Lane.

My main target for the morning was wood warbler, and I expected a bit of a trawl round Wharncliffe Wood until I found one, but I was very pleasantly surprised to get a rather showy singing male not far into Wharncliffe Wood, just north of Wheata Wood car park (a not-too-great shot below!).

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Elsewhere there was:

  • A few blackcap in Wheata and Wharncliffe Woods.
  • Lots of singing willow warblers (with the majority on the Chase).
  • A surprising amount of tree pipits, with 14 counted and 11 singing.
  • redstart on the Chase, including 2 pairs.
  • whitethroat in Wheata Wood, and another on Bank Lane.
  • wheatear on the Chase behind Wharncliffe Farm.
  • A calling cuckoo on the Chase
  • 3 common buzzards
  • raven over the crags.
  • 3 singing yellowhammer on the Chase, and a couple more near Wortley.
  • A good few swallow flitting around.
  • A flock of around 15 lesser redpoll near Grenoside.

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No tree sparrows on Bank Lane today, sadly, but they may have just been feeding somewhere off the main track.

The big news, however, is the first two peregrine chicks have hatched at St George’s! For the latest news see http://sheffieldperegrines.wordpress.com.

03 – 04/05/2013 – Northumberland

Sorry I’ve not updated this week, I’ve been really busy and not made it out anywhere of note! I made up for it considerably this weekend, with a great trip to Northumberland.

We started the trip with a bit of a blustery walk round Bamburgh, where there were a good few eiders around, and a raft of common scoter in the sea. A few Arctic terns were around, and we spotted a couple of fulmar nesting on Bamburgh Castle. A subsequent trip to Beadnell was very windy indeed, meaning I didn’t manage any little terns (or was I too early?), although I did manage my first house martins of the year.

The next day we were greeted to a much sunnier and calmer day, which meant we had great weather for our planned trip to the Farne Islands. A pilgrimage we make most years, it’s one of my favourite places – one of the greatest wildlife spectacles the UK has to offer.

The boat trip out was great, with thousands of kittiwakes, guillemots and shags to be seen breeding on the rocks, and wonderful close views of grey seals. Gannets and Arctic terns were around, eiders bobbed past, and as we got closer to the landing site of Inner Farne, puffins and sandwich terns started to be seen in small numbers.

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One landing on Inner Farne, we were greeted by two very close basking seals, which have apparently been a fixture for a week or so and were stupidly photogenic…

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Because we were quite early in the season we didn’t witness the vast numbers of most species we have in previous years – and didn’t feel the wrath of the Arctic tern colony, which made it all a bit less terrifying – but everything was present and correct, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, shag, Arctic terns, sandwich terns, eider, fulmar and rock pipit.

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Afterwards, we decided to have a trip to East Chevington… well a purple heron had turned up, it would be rude not to! It didn’t take us long to find a small group of birders, and after a while we got quite distant but clear scopable views of the heron lurking in the base of the reeds. An unexpected lifer for the weekend! The reserve was also a great place to spend an hour or so, with a few good birds picked up including a reeling grasshopper warbler, sedge warbler, whitethroat, swift, cuckoo, marsh harrier and a pair of red-breasted mergansers (terrible record shot below). I’d love to go again one day when less pushed for time.

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After that we stopped in at Cragside, for a National Trust Victoria Sponge (getting middle aged? Me?!), and a quick look for red squirrels. Sadly no squirrels made themselves know, but there were some woodland bird species around such as nuthatch and siskin, in a beautiful location.

So a great start to a long weekend all in all!