22nd September 2017. A gloomy afternoon.

A trip up to Carsington in the gloomy afternoon of the 22nd September  resulted in a quik stroll round Stones Island, where on the sides of the causeway a large amount of mud is showing. On here a group of waders were feeding these included 8+ Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plovers and the stars of the show a couple of smart first winter Little Stints. They were quite distant but showed well feeding actively among the little party.

Two Little Stints among Dunlin.

Also present were a number of Little Egrets, I counted 5+ but up to 12 have been seen around the reservoir, the highest ever counts.

Little Egrets.

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Slow going in 2017…

Heavens this year is slow going! I have had several new ticks turn up but all were either too far away or their stays were too short to reach ’em. The worst were Amur Falcon and Yellow Warbler, both on the mainland but we had work meetings on the only day the Amur was truly twitchable and the Yellow Warbler broke an hour or so too late to reach the site before dusk. These two were followed by an American Redstart on Barra, again too far and one of my most desired UK birds. I am starting to fall into despair…

We have had to make do with the odd local bird to give a small lift. The best for me were a Spotted Redshank on the patch at Carsington on the 30th of August. Feeding a good way off from the hide on a small pool.

The other highlight was finally getting back Manx Shearwater for the Reservoir list on the 12th September 2017.

Be helpful if I could spell September on the video…

This bird was present two days being found late in the evening and being still present the next day and so proved twitchable for a good few folk which was good. I have missed one or two up there so this was a nice relief.

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Evening Sky 10th July 2017

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Garden Ringlets 5th July 2017

Our garden has had less than 5 records of Ringlet up to today… Today I saw 5 within 2 minutes. Very odd. At least 2 were on territory too.

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Noctilucent Clouds. 2nd July 2017.

Amazing “night shining” clouds at about 2.30 am in the morning in the northern sky. An absolutely beautiful sight.

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Bee-eaters in Nottinghamshire. 26th June 2017.

This was a surprise. Three Bee-eaters were reported from a quarry just over the county border in East Leake in Notts, late on Sunday night (the 25th). As they were there at dusk it was assumed they roosted and if you needed Bee-eater this seemed to be a sure fire tick. Sure enough they were still there this am. However when day broke there were more than three present. In fact the numbers actually grew through the day with up to seven birds being seen together. Now, we had a really busy week ahead but decided to give it a go in the evening as it was probably going to be our only chance to see them and of course they might go especially as rain was forecast overnight! Only about a 40minute drive round Derby and just over the border we arrived at the gate to the quarry to find a small group of birders watching over the gate. They were looking off across the quarry site to where a large Ash tree was standing in the hedge line and sure enough, through the heat haze, up to three Bee-eaters could be seen flying up and perching in some bare branches. They were very distant though and the haze made it a nightmare.

Bit distant…

Suddenly a “cronk-cronk” over head sounded and we looked up to see seven Ravens were circling above us. It is a mark of this species recovery that we could see this presumed family group in the flatlands of south Nottinghamshire.

Three of the seven Raven, the last image seems to show the wrong tail shape, but it was one!

The air over the ash tree and pits was also teeming with hirundines, Sand and House Martin and Swallow in abundance.

When we returned to watching the Bee-eaters we noticed birders standing much closer in the distance and discovered this was a bridle track off the main road a bit further on. We set off to walk. It is not pleasant walking on verges that close to speeding traffic! However we reached the bridleway and walked up alongside some of the pits. The path actually ran up to a reasonable spot before turning away and this conveniently offered an excellent viewing spot for the Ash tree.

The Ash Tree.

Here we could hear the birds calling incessantly, the liquid “prrrrut-prrrrut”. They seem to almost throw their voice at times and this can make it hard to locate the caller. You could see them watching the insects flying past, they would launch out of the tree and swoop quite a distance to catch prey then loop back to perch and bash the insect before swallowing it. They seemed to be catching quite a lot of bees and the like but one caught a Brown Hawker and swallowed it whole, with even the wings still attached. Their bouncy agile flight is really distinctive along with their¬† rather triangular wing silhouette. The colours are the thing though, the blue, red, yellow and green making them true harlequins. The copper orange under wings flashed as they swooped in to land in the branches.

Even here they were a bit distant for my camera, I think digiscoping might be better or a better resolution camera.

 

Colours! 

Watching them closely you could see the slightly duller plumage of the females when compared to the males. The blue on the underparts seemed greener and a little more faded in particular. Some birds would disappear for a while before coming back and preening actively… this lead me to wonder seriously if they were tunneling, and indeed we could see at least two pairs and mating even occurred up in the Ash. This looked good for a breeding attempt. It was very difficult to see just how many birds were actually present due to their constant coming and going. Up to five birds were seen at one time perched up in the bare branches of the tree.

 

A male I think, the blue is very intense.

 

On our way back to the car we passed the RSPB already on the ball and setting up parking and wardening. We walked along the main road and just after the lay by before we turned up the lane to our car we heard one call seemingly close overhead, but could we see it? Of cause not. It brings it home to you how so many records are heard only.

 

Edit:- They are proving popular! A couple of thousand folk have seen them by now! It does look like they are nesting at the moment so we may get another chance to go and see them and perhaps get better photo’s. It is just a pity they missed Derbyshire by a few miles. Still we can but hope…

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“Under the Boardwalk” 25th June 2017 Shrewsbury. Hoacti Night heron.

We had been wondering whether to go for the Night Heron that had taken to the Quarry Park area in Shrewsbury for a while, when after seeing photo’s and reading discussion it was found the bird was most likely to be the American race hoacti. We then decided, as this was a form tick in the UK, to make a visit. However this took longer than anticipated to actually do. We planned it on several occasions but things kept cropping up, lucily the bird settled and stayed so on this Sunday we found we were free and finally got to go to the heron, then planned to go a bit further over for Large Heath at Whixall Moss. The weather however had other ideas and the Sunday dawned rather dull and cool. We decided to head for Shrewsbury and see how it went. The trip over was interspersed with heavy rain showers so the butterflies were now looking a distant long shot. Arriving in Shrewsbury we found some parking just over the River Severn from the Quarry Park and walked down to cross the bridge. From here we saw the park was full of tents, cars and people, all accompanied by the less than inviting smell and smoke of cooking burgers. This we later discovered was a food festival… and to our dismay we had come without cash in our pockets. It also seemed less than conducive to birdwatching.

We walked round to a small side gate to the park and found to our delight that we could walk almost straight into The Dingle which is effectively a small park within a park and where the heron had made its temporary home. We found the park was partly a formal garden in the tradition of park bedding planting and partly a wilder water garden round a central lake with thick cover and tree planting, hence the herons presence. It was surprisingly quiet in there and there were very few people around considering the bustle and noise in the rest of the park.

“The Dingle” in Quarry Park.

We walked down the side of the small lake checking the central island with no luck and made our way towards a small board walk that crossed the bottom end of the water. We could see a few people standing around on there from a distance. On turning onto the boardwalk we found the people where filming with their phones and, on looking just to the right, there was the heron, sitting on some low vegetation, completely unconcerned by the attention the people were showing it. Most of the just over eight or so folk were not birders just casual visitors enjoying the park and making the most of the chance to see something a little unusual.

Note the quite high white forehead patch and thin very narrow line over the eye.

Look at that red eye!

I really rather like this shot it’s such a funny pose.

The bird was preening and roosting. We soon found out what it was waiting for, people feeding the ducks! As soon as someone threw bread to them the heron perked up and then flew across the pond to a low hanging conifer near to where the bread was being chucked in. The reason became clear, it was watching the fish that were drawn to the bread, clearly it had learned to use the bread throwing antics of the visitors to draw in its dinner too. It showed really well on this conifer for a while and it was quite surreal watching it at such close range whilst accompanied in the background by live music drifting over from the food festival.

I had never noticed the webbing between the outer toes before on a Night Heron.

The tree was just just too high for it to fish from though so it then flew right towards us and landed directly under the board walk on a little just submerged shelf. Here we could not see it as it was right below us about 12 inches away but through the narrow cracks in the boards you could just make bits of it out as it fished.

The bird looks a pretty much standard Night Heron but the face pattern is a little different in that it seems to have more white on the forehead than the European form and much less white extending over the eye. The European form has a well defined white supercilium over the eye whereas this bird has a very thin, almost broken line, this combines with the forehead to give a subtly different facial expression.

Whilst this was going on the sky was darkening and a thin drizzle had begun to fall. We decided to call it a day as the bird seemed settled out of view, so we continued to walk around the lake and out of the gardens. Looking back we could see the bird under the board walk, fishing happily while folk walked across completely unaware of it’s presence.

Walking round a bit further we saw a large metal heron sculpture on the opposite bank.

Rather appropriately perhaps when we got level with it we looked back and could still see the Night Heron happy under its boardwalk sheltering from the rain and fishing away!

“eye” can see you…

On reaching the car we had a quick snack and decided whether to risk the Butterflies, thankfully the weather saved us a drive and it absolutely hammered it down. We called it a day and drove back to Derbyshire.

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