The Ogston Wood Sandpiper from May.
The Ogston Wood Sandpiper from May.
A teatime message soon got me out of the house and heading straight to Ogston as Dan had seen a Spoonbill. Now this is still quite a rare bird in Derbyshire and one I certainly hadn’t seen at Ogston as the last record was in 1969! However I soon hit a snag, my cars brakes stuck on and I had to turn back homewards and limp along back to base. Curses!
A sharpish turn around into our other car and we were off again, hoping that the bird would stay long enough for us to get there. Cresting the rise and coming out through the wood down towards the old Napoleon we could see the sailing boats were out on the water and I began to doubt the bird would be still there as they were fairly close to the bay where the bird had been seen. Pulling up we grabbed ‘scopes etc and hurried to the viewing gap overlooking Chapel Bay.
Thankfully the bird was still present, and surprise surprise, sleeping on the mud bank. Now I do wonder just how Spoonbills actually stay alive as they seem to sleep for more hours in a day than cats! It was therefore quite nice when the bird woke up after a bit of argy bargy among the Cormorants and Geese. It walked a short way and had a preen before putting its head back under its wing. It did raise its head a couple more times during the time we watched but not much, as is typical. Now I had a terrible time seeing my first Spoonbill, whenever I went to a reserve where Spoonbills were they never showed for me, and I had seen many other much, much rarer birds before I finally caught up with one at Cley in Norfolk. Naturally that was asleep and took me ages to actually see it had a head! Since then I have seen them with increasing regularity and have seen a couple before in Derbyshire, but I do expect them to become much more regular still as they are now making concerted effort to colonise the UK.
Also present were a pair of Common Terns, a Mandarin and a small gathering of Grey Herons looking like crumpled old men standing on the mud.
An awake Spoonbill!
May kicked off where April left off with passage continuing on the 3rd with an absolutely stonking full summer Slavonian Grebe at Ogston. This took some finding when I arrived and I had almost given up when it floated into view under the far bank across from the Public Hide. I watched it for a while before it dived and seemingly vanished away. A long wait ensued before I located it again further off. Unfortunately this northern stunner never came close enough for photographs but then showed very well at times from the car park through ‘scopes in the corner below the top car park.
On the 4th it was back up to Carsington on a bright and sunny afternoon to catch up with my first Grey Plover there for years. A drab bird, with black restricted to a patch on the belly, it favoured the corner of Shiningford creek mud and so was fairly distant but very nice to see. Also there, around Horseshoe Island, are a pair of lingering Red crested Pochard.
A walk round Stones produced a few waders and a nice Yellow Wagtail, another herald that spring proper is here.
On the 7th a late afternoon trip to Carsington saw us drop into Sheepwash and see a beautiful Black Tern feeding off the hide. Round at Stones it was a bit of a high Arctic wader fest with 5 Turnstones, Dunlins and Ringed plovers all feeding on the fringes of Stones Island. The birds were feeding along the edge of Stones in a very brisk wind and were roosting together crouched into the wind when we first arrived. They then woke up and became more active, splitting up and beginning to range up and down the bank edge. The Turnstone were their usual selves, tossing and turning quite large stones aside in their rather staid, methodical search for food. The Ringed Plovers were much more restless, running hither and thither in an anxious way, picking at food morsels and seemingly in a hurry to be on their way. The birds all called restlessly at times, obviously wanting to be on their way northbound.
The Greylag’s in front of Sheepwash were escorting 5 tiny fluffy goslings.
The 8th saw no let up in northward migration through the county as a run over to Ogston produced a nice Wood Sandpiper feeding up and down the muddy margins near the public hide. The birds movements seemed grooved in a short length of bank side, always turning at the same spots and setting off back the way it had come, picking at the morsels of food, before again reaching the far end of this invisible track and turning once more to walk with its slightly crouched gait back along the mud.
Whilst watching this a cracking Osprey came in and caught a fish, flying off carrying it.
Also present in front of the Public Hide were 2 Greenshank.
Then it was off up to Carsington again where 2 full adult Grey Plovers had taken up temporary residence on the exact same patch of mud the previous bird had fed on. I wonder what it was about this bit of bank edge that drew 3 of these super birds to the same seemingly insignificant piece of mud, what sets it apart from the seemingly indistinguishable other margins? These two were resplendent in full spring attire with their full black faces and bellies contrasting with the silver grey spangled backs and white shoulders and flank lines.
A smart Oystercatcher was feeding right outside the WLC.
Also on Horseshoe Island this Stock Dove was one of a pair feeding, whilst out on Stones the group of Ringed Plovers were roosting up gathering their selves to start the migration further northwards into spring… some look small and dark Tundra birds?
A really nice surprise was an adult Little Gull feeding out over the reservoir for quite a while. One of my favorite gulls. Also present was a Black Tern.
A late evening walk down Wyver Lane on the 10th was on a beautiful calm and mild spring evening and produced the usual suspects, including the Shelduck that is, I think purely fulled by anger as it chases everything off it can reach!
However a nice surprise as we got back to the car was a loud honking Egyptian Goose that had dropped in. A real rare down there!
Today saw the start of my witnessing this years spring passage. An afternoons jaunt up to the reservoir produced brilliant views of 4 beautiful Black Terns around the gull colony on Millfields island and after a couple of hours watching them a walk round Stones after the tourists had gone saw me see a couple of Sanderling and the now full summer plumaged Great Northern Diver. A single Yellow Wag was also new for the year.
Willow Warbler on Stones.
Title says it all really, an evening run over after the Waxwings were reported again, and no sign again for me.
A few commoner birds made up though with great views of Nuthatch, Song Thrush etc. pity the light was so bad.
Another trip to Ogston but this time a dip on the Waxwings which were still in the area (even if this Crow seemed to be saying “they went that-a-way”).
The day was chilly again but lovely and sunny and the highlight was a spanking summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit on the west bank.
View from west bank.
I think this Black Swan was an Ogston tick too!
A surprise this late in the season were a party of 7 or 8 Waxwings in Ivy clad trees opposite the church in Brackenfield at Ogston. It was my t’other halves birthday today and after a nice meal we called in to see if we could see these birds. Just as we arrived the heavens opened and rain bucketed down! However we were able to see the birds perching and feeding in a large tree clad in ivy where they were pulling off the ivy berries enthusiastically.
At first they were always a tad distant and high up in the tree in the dull rainy conditions, this led to the first shots being grainy. But it was a joy to see them and hear their glorious trilling bell calls. As the rain got heavier we retreated into the car and they scarpered behind the house.
However we could see the sky lightening and the promise of sun hove into view over the horizon so we sat tight and watched the brighter weather advance. Once the rain eased the birds returned and began to sit in the tree right over the road before flying down to the ivy berries. They even displayed courtship behaviour in feeding berries to each other, only the second time I have seen that in the UK.
The weather brightened and the sun finally came out just as a single bird decided to feed low down in the tree right next to me. The views were amazing and it bounced around in the ivy at eye level…. just as my camera battery ran out.
It was interesting to see how the differing light changed the colours of the birds, the leaves filtering the light greenish, full sun more orange and sunny shade turning the birds pinker. These birds are just exquisite and it was hard to tear ourselves away. My final moment was when one bird flew and passed me so close I flet its wings brush my hair, just magical!