Sunday, 21 June 2020

A trip to the Dukeries - 20th June 2020

Striking another deal with my taxi friend, I left my Mum a picnic breakfast and set out at 6.30 heading north again a,long the A614. After missing Common Redstart on the previous weekend, I had another bite of the cherry after hearing about an active nest on the Clumber Estate. 

Arriving on site, I met three other birders who told me that the birds had fledged, but the family party were remaining in the natal area. Moreover, I was informed that the nest had been tended by a female and two separate males.  I am not quite sure what the set up was here. My understanding was that polygyny in Common Redstart wasn't unheard of, but I hadn't encountered polyandry before. Alternatively, was this some kind of altruism from a second male that had failed in his own attempts?

I reeled off a few nice shots of one of the males, a slightly worn-looking bird, and a record shot the the other more pristine bird.


While on site, I bumped into Sajidah Ahmad who had come up to the Dukeries on a whim and was not sure where to go best to see birds, I offered to give her a tour of the area, if she was okay with me sitting on her back seat with a mask. 

Happy with the arrangements, we stopped off at the hamlet of Carburton, getting nice views of a Grey Heron on the river, plus Barn Swallow, House Martin, Linnet, Lapwing and Greenfinch.

Grey Heron

From here we headed back to the crossroads and then to the Welbeck Raptor Watch Point. There was already a guy here (Graham) who had popped in after seeing the Blyth's Reed Warbler. The conditions seemed good with sunny skies and a light wind. After about 30 minutes we had a Red Kite and then a Kestrel. A few other birds of interest were noted, including Little Egret, Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail and two Siskins. A few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a 3rd summer Herring Gull were also around.

By 10.00 Common Buzzards were becoming more active and we had a male Sparrowhawk. The Red Kite put in a second appearance but this time much closer and I was able to obtain a nice record shot.

Red Kite

By 11.00 Saj had to go back to Nottingham with Honey-buzzard still eluding the now growing assembled crowd of ex-Blyth Reed Warbler twitchers, including people from Hertfordshire and Essex.

At 11.30 someone picked up a distant raptor, which was on flat wings and was purportedly a candidate for a Honey-buzzard. It was so far away it took me five minutes to get on the bird, which was apparently a dot even through a scope and I had only my 8 x 40 bins. I eventually got onto the bird as it began to display removing any doubt as to its identity. This was the worst view I've had of the species at the site or anywhere else for that matter.

Never the less, a nice morning's birding.

Venturing further afield - Sherwood Forest 13th June 2020

Feeling that I had exhausted the possibilities locally and with the breeding season still having stuff to offer I decided it would be nice to extend my horizons. I have a friend who is a taxi driver and managed to negotiate a 'mates rates' fare to the RSPB Car Park and back. The two metres social distancing rule is a bit tricky in the average saloon so I sat on the back seat with my mask on and hand gel at the ready.

Driving north we hit dense mist north of Redhill and it had hardly lifted by the time I was dropped off just outside Edwinstowe at the Major Oak.

I walked through the forest seeing very little, keeping alert to the presence of Common Redstart, which had become a bit secretive after the birds had generally fledged. I think the Redstart ranks among our most attractive species and always looks nice in photos.

Arriving at Budby Heath, the whole site was under a blanket of mist and the ethereal song of a Wood Lark was even more delightful. I located the bird singing overhead but in the conditions, I got little more than an atmospheric record shot.


Walking as far as Ladysmith Plantation, I was suddenly aware of the gravelly clicking calls of Stonechat. Tentatively exploring in the direction of the calls, I was delighted to see a rather tatty female and a speckly juvenile. A very nice breeding record.

Juvenile Stonechat

Female Stonechat

As the mist lifted, I went back to the cross paths and headed east where I could hear a Tree Pipit in full song. I located the bird just off piste along some deep tractor furrows, where it was singing from a small sappling. To my delight and surprise the bird allowed quite a close approach and I got a couple of nice shots in the much improved light.

Tree Pipit

Conscious of the time, I headed back into the forest and looked for Common Redstart again but to no avail.  Still I was pleased with what I had seen and it was nice to have got a different flavour of birds from the local species.

Friday, 5 June 2020

A schedule 1 morning

A local(ish) trip to see some good birds in very good light paid off.  It was worth the early start.

This is the best views I have ever had of a Barn Owl with the bird hunting at close-quarters for 20 minutes.

This Reed Bunting popped up just a metre in front of me, as I was waiting for the Barn Owl to appear.


I've had better and closer views of Black-necked Grebe, but I still think these are okay. Absolutely beautiful birds.

Just a Linnet.

Little Ringed Plover. If only if the grass hadn't been in the way!  It is what it is. At least my camera focused on the bird!

Birds in flight like this are always a challenge. I don't think this one is quite right, but it's not bad either.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Attenborough NR - Phase 2 of Lock down

With the rules on personal movement during the Covid-19 restrictions relaxed slightly, I decided to go a little bit farther afield and made a few visits to Attenborough NR from mid May to early June. Good light and generally co-operative birds allowed me to get some half decent photos.  

This Reed Bunting was was still in pristine condition in early June and was very bold in his behaviour, for a species that is normally rather nervous.

Hearing that there had been up to six Hobbys at the site, I went down on the hottest day of the year so far. It would have been nice to have got a bit closer but I'm still quite pleased with these two images.

At the same time as the Hobbys were hawking overhead, this Comon Buzzard showed up. A pit that the falcons didn't get as close!

This Blackcap wasn't going to budge come what may!  I'm not sure how close I could have got...

A combination of some bright but soft light and a very confiding Chiffchaff produced some nice images.

 This Kestrel flew in, just as I was about to pack up for the day. The light was a little too bright and even though the bird was close, I couldn't help but end up with a little haze. This is probably where an SLR would perform better.

This Common Tern was coming fairly close and I like the angle I've captured here with the bird just about to dive.

No surprises, a Sedge Warbler typically sitting out in the open.

 This Little Egret flew right by and I hardly had time to focus, so I just hit the shutter and hoped for the best.

This Barn Swallow was sitting very close but in the shade of a Willow Tree. I cranked up the exposure in order to bring out the colours. I think it's okay.

Not exactly a skulking species but they don't sit out in the open either. This bird was literally in silhouette with strong mid morning sun almost behind the bird. I adjusted the exposure and pulled the F-stop right down and it's kind of okay.

A typically bold Common Whitethroat in good light. Lovely birds.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Big Day - 9th May

With lock down restrictions still in place, this year's Big Day would need to be conducted inside my Covid-19 patch. With time at a premium, I didn't attempt to photograph everything, but took a few snaps along the way.

I decided on an earlyish start, so left the house at 05:50 and started counting the local species and immediately added Woodpigeon, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon and Robin before I had reached the bottom of the road. Crossing the main road, I had a Grey Wagtail calling from the warehouse roof there, in the same place that I had had a pair two days earlier.

Working my way along the road and down past the local allotments, I boosted the list with Grey Heron overhead, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Carrion Crow and Magpie.

I continued down Old Coach Road and into Harrison's Plantation where I ticked off Wren, Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit and Chaffinch.

Emerging into Martin's Pond I was greeted by a family of Canada Geese, the youngsters appearing to have been fed with Ready Brek (probably showing my age there.)

Stock Dove

Canada goslings

Walking around the pond, I further added Coot, Tufted Duck, Chiffchaff, Mallard, Bullfinch, Stock Dove and Great Spotted Woodpecker, but oddly no Moorhen.

I had somehow so far missed Goldfinch and Dunnock but put this right, as I walked back up towards my house for breakfast. After a short break for a very strong coffee and mini Shredded Wheat, I set off again and knocked off Moorhen on the local wildlife pond. 




I had a 15 minute walk into Strelley and then up to the new estate by Nottingham Business Park before I added another species, but then I had a rush of ticks with Reed Warbler on the fishing pond, and on the heath and scrub - Skylark, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Song Thrush.

Nottingham Business Park - path to north west

After crossing the bridge over the Motorway, I had a Kestrel hovering overhead and on the walk down to Swingate Farm, I saw LapwingCommon PheasantHouse MartinBlue TitBarn SwallowCommon Swift and a distant Common Buzzard.


Mature hedgerow at Windmill Farm, Swingate

Verge Wood viewed from path to Swingate



 Retracing my steps and over the M1, I turned in the opposite direction and walked through Broad Oak Plantation, recording Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Jay, Nuthatch and Great Tit. Looking at the Willow Warbler, I noticed it to be especially pale, rather grey and lacking any yellow tones - a perfect candidate for the race P.t acredula.

Acredula Willow Warbler

I now had a 40 minutes walk across Strelley and Bilborough, where I added no new species but still regularly heard Blackcap, which seem to be especially abundant this year. Arriving in Wollaton and cutting through the village, I entered into the park, which was the busiest I had seen it since lock down. 

Now the list started moving again, when I had Egyptian Goose on Tottle Meadows. A few minutes later at the lake, I ticked off Rose-ringed Parakeet, Green Woodpecker, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greylag Goose and Great Crested Grebe. However, the hoped for Common Pochard, Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard weren't there. Also, despite my efforts I failed to see or hear a Treecreeper, but these have been hard this year for some reason.

Egyptian Goose

The reedbed at Wollaton Park

Carrion Crow

Greylag Goose

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Woodpecker Hill - Wollaton Park



Working my way back through the park, past the golf course, I added Goldcrest and Coal Tit, which are both missable, so I was happy to get them in the bag.

I returned home for a late lunch on 56 species, which I thought was pretty good. I had so far done 12 and a half miles and although blister free, my legs were heavy, so had a break and did a bit of garden watching, hoping for a fly-over Black-headed Gull, but drew a blank there.

I set off in the late afternoon, walking around the local streets hoping for something to fly over. I was still missing Linnet, which are far from guaranteed and a Black-headed Gull, which had been flying around the local shops the day before failed to materialise. However, the effort paid off with a male Pied Wagtail on a factory roof. Another tricky species at this time of the year.

Pied Wagtail

I returned home at five o'clock and set up in the garden with a glass of Leffe Blonde. After an hour, I had a flyover Linnet calling its head off and half an hour later, two more. At half past six, there was a chorus of alarm calls and I looked up to see a female Sparrowhawk flying over with a prey item in her talons. I was now on 59 species. 


Then, at 7pm I saw a distant corvid, which I was sure wasn't a Carrion Crow and a quick view through the bins confirmed Rook!  My 60th species. I gave it till 8pm but didn't see anything new, so packed in and had a well earned lamb rogan josh with pickles and naan. As I closed the blinds for the evening, a Parliament of Magpies were sharing local gen on the house opposite. A nice way to round off an excellent day's local birding.