Welcome to the autumn issue of the club newsletter, which contains a detailed look at the latest sightings at the reservoir plus, pleasingly, an opportunity to say a little about some club activities now that ‘real’ events with real people are now permissible.
At the September indoor meeting we were also able finally to stage our postponed AGM that would ordinarily have taken place in February but which we had been unhappy to conduct until the easing of Covid restrictions allowed us to meet face-to-face.
Here, we were able to report on the club’s robust ‘togetherness’ and the maintenance of membership during what has been a difficult period not just for birding, of course, but society in general. We were also pleased to use this occasion to announce that Rob Chadwick had accepted the role of club Recorder. He was voted in on the night, along with other existing posts, including that of Chairman, which has not been filled since Peter Gibbon’s sad passing in 2016. I (slightly reluctantly) agreed to add this role, while handing over the commissioning of talks for our indoor meetings to Chris Lamb, who had already been organising events, notably trips and walks, for a number of years.
I’d like to add my commiserations to the family and friends of Rod Key, who passed away due to a Covid-related illness a few weeks ago. Though not a member of our club, he was a – or perhaps the – leading light of recording in the county, operating as Derbyshire Ornithological Society joint County Recorder for more than 40 years, as well as taking on the chairmanship of the county’s Rarities Committee.
As such, he had an abiding interest in Carsington, and those recorders and individuals who submitted records from the reservoir over its entire lifetime. Rod’s death is a further blow for DOS, who also lost their treasurer Malcolm Hopton late last year.
Back to the future, below are the dates of our next three indoor meetings, which are invariably on the third Tuesday of the month and are currently taking place at the Visitor Centre’s large and roomy restaurant. They will transport us to some amazing birding territories – Lesvos, Panama and the Scilly Isles – so I do hope you can make one or more of them.
JOIN US AT OUR INDOOR MEETINGS …
16 November: Ian Newton talks to us about a favourite birding spot, Lesvos
21 December: Our very own Louise and John Sykes take us to Panama
18 January: Nigel Slater describes his birding highlights in the Scilly Isles
GANNET AND CATTLE EGRET FILL ABSENCE OF SEVERAL YEARS
Late summer and early autumn have provided plenty of exciting moments, not least the ‘full deck’ of white herons, as the more regular sight of Little Egrets was topped off by a Cattle Egret (the first on site since 2014), which was mobile around the site for 24 hours on 4-5 September, Great Egrets seen on one date in September and two in October and a juvenile Spoonbill that settled on Horseshoe Island on 9 October and was still around Sheepwash the following morning.
Another species not seen on site for several years was Gannet, but a juvenile bird showed up for just around five minutes on 5 November. In that very brief stay it was seen to dive twice and throw into a panic a party of nearby Tufted Duck, who had never seen the like!
A very obliging Snow Bunting stayed for around a week in mid October, treating birders, particularly those with a camera, to fairly close views. It seemed to enjoy the large stones on the top of the dam wall – the closest Carsington has to the craggy mountaintops preferred by this attractive species. Indeed, the dam wall has proved popular with another mountain bird, the Wheatear, while up to 215 Pied Wagtails and a handful of Yellow Wagtails also enjoyed this general area. Another passerine highlight was the appearance of three Rock Pipits over Stones Island on 26 September.
The last of our summer visitors have finally left for winter quarters, with Swallows one of the last to depart on 2 October, though Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were seen on later dates, which could indicate an intention to overwinter. Other migrants registering their latest dates in September included Swift (5th), Sedge Warbler (9th), Redstart (10th), Spotted Flycatcher and Whitethroat on the 11th, Willow Warbler (16th), then Lesser Whitethroat (18th) and the final House Martins on the 22nd.
Meanwhile, the winter visitors began to appear, some in very large numbers. On 5 November, the same very good birding day when the Gannet was seen, there were ‘vismig’ counts of 6,153 Fieldfares and 2,218 Redwings, along with 2,769 Starlings and 1,938 Woodpigeons (though the autumn movement of this species maxed out at 11,070 three days earlier). Most of these were moving in a southerly direction, as were four Hawfinches, also seen on the 5th.
As would be expected, waterfowl numbers began to rise as the autumn set in, with a (perhaps undesirable) site record 1,915 Canada Geese seen on 26 September, though numbers dropped the following month. A very healthy peak of 800 Greylags and 56 Barnacles completed the goose flotilla, though 220 Pink-footed Geese added an aerial force, overflying on 11 October.
Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck numbers all exceeded 200 in September, when other highlights were the presence of Common Scoter from 17-21 September, then four Scaup at the end of October, by which time Pochard numbers had risen to 99. By early November, a few Goldeneye had also dropped in.
September was a good month for waders, with 13 species noted, including an Avocet on the 3rd, Grey Plover on the 8th and Ruff on the 17th, along with Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, the latter also cropping up on two dates in October, when two Jack Snipes were viewed at Hopton end.
For those turning up early enough, the departing gull roost can be quite spectacular, and 9,000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were counted on 11 October, with 8,000 Black-headed Gulls nine days later. Much smaller numbers of Great Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Common Gulls were also recorded, while Caspian Gulls were identified among the masses on one date in September and two in October. Six Black Terns flew through in early September, while a few of their Arctic and Common cousins were also on the move later in the month.
It’s been a decent spell for raptors, too, with Osprey noted on six dates during this period, and what is believed to be a site record six Red Kites aloft over the east side of the reservoir on 24 October. A Marsh Harrier was seen in early November; another had been seen earlier – on 6 September, when it was among the highlights of an all-day watch (by Simon Roddis, Roger Carrington, Brian Boothby, Neil Moulden and Alan Stewardson) that also included one of the Osprey sightings among the grand total of 84 species recorded from dawn to dusk that day.
Apart from the regular Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk records, three Hobby sightings were listed in early-mid September, and a female Merlin was spotted on 29 September.
BACK IN ACTION – MEMBERS ENJOY MEETINGS AND TRIP
After a prolonged period of restrictions, it has been encouraging to get some strands of our events programme back into action, with indoor meetings starting up again in September and, following a springtime visit to Middleton Lakes, a second club trip – this time to another old favourite, Frampton Marsh – completed in early October.
We had to postpone our Annual General Meeting from the usual February slot due to Covid and, in order to take the opportunity of getting together in person, we chose the occasion of our first indoor meeting, on 21 September (a few notes on the AGM are included in the earlier introduction), to stage it.
The decision was made to hold indoor meetings in the Mainsail Restaurant because of its higher ceiling and generally roomier space, allowing more people to assemble with sensible spacing. We were not sure how well it would work, but the first two meetings have certainly put those concerns to bed.
The ever-reliable and entertaining Paul Bingham was first off the blocks in September, talking about the wildlife he and his wife encountered in Sri Lanka. What a fabulous location! Then, in October it was time for our joint meeting with DOS, for which we welcomed (after an earlier postponement) Nick Martin who delivered a fascinating look at the Forest of Dean, not just its wildlife but also an intimate look behind the scenes of this often overlooked location.
It is now our fervent hope that we can complete our seven-date 2021-22 indoor meetings programme, which continues on 16 November with another postponed talk – by Ian Newton on the Greek isle of Lesvos.
For trips, separate cars are still the order of the day, and a group of nine members made the journey east, to the Lincolnshire coast on 3 October, for the club’s occasional pilgrimage to RSPB Frampton Marsh. On the long approach to the reserve, a couple of our group were treated to a Tawny Owl perched on a gate post, and a single Marsh Harrier was seen from the car park by some. During the day other raptors delighting the group included a few Kestrels, while a hunting Peregrine was an exciting addition to our list late in the day.
As anticipated, wintering duck and geese numbers were starting to build, with large counts of Wigeon and Teal, along with smaller numbers of Shelduck, Shoveler and Gadwall. Dark-bellied Brent Geese, recently arrived from their breeding grounds in the Arctic regions of northern Scandinavia and Siberia, numbered well into the hundreds, and a variety of waders were recorded, including sizeable flocks of Lapwing, 20-30 Black-tailed Godwits, a handful of Dunlin and Redshank and a couple of Ruff and several Snipe that emerged in front of the visitor centre late afternoon.
A group of 6 Spotted Redshank was a good find and this elegant wader provided us with a useful comparison of its shape and size with a nearby (Common) Redshank. Later on in the afternoon a pair of Avocets obligingly appeared in front of the visitor centre.
The weather was pretty kind to us, being mostly sunny though quite blustery, and we enjoyed a good day with a total of 40 species accumulated by the overall group. As well as those already mentioned, other species seen were: Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Little Egret, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Starling, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Linnet.