FANCY A DAY OUT AT FABULOUS FRAMPTON?
There’s just a month left to book your place on the club trip to Frampton Marsh – the RSPB’s excellent reserve on the Lincolnshire coast – on Sunday, 30 September.
Frampton – a mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbeds, wet grassland, salt marshes and scrapes, and with its proximity to the Wash – has built a reputation for great variety of birdlife at any time of year, with rarities aplenty. Five species new to the site have been recorded over late summer 2012 alone, including White-winged Tern, Black-eared Wheatear and Rose-coloured Starling, and autumn has traditionally produced Bittern, Spotted Crake and Bearded Tit.
Certainly plenty of waders will be in evidence in late September – including Black-tailed Godwits, Knot, Snipe, maybe Jack Snipe and several sandpipers, even possibly Pectoral – and Brent Geese will have begun to fly in, mingling with migrants such as Wheatear, Whinchat and Kingfisher. Marsh Harriers are resident, while Hen Harriers, Ospreys and Hobbys are not unusual this time of year, and a Black-necked Grebe has been in residence since the spring.
Let trips organiser Peter Oldfield know, if you are interested in joining those already booked on this exciting trip: e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 01629 540510.
On Tuesday, 7 August I joined the 80,000-strong crowd packed into the Olympic stadium at Stratford to watch an unforgettable evening of athletics. Having personally enjoyed the long jumpers, sprinters, hurdlers, throwers, high jumpers and middle-distance runners, and being otherwise inspired by nine days in London watching various events at the 30th Olympiad, I later reflected on the inspiration our own ‘Olympic Champions’ generate here at Carsington Water.
We most certainly do have some record breakers, even if we perhaps don’t know it, or simply take them for granted. Our most obvious world record holder – and in a league of its own (rather like Mr Bolt!) – is the fastest creature on earth, the Peregrine falcon. This stunning bird has been proven to reach speeds of 124mph, and possibly as much as 168mph, when stooping to catch prey. Some sources may cIaim even greater velocities, but what is for sure is that the Peregrine is the gold medal winner for sheer speed.
There could, however, be some debate about the identity of the next champion – for long-distance. Firstly, I must rule out any Albatross records because not enough officials were present to see it, so that leaves the Arctic Tern, which is quite simply the holder of the world’s longest migration – flying over 20,000 miles a year between the Arctic and Antarctic. The average Arctic Tern does enough mileage to travel to the moon and back in its lifetime!
If we’re looking for more accurate measurements for our record purposes, a more regular visitor (and one-time breeder) at Carsington is the Common Tern, one of which was ringed in June 1996 in Finland and was recaptured alive 16,250 miles away at Rotamah Island, Australia in January 1997. It had travelled at a rate of 125 miles per day, or over 800 miles a week. This compares with Britain’s 5,000/10,000 metres double Olympic champion Mo Farah, who claims to run around 120 miles a week in training.
If these are the fastest and long-distance champions, what about the ‘highest’. We do have regular winter visits from Whooper Swans, a 30-strong group of which in 1967 were spotted at an altitude of just over 27,000 feet by an airline pilot, later confirmed by air traffic control. They were evidently over the Western Isles and en route from Iceland to Loch Foyle on the Northern Ireland/Eire border. The best I saw in London was our bronze medal high jumper Robbie Grabarz, who cleared 2.29 metres!
Finally to the diving silver medallist, the Great Northern Diver, which we now look forward to visiting us each winter as one or more has done for the past several years. Their ability to dive in search of food to a staggering depth of 200 feet (60 metres) – twice as deep as Carsington water itself – is bettered only by Emperor Penguins. The minimum depth for a pool for Olympic diving events is five metres and you never saw Tom Daley or any of his fellow competitors reach the bottom after completing dives from the 10-metre platform.
So the next time you see any of these incredible champions, I would hope you’d give a smile of appreciation for their spectacular abilities – though remember, a burst of applause would not go down well in the hides! Long may they continue to ‘perform’ for us at Carsington!
BIRDS OVERCOME DIFFICULT BREEDING CONDITIONS
Breeding success may not have been quite such a damp squib as first feared after the wet and cool summer we have endured. Ground and water feeding birds have done reasonably well while insect feeders have produced smaller broods and aerial insect feeders finally settled down to breed rather later than usual.
But 14 Great Crested Grebe broods was actually a site record, and the 12 Coot and 11 Tufted Duck broods were up on last year, while Mallard, Little Grebe and Moorhen were broadly the same. Among the regular waders, there were three broods each noted for Oystercatcher, Redshank and Lapwing.
By late June/July, variety was increasing as the wader passage approached. Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew, Greenshank, Snipe and Common Sandpiper have all been seen in recent weeks, along with Turnstone and a couple of Little Egrets.
Meanwhile, WeBS maximum counts in the past three months have included 347 Canada Geese in June, 133 Mallard, 26 Mute Swans and 32 Great-crested Grebes in July and 263 Coot and 143 Tufted Ducks in August. The gull roost is ramping up, too, with 2,400 Lesser Black-backs counted on 20 August. Among other gulls, Yellow-legs are around – including the return of an ultra-predatory specimen (perhaps the same one as in previous years) that was seen to kill and eat a Little Grebe in front of the Wildlife Centre on 23 August.
In a vintage year for Ospreys, there were a further nine sightings of these impressive birds during June, July and August, some in possession of fish.
Overall, raptors figured well over the summer with three records of Peregrines and their smaller cousin the Hobby seen on four occasions, including one when its fast, low flightpath scattered a huge party of roosting Starlings. A Red Kite was logged in June, and a male Sparrowhawk was viewed at very close quarters INSIDE the Wildlife Centre – the third time in two years this raptor’s pursuit of prey (possibly Tree Sparrows) has taken it indoors!
Six singing Reed Warblers demonstrated the effort to expand the areas of reedbed around the reservoir has not been in vain. Breeding success was proven for this species and for numerous others, including Swallow and House Martin, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, House and Tree Sparrow, four Tit species and Jay, Magpie and Carrion Crow.
The unusual sight of a juvenile Cuckoo was noted in July, along with the relatively early southerly passage of Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipits.
BIRD OF THE ISSUE: YELLOW-LEGGED GULL
Boo, hiss! Yes, the villain of the piece in this issue (see above) is a Yellow-legged Gull that seems to count Little Grebes among its favourite food! This may seem harsh to us, but the bird is probably only doing what comes naturally to it as a very large scavenger that, as an opportunist omnivore, will eat just about anything.
Until around the 1990s, ‘Yellow Legs’ were regarded as a sub-species of the Herring Gull, but Larus Michahelles is now accepted as a species in its own right. And there are distinct differences from its same-sized cousin: it has a much greyer back, closer to a Lesser Black-back, more black in the wing tips, a red ring around the eye, a more distinct red spot on its yellow bill and, of course, those yellow legs – the most obvious difference from the Herring Gull’s equally noticeable pink ones.
They live predominantly in the Mediterranean, but a gradual spread north – plus British birdwatcher’s ability to spot the differences – means they are identified with increasing regularity in the southern half of the UK. Over 1,000 Yellow Legs are thought to winter in Britain, though some quantities may be seen throughout the year. They are, of course, regulars at Carsington Water.
Their habits and habitats are very similar to the Herring Gull. They often come inland during the winter and join larger groups of Lesser Black-backs that roost on lakes and reservoirs, then move into fields or seek out rubbish tips to scavenge what they can during the day.
OUTDOOR CLASSROOM WILL PROMOTE WILDLIFE LEARNING
Work on an ‘outdoor classroom’ was begun late last year at a location on Stones Island. The goal was to turn this plot of land into a learning area for use by groups of all ages, and the preparations were very much a team effort between Severn Trent Water rangers and volunteers and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) Skills for Wildlife trainees. Design ideas were also forthcoming from the local Carsington School.
We started by creating a woodchip sharing circle with logs for sitting on. There is also a willow dome that was made as part of a willow weaving activity day run by DWT. One of the biggest challenges was creating a dipping platform to allow children to learn about what is found in the water: this proved tricky because of changes in the water levels and the unexpectedly high water levels experienced this year.
There are stoned paths to allow easier access for disabled visitors to move around the area so they can be involved with all of the activities that are happening on the site. A bridge has been installed so that groups can use both sides of the pond, while allowing some areas to be left natural so that it can help to encourage a wide range of wildlife to live here. There will also be a large grass area to enable other activities to take place so it is possible to have three separate groups there at any one time!
There are hidden dens in the woodlands, an otter holt, a bug house with lots of different habitats within it, and some grassland flowers growing along the sides of the paths and round the pond to attract lots of butterflies and bees.
The DWT Skills for Wildlife groups will be carrying out general maintenance as and when necessary, with the STW rangers and volunteers lending a hand when required.
While it’s not open to the general public, schools and any other groups that book with us will be to use it with an STW or DWT representative in attendance. I’m hoping that this area will be enjoyed by all those that use it, and we are hoping to have an official opening of the area with Carsington School sometime in September when they start their new school term.
Lisa Booker, Severn Trent Ranger, Carsington Water
OBITUARY: ROY SMITH
Roy was a founder member of Carsington Bird Club and, although always resisting any efforts to join the committee, he fully supported the club and regularly attended indoor meeting and coach trips. He became a Carsington volunteer ranger where, along with his son Robert, he worked on various wildlife management tasks around the reservoir. The early attempt to build a Sand Martin bank comes particularly to mind as we had to work in appalling weather, contending with rain, sleet and strong winds.
Roy first joined Philip Shooter’s WEA Ornithological class at Alfreton where, along with other class members, he conducted bird surveys in various parts of Derbyshire. Roy later became joint manager at Rose End Meadows, a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserve close to where he lived in Cromford. As well as helping with working parties, he regularly recorded the birds he saw, providing the DWT with his sightings.
Indeed, Roy was an avid participant in bird surveys. Among those he undertook were the British Trust for Ornithology atlas project, a breeding bird survey at an upland pasture site in the Peak District, a river bird survey along the River Derwent from Ambergate to Matlock, organised by Derbyshire Ornithological Society (for whom he also contributed records for an Avifauna project), and the RSPB’s annual garden bird survey.
During his lifetime, Roy was a member of the majority of wildlife organisations within the county, and a life member of Ogston Bird Club. Ever a kind and friendly person who looked to help others whenever he could, he also undertook voluntary work within the local community, transporting elderly people to doctors or hospital.
Apart from birdwatching, Roy’s other interests were steam railways, attending vintage car rallies, air shows and photography – with some his pictures featuring in DWT calendars. He also liked to tinker with computers, and would readily help anyone with PC problems. Only a few weeks before his untimely death he visited Peak Rail to see and photograph the Oliver Cromwell steam engine that was arriving in Derbyshire after many years.
Roy will most certainly be sadly missed by many people within the birding and local community. Our sympathy goes to his widow, Mary, and son Robert.
Postscript: Another former CBC member, Howard Evans – who also served in various capacities on the club’s committee – died earlier this year.
For many years Hognaston Village Hall was home to the club’s indoor meetings programme over the winter, but for 2012-13 season the venue will be the Henmore Room at the Carsington Water Visitor Centre. The first few meetings are listed below. Also, as mentioned earlier, don’t forget that the first club trip for quite a while, to Frampton Marsh, is just a few weeks away – on Sunday, 30 September.
Also among the list below are the Severn Trent Water events for the later part of this year. Remember, demand for some of these activities is high and places may need to be booked via the Visitor Centre (01629 540696).
First Sunday of each month – Birdwatching for Beginners (enjoy a gentle two-hour walk led by experienced STW volunteer David Bennett) – Meet Visitor Centre 10am
Most Tuesdays and Sundays – Spotting wildlife: STW volunteer rangers are on hand to help identify wildlife on and around the reservoir – Wildlife Centre 10.30-3.30pm
Last Saturday of each month – Sheepwash spinners (learn about traditional wool spinning, with demonstrations, from fleece to gifts and garments) – Visitor Centre 11am-3pm
8 September – Join a Ranger for the Water Cycle Tour around the reservoir – Details from Visitor Centre
18 September – Indoor talk on ‘Birds of the Canary Isles’ by Peter Gibbon – Henmore Room 7.30pm
6-7 October – Derbyshire Beekeepers Association annual show and honey sale
16 October – Indoor talk on ‘The Wetland Bird Survey’ by BTO WeBS Research, Ecologist, Neil Calbrade – Henmore Room 7.30pm
21 October – National Apple Day – bring windfall fruit and enjoy this apple occasion, including a hog roast and apple sauce (free but booking essential)
31 October – Go Wild with Bats (£5 per child includes bat box to take home) – Visitor Centre 10.30-12.30
20 November – Indoor talk on ‘Namibia’ by Paul Bingham – Henmore Room 7.30pm
25 November – Find out how to feed our feathered friends this winter – Visitor Centre 11am-4pm
KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE – Here are the club officials and their contact details ……
|KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE – Here are the club officials and their contact details|
|Chairman & Treasurer||Peter Gibbon||01629 email@example.com|
|Secretary||Paul Hicking||01773 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Recorder||Roger Carrington||01629 email@example.com|
|Publicity/Newsletter editor||Gary Atkins||01335 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Outdoor trips organiser||Peter Oldfield||01629 email@example.com|
|Ex-officio||Steph Hicking||01773 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Membership secretaries||Dave and Sue Edmonds||01335 email@example.com|
CBC Website address: www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk (maintained by: Richard Pittam )