As I write this in mid-November I have just been looking at my ‘BirdGuides’ records for the last few days and found that there were a number of records of Waxwing in Derbyshire last Saturday, with another seven further afield in South Yorkshire. By Sunday in Sheffield there were six reports with four flocks of over 80 (perhaps no great surprise as interestingly, Sheffield has more trees per head of population than any other European city!).
In Derbyshire there were 8 Waxwings at Padfield, 43 at Ilkeston, 80 at Allestree, 20 at Ogston and 22+31+9 at Darley Dale. One early report this morning is from Bakewell of 18 near the bowling green. Meanwhile, a fascinating report from Durham detailed a flock of 30 – but with a Bee-eater close-by for good measure. That must have been wonderful to see.
This sounds like one of those occasional ‘eruptions’ – an invasion from the continent. On Autumnwatch, there was talk about large numbers of Brambling also coming in; the possible reason being a failure of beech mast on the continent. It seems a great opportunity for us to see these exciting birds but I have been looking round my neighbourhood and don’t seem to see much evidence of beech nuts or, for that matter, berries around.
Two blackthorn bushes I use every year to make sloe gin have not had a single berry on them! If my observations are replicated throughout the area then whatever invaders we have won’t be staying long, but I hope I’m wrong and we can get out and see these dazzling birds sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, it was great to see our club trips resume with the September coach outing to Frampton Marsh. See the report later in the newsletter. Hopefully we’ll have more to come very soon.
RARITIES POP IN VERY BRIEFLY – BUT DIVERS LOOK SET TO STAY
Great Northern Diver has returned to Carsington! Just when we were beginning to wonder if this spectacular species was giving Carsington a miss for the first time in several winters, an adult bird flew in on 19 November (and has been seen most days since), followed several days later by a juvenile.
Earlier, September had brought brief tantalising glimpses of some rarer individuals – Great White Egret (16th county and 2nd Carsington record), Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Arctic Skua – but none stayed for more than a few hours. It was a similar story with two sightings of Slavonian Grebe in October and November.
In contrast, large flocks of birds have included 5,000 Lesser Black-backs and 2,000 Black-headeds among the sizeable gull roosts (which also included up to five Yellow-legs, and a Little Gull and Caspian Gull in October), 1,700 Starlings in 14 flocks and 600 Pink-footed Geese – also in 14 flocks – flew through in late October.
The battle to be the latest migrant seems to have been a Wheatear recorded on 18 October, with the last Blackcap and Chiffchaff noted on the 10th of that month, two days after the last Swallow and a full month after the final Swift sped through.
The wader passage was disappointing this year, with numbers down, even though species spotted included Grey, Golden and Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Turnstone, Snipe, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit. Wader highlights included a Grey Phalarope, which stayed four days in October marking only the fifth record for Carsington Water, five Woodcock discovered in Hall Wood during a woodland survey, while Little Egrets became a regular ‘tick’ during September and October. And the sight of a flock of 280 Lapwings on 26 November was satisfying.
WeBS counts have generally produced lower numbers than last year, with up to 633 Coot (1,016 in 2011), 125 (335) Wigeon, 213 (283) Teal, 11(32) Gadwall and 136 (335) Tufted Duck.
Apart from the three raptors mentioned earlier, it’s been relatively quiet, though Hobbys were noted twice and Peregrines three times in the last couple of months, a Merlin was on the Dam Wall on 16 October, 11 Buzzards were seen in the air from Sheepwash earlier in October, and twice Barn Owls were seen hunting.
Winter visitors were first noted on 3 October, when three Redwings dropped in; by the 26th of that month as many as 220 Fieldfares were counted, and on 18 November, 37 Waxwings were fuelling up on berries in the Visitor Centre car park. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet have all come in, and Willow Tits have been seen on the Paul Stanley Hide feeder several times during November.
Satisfyingly, Kingfishers have been seen most days during September-November, and a large complement of Pied Wagtails, originally thought to roost in the dam wall, seem to have moved to bushes near the Visitor Centre.
JAW-DROPPING WILDLIFE IN NAMIBIA
As we settle into our new venue for the monthly indoor meetings over the winter – the Henmore Room in the Visitor Centre at Carsington Water – the first few meetings have offered plenty of variety, not to mention the corporal benefit of rather more warmth than our previous ‘home’, Hognaston Village Hall.
Slides to warm the heart even further were on show when Paul Bingham visited in November to show us where he went and what he saw when on holiday in Namibia recently. This at-times seemingly barren country on the west coast of Africa certainly has plenty to offer the cameraman who is prepared to be patient and look around more carefully than most.
As well as some of the major targets of an African wildlife holiday – lions, elephants, zebras, rhinos and baboons among others – there was a fascinating array of birds, insects and reptiles to amaze the audience on the night. It left most of us green with envy and hoping we have a chance in the near future to experience Namibia.
A month earlier we had co-hosted our annual joint meeting with Derbyshire Ornithological Society (DOS) and guest speaker that night was Neil Calbrade, one of the BTO’s co-ordinators of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Neil explained how the survey evolved from its 1947 origins as the national wildlife counts and expanded to its current format, surveying and monitoring both coastal and inland non-breeding water birds chiefly, but not exclusively, during the winter months.
As well as identifying local, national and international trends and illustrating the impact of weather and climate changes, survey results provide evidence of areas important for wetland birds. In this way, the survey has been of huge benefit in conferring various categories of conservation status and during consultations on potentially harmful developments in or adjacent to sensitive locations.
Neil finally homed in on Derbyshire WeBS activity and appealed for more participation by Derbyshire birders – an appeal met wholeheartedly by CBC Chairman Peter Gibbon (see article below!).
NEW COUNTY WeBS ORGANISER IS OUR VERY OWN CHAIRMAN!
After the excellent talk by the BTO’s Neil Calbrade in October, I decided to become the WeBS local organiser for Derbyshire as the BTO had nobody in post. My decision was in response to his plea that there was very little coverage of 179 identified sites in the county, including a few ‘priority’ sites – Foremark reservoir, Barrow-on-Trent gravel pits, Shardlow gravel pits and Dove Valley Park lake.
There is an obvious difference in size between the first and the last of these, so the time needed to survey them will be different. Many other sites are simply one small area of water such as Amber Pond in the dip on Slack Hill or Ashbourne Hall pond in the park, which has not been recorded since 1967. Some are on nice easy and beautiful walking routes like Cromford Canal or Belper River Gardens. Some may even be on your doorstep and somewhere you actually watch or even record regularly … I think you probably now know what is coming next! Yes, you’re right: as one of WeBS organisers’ stated key responsibilities is ‘RECRUITMENT OF NEW WeBS VOLUNTEERS ON A LOCAL LEVEL’, I would very much appreciate any help CBC members can offer.
The role of a counter involves one count a month on a designated Sunday but if that date is a problem it is still better to have a count on another date as close to that Sunday as possible. There have been times when I have had to count on a Saturday or even Monday. The maximum time to spend counting is advised as three hours, which is just about right for Carsington, but it would be far less time-consuming on the pond in Ashbourne Park when you’d have it finished in more like 15 minutes. You count all water birds – grebes, herons/egrets, cormorants, swans, geese, ducks, Coot/Moorhen, waders, gulls, terns and Kingfisher … and now raptors, too.
Record them on a WeBS form or better still online because you will then have a wealth of data to look at and use for your own purposes. Originally the WeBS count was done from September to March and I notice that some people still just do these months for their site. While some counts are better than no counts at all, counts do go on throughout the year and would be fantastic if all 12 months were recorded.
If you are interested in doing any of this valuable and I must say rewarding work then have a look on the BTO website and go to ‘Volunteer surveys’. On the left hand side of the resulting page is a list of ‘Core surveys’ and click on the last one, which is ‘Wetland Bird Survey’. On the top green bar click on ‘Taking part’, and half way down that page you can click on ‘vacant sites’. Click on the UK map symbol for finding a vacant site – or even, may I dare suggest, a big red exclamation mark designating a ‘Vacant priority site’!
On the next two pages click on ‘Midlands’ and ‘Derbyshire’ and all the sites will come up. They all have a map reference on them and by clicking on that you will get a map and information at the top of the page about whether that site is already covered or vacant.
If you find a vacant site and would like to get involved go to the top of that page and click on ‘Taking part’, which will set you up and hopefully by the time you read this my contact details will be on it. But you all know my details anyway, so just get in touch, especially if you don’t use a computer and would love to do some important ornithological recording as well as watching birds. Thank you.
GRASSROOTS WORK BY ISLAND MANAGEMENT VOLUNTEERS
Last month, a team of Severn Trent Water staff from various departments devoted a day to volunteer at Carsington Water. Not only is the site a popular place for a day out, but it is somewhere Severn Trent customers can learn more about the work undertaken, and the important wildlife habitats there.
The team of volunteers were transported by boat to one of the reservoir’s islands to tackle the trees and shrubs that have slowly taken over. By cutting back the growth, the island’s grassland habitat is restored providing the perfect nest site for ground-nesting birds such as Redshank and Little Ringed Plover and for wintering wildfowl like Wigeon to graze.
After a talk by Carsington Water’s Head Ranger Dan Taberner the team set to work and in no time their efforts had made a big impact. Equipped with loppers and handsaws they were able to clear a large amount of growth. The long and unmanaged grass was mowed and then raked to the water’s edge, an arduous task but one that left the grassland in the ideal state for the ground-nesting birds when they return next spring.
The day also allowed everyone the chance to learn more about the work that goes on at our visitor sites. One of the team, William Hewish, commented: “It struck me that Rangers are in a unique customer-facing role, getting to talk to millions of Severn Trent Water customers in their own leisure time in a place that they have chosen to visit. It is a great opportunity for the company to re-enforce its name and values away from the more commonly acknowledged touch points like billing enquiries or resolving problems. And that’s aside from the core role of managing and maintaining our visitor sites.”
Taking part on the day were Amy Goodison, Darren Weston, William Hewish, Mark Adams, Lesley Cross, Brian Griffiths, Mark Jones, Nick Needham and Alicia Wilson.
If you or your team would like to get involved in volunteering contact Leanne Town, Colleague Engagement Advisor – Community and Volunteering, for more information about our volunteering support programme.
John Matkin, Severn Trent Water Ranger
IN SEARCH OF RARE AUTUMN MIGRANTS
As my favourite birding is searching trees, scrub, moorland, streams and rocky shores in locations good for migrants, I go to Cornwall in October, moving around the beautiful coastline and valleys around Lands End and then on to the Isles of Scilly. While I enjoy birding on my own, I always welcome information from and the company of local birders whom I’ve come to know over the years – and may, with luck, help me to add a ‘lifer’ to my British list of over 440 species.
I was due in Cornwall from 29 September but there was a chance of twitching a lifer – a Booted Warbler – on the way, so I set off early on the 27th, only to see a Barred Warbler (not a lifer) but no sign of Booted. By way of compensation, I joined two Carsington colleagues at Titchwell and saw a few common waders, 11 Spoonbill, Water Rail and Bearded Tit. With the prospect of no lifers between Norfolk and Lands End, a Buff-bellied Pipit (American and a lifer) had appeared on the Scillies, so, with enough time to catch the 9.30am ferry (and have a good sleep in the car before sailing), I headed for Penzance.
A cheap day return netted Wryneck and Ortolan Bunting on land, and Arctic Skua, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters on the sea crossings – but no Buff-bellied Pipit! I had dipped on two lifers in two days – and had to spend another night in the car – but with a bed for the next 11 nights and the prospect of dawn-to-dusk birding, I was still full of enthusiasm and looked forward to an early start on Marazion Marsh.
A four-hour seawatch with local birders added 1 Cory, 12 Sooty and 20 Balearic Shearwaters before I was directed to Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Dotterel in adjacent ploughed fields. One day I met two local birders looking for a Lesser Whitethroat in bramble scrub; returning later, I saw their quarry in a different hedge and found the locals to tell them. They were grateful and told me the story of a large group of birders who had left off searching for a Red-Eyed Vireo in favour of the Lesser Whitethroat, which is locally less than annual!
After a report of a Red-rumped Swallow at Marazion, I was among the first three birders to arrive – all from Derbyshire – and we turned a distant one into 7 Red-rumped Swallows, matching the largest flock ever in Britain.
By this stage I was occasionally finding Firecrest and hearing the familiar ‘swoeest’ call of Yellow-browed Warbler, always challenging me to find them in well leafed trees, and Glossy Ibis and Hooded Crow turned up on the same day. The next day brought thick mist, so my expectations were not high in 30-yard visibility at Porthgwarra, but I found three Yellow-browed Warblers, Snow Bunting, a male Lapland Bunting and a Wryneck, most of which I photographed. A few days later I joined several other birders on a successful search for a previously seen, then lost, Olive-backed Pipit, then moved to the Lizard to see a Paddyfield Warbler before my scheduled departure to the Isles of Scilly the following day.
My booking there grew from one week to two, during which time Carsington had another Grey Phalarope, a would-be Derbyshire lifer for me missed once again!
Birding for me on the Scillies is a very friendly affair: we gather at the Birdlog in the evening, followed by a pint with colleagues. Chronologically, the rarer species I logged here were Richard’s Pipit, Dotterel, juvenile Rose-coloured Starling, Jack Snipe, Solitary Sandpiper (American), a Coal Tit from Ireland (identified by its yellowy cheeks), Snow Bunting, Whooper Swans, Spoonbill, Wryneck, juvenile American Golden Plover, Black Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler (American), Hume’s Leaf Warbler (Asian), Red-breasted Flycatcher, Short-toed Lark, three Ring-necked Ducks – in from America on an Atlantic front, at long last a Booted Warbler (lifer), Spotted Crake, Penduline Tit, Buff-bellied Pipit (my second lifer), Olive-backed Pipit and Little Bunting.
I arrived home on 25 October much to the delight (I think!) of my very considerate wife and family. I’d seen 128 species on IOS, plus others in Cornwall, including the two lifers I’d earlier dipped on …‘That’s birding for you’!
ON THE ROAD AGAIN – TO FRAMPTON MARSH
After an absence of a couple of years, CBC club outings resumed in late September, when a group of 12 members jumped on board a small coach and headed for the RSPB’s excellent Frampton Marsh reserve in Lincolnshire.
Nippy driving enabled the group to spend almost seven hours on site, training binoculars on a good range of birds. Conditions were fair with high clouds for most of the day, but it was breezy and felt particularly exposed with little vegetation to interrupt the wind's progress across this flat marshland site.
There was an excellent array of waders, ducks and geese on the wetland scrapes, including the ubiquitous Little Egret, various sandpipers, 'shanks' and several smaller waders. Even with the help of scopes in each of the three hides, there was often heated debate about what they were seeing, as many of the species were changing from summer to winter plumage.
Migrants passing through en route to warmer locations to spend the winter included Wheatear and a few tardy hirundines, while some ducks and the odd Brent Goose were arriving at their winter quarters. Those braving the two-mile walk to the mouth of the Witham River were rewarded with views of seals on the open sand.
Raptors were few and far between (optimism had raised hopes for a Merlin, Hen Harrier or Short-eared Owl), but a few Kestrels were seen and the highlight was a pair of Marsh Harriers. In all 57 species were logged, some of the best sightings being Tree Sparrow, Greenshank, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot, Little Stint, Pintail, Shelduck, Wigeon, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Curlew, Ringed, Grey and Golden Plovers, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Gadwall, Shoveler, Snipe and Scaup.
The annual Christmas party is the next club event, and this year we’ll be holding it at the Henmore Room at the Visitor Centre. As well as food and (non-alcoholic!) drinks, we’ll be getting a talk from Glyn Sellors on ‘Birding around the UK’, featuring his renowned photographs, a number of which he has taken at Carsington.
Our AGM is scheduled for 15 January, and after kicking off with the official proceedings, committee members Paul and Steph Hicking will be giving a talk on the Isles of Scilly. Our season of indoor talks will then resume during February (19th) and March (19th) – check the website for more details – and we would hope to be staging another club trip early in the year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Secretary||Paul Hicking||01773 email@example.com|
|Recorder||Roger Carrington||01629 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Publicity/Newsletter editor||Gary Atkins||01335 email@example.com|
|Outdoor trips organiser||Peter Oldfield||01629 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Ex-officio||Steph Hicking||01773 email@example.com|
|Membership secretaries||Dave and Sue Edmonds||01335 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|CBC Website address: www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk (maintained by: Richard Pittam )|