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CBC Newsletter No 2 – May 2024

 Posted by on May 17, 2024  CBC Newsletters  Comments Off on CBC Newsletter No 2 – May 2024
May 172024
 

The winter period was a particularly wet and miserable time, and while it’s still raining outside as I write this, there has at least been some brighter and warmer weather in recent weeks to enjoy amid the showers.  Whatever the weather, though, it seems the birds take very little notice and just get on with things as the reservoir report below details.

The bird club, meanwhile, has completed its indoor winter season of talks and undertaken a couple of trips and a ‘springtime songster’ walk, which turned out to be hardly that as it coincided with a particularly wet day; there were compensations, though, as species like Arctic Tern, Red-crested Pochard and Hobby made their way onto people’s year-lists from the warmth of the Wildlife Centre!

There are reports on all of this activity on the following pages.  The trips we’ve undertaken have been disappointingly undersubscribed, although the weather again had a part to play in at least one of them.  Hopefully everything will conspire to make the next one (which will be in the autumn now) a more well-populated success.

Hopefully you’ve now renewed your memberships for the current year, as we have a number of plans for events and activities over the coming months – and you should by now also have received your annual reports, which details the birding highlights and statistics for 2023.

Talking of ‘subs’, at our AGM at the March indoor meeting, we announced that membership fees will be rising from £7.50/£10 (single/family) to £8/£12 from 2025.  Also agreed at the AGM was the removal from the Club’s constitution of the £500 limit on a single item of expenditure, which could have proved a hurdle to our spending some of our funds to support habitat improvements at Carsington.

The new Sheepwash hide, as many of you may have experienced, is now open for business, offering a different (and for those who can remember) and well-loved perspective of the reservoir.  The committee is also working with our Severn Trent hosts to utilise a proportion of our club funds (happily growing in recent times with the injection of funds from John and Louise Sykes’ promotional and sales events) for habitat improvements in certain areas of the site aimed at aiding and abetting certain species.  We can hopefully update you more fully on these activities in future issues of the newsletter.

Gary Atkins

 

SPRING BRINGS SCARCITIES, REGULARS AND RECORDS

Comprehensive observation at the reservoir continued to help high counts, with the total species count for March of 110 being the highest ever for that month, while 123 seen in April was the third highest since records began over 30 years ago.

Our Great Northern Diver departed a little earlier than usual, on 22 April, after its usual test flights, but that was not the end of the visiting Gaviaforms for this ‘winter’ as a Red-throated Diver called in and offered good views on 5 May.  Sawbills also starred over this period, with a Smew that appeared on 7 March being the first of this striking species for 13 years, and a Red-breasted Merganser seen in April the first since 2022.

A Grasshopper Warbler found on 20 April was also the first of its kind at the reservoir since 2022, and represented the swathe of visiting migrants arriving this year – some passing through and some who will remain and raise new families.  Sand Martins turned up on 13 March, followed by the first Wheatear on the 16th, then Swallows on 28th, Blackcaps on 29th and Willow Warblers on the 30th.

During April, the new arrivals came thick and fast, starting with Redstart on the 6th, then Yellow Wagtails (8th), Reed Warbler (10th), Pied Flycatcher (12th), Sedge Warbler (16th), quickly followed in the latter half of April by Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler.  We had to wait until May for the first Swifts (on the 5th) and Spotted Flycatcher (9th).

Populations of both arriving and resident small birds were particularly evident as territorial behaviour, nest building and singing pinpointed their presence, and a perimeter walk at the beginning of May found 126 Blue Tits, 122 Chiffchaffs and Robins, 118 Wrens, 103 Blackbirds, 65 Blackcaps, 46 Great Tits and 39 Dunnocks, double-figure totals of Willow and Garden Warblers and nine Sedge Warblers.

Other passerine highlights included Brambling, still being seen regularly in late April, a single Hawfinch noted on 31 March, and a site-scarce Green Woodpecker on the first day of March.

An Osprey was recorded on 26 March, with four sightings of this iconic raptor during April.  A single Marsh Harrier on 24 April was nice to see, while up to three Red Kites were noted on several dates.  As noted in a later article, a Hobby was seen on 28 April, and Barn Owls were observed on two dates in March, and up to four Tawny Owls were calling on some mornings.

The high water levels have not left many margins or much exposed mud for waders, but still up to 11 species were noted in both March and April, highlights being as many as 15 Oystercatchers, 11 Golden Plover (albeit overhead!), 10 Black-tailed Godwits and two Bar-tailed Godwits on dates in late April and early May.  As many as 29 Curlew were recorded during March, and Whimbrel have been showing up more regularly during April and May.

A nationwide inland influx of Arctic Terns was reflected at Carsington with up to 17 counted pausing at the reservoir to feed, along with lower numbers of Common Terns, two Sandwich Terns on two dates in April, but an impressive 11 Black Terns showed up on 11 May.

Kittiwakes are a pleasure to see, showing up in March, April and May, as are Little Gulls, up to three of which were noted in March and April, when at least one Mediterranean Gull was around on 10 separate dates.  A roost observation in March produced over 500 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2,000 Black-heads and a massive 2,650 Common Gulls.

 

TALKS SEASON ROUNDS OFF FAR AWAY – THEN RIGHT AT HOME

Southern Africa was the destination for the talk at our February meeting.  The rich biodiversity of this part of Africa makes it home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna and our speaker – Nigel Slater – took us on a journey to Botswana and Zimbabwe, showing us some of the amazing birds and other wildlife he has experienced there.

Our final meeting of the 2023-24 programme, in March, had a much more local theme.  Andy Broadhurst was our guest, describing the work of the Derbyshire Swift Conservation project, which was formed in response to the massive decline of Swifts across Derbyshire. His talk covered everything from the basics of the Swift’s lifecycle and breeding cycle, to the various theories of why Swifts are declining so much, together with suggestions of what people can do at a local level to help this iconic species.

At the end of the meeting, we decided to do ‘our bit’ by purchasing two of the Swift boxes Andy had brought along to demonstrate how easy it is to provide nest sites among our communities.

 

REWARDING BIRDING TRIPS – NEAR AND AFAR

The jury is still out on whether CBC’s membership prefers trips closer to home or those farther afield, exploring new territories, since both recent trips attracted fairly small groups of participants.

The wet start to the day may have been the reason for only eight well-wrapped-up souls turning up for our walk, in March, to Wyver Lane, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust site on the outskirts of Belper.  It certainly did not look promising for seeing many birds, but the weather slowly cleared up and the the group was rewarded with a good variety of species seen or heard.

Setting off from the East Mill car park, a quick look from the bridge over the fast-flowing River Derwent for the chance of Goosanders or Grey Wagtails, proved unproductive, but the walk along Wyver Lane towards the reserve produced several common birds, including Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Dunnock and House Sparrow.

Reaching the wetland area we picked out a number of Tufted Duck, Teal and Gadwall on the water, along with a male Mandarin Duck which added a splash of colour with its bright plumage.  A female Goosander and a pair of Shoveler were observed from the hide, then as we left it a pair of Snipe were flushed and flew briefly before dropping out of sight.

A single Great White Egret was spotted creeping along inside the reeds, before flying away over the river. A couple of Grey Herons were more obliging, staying in full view on the water’s edge.

The sound of singing Chiffchaffs became almost a constant backdrop to our walk, with probably at least 10 individuals heard and in some cases seen high in the trees.  From the fields behind the hide and the observation ramp, the ‘yaffling’ of a Green Woodpecker was heard several times, but we were unable to find it.  Similarly, the distant drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker was picked out, but again the bird was not seen.

We spent some time watching the feeders towards the end of the lane and were very pleased to see a Marsh Tit, scarcer than its similar ‘Willow’ cousin in this part of the country, as well as Nuthatches, Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits and, of course, numerous Blue and Great Tits.  A Water Rail was briefly spotted by one of the group in the reeds near the feeders, but couldn’t be located again.

By the end of the morning a total of 44 species had been recorded by the group, which was a far better result than could have been anticipated under the laden skies at the start

Our focus shifted further afield for the next trip – to the RSPB’s St Aidan’s reserve, near Leeds, earlier this month.  We had planned to go there last autumn, but the succession of storms left the site waterlogged.  In much nicer conditions on Sunday, 12 May, we were very fortunate to have the services of Paul Morris, brother of one of our members John Morris, as our guide for the day.  Paul is a very experienced bird recorder at the site and has extensive knowledge of the birds there.

Having started the day with a welcome drink in the aptly named Little Owl café, we set off and almost immediately spotted one of the resident Little Owls sitting on one of the girders of the dragline (a huge machine that was also home to a pair of Kestrels, Paul told us).  This massive structure, a famous landmark of the reserve, is a reminder of the site’s industrial past as an opencast coal mine. 

The sound of various songbirds filled the air as we continued our walk. A Cetti’s Warbler announced its presence with its scolding song, and the descending cadence of a Willow Warbler and the repetitive notes of a Chiffchaff were heard often. Reed Warblers sang unseen in the reedbeds, but Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers were more obliging, singing from the tops of bushes next to path.

In the distance the unmistakable booming of at least two Bitterns could be heard, but we were not lucky enough to see one.  The network of lakes which make up the reserve held a variety of ducks, with plenty of Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard in evidence.  Thanks to Paul simply knowing where to look, another highlight came in the form of two male Garganays, just visible on the grassy shore of one of the lakes.  Later on, a handful of Shelduck were noted, as well as a few Wigeon and Teal still present.

Large numbers of Black-headed Gulls were nesting on the islands on the lakes, with their raucous calls providing a constant backdrop.  Smaller counts of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen, along with a single Great Black-backed Gull, but more notable still was a Mediterranean Gull which was identified as it flew past us.

One of the star species at St Aidan’s is the Black-necked Grebe, and it was a delight to see four of these smart looking grebes, now resplendent in their breeding plumage.  The Black-necked Grebe is a very rare breeder in the UK, but they have bred successfully at this reserve in recent years.

By the end of the day we had recorded a total of 52 species, namely: Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Garganay, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Tern, Cormorant, Bittern, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Owl, Buzzard, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Swift, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Skylark, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Blackbird, Robin, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting

Our most sincere thanks again go to Paul for spending his time with us and sharing his extensive knowledge of the reserve. 

Chris Lamb

 

RAIN TURNS SPRINGTIME SONGBIRD WALK INTO A TERN-FEST

Unfortunately the very un-springlike wet weather experienced recently continued to make its mark on Sunday 28 April, the day of our annual Springtime Songbird walk at Carsington Water.  Nevertheless, our hardy (or perhaps foolhardy?) seven-strong group, led by Simon Roddis – having met up in heavy rain outside the Visitor Centre, but quickly choosing the haven of the Wildlife Centre – were rewarded for dipping on warblers with great views of a busy group of terns and a distant Hobby.

Traditionally we would start off with a walk around Stones Island to look for, and listen to, the many songbirds advertising their presence at this time of year.  Instead, from the warm and dry Wildlife Centre, it was a variety of wildfowl that filled our notebooks.  Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, a pair of Gadwall, male and female Common Pochards were seen, along with a very fine looking male Red-crested Pochard.  On the bank on the far side a Greylag Goose with gosling was noted, and later two Barnacle Geese flew across the water.  With water levels obliterating most of Horseshoe Island, waders were in short supply, with just a couple of Redshanks seen and an Oystercatcher sitting on a nest.

Taking advantage of the rain were large numbers of hirundines flying low over the water feeding on the abundant insects.  Swallows made up the vast majority, with smaller numbers of Sand Martins present and a couple of distant House Martins to add to the mix.

A group of nine Arctic Terns flying over the reservoir soon grabbed our attention.  In recent days there had been a steady influx of these passage birds across Derbyshire, with the weather no doubt holding up their journey north to their breeding grounds.  A single Common Tern was also picked out and it obligingly sat on top of the camera pole, despite the repeated attempts of a Black-headed Gull to displace it.  Through a scope it was possible to see the black tip of its more orangey-red bill, which helps to differentiate it from its Arctic cousins.

Thanks to the keen eyes and identification skills of both Simon and Jon Bradley, who we met in the WLC, we were also able to find a distant Hobby perched high in a tree on the north side of Shiningford Creek. Sightings of this summer visiting falcon are always scarce at Carsington, so this was an excellent bird to add to our list.

As ever, we were indebted to Simon Roddis, one of our expert bird recorders, who even with the paucity of singing warblers helped us hoist our walk list to an unlikely grand total of 35 species in the hour and a quarter we were together. 

Chris Lamb

 

 

KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE – Here are the club officials and their contact details……..

 

 

 

 

Committee Post

Name

Telephone

Email Address

 

Chairman and Publicity

Gary Atkins

01335 370773

garysatkins@aol.com

Treasurer / Membership

John Follett

01332 834778

johnlfollett@virginmedia.com

Recorder

Rob Chadwick

07876 338912

rob.chadwick322@gmail.com

Events co-ordinator

Chris Lamb

01629 820890

cflamb@yahoo.co.uk

Secretary

Louise Sykes

01335 348544

louise.sykes5065@gmail.com

…..and the website address is:   http://www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk

Webmaster

Richard Pittam

n/a

Contact Richard via the website

         

 

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