Welcome to the club’s spring newsletter. Normally, it would be date-stamped ‘May’ but a busy few weeks has meant this has morphed into the ‘May/June’ issue. One pressing thing of late has been the 2021 annual report, which is often printed and with you by late April, but a few changes in production resulted in a delay or two this year. Apologies, but never fear, it should be with you within a couple of weeks … and next year I would expect things to run more smoothly.
The busy period since the last newsletter has involved the last couple of indoor meetings – one also incorporating our AGM – a club trip and our annual ‘warbler walk’, which was held on the same day as Severn Trent’s celebration event to mark 30 years of Carsington Water, at which we had a display. You can read about those activities in the article by Chris Lamb beginning on page two.
At the AGM, we were able to confirm a further improvement in the club’s administration, as Louise Sykes joined the committee as our new Secretary. As well as filling this important post, Louise brings a proven pedigree in running fund-raising events, plus a natural vitality which has already borne fruit with a number of ideas for raising our profile. This, hopefully, will result in swelling our membership numbers. Suffice to say it’s likely we’ll be more active as a club – and more obvious to the general public – than in recent years.
Another piece of good news is the planning for the new Sheepwash hide, which is now beginning to move ahead in earnest. When built and back in action, it will be a real boon to the club and other local birders who have undoubtedly missed what was always acknowledged as the most ideally positioned hide. A later article, provided by STW’s Site Supervisor for Carsington Water John Matkin, explains some of the project milestones.
A few of those same birders and committee members are also supporting bird feeding at the reservoir, having recently taken over that responsibility at the Paul Stanley Hide. Severn Trent have kindly given us control of a source of funding that helps buy bird food, so we are trying hard to keep those feeders filled. A pesky squirrel or two have thwarted us by finding their way into the food store, but we are contriving increasingly successful ways of foiling these clever rodents!
We are now looking at a relatively quiet couple of months – so enjoy those (hopefully) balmy summer months of sunshine and holidays – but by the autumn we will be moving back into action with our indoor meetings, more of which in the August newsletter, but for now – for your diaries – the first of these will be on 20 September, delivered by renowned local photographer, Paul Hobson.
Finally, one sad piece of news: Philip Shooter, who was a founder member of the club, recently passed away aged 85 (see obituary on page 4).
BYE-BYE DIVER AND GREBES, HELLO MIGRANTS
We have just been through one of the exciting periods of the birding year – when our winter visitors depart for breeding grounds elsewhere, and other migrants travel long distances to reach British shores, and some of those head for Carsington Water to join the residents in raising new families.
Those departing included our now-annual visiting Great Northern Diver, which having arrived in early January once again remained at the reservoir until May, last seen on the 6th. This year, the site was also graced by two Red-necked Grebes, which seemed to take a leaf out of the diver’s book, the first one leaving on 4 May, the second eight days later. Meanwhile, the final Fieldfare was spotted on 9 April, with the last Redwing sighting two days later.
By then, a number of the summer migrants had already arrived: Sand Martins turned up on 13 March, the first Blackcap was recorded nine days later and, slightly more mysteriously, some Chiffchaffs arrived in March but others had probably overwintered – whichever, on the 29th a phenomenal 148 were present. In early April, Swallows and a handful of House Martins were with us, along with Willow Warblers (first logged on the 9th), the joint earliest ever Sedge Warbler (12th), Redstart a day later and Reed Warbler (18th).
A real bonus came in the shape of a scarce Grasshopper Warbler, which was heard ‘reeling’ on 20 April, then between then and the end of the month came Lesser Whitethroat (23rd), Garden Warbler (26th), Pied Flycatcher (28th) and Swift (29th). Most migrants are here by the end of April, but one exception is invariably Spotted Flycatcher; the first individual was found in Middle Wood on the 15th, but three days later there were two on Stones Island.
Two Avocets early in March were among wader highlights, along with 51 Curlew on 7 March, while Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers were both seen in early spring. Up to 15 Common Snipe and a single Jack Snipe were seen in March, while it was good to see four Ruff on 23 April. May was a little better still, with five Whimbrel, four Turnstone and a Green Sandpiper on the 3rd, three Sanderling and six Dunlin a week later, and up to four Common Sandpipers also showing well.
Flocks of 14 and 30 Whooper Swans flew over in March and April, respectively, while up to eight Shelducks and 2-3 Mandarins have been recorded each month. A female Scaup was identified on 11-12 March and a Common Scoter was recorded 27 April. Great Crested Grebe numbers continue to impress as over 80 have been counted each month. Little Egrets were seen on consecutive days in late March, while two were evident on each of two dates in April and a Great White Egret popped in on 10 April.
The resident waterfowl have begun raising young as Greylag and Canada Geese have so far produced 13 and 10 broods, respectively, and there have been 12 Mallard, 10 Coot and a single Moorhen brood, while Mute Swans are also sitting on eggs.
Ospreys were recorded six times during the period March-May, while up to 4 Red Kites cruised majestically over the reservoir and surrounding woodland with sightings continuing to increase in frequency. Buzzard and Kestrel are seen most days, and Sparrowhawk and Peregrine several times a month, but other scarcer spring raptor sightings included a Merlin on 29 March and Hobby on 18 May.
After 7,000 Black-headed Gulls were seen in early March, numbers fell away, dropping to 1,000 by April but a number of those that remained soon began to find nest sites for the usual breeding frenzy. Single Kittiwakes were around on two dates in April, when the tern passage also began as two Sandwich Terns were recorded on the 12th, two Black Terns two days later, then a single Common and five Arctic on the 29th and 20 more Arctic Terns just three days later.
Sand Martin and Swallow numbers increased, peaking at 300 and 200, respectively, in early May, while 80 House Martins were counted on 12 May. Passage Yellow Wagtails were thin on the ground, with a maximum of two in April and May, but other species that are sticking around are plentiful; a perimeter walk on 29 April found, among others, 104 Blackbirds, 37 Song Thrushes and 12 Mistle Thrushes, many of them singing, plus 90 Chiffchaffs, 85 Blackcaps and 22 Willow Warblers.
EVENTS PROGRAMME NOW BACK IN FULL SWING
The last few months have been encouraging in that we’ve been able to complete successfully our full 2021-22 indoor meetings season – and then, moving outdoors, resume activities that Covid had prevented us from doing for much of 2020 and 2021.
For logistical and Covid-safety reasons, we have been staging our indoor meetings in the spacious New Leaf restaurant and for our penultimate meeting, Max Maughan, leader of the RSPB Derby local group, took us on an exciting journey to Patagonia in the southern reaches of South America. Superbly illustrated by pictures (and videos) taken by his wife Christine, we experienced the wonderful diversity of scenery and wildlife in this remote corner of the world, including some incredible close-up footage of generally elusive pumas.
For our final meeting, in March, we welcomed Gary Hobson to talk to us for the first time. Gary described the birds and wildlife of Washington state in the USA, a location he had visited many times as his job in aerospace often takes him to the Seattle-based Boeing company. Having a self-confessed passion for anything which can fly, Gary’s talk included not just birds, but many butterflies and quite a few aeroplanes too!
Moving outside, our first event was a club trip to Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire on 1 May. Our small group of mostly regular attendees enjoyed this very good nature reserve that offered a mixture of habitats. Summer visitors were appearing in good numbers, many in full voice during our visit. Chiffchaffs were seemingly everywhere and several Willow Warblers were seen and heard. We had good views of both male and female Blackcaps plus a single Garden Warbler.
Later in the day a Reed Warbler was heard singing from the reedbeds, as well as a Whitethroat’s scratchy song at the top of a tree. Hirundines were well represented with Sand Martins and Swallows hawking for insects over the river – and that most iconic of summer visitors, the Cuckoo, was heard calling and briefly seen flying across the treetops. One sharp-eyed member (Jane!) spotted a Spoonbill in flight, while the lakes held good numbers of the common wildfowl species, with smaller counts of Shelduck and Shoveler adding to the variety. A pair of Avocets and a single Oystercatcher were the only waders on view.
A few Common Terns were seen flying over the water and we spent some time studying three birds with blood-red bills, with no black tips – diagnostic of Arctic Terns – sitting on one of the specially constructed rafts. We checked out our finding with an RSPB volunteer who had joined us in the hide, who said, “Do you mean those decoy terns?”. With some degree of embarrassment (and amusement!) we continued our walk around the reserve, glad that we hadn’t got as far as reporting the sighting at the visitor centre! It seems none of us had spotted that they hadn’t moved an inch!
The Nearby St. Aidan’s RSPB Reserve had been an option, but with time short most of the group decided to stay at Fairburn Ings, where we were treated to the sound of a booming Bittern and the sight of a quartering Marsh Harrier. One member, John Follett, did decide to make the short trip to St. Aidan’s and was rewarded with a Black-necked Grebe and a Little Owl.
Later in May, we welcomed back our annual ‘Warbler Walk’, which Covid had prevented in both 2020 and 2021. This walk around Stones Island and the vicinity of the Wildlife Centre was led by Simon Roddis, whose knowledge and experience (and eyes and ears!) were able to help us pinpoint and identify the birds we came across, especially many of the site’s summer visitors.
With the trees almost fully in leaf, many of the birds we encountered were heard rather than seen, so Simon’s expert knowledge of the different songs and calls was invaluable. First heard was a Reed Warbler, which surprisingly was singing from the depths of bushes close to the Visitor Centre courtyard. Continuing around Stones Island, Chiffchaffs were easier to pick out from the repetitive song which gives them their name, and the descending cadence of Willow Warblers was picked up. A pair of Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler were also identified (and we tried to differentiate between their often confusing song!), along with the first Sedge Warbler of the day, which showed itself briefly on the top of bushes overlooking Sailing Club bay.
The walk was not just about warblers of course, and along with many of the common resident species, a Willow Tit was heard calling, there were good views of a singing Reed Bunting, a few Swifts circling above us were a welcome sign of summer and Sand Martins were noted flying low over the water. Waders were represented by a Little Ringed Plover on the shingle shore of Stones Island, and a pair of Oystercatchers and a single Lapwing flew over. A distant Red Kite on the far side of the reservoir was the sole raptor on show.
Moving round to the Wildlife Centre we had close up views of various ducks and geese, along with several pairs of Great Crested Grebe and a Little Grebe. Among the busy colony of Black-headed Gulls on Horseshoe Island, a single Redshank and two Little Ringed Plovers were found. Moving further down Wildlife Centre Creek, Simon was able to pick out a Redstart singing in the distance, and we watched Great Tits and Blue Tits bringing food back to their nest-boxes.
Our walk coincided with Severn Trent’s 30th Anniversary of Carsington Water celebrations, so the paths became increasingly busy with more and more walkers and cyclists, but we had an enjoyable couple of hours stroll, and were, as ever, indebted to Simon for helping us to reach a 40-plus species count.
Some members stayed on during the day to help man a CBC stand at the anniversary event. As a group that has existed almost as long as the reservoir, we were delighted to join the celebration, though we were rather outdone by a display of raptors and owls just opposite our position!
NEW SHEEPWASH HIDE PLAN TAKES SHAPE
Severn Trent’s Site Supervisor at Carsington, John Matkin, contacted us recently as he is now in a position to update us on the project to replace Sheepwash hide, which has been closed for a while. Things are beginning to move, he informs, with the following sequential plan now underway:
- Removal of the existing hide at Sheepwash: this will likely have to be done via the fields while the ground is dry enough to enable this. This is earmarked to be called in for completion during June.
- Improvements to the paths to both Paul Stanley and the Sheepwash hides. The aim is to make the Paul Stanley hide accessible for wheelchairs and for our smaller site vehicle to allow us to carry out maintenance work on the hide more easily. This will involve the removal of some trees that are currently in the path, as well as a few of the ash trees which have been killed off by ash die back disease; regular birders may have noticed yellow marks on some of these trees. In total we’re removing 16 trees and this will be done later in the summer to avoid the nesting season. We’d like to make the path to the Sheepwash hide accessible for wheelchairs and for vehicles (to aid with the construction of the new hide). As well as resurfacing, this will involve making the path a little wider. In this case, we don’t believe we’ll need to remove any trees (though ash dieback management may involve taking out some later in the year). The good news is that the enormous ash by the path to the Sheepwash hide seems to be fairing well and, as we’re keen not to cause any extra stress to this impressive tree, we are looking to reroute the path a little further around to avoid damage to its root system where possible.
- For the new hide, we are engaging with hide builders to find a new design to replace the Sheepwash hide (we may come to CBC for some advice once we have some designs). As with all our new projects we’re very keen that the new Sheepwash hide be as accessible as possible. And as part of this drive we may well lose the gates on the paths to allow birders who use a wheelchair to access them easily. We hope to get this done in the late summer/early autumn to take advantage of drier ground and avoid too much disturbance.
John adds: “We’ve just received the quotes for the work so we’ll let you know in good time when we’ll need to close up a path. This probably won’t be for at least two months in order to allow any birds breeding nearby to fledge safely.
OBITUARY: PHILIP SHOOTER
Philip Shooter, who will be known to a number of our members, has sadly passed away at the age of 85. As well as being a founder member of Carsington Bird Club, he was also instrumental in the formation of Derbyshire Ornithological Society (DOS) and Ogston Bird Club, serving on the committees of both. We extend our condolences to Philip’s family.
Philip produced “Where to watch Birds in Derbyshire” which proved very useful to visitors and people new to birdwatching. He conducted a Dipper survey of Derbyshire, visiting all suitable rivers, counting and recording all the birds present; it was subsequently published in British Birds, something he was very proud of.
He held Birdwatching courses for the Workers Education Association at Alfreton, Matlock and Sutton in Ashfield, conducting surveys and producing booklets on the birds of Shining Cliff Wood, Cromford Canal, Wyver Lane, Hardwick Park, Matlock Forest and several other sites.
He also oversaw birding weekend courses at Losehill Hall in the Peak District, showing visiting birdwatchers Derbyshire specialties like Dipper, Ring Ouzel, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and other species associated with the upland moorland. Philip was a generous person who would readily give help and advice to anyone with whom he made contact – a very sad loss to the birding fraternity.
|KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE – Here are the club officials and their contact details……..|
|Committee Post||Name||Telephone||Email Address|
|Chairman and Publicity||Gary Atkins||01335 email@example.com|
|Treasurer / Membership||John Follett||01332 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Recorder||Rob Chadwick||07876 email@example.com|
|Events co-ordinator||Chris Lamb||01629 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Secretary||Louise Sykes||01335 email@example.com|
|Ex-officio||Roger Carrington||01629 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|…..and the website address is: http://www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk|
|Webmaster||Richard Pittam||n/a||Contact Richard via the website|