SHARP-EYED OBSERVERS COUNT NEAR-RECORD NUMBERS OF SPECIES
The reservoir seems to be under greater scrutiny than ever under the watchful eye of a dedicated band of recorders, and detailed data is being submitted almost daily, so it’s hardly surprising that both September (with 118) and October (108) yielded the second-highest species totals ever at Carsington for those particular months.
When asked for his personal highlights in mid November, one of the regular observers Simon Roddis spotlighted the site’s first ever Dipper, seen near the stream in Tail Bay in September, and a single Manx Shearwater – one of many blown inland by storms – seen on 11 September, which was only the fourth record of this pelagic species at Carsington.
Simon was involved in massive counts during the autumn movements, including 11,400 Woodpigeons on 18 October, which is thought to be a site record, and flocks of up to 4,000 Starlings. He was also excited to see a Great White Egret on 12 November, one of two seen in the last quarter – further evidence (along with the site-record 12 Little Egrets on 21 September) of the drift north of egret species, which only 20 years ago required a flight to the Med to be sure of seeing.
There have also been site-record high counts of Hawfinch (26,) following a recent irruption in the southern half of the UK, and Shoveler duck, while Teal (522) and Gadwall (98) had their highest counts for more than a decade. Meanwhile, a Green-winged Teal was expertly identified among this huge flock, staying for over three weeks in October, and 26 Whooper Swans at Millfields on 12 November was an impressive sight.
Continuing with large numbers, more than 1,140 Coot were counted one day, and there are good numbers of other duck species around including Wigeon (385), Tufted (336) and Mallard and Pochard (both 150+). Canada Geese numbers peaked at a huge 1,250 in September, Greylags were doing their best to keep up with over 400 recorded during October and more than 100 Pink-footed Geese were counted overhead several times, while a single Brent on 8 October added to goose diversity.
The gull roost had over 8,000 individuals on 8 November, comprising around 5,000 Black-headed, 2,000 Lesser Black-backs and 1,000 Common Gulls, and a sizeable flock of 650 Lapwing reflected wader species’ delight at the wide expanses of mud resulting from consistently low water levels. Other waders of note have included Little Stint, Turnstone, Knot, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, up to four Ruff and small flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover have been regularly seen.
Early morning vigils have been rewarding at Hopton end, where good numbers of wagtails, Starlings and Reed Buntings roost regularly, Woodcock and Water Rails are often seen and heard, and up to six Tawny Owls have been heard calling. Raptor activity, meanwhile, has been quiet, though an Osprey turned up on 12 September, a Merlin sped through on 17 October and Peregrines are an increasingly regular sight.
The last Sand Martin was seen on 25 September, which equals the latest date ever, while a few other summer visitors – including Wheatear and Blackcap (and Chiffchaff, possibly overwintering) – were still being seen in late October. Meanwhile, winter migrants like Redwing, Fieldfare, Brambling, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll have all been seen in good numbers – and, importantly, an adult Great Northern Diver (following one that stayed just minutes on 19 November) arrived on the 24th and looks like staying around.
… a bit early but …
¯¯A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS! ¯¯
TALKS AND WALKS
It’s been a fairly busy few months for the club, with a trip squeezed in before the colder, more uncertain weather arrived as well as the new season of indoor meetings getting underway.
The location for the club’s second trip of the year on 8 October was the RSPB’s excellent Old Moor reserve or, more precisely, its expanding complex of sites along the Dearne Valley in south Yorkshire. After leaving Old Moor itself, half of the party visited another of these blossoming reserves, near Adwick village, while the other half took in the independent reserve of Broomhill Flash.
Overall, a collective total of 59 species was chalked up by the CBC group, including Little Egret, Kingfisher, Golden Plovers joining a group of Lapwing plus several other interesting waders, notably Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Ringed Plover and both Green and Curlew Sandpipers. A Kestrel, hovering and then perched on a nearby post, offered the best photo opportunities.
For more details on this trip, and the full list of species seen, and a few photos from the day, read the item on the club’s website at www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk/cbc/blog/.
Back indoors, our season of wildlife talks was kicked off by local photographer Ken Smith, who is a regular observer on Beeley Moor, and half of his presentation amazed his audience most of whom have also been to Beeley Moor on many occasions without seeing half of the species Ken saw and photographed. The second half of Ken’s talk took us on a quick tour of his some of his overseas highlights.
The high quality photography of our speakers is a given, and so it was for Tony Davison – returning for the second successive season, in October, this time showing us what he and a couple of fellow wildlife photographers (including our own webmaster Richard Pittam) had encountered during a marvellous trip to Alaska. Tony explained the highly detailed planning and logistics involved in reaching all their key target locations and, once there, how close they often managed to get to species that clearly did not view humans as a threat.
Another treat was in store for those who came along to the November talk, delivered by Wakefield-based professional photographer John Gardner. He’s visited us several times over the years, and this time the subject was Iberian birds. Once again, we got an insight into how much planning has to go into accessing the right sort of locations and habitats, and the limitless patience waiting in hides for just the right moment to get ‘the killer shot’.
THANKS FOR FINANCIAL DONATIONS
It’s been a good ‘financial quarter’ for CBC with two generous donations amounting to £425 providing a welcome boost to the club’s coffers.
The first of these came from individual member Patrick Lawless, who surprised us when he haded over a cheque for £265, thereby effectively paying for the last issue of the club’s annual report. Thanks go to Patrick, and also to DOS (Derbyshire Ornithological Society) who provided their regular donation (of £160) to help the upkeep of the bird feeding stations around the site.
Club member and former DOS Chairman Bryan Barnacle informs us that there are still a few copies of The Birds of Derbyshire, a publication any serious birder in the county must have, available at half the published price!
This 376-page exhaustive study of the county’s avifauna describes the history of birding in Derbyshire, various habitats the county offers as well as the birds themselves, the status of each species and charts outlining breeding bird survey results, all illustrated with numerous lined drawings and photographs.
If you want a copy at just £22.50, contact Bryan either by phone on 01433 630726 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARSINGTON WATER – A SITE FOREVER EVOLVING
As we near the end of 2017 it’s hard to believe where the months have gone. This year has been one of the busiest on site for all sorts of reasons; not least because we celebrated our 25th anniversary back in May.
Whether looking back at this year, or the past 25 years, one of the things you can be most sure of is change. When the Queen opened the site back in 1992 the limestone buildings were gleaming white, tree guards marked the location of the hundreds of thousands of newly-planted saplings, and every fixture and fitting of the site was brand new.
Over the next quarter of a century the site has matured beautifully. the fields of tree guards are now established woodlands, any original fixtures and fittings are truly weathered in and the paths have been walked and cycled by many millions of visitors. All of this presents challenges to manage and maintain.
The growing demand for water has seen our levels fluctuate more in recent years than they have in the past. This is the reservoir doing exactly what it was designed to do but is tricky for Carsington Sports and Leisure and the Sailing Club, who find the water many metres from the shoreline, and for the rangers who have to keep the public away from the deep mud.
The way our visitors use the site has changed, too, and continues to evolve. We’ve all become more health conscious and we host sporting events throughout the year. New activities like stand-up paddle- boarding and Nordic walking have arrived and existing pastimes like cycling have seen an explosion in popularity.
We communicate with visitors via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TripAdvisor, and we have to formulate policies to deal with everything from drones to Pokemon Go! More recently we’ve seen many visitors staying later into the evening and an enormous increase in the number of disposable barbeques used on site, all things for us to address as we look ahead to 2018.
And, of course, no summary of the site would be complete without us also looking at the birdlife at Carsington Water – something which has changed as much as any other aspect of life on site.
Once scarce species such as Buzzards and Little Egrets have become part of the furniture and others such as Ospreys, Great White Egrets and Red Kites are recorded with increasing frequency, while sadly other species like Little Owl and Grey Partridge have all but disappeared from our records.
The Carsington Bird Club continues to record ‘firsts’ for the site such as Cetti’s Warbler, Richard’s Pipit and Yellow-browed Warbler in recent years, and first breeding by species like Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard. Vis-mig totals are revealing enormous counts passing over our heads and eruptions of species such as this year’s influx of Hawfinches have provided us with remarkable records.
With a developing reed bed, maturing woodland and all that exposed mud we’ll no doubt see more changes in the site’s birdlife in the coming years. And so long as we can keep the drones, the barbeques and whatever future challenge we encounter under control it’s exciting to speculate which species will visit or even breed here in the next 25 years.
John Matkin, Severn Trent Water
CARSINGTON PROVES A TOP SITE FOR BUTTERFLIES
We’re unlikely to see many more butterflies this year (except perhaps hibernating in our garages!) but the formal surveys undertaken over the summer months by a hardcore of volunteers on the Sheepwash and Shiningford transects have underlined that Carsington Water is one of the top dozen sites in Derbyshire for butterfly sightings.
And 2017 proved a successful year in its own right with nearly twice as many seen than in 2016 (1,125 compared with 590). Though Sheepwash has been surveyed more than a decade longer, Shiningford has already overtaken it in terms of species seen – 24 – and overall the site has logged 26 species.
With three varieties – Dark-green Fritillary, Dingy Skipper and Clouded Yellow – seen for the first time during the last five years, and Wall Brown reappearing after an absence of many years, there are high hopes that further species recorded at other locations nearby will soon make an appearance at Carsington. County recorder Ken Orpe predicts that next year’s volunteers should keep a particularly beady eye out for Purple and Green Hairstreak, Marbled White and Brown Argus.
All but one of the 52 transects (each should be walked every week for the 26 middle weeks from April-September) was completed, and an average of 22 butterflies were seen on each transect, above the overall site average.
CBC’s winter programme of indoor meetings is set to continue either side of Christmas in the Visitor Centre’s Henmore Room (start 7.30pm), with some interesting speakers and varied topics lined up (see below). It’s also worth remembering that our January meeting will begin half-an-hour earlier than usual (7pm) to accommodate the club’s annual general meeting, which will then be followed by the scheduled talk. Please get along to the AGM if you can. The full schedule is as follows:
19 December 2017 – ‘Shetland Wildlife’ by Dave Hollis
16 January 2018 – AGM followed by a talk on Sherwood Forest wildlife and ringing by Andrew Lowe
20 February 2018 – ‘Brown Hares and winter farmland’ by Christine Gregory
20 March 2018 – ‘Wildlife and nature reserves of Lincolnshire’ by Steve Lovell
Severn Trent Water, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB and New Leaf Catering also organise a range of activities.
It’s sensible to check if booking is required for any of the following events, so please call either 01629 540696 (STW), 01773 881188 (DWT) or 01629 540363 (New Leaf).
Every day Animal Antics Trail (trail pack £1) Visitor Centre (10am-5pm)
First Sunday of month Birdwatching for Beginners with STW ranger Meet Visitor Centre (10am-noon)
First weekend of month Optics demonstrations RSPB shop, Visitor Centre (10am-4pm)
Every Tuesday/Sunday Wildlife Centre volunteers on parade Wildlife Centre (10am-3pm)
Third Saturday of month ‘Family Forest School’ (two age group sessions: 1030-noon over-5s; 1330-1500 over-7s – Millfields car park (contact DWT) – )
Last Saturday of month Sheepwash Spinners (learn about wool spinning and associated crafts – Visitor Centre (10am-3pm)
4 December Nature Tots: Rockin’ Robins (charge applies) – Daily until 24 December Christmas lunch in Mainsail Restaurant – 10.30am-noon or pm (contact DWT) – Contact New Leaf to book
8 January 2018 Nature Tots: Warm up for Winter (charge applies) 10.30am-noon or pm (contact DWT)
6 February Nature Tots: Plant Power (charge applies) 10.30am-noon or pm (contact DWT)
21 February Wild Wednesday: Learn about Barn Owls Contact DWT for more information