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No 3 / August 2020

 Posted by on August 22, 2020  Carsington Bird Club, CBC Newsletters  Comments Off on No 3 / August 2020
Aug 222020
 

BACK IN ACTION!

There’s a bit more to smile about since the last newsletter in May, firstly with the reopening of Carsington Water to visitors in early June (albeit with restrictions), and along with that the resumption of bird recording by our faithful band of observers – though we do also remain indebted to John Matkin and his team of Severn Trent rangers who kept a note (reported in the last newsletter) of what they were seeing during their guardianship of the reservoir during the early stages the Covid clamp-down, between March and May.

A number of the site’s facilities are also now up and running; including the restaurant and snack outlets for those planning to make a day of it cycling, walking or, indeed, birding around the reservoir.  The Wildlife Centre has reopened, complete with knowledgeable volunteers on certain days, although anyone wanting to visit there must wear a face mask and follow a one-way system for the time being.  A few of the activities are also resuming, including the Birdwatching for Beginners walks (just as much fun for non-beginners!), which are led by STW volunteers but I usually pop along to help out.  The first of these should be on 6 September.

Best of all, we are proposing a resumption of some of our own regular club activities, including the autumn/winter indoor meetings programme … though, importantly, we have negotiated a change of venue as the Henmore Room was deemed much too small and constricted to accommodate the typically-sized audience in comfort bearing in mind current Covid regulations.

Instead, we have negotiated with New Leaf Catering to use the site’s restaurant; this relatively huge space – with its high ceiling and airy environment – will offer an area that meets and beats the current Covid regulations (even with just one person or a couple at each of the well-spaced tables or fixed-point booths).  We are not planning to serve drinks and biscuits, so we suggest attendees bring their own refreshments; bring along face masks, too, if you wish.  The first meeting is on 15 September (see ‘dates’ panel below for details).

We also plan to hold an autumn club trip to old favourite Old Moor, the RSPB’s South Yorkshire reserve that invariably yields a good array of birds, and the odd surprise, particularly during migration.  Toilets and some hides at this reserve will be open, so we should enjoy a productive day – that day being 20 September.  Come along if you can; and please let Chris Lamb know if you intend to do so.

Gary Atkins

 

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

Below are the dates of upcoming events; all indoor meetings begin at 7.30pm:

** TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 ** – Talk: We have Ian Newton travelling north from his home patch to tell us about the wildlife highlights of Lesvos, the Greek island that is a true birding haven.

** SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20 ** – Outing: After a 12-month absence, club trips resume with a short journey to the RSPB reserve at Old Moor, generally an excellent site with a good range of birds and the occasional surprise.  Meet 10am and bring own refreshments.  If you intend to come along, please inform Chris Lamb (phone 01629 820890 or by e-mail at cflamb@yahoo.co.uk).

** TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20 ** – Talk: Our annual joint meeting with DOS will feature a fascinating talk by on the creation and maintenance of a private wildlife sanctuary, along with some of the delightful creatures he has attracted there.

** TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17 ** – Talk: Nigel Slater returns to describe his visits to the Scilly Isles and show us some of fabulous wildlife he has encountered during island-hopping sorties.

RECORD-BREAKING MONTHS FOR SIGHTINGS AS SITE REOPENS

When Carsington’s car parks reopened to the general public in early June, the wildlife might have been expected to keep a low profile having roamed the site pretty much unseen and unhindered for over two months, but not so. 

As the hoards of cyclists and walkers quickly resumed their massed perambulations of the reservoir (on good weather days, at least), so did the regular recording by CBC’s dedicated band of observers, and what they experienced were two record-breaking months in June and July, and a healthy start to August.

Both of the new records topped the 100 mark and, while there were no more Spoonbills (one of numerous species recorded by Severn Trent staff during the lockdown), a Great White Egret was seen in July and there were plenty of Little Egret records, showing the continuing drift northwards of these attractive white herons.  Meanwhile, Grey Herons logged another landmark when a pair raised young for the first time at the Carsington site (see separate article on next page).

Two summer plumage Black-necked Grebes were rather a surprise on 7 July, joining briefly a healthy flotilla of up to 55 Great-crested and 22 Little Grebes.  By August, the slow build towards the usual autumn influx of wildfowl was underway, with 107 Teal, 218 Tufted Ducks, 183 Mallard and 557 Coot counted, and much smaller numbers of Shoveler, Pochard and Wigeon.  Eleven Common Scoter viewed on two dates in July was another duck highlight.

On the water’s edge, waders were well represented during mid and late summer with single Avocets seen on 10 and 19 June, Whimbrel noted on five dates across July and August and Common Sandpiper seen in various quantities each month.  Black-tailed Godwits showed up on several dates in June and July, when Sanderlings were also recorded, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers popped in fairly regularly, while a Greenshank called in on 12 June, two Turnstones on 30 July and a single Green Sandpiper was logged in both July and August.

It’s been a relatively quiet time for gulls, the main highlight being a trickle of single Mediterranean Gulls through and two on 16 July, two Yellow-legs on several dates, and a Caspian type 3rd year specimen in August.  The maximum number of Lesser Black-backs was 375 during this period, with similar numbers of Black-headed Gulls around – including a sizeable proportion of young birds of which 300 had been counted on Millfields Island in June.

Other breeding was mixed as 12 Mallard, 11 Great-crested Grebe and 10 Canada Goose broods represented the most successful breeding species until mid-August, though eight Greylag Goose and Coot, five Little Grebe, four Moorhen, Gadwall and Tufted Duck and single Barnacle Goose families were also being raised.

There had been signs of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover broods, too, but in the final event these species seemed to have failed.  The cause was thought most likely to be predation by corvids or gulls.

Red Kites seem to be an increasingly regular sight in the vicinity of Carsington, with several records over the summer, while Ospreys called in on two dates in June and another in July.  A Hobby was around on 20 June, two more were seen on 2 August, and one individual was speeding through on the 17th.  Other raptor sightings centred mostly on the more common Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, though Peregrines also showed up on several dates, including two young birds on one day when they chased Lapwings (catching but then losing one which wisely dropped into a bush!) then each other.

Away from the water, passerine species have been busy breeding, too, and as many as 10 Spotted Flycatchers were counted in late July, and up to 40+ Chiffchaffs, 17 Blackcaps and single figure numbers of Willow, Garden, Sedge and Reed Warblers have been recorded daily, along with nine Redstarts, including young, that are often viewed in fields fringing Wildlife Centre creek.  Earlier, the haunting reeling call of a site-scarce Grasshopper Warbler was heard on 21 June.

Another scarce visitor to the site is Green Woodpecker, but one of these attractive birds was encountered on dates in June and August.  Tree Pipit was noted on three dates in July and another in August, as many as 60 Pied Wagtails have been seen at one time, along with five Grey Wagtails on several dates and three Yellow Wagtails were around on 14 July.

Hirundines have been evident in some profusion over the summer, as up to 100 House Martins were skimming the water in early June, more than 200 Sand Martins were counted a month later, and 200 Swallows were observed on 4 August.  A healthy number of 105 Swifts were also recorded moving through on 26 July.

Twenty-two Ravens seen on 10 July was a highly impressive sight, and the occasional visits of Crossbills – often heard rather than seen – continued with a maximum of four logged on 14 July.

 

HERONS BREED FOR THE FIRST TIME

A particular 2020 Carsington “first”, now firmly proven, had begun with some random observations before and during the Covid alert that restricted access to the site for over two months.  As time went on, however, the evidence grew that Grey Herons were nesting and raising a brood for the first time on site. 

While not on the immediately accessible circuit around the reservoir, the secretive herons chose to build their nest in a tree on Severn Trent land only about 50 metres or so from the main path though largely obscured from general view.  The first hint that something was afoot came in early February when a heron was seen carrying a stick, and the observer (one of the club’s regular recorders) wondered if this could indicate nest building.

On closer inspection of the area ten days later, herons were observed on the nest and, the following day, one was viewed laying flat on the nest.  Did this indicate the parent was incubating eggs?  A week later a single heron was once again seen sitting, then three weeks later, during the second week of March, the club’s observer returned and – though good views were limited – he believed there to be young in the nest.

The site then closed and travel was not permissible, but by early April Severn Trent staff (having been tipped off about the earlier sightings), who remained working on site throughout the initial lockdown, visited the location and confirmed that there were three young herons in the nest.  Twelve days later, they returned and found that the youngsters had fledged. 

So, even Covid could not prevent nature continuing to do its thing – nor allow the story to be told by meticulous observation, interpretation and communication through the joint efforts of CBC and STW personnel.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Committee Post

Name

Telephone

Email Address

Secretary

Peter Fletcher

01332 383682

petefletcher1@hotmail.com 

Treasurer / Membership

John Follett

01332 834778

johnlfollett@virginmedia.com

Recorder

Clive Ashton

 

01629 823316

 

cliveashton@btinternet.com

 

Publications / Indoor Meetings

Gary Atkins

01335 370773

garysatkins@aol.com

 

Events co-ordinator

Chris Lamb

01629 820890

cflamb@yahoo.co.uk

Ex-officio

Roger Carrington

01629 583816

rcarrington_matlock@yahoo.co.uk

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

Webmaster

Richard Pittam

n/a

Contact Richard via the website

Carsington 2020 Dawn Chorus – Simon Roddis

 Posted by on May 25, 2020  Carsington Bird Club  Comments Off on Carsington 2020 Dawn Chorus – Simon Roddis
May 252020
 

I recorded the dawn chorus at the Hopton end one day last week between 04:30 and 05:30. I think it’s fantastic – I’ve identified at least 20 species on it so far.

It’s best listened to with headphones and there are a few inevitable noises off but the first half hour or so is just a wall of noise, after which it quietens down a bit.  I doubt whether many people will have heard the Carsington dawn chorus at its best, so here’s your chance.

Simon.

Lockdown Wildlife Experiences

 Posted by on May 25, 2020  Carsington Bird Club  Comments Off on Lockdown Wildlife Experiences
May 252020
 

In our last newsletter (below), we appealed for people’s experiences (and even photographs) of nature and wildlife – and most particularly birds – during the lockdown, enabling us to maintain a strong connection to the natural world at a time when some of us were having to spend extended periods at home, never too far from our front doors.

The first offering in response is from committee member Gary Atkins.  Below he describes the highlights of his springtime walks mainly along the lanes and footpaths surrounding his home in Hulland Ward …

“ I’m usually champing at the bit to visit as wide a variety of places as possible when spring arrives, with the exciting prospect of migrants arriving, but this year right at that key moment I, like so many others, had to be content with walks around my local patch.  And very refreshing and rewarding this turned out to be: slower, sometimes longer walks, taking more care over what I was observing and occasionally taking time to photograph them.

Essentially, I discovered that both in the garden and in the surrounding countryside within a few miles’ radius of my home (I was luckier than some and able to exercise each day), there was still plenty to see, including species I’d forgotten were on my doorstep – the Lapwings and Curlews in the farmers’ fields, Yellowhammers singing on tree and hedge tops barely half-a-mile (as the bunting flies!) from my front door, Skylarks blasting out their familiar flight songs in just about every direction I set off … and Grey Wagtails breeding alongside a small stream in a shallow valley nearby.

There were some special bonuses, too, like a Red Kite (below) that hung almost motionless on the wind just  40 feet above my head as I crossed “the Mountain” on the edge of Kirk Ireton village and, of course, the gradual arrival of all those migrants – Chiffchaffs, then Blackcaps (it took me three weeks to get a decent shot of one …. below), a Redstart, Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroat and, during a more recent sortie down Wyver Lane, a couple of Sedge Warblers.  I’m still waiting for a confirmed sighting of a Garden Warbler!

As a result of the lockdown, I spent more time in my lounge and conservatory than usual, too, and was rewarded by seeing a Blue Tit first of all shyly investigate then finally enter my sole nest box for the first time ever (to my knowledge, that is … though sadly no breeding ultimately took place in there once again).  Pheasants and, more often, Red-legged Partridges also turned up to hoover up the seed scattered by raiding parties of Sparrows and Starlings.

In some ways, despite barring travel, it felt like the lockdown actually brought me a little closer to wildlife in that I took more time to study what popped up in my vision (and not just birds, but butterflies, dragonflies and other insects, too) and sensed more accurately the spring cycle of new life as it emerged.

Whether that will continue I’ll have to see, as the temptation to go a bit farther afield to experienced different and more varied habitats (and build my year’s bird list!!) is strong.  Whatever, I think the focus is likely to be exclusively British wildlife for the next 12 months or so! ”

This Red-Legged Partridge was one of two regular visitors to my garden, until the Starlings were quickest to polish off the fallen seed.

Snapped during a walk around Bradley Dam, I was surprised to see TWO male Mandarins accompanying this female with her brood of eight ducklings (not all in sight!)

If anyone else has any lockdown wildlife experiences and thoughts they’d like to share please contact us.

 

Newsletter No 2 / May 2020

 Posted by on May 5, 2020  Carsington Bird Club  Comments Off on Newsletter No 2 / May 2020
May 052020
 

Newsletter No 2 / May 2020

Welcome to this unusual newsletter – unusual because there’s little by way of news to pass on to you, though we do have a treat in store by way of a peep behind closed doors from Carsington Water site manager, John Matkin, who has put together a great summary of the last several weeks at the reservoir and the wildlife he and the other Severn Trent staff have seen and noted.  This means we won’t go without any records at all in April – and their observations also serve to give us an elusive flavour for what spring has brought to the area.  You can read this insightful article below.

Another important piece of information we need to ensure members are aware of is that the two events we had got planned for the month of May – a warbler walk on the 17th and a club trip to the Humber estuary on the 31stwill both have to be cancelled … for obvious reasons!  We do still hope to hold a club trip later in the year, when we would also hope to be able to resume our programme of indoor meetings at the Visitor Centre, scheduled to begin in September.

We’re certainly living in a very different world from the one we were inhabiting when the last newsletter appeared in February.  Just around the corner then was the Covid-19 pandemic which, even up to the third week of March (the last record from our happy band of club recorders was on 22 March), we did not realise was destined to have quite the devastating effect that it has had globally.  Quite what the final outcome will be – on all manner of aspects of life – is yet to be determined, but it is fair to say that the natural world has carried on regardless of the human plight.  And for those of us shackled to our homes, our gardens or, at least, our local area, the dry and warm April gave us the chance to get outside to witness spring and see resident birds and our summer visitors arrive, establish territories, build nests and raise broods as usual – and a whole range of flora and fauna blossom and burst into life.

I’ve been walking more miles than usual (or certainly that’s what my knees tell me!) courtesy of my daily dose of exercise, discovering footpaths close to home that I’d not walked for years and almost forgotten, and taking my camera with me to record this vital time of year far more fully than I’ve ever done before.  Such simple pleasures have provided succour during the difficult times – and maybe in future we’ll take them less for granted.

We’d like to think the reservoir will be able to open its gates (and car parks) fairly soon, but until then, enjoy whatever birding you’re able to do and we would be delighted if you could help put a little extra pleasure into others’ days by sharing your precious wildlife moments.  With that in mind, we’d like members to send in their sightings, experiences – and photos – to one or other of the committee team (our e-mail addresses are listed at the end of the newsletter) and we’ll post a regular summary on the website so we can share collectively members’ highlights.

Gary Atkins

 

WILDLIFE THRIVES DURING HUMAN ABSENCE AT THE RESERVOIR

I’ll begin by sending our warm wishes to members of Carsington Bird Club at this challenging time.  As a team we miss hearing what’s been seen on site and also miss the conversation and chance to catch up with both those we see almost every day and those who pop in now and again.

The rangers and I have been mindful of how tough it is for many of you to remain at home, especially at such an exciting time in the birding calendar.  That said, I’ve seen some of the brilliant sightings you’re recording in your gardens and your local areas.  It seems your time is not being wasted or idled away!

We’ve also been aware that the current hiatus could potentially leave a hole in the Carsington Bird Club’s sightings so after the lockdown began we started to compile a list of the birds and other wildlife we spotted around the site as we went about our work – closing the site, patrolling the paths, carrying out maintenance work, and generally catching up after a slightly chaotic few months. Despite our efforts it’s fair to say that April’s Bird Notes won’t be as packed as a usual spring edition but we’ve done our best!

We’ve been lucky enough to get occasional views of the Great Northern Diver, hear Water Rail, and to see Red Kite, Red-crested Pochard, Little Ringed Plovers and a fantastic Spoonbill.

We’ve ticked off the migrant species as they have arrived; the early warblers, the hirundines, then Yellow Wagtails, Whitethroat, Common Sandpipers and Redstarts, plus a very early record of Reed Warbler (though we’ve yet to catch up with a few that we’ve missed so far).  My personal highlight was arriving on an unusually drizzly morning in mid-April to be greeted by the sight of hundreds of swallows and martins skimming the water’s surface: An incredible sight at any time but very welcome after they had passed through in just dribs and drabs before this.

During April alone – that transitional month when we said farewell to winter visitors such as Redwings, but hello to a raft of summer migrants – almost 100 species were noted during our day-to-day work. 

Perhaps the most interesting observation for many is how quickly the wildlife seems to have reclaimed the site without the throngs of human visitors out enjoying the sunshine.  We’ve seen Stoats and Yellow Wagtails in the main car park, Roe Deer in the fields, and grebes, Coots and geese nesting close to the shoreline in good numbers – partly helped by the high water level (which, at the same time, has also made the wader migration a bit tricky).

While we continue to follow the Government’s advice, we are preparing for when and how we can reopen our site while also doing all we can to keep our visitors and our staff safe.  It’s sensible to assume reopening will be a phased process with tracks and car parks opening before play areas and indoor dining.  It’s therefore likely that bird watching from the paths, and potentially the hides too, will be one of the earlier activities available, and we look forward to sharing that news with you, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime thank you once again for continuing to keep yourselves, our staff and our communities safe by following governmental advice.  It must be hoped that with such a quiet site the resident species have every chance of a successful breeding season – meaning more birds around for us all to enjoy when you re-join us on site.

John Matkin

 

WHAT’S ON

As everything above has indicated, future activities are decidedly uncertain.  The regular Severn Trent and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust events at Carsington are currently on hold, and the Bird Club has had to cancel its springtime offerings, but we are hopeful that by the autumn we might be able to resume our programme of indoor talks, so a few dates for your largely inactive diaries and calendars, are as follows:

15 September – Talk on ‘Lesvos’ by Ian Newton – Henmore Room, VC (7.30pm)

20 October – Joint meeting with DOS (talk topic TBA) – Henmore Room (7.30pm)

17 November – Talk on ‘The Scillies’ by Nigel Slater – Henmore Room (7.30pm)

 

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

 

 

 

 

Committee Post

Name

Telephone

Email Address

Secretary

Peter Fletcher

01332 383682

petefletcher1@hotmail.com 

Treasurer / Membership

John Follett

01332 834778

johnlfollett@virginmedia.com

Recorder

Clive Ashton

 

01629 823316

 

cliveashton@btinternet.com

 

Publications / Indoor Meetings

Gary Atkins

01335 370773

garysatkins@aol.com

 

Events co-ordinator

Chris Lamb

01629 820890

cflamb@yahoo.co.uk

Ex-officio

Roger Carrington

01629 583816

rcarrington_matlock@yahoo.co.uk

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

Webmaster

Richard Pittam

n/a

Contact Richard via the website