The club has demonstrated a good level of resilience in the face of Covid, both in terms of retention of membership levels (thanks, everyone!) and in maintaining our activities – including the resumption of indoor meetings and trips as soon as we were able, as well as a strong, pretty much daily presence by the dedicated recording team.
The following pages contain news of the plentiful birds that have been turning up at the reservoir, together with what the club itself has been up to.
The new year is also when we need to remind you that it’s time to renew your memberships, and to give a little taster for the activities that remaining a member give you. Things may not be truly back to normal, but most restrictions are now put aside (for good, hopefully!), and we aim to make the most of it with trips, walks and more talks this year.
We’ve never before held successive annual general meetings within six months of each other, but we intend to do so in March (ahead of our final indoor meeting) as we had to postpone our 2020 AGM to coincide with September’s talk – our first opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with members. Please come along in March if you can and let us know in advance if you have any points to raise.
We are still on the look-out for help on the committee, notably still short of a secretary to keep us in line at meetings and follow-up actions, but we are in a rather better position than 12 months ago – as reported in the last newsletter – with Rob Chadwick joining the committee as Recorder. Since his appointment, we’ve seen an ordered return to regular data collection and the posting of monthly Bird Notes on the website once again (my ‘reservoir report’ that follows summarises Rob’s last three months’ of highlights).
He will also help ensure the fine detail of species information in the annual report, which should be issued in the spring. My thanks also go to the recording team that is feeding the information to Rob and to Chris Lamb and John Follett for the key roles they play in the running of the club.
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR … IF YOU’VE NOT ALREADY, PLEASE PAY YOUR SUBSCRIPTIONS
John Follett, our treasurer and membership secretary is waiting to hear from those who are yet to renew their annual memberships. The annual membership fee remains unchanged, as it has now for very many years, at £7.50 for an individual and £10 for a family. John is happy either to receive a cheque (sent to him at 8 Buckminster Close, Oakwood, Derby DE21 2EA) or via a bank transfer (contact him on 01332 834778 or by e-mail at email@example.com and he will provide you with the bank details).
COMING UP SOON ……
15 February (7.30pm) – indoor meeting featuring a talk by Max Maughan on Patagonia
15 March (7pm) – an earlier start our final indoor meeting, to accommodate our 2022 AGM, followed by a talk by Gary Hobson on Washington State birding
1 May – club trip to RSPB Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire; meet 10am (see item on page 3 for full details)
22 May – Warbler walk at Carsington, 9am start (see item on page 3 for full details)
ULTRA-LATE ARRIVING DIVER HEADS UP IMPRESSIVE WINTER CAST LIST
We were getting a bit worried – where’s our diver!!? A Great Northern Diver had visited in November but it only stayed a day. The rest of that month and then December came and went, and we wondered if perhaps, for the first time in 17 years, we would not have our star winter visitor. So, it was with a collective sigh of relief that another bird dropped in on 6 January – and stayed.
It has now lost its flight feathers, so it’s stuck here for as long as it takes the new ones to grow. It seems happy enough to be here, however, as do two Red-necked Grebes that have been around since December – providing a good addition for birders’ 2021 and 2022 lists – and are regularly seen, often in the area just off Lane End Hide.
It’s a bumper time for grebes, with a site-record 108 Great-cresteds noted during the January WeBS count and plenty of Little Grebes around, too. Another site record that day was the 159 Gadwall – a duck that would have been considered a notable visitor a decade or so ago but now boasting similar numbers to Mallard. Meanwhile a duck that was a notable visitor was a red-head Smew, the first at Carsington for 10 years.
The last quarter has been a good period for Swans, with Whooper groups noted each month and 13 Bewick’s Swans recorded in mid-January, the first of this smart species since 2013. A pale-bellied Brent Goose on 8 November was the first for three years and spearheaded good goose numbers, particularly in January, peaking at 500 Canadas, 350 Greylags, 140 Pink-footed and 49 Barnacles.
Coot counts have totalled between 1200 and 1400 throughout the period, while some of our wintering ducks have also impressed, notably the 554 Teal accumulated during the January WeBS count and almost 300 Wigeon a couple of months earlier. Smaller numbers of Goldeneye, Goosander and Shelduck have also ensured variety, though Pochard numbers are noticeably smaller than usual.
If wildfowl counts have been impressive, they pale somewhat when compared to gulls as the maximum counts of Black-headed Gulls emerging from the roost have been 10,000 in each month, while up to 5,000 Lesser Black-backs and 2,000 Common Gulls have been recorded. Much smaller numbers of Herring, Great Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls created a bit more excitement but not as much as the single Kittiwake seen in early January and Caspian Gull recorded several times during November and December.
And while highlighting sizeable counts, mentioned should be made of the large Lapwing flocks that are always a thrilling sight; several hundred were often counted, but the peak total of over 1,000 in January. Up to two Little Egrets were noted each month, while a Great Egret turned up on 10 January. The occasional Jack Snipe was identified, but never in the profusion of its Common cousin, 42 of which were found one January day. Woodocks began arriving back on 13 December and were often reported early morning, and by January up to nine were reckoned to be in six locations.
January 12th was the earliest-than-usual return of the first Oystercatcher, with four present by the end of the month, while Ruff, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew were other wader highlights, along with the almost-daily sightings of Redshank.
Raptors had a relatively quiet time, although the advance of the Red Kite in the Peak District continues to grow; the 12 seen on a day in November is approaching the numbers of Buzzards regularly seen. Peregrines, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels are the other raptor regulars, though the single Merlins noted in November and early February and single Marsh Harriers recorded twice in November were more noteworthy. While owl records have also been ‘thin’, up to three Tawny Owls have been noted on a few days in each month.
Back to the subject of large flocks, the arrival of winter thrushes from the continent included 4,525 Redwings on 4 November and 6,153 Fieldfares through the following day. Meanwhile the late autumn movement of Woodpigeons numbered 2,800 on 3 November, 2,770 Starlings flew west two days later and over 1,000 Jackdaws were counted on a few dates, peaking at 1,400 on 4th and 5th December.
Among other winter visitors, Brambling have been recorded on several dates, a single Hawfinch flew over in early November, flocks of up to 150 Siskins and Lesser Redpoll in more modest numbers are regularly sighted. Skylarks have been located on a few dates, and on a couple of dates in November a Rock Pipit joined the more regularly recorded Pied and Grey Wagtails.
All this activity and the plentiful records reflected the excellence and consistency of recording that is underway at Carsington; nearly every day is covered. And this in turn reflects the record total of 100 species recorded in January and the excellent totals of 97 in November – that month’s highest tally since 2006 – and 101 in November, only once bettered and twice equalled in that month.
RESTAURANT TALKS PROVIDE SAFE HAVEN FOR GLOBAL BIRDWATCHING
We have continued to hold our indoor meetings in the Visitor Centre’s Mainsail Restaurant and this arrangement seems to have worked out well, with attendees having much more space to spread out in a larger room and airier environment. The club now has its own portable projection screen, which John Follett has very kindly purchased and donated to the club, and this has been successfully used at our recent meetings.
In November Ian Newton visited us again, this time to talk about the Greek Island of Lesvos, one of his favourite birding locations which he has visited on a number of occasions. It was interesting to hear the changes he had noticed over the years, such as increased pressures of tourism and more intensive farming practices, which had affected the numbers and variety of birds he had seen.
For our December meeting our own members Louise and John Sykes took us to Panama and showed us some of the spectacular and colourful birdlife and other forms of wildlife they had experienced there. No trip to Panama would be complete without seeing the famous canal of course, and their talk included great shots of this massive feat of engineering.
We kicked off 2022 with Nigel Slater describing the Isles of Scilly at our January meeting, with a look at the history and geography of the archipelago, as well as the different habitats and birds which live there or pass through on migration. The islands are well known for the rarities which turn up, attracting large numbers of birders, and Nigel told us about many he had seen … and some he had missed out on!
Our indoor meetings programme continues on 15th February with Max Maughan, the leader of the RSPB Derby local group, talking about Patagonia and showing pictures taken by his wife Christine. At our final meeting of the 2021-22 season on 15th March we welcome Gary Hobson to describe the birds and wildlife of Washington state in the USA, a place he has visited many times with this work.
When the talks finish the exercise begins – so check out the item below for our upcoming outdoor plans.
MOVING ON OUT – WITH A YORKSHIRE TRIP AND WARBLER WALK
Get your diaries out! We make our first members trip of the year on Sunday 1st May to the Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve near Leeds. This site has been transformed from an industrial site into an excellent location for resident and breeding wetland birds and many other species. The reserve has a visitor centre with refreshment and toilet facilities. There may also be time to visit the nearby St Aidan’s RSPB Reserve, only 4 miles from Fairburn Ings, which is another former industrial site, offering a variety of habitats.
We plan to meet at the Fairburn Ings visitor centre at 10am. As usual, members should make their own way there and we would encourage car sharing where possible (depending of course on any Covid guidance in force at the time). If you are planning to make the trip, please can you inform Chris Lamb on 01629 820890 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The address is RSPB Fairburn Ings, Newton Lane, Castleford, WF10 2BH. Further information is on the RSPB website here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/fairburn-ings/
Then, just three weeks later, on Sunday 22nd May, you can join us for our ever-popular annual ‘Warbler Walk’ at Carsington Water. This outing will be led by one of our very experienced bird recorders, who will help us to help identify the birds we encounter by their songs and calls. Our summer visitors will have returned to site by this date and should be present in good numbers; we can expect to find not just warblers, of course, but many other resident or breeding bird species as well.
We will meet outside the Carsington Water Visitor Centre at 9am. The walk will probably last a couple of hours or so and there is no need to book.
BEYOND CARSINGTON – THREATENED ‘RED LIST’ GROWS
More UK birds have moved onto the dreaded ‘Red List’ – or Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) register – since the previous study was concluded, and those under threat now total 29 per cent of the UK’s regularly occurring species.
Eleven more species have moved on to the Red List, taking it to 70 of those 245 species, with 103 species hovering in the Amber zone, leaving just 72 on the Green List, meaning they are of no current concern.
While the situation is not necessarily going to be reflected specifically within Derbyshire, species moving from Amber to Red include a number that are Carsington regulars, notably Swift, House Martin, Goldeneye and Dunlin. In the last 23 years Swifts have declined 58 per cent, while House Martins are 57 per cent down on numbers counted 50 years ago.
Other newly-appointed ‘Red’ species are Purple Sandpiper, Montague’s Harrier (with just two breeding pairs reported in 2019), Bewick’s Swan, Smew and Leach’s storm-petrel … and most worrying of all, slipping from Green straight into Red is the Greenfinch, though their tough time is largely as a result of a deadly parasite (keep those garden feeders clean!).
Amber or those species now classed as ‘vulnerable’ that had previously been Green comprise some very familiar birds at Carsington and across the county – Rook, Wren, Woodpigeon, Sparrowhawk, Moorhen, Sedge Warbler, Northern Wheatear, Cmmon Whitethroat and Red-breasted Merganser.
Previously published reasons behind the drop in numbers of some species pinpoint declining farmland, woodland and upland habitats and the dangers encountered on many migration routes such as illegal hunting and poisonous lead ammunition. Add to that the effects of climate change and a bird’s life today is a perilous one.
It’s not all bad news, however, with some species showing signs of improvement. Leaving the ‘Red’ zone into Amber are Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Song Thrush, Grey Wagtail and Redstart, while three species – Kingfisher, Mute Swan and Red Grouse – moved from Amber to Green, which is particularly encouraging. Some of these improvements may be circumstantial, others such as the growth in White-tailed Eagle numbers (and Red Kite) are down to specific conservation measures.
These trends need to be monitored and, where appropriate, conservation efforts put in place, which is why recording at relative ‘hot spots’ such as Carsington Water are essential, and the bird club can play its small part in forming the big picture of bird conservation across the UK and beyond.