ANNUAL SUBS NOW DUE!! Could those of you yet to renew your membership for 2018, please send a cheque for the requisite amount as soon as possible to John Follett at 8 Buckminster Close, Oakwood, Derby DE21 2EA. Please note that for the umpteenth year, these are unchanged at £10 for family/joint, £7.50 single, £1 for junior. Thank you – and happy birding!
CLUB LOOKS AHEAD WITH CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM
As we moved into 2018 we were able to report at our AGM, in late January, that the club is in a pretty healthy position, with donations boosting our bank balance, membership holding steady (albeit not increasing) and moves underway to stage a few more events for members. Furthermore, the lifeblood of our club – the birds – continue to proliferate at the reservoir and are being spotted and detailed more comprehensively than ever by our current crop of dedicated recorders.
We do, however, need to ensure these trends continue – and as we went to press on this newsletter less than half of the membership had renewed for this year (if you haven’t, please see the notice above!). And there are gaps on the club’s committee to fill – notably that of Chair which, since Peter Gibbon’s death at the end of 2016, has still not been filled. Furthermore, with two of its members undertaking more than one officer’s duties, things could work a little more efficiently if one or two more people cane forward and volunteered to join the committee to take an active role.
The efforts of Chris Lamb as events co-ordinator has proved this point well, with his added focus enabling more club trips to be undertaken in 2017 than in the previous few years and more planned for this year (for the first of these – see below) plus other activities in the pipeline.
We’ve been getting good calibre speakers at our indoor meetings, which have for the past season or so been well attended with 20-25 people regularly turning up and one or two of the sessions in the Visitor Centre’s Henmore Room almost bursting at the seams! We hope this can continue in 2018-19 … not forgetting there’s one more talk still to go, on 20 March when we’ll hear about Lincolnshire reserves and the wildlife they hold.
With several experienced birders recording on a regular basis we’ve probably never been quite so well served in this department and, unsurprisingly, one or two monthly species total records have been broken in the past 12 months or so. Long may this enthusiasm and industry continue.
ON THE MOVE – TRIP TO CARR VALE PLANNED FOR APRIL
We don’t need to venture too far to find good sites for birding in Derbyshire, so after looking around at some of the favourite local sites, we have decided on a new venue for the club’s next outing – Carr Vale, a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust site near Bolsover, on Sunday, 29 April (meet 10am). Like Carsington, this wetland reserve is thought to be among the top five birding sites in the county.
Anyone interested in going should make their own way there by car, although if you are struggling to get there under your own steam, events co-ordinator Chris Lamb (see contact details at the end of the newsletter) will try to organise a lift.
From Chesterfield, head towards Bolsover on the A632 and, shortly after going over the M1 motorway, turn right at the second island you come to – along Riverside Way (there’s a sign to the Peter Fidler Reserve, which is adjacent to Carr Vale) – and park in the small car park at the top of this lane, beyond the industrial units. Please note there is no visitor centre here, so no cafe or toilets are readily available.
Another outing a few days earlier and closer to home – in fact at Carsington, chiefly around Stones Island – is the annual Wagtail Walk, which hopes to track down visiting Yellow Wagtails in particular. The 2018 walk will take place on Tuesday, 24 April, beginning at 6pm.
The following month, we are also planning to reintroduce the ‘warbler walk’, at which we will try to find, among other things, as many summer visitors as possible. This walk is scheduled for Sunday, 20 May, meeting around 9am outside the Visitor Centre.
QUIET TIME BUT A FEW SURPRISES – INCLUDING A RECORD JANUARY
Just when we hoped spring might be around the corner, and our first summer visitors might be arriving back, we seem to have plunged into the depths of winter again. Before the snow arrived, however, birds seem to have been flocking in decent numbers to the reservoir. Indeed, January’s total of 96 species seen was the best ever total for that month since records began at Carsington.
One bird that was part of that total was Hawfinch, an influx of which has been witnessed across the UK and Carsington certainly did not miss out as small numbers were seen almost daily during December and January, often near Millfields.
Other highlights included a female Stonechat that was seen at the Paul Stanley hide twice in December then regularly throughout January. Two Black-necked Grebes touched down for several hours on 16 December, 12 Whooper Swans swooped in on 27 January, while adult Kittiwakes were seen briefly on separate days in January and February. Up to four Jack Snipe were located at Hopton end either side of the New Year, and another was seen close to the Wildlife Centre on 24 February – the same day four Woodcock flew in to Hopton reed-bed at dawn.
The adult Great Northern Diver that arrived in late November has remained throughout the intervening period, and is seen pretty much daily. Staying almost as long has been a group of five Ruff which are regularly recorded at various locations around the shoreline.
On the water itself, the highest numbers recorded in the last quarter (often during the monthly WeBS count) were 948 Coot, 424 Teal, 240 ‘Tufties’, 198 Mallard, 143 Pochard and 66 Wigeon, with smaller numbers of Goldeneye, Gadwall and Shoveler. More unusually, two Red-breasted Mergansers were seen on 25 January, two Shelduck called in five days later, with 10 Goosander and four Pintails showing up during the previous month.
It’s been a quiet time for raptors, with several Sparrowhawk and Buzzard and a couple of Peregrines being the best daily records, but it’s been far from quiet for gulls. In the roost, an estimated 6,000 Black-headed have figured on more than once occasion, and a site record 2,000 Common Gulls were counted on 7 December. Up to 660 Lesser Black-backs are also in the roost, with smaller numbers of Yellow-legs and Great Black-backs.
As many as eight Tawny Owls have been heard calling in the early morning, and a Barn Owl was quartering the dam wall on both 20 and 21 January.
It’s always encouraging when birds reckoned to be in decline are the subject of sizeable counts – such as the 900 Lapwing totted up on 11 January, coincidentally the same day that 16 Willow Tits and a site-record 17 Ravens were also counted. Tree Sparrows seem to have suffered a sudden decline in breeding numbers locally, so a survey is underway to keep a track of current numbers and on 12 February 21 were located.
Meanwhile, the prodigious numbers of winter thrushes last year is not being replicated this time around, with 180 Redwing in early January being the highest count. Among other winter visitors, 80 Siskin were noted on 3 January, and Brambling have pleasingly figured regularly in the records, usually in small numbers and often around the Sheepwash feeders.
BIRD OF THE ISSUE: HAWFINCH
Local birders have traditionally had to trudge down to the tall woodland around St Mary’s Church in Cromford in winter to stand any chance of catching a glimpse of Hawfinches, but an invasion this winter has meant people at many more locations – including Carsington Water – have regularly witnessed this impressive member of the Fringillidae family and been able to make an early addition to their year’s list!
Hawfinch is Britain’s largest finch, at seven inches long with a wing span up to 13 inches. With only around 500-1,000 pairs reckoned to breed in Britain each summer, and being an inherently shy and retiring species, they can often be overlooked, but in winter – particularly this winter when the greater numbers around mean their haunts are more well known – with less foliage around they can be relatively easy to see.
And once seen, never forgotten with their spectacular brown, black, orange, grey and white plumage, and huge metallic-looking triangular bill with which it can crush seeds up to the size of cherry and plum stones. Like its closest relatives, certain Grosbeak species, Hawfinches forage chiefly on seeds, berries and shoots.
They must have one of the more impressive sounding scientific names – Coccothraustes coccothraustes – and while they have a reasonably stable global population, Hawfinch now appears on the UK’s ‘Red List’ following a 76 per cent decline in the UK population between 1968 and 2011.
BIRDING ‘DOWN UNDER’ – A VENTURE INTO THE UNKNOWN!
Getting away from the Derbyshire winter at the end of 2017, my wife Nicole and I enjoyed a fabulous trip to Australia, sightseeing, visiting family and friends and, of course, birding. It was our first time there, so everything was new and amazing – the spectacular scenery, the iconic sites such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and the fabulous variety of birdlife.
It is difficult to pick out highlights of the birds we saw, but among the most memorable must be the Southern Cassowary (Australia’s largest and allegedly the world’s most dangerous bird!), the Bush and Beach Stone-curlews, the Bowerbirds of the Queensland rainforest, the Whipbird with its cracking whip-like call, the laughing of the Kookaburras, the tiny colourful Fairy-wrens and the constant noise of the Cockatoos and Parrots. One interesting challenge always was trying to distinguish between all the different types of Honeyeaters.
In total we saw 170 species of which 67 were endemic to Australia, some of which are only found in one small area of the country. As well as all the birds, we saw many different types of marsupial of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny musky rat kangaroo to possums, quokkas, pademelons, wallabies and kangaroos, along with the occasional lizard and fortunately only one snake!
For the full report, click here.
BACK TO THE UK FOR LATEST INDOOR TALKS
Following the first three talks of the 2017-18 indoor season, which had taken us on a global journey, the next three brought us back to the UK and delivered three very different views of Britain and its wildlife.
In December it was the turn of Burton-based film-maker and photographer Dave Hollis, who focused on the wildlife of the Shetlands. Dave’s talk described his visit during the Shetland summer – or Simmer Dim – when the pressure to take photos before the light fades hardly applies, as it barely gets dark at all! He certainly made the most of the extended daylight with a stunning array of wildlife and landscape photographs taken among the bleak beauty of this remote island group.
Then in January, speaking after our AGM, Andrew Lowe took us into Sherwood Forest and told us how he and his merry band of men have been ringing birds for many years, outlining the techniques of ringing and the wide range of birds – resident and rarities – they have ‘captured’ in that time.
Perhaps the most educational of our talks this season was February’s talk by Christine Gregory on Brown Hares. An experienced journalist, author and photographer, Christine not only gave a fascinating insight into (along with intimate pictures of) the lives of these attractive lagomorphs, but also warned about the threat to hares and many other countryside creatures posed by changing farmland management practices.
There is just one more talk to go in our current winter indoor meetings programme, and March’s speaker will be horticulturalist, tutor and lecturer Steve Lovell, who will be telling us about wildlife reserves in Lincolnshire and showing us some of the wildlife that inhabit them. We also have two walks planned at Carsington in April and May, and also plan to run a trip for club members away from the reservoir in late April. Details as follows:
20 March Talk by Steve Lovell: Lincolnshire Reserves/wildlife Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
24 April Wagtail walk Meet Visitor Centre (6pm)
29 April Club trip to DWT Carr Vale, near Bolsover Meet Riverside Way car park 10am
20 May ‘Warbler walk’ Meet Visitor Centre (9am)
Plenty of other events are on offer at Carsington during the next three months, many of them regular dates, and organised by either Severn Trent Water or Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Below are the offerings through to June. Note that some are chargeable and some are subject to booking, so it’s always worth checking for further details by calling Severn Trent on 01629 540696 or DWT on 01773 881188:
First Sunday of month Birdwatching for Beginners Meet Visitor Centre (10am-12 noon)
First Monday of month Nature Tots – outdoor activities (charges apply) Starts 10.30am; DWT for more info
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 monthly Family Forest School (charges apply) Contact DWT for information/bookings
Last Saturday monthly Sheepwash Spinners (wool-craft) 10am-3pm (info at Visitor Centre)
24 March- 9 April Easter Bunny Trail (entry charge; prizes) Pick up map at reception
25/28 March Plant Hunters Fair Free entry at Visitor Centre
16 June Chip off the Old Morris Dancers Free entry in VC courtyard
17 June Ashbourne Songs of Praise 3-4.15pm (free entry at amphitheatre)
24 June Air Ambulance Vintage Car Show 10am-4pm; free entry