NEST BOX PROJECT TO SPOTLIGHT PETER GIBBON’S LEGACY
Ever since hard-working former Chairman Peter Gibbon passed away late last year, the committee has been exploring ways of ensuring his name and legacy live on in the club’s annals – and a suitable long-term project dropped into their lap when it emerged that the usually prolific Tree Sparrow population at Carsington had mysteriously suffered a drop in numbers and needed some support.
As a result, a large consignment of Tree Sparrow nest boxes is being acquired to help consolidate Tree Sparrow numbers once again – and these numbered nest boxes will each carry the prefix “PG”.
Roger Carrington described why these gregarious birds suddenly seemed to need help on site: “We had noticed the lack of Tree Sparrows at their favourite feeding stations during February this year, and had also mentioned it in the 2016 annual report. We immediately set up a survey to determine Tree Sparrow numbers between Stones Island and Sheepwash car park, including all feeding stations, breeding locations and calling birds. We carried it out every two weeks, counting a maximum number of 28 pre-breeding whereas in the past two years there were pre-breeding flock counts of 40 and 50 at the Wildlife Centre alone.
“We discussed factors that could affect survival, notably habitat, food and breeding, but also considered the status of nest boxes. The 16-box unit on Stones Island had rotted with most units unusable but already birds were in it in late March, while other boxes were lost through age and tree management, yet we were already into breeding season. Severn Trent rangers immediately refurbished some boxes around Ranger Base.”
Feeding was considered, too, since the feeders at the Wildlife Centre can be emptied within a day by ducks and Jackdaws. So the Volunteer Rangers at the Wildlife Centre provided feeders suitable for Tree Sparrows and these have proved popular in providing a constant food source.
“Early post breeding observations have shown a potentially excellent breeding season with many more juveniles than adults around,” added Roger. “With counts of 50 and 58 at the Wildlife Centre, it seems the population may be well on its way back to normal – but we need to look after that population and this is where the extra breeding boxes will help in not only replacing those lost gradually in recent years but also in meeting the needs of an expected increase in breeding pairs in 2018 over relatively few in 2017.”
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
The next two months will see both the resumption of our indoor talks and another club trip – so please make a note in your diaries.
Full ‘What’s On’ details to the end of the year are given later in the newsletter, but here are two key dates for the calendar:
** SEPTEMBER 19 ** – Ken Smith, an excellent local photographer, will make his debut talk to the club, showing us some wonderful images from his travels near and far …
** OCTOBER 8 ** – We embark on our next club trip, this time to the RSPB Old Moor reserve (and, possibly, other Dearne Valley highlights) in South Yorkshire which is an excellent wetland site and usually bags a healthy number of species … Again, full details appear later in the newsletter
BREEDING SUCCESSES AND SURPRISES OUTNUMBER DISAPPOINTMENTS
This year seems to have turned out to be a largely good year for breeding at the reservoir, despite lengthy spells of low water levels. There have been some surprises with both grebe species, three species of goose, four of duck and five of wader all producing young together with Mute Swan, Moorhen and Coot broods.
It had looked like Mute Swan breeding had failed, but then a single cygnet from one brood was noted and a pair with five cygnets was escorted by Severn Trent rangers from the road by Hopton Pond to the reservoir, and by late August all the young were well grown. Faring less well were Great Crested Grebes that raised just two separate broods from several nests, and Barnacle Geese that managed three broods but most of the young disappeared, probably through predation on Millfields Island where, additionally, just 14 Black-headed Gull young were logged despite an earlier count of 240 nests on the island.
Greylags were more successful, with four broods, while Canada Geese produced a conservative estimate of seven. Meanwhile, last year’s breeding ‘site debut’ by Gadwall was repeated with two broods and, more surprisingly still, a pair of Red-crested Pochard chose Carsington to register the county’s first proven breeding for this species, though only one of the original six-strong brood survived to fully grown status.
The more regular breeders were Mallard, with 19 broods, Tufted Duck (7+), Coot (5) and Moorhen (3). Wader breeding is always rather harder to monitor as tall vegetation conceals the young, but Redshank managed three broods, while Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover each had at least two broods. It was the first ‘LRP’ breeding success since 2011, but a bigger albeit welcome surprise came from a pair of Common Sandpiper that produced the first brood for 25 years – with three young on Flat Island.
Tree Sparrow concerns (as mentioned in the previous article) were eased as counts as high as 60 were made, including young, and either fledglings or feeding activity signalled that most warbler species seemed to have bred, including a family of Sedge Warblers on Sailing Club Island, while a very healthy count of 13 Reed Warblers contained young birds.
Although early interest in the Sand Martin bank came to nought, young Swallows were seen being fed around the draw-off tower, and both Grey and Pied Wagtails produced young. Fledged Spotted Flycatchers were recorded in June, a family of Redstart were regularly seen in the fields behind the Wildlife Centre and proven breeding successes were also noted for resident species including Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and various tits. Meanwhile, a juvenile Tawny Owl was spotted on 24 June, and six Raven seen in July could well have been a family group.
The healthy number of birds was reflected in other species, like Goldfinch, 200 of which provided an overload of charm on and around Stones Island in July and August, 40+ Linnets were seen in the same vicinity and 55 Pied Wagtails were counted between Stones and the Wildlife Centre. On consecutive days in late July, 100 Swallows were counted, followed by 60 House Martins, then over 30 Swifts.
Quality as well as quantity was confirmed in July, too, when 105 species equalled the site record for that month.
Raptors were showing well, with single Osprey sightings in both June and August, and Red Kites seen on 5 July and 7 August. A young female Peregrine was an almost daily ‘tick’, with two adults joining it on 17 August, there were seven sightings of Hobby in June and July, and as many as 20 Buzzards were counted aloft over Hopton end at 11am on 27 August.
A Sandwich Tern on 10 August was unusual, while up to four Common Terns were seen on a number of occasions. Two Great Black-backed Gulls were seen regularly, as were adult and first summer Yellow-legs, with adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls also recorded on separate dates in July, and 135 Lesser Black-backs flew south in late July.
Water bird numbers are rising now, with 700 Coot included in August’s WeBS count, when 407 ‘Tufties’ were around, and 650 Canada Geese were counted a week or so later. Teal numbers have been rising almost daily, and 110 were noted on 30 August. Another duck of note was Common Scoter, which was seen on several dates in the middle of the year, while two Egyptian Geese dropped in early August.
Little Egrets have become increasingly regular, with up to eight seen on any one day. Scarcer waders have included Knot, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Black-tailed Godwit, 11 of which were seen on 27 July, while another sported a ring that gave a fascinating insight into this species’ long-term travel history (see separate short article below). As many as 14 Common Sandpipers have been seen on any one day, and of 18 Little Ringed Plovers recorded one day in early July, 13 were juveniles.
WELL-TRAVELLED ‘PENSIONER’ GODWIT TURNS UP AT CARSINGTON
On 28 July, one of our eagle-eyed posse of regular recorders noticed that a lone Black-tailed Godwit probing the mud on the edge of the reservoir was sporting a ring on its leg.
Knowing that this can often tell an interesting story about bird movements, Clive Ashton forwarded the details of the ring on to Professor Jennifer Gill of the University of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences and within three hours she had replied with a brief “CV” about a well-travelled bird of the Islandica race that is no less than 22 years old!
The individual movements and breeding season behaviour of the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits have been studied for 20 years by researchers like Professor Gill at the Universities of East Anglia, Iceland and Aveiro (Portugal). Ringing has helped paint a fuller picture of this behaviour.
Their records show that this particular individual was first ringed in the Wash estuary in August 1996 and since then has been reported in dozens of different locations, ranging chiefly from places close to ‘home’ in the eastern counties of England such as Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk, but also occasionally farther afield – in Lancashire and Hampshire and, unsurprisingly, a couple of times in southern Iceland!
Godwits are known to travel huge distances during migration, and this particular bird may well have touched down in many more exotic places during its two decades and more on the wing … but it clearly loves old Blighty, and we should be honoured with so much of northern Europe to go at, it chose this year to honour us at Carsington with its presence.
OLD MOOR, HERE WE COME!
Our next CBC members’ trip will be on Sunday 8 October to the RSPB’s Old Moor reserve in the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire, located between Barnsley and Doncaster.
In fact there is not just one but four RSPB reserves within close proximity to each other in the Dearne Valley: Old Moor is the biggest, and focal point, with a cafe, shops and toilets, the others being Bolton Ings, Gypsy Marsh and Wombwell Ings.
Also nearby is a small independently run reserve with a hide at Broomhill Flash, so we may be able to visit more than one location – an extra chance to see lots of birds and have a rewarding day out.
As with other recent trips, we will make our own way there, though if anyone is interesting in car sharing or getting a lift with someone, please contact Chris Lamb on 07836 368037 or email email@example.com. We will aim to meet at the Old Moor Reserve reception at 9.30am. Entrance to the reserve is free for RSPB members, for non-members it’s £5.00 for adults and £3.50 for concessions.
The postcode for Satnav users is S73 0YF. Anyone turning up after 9.30 and wanting to catch up, can call either Chris Lamb or Gary Atkins (07988 751314) to discover our whereabouts on the reserve.
To get a heads-up on what’s around or for more general information about Old Moor and the other nearby sites, visit the RSPB Dearne Valley – Old Moor webpage: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/find-a-reserve/reserves-a-z/reserves-by-name/d/dearne-oldmoor/about.aspx
Our programme of indoor talks is just about to get under way, and between now and Christmas we’ll be travelling the globe – from Alaska to Shetland with a warmer interlude in Spain in between! The dates and details are below. We also have a club trip planned in October, selecting a venue – Old Moor in South Yorkshire (see above) – that should be productive as the migration gathers pace.
19 September Talk by Ken Smith: Birding near and far – Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
8 October Trip to Old Moor RSPB reserve, Yorkshire – Make own way, meet 9.30am
17 October Talk (joint with DOS) by Tony Davison: ‘Alaska’ – Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
21 November Talk by John Gardner: ‘Iberian Birds’ – Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
19 December Talk by Dave Hollis: ‘Shetland Wildlife’ – Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
There will be a number of other regular and individual events being staged at Carsington Water over the autumn and early winter, run by either Severn Trent Water or Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Below are those activities and events to the year end. Note that some incur a charge or require booking, so it’s always worth checking for further details (via Severn Trent on 01629 540696 or DWT on 01773 881188):
First Sunday of month Birdwatching for Beginners – Meet Visitor Centre (10am-12 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 monthly Family Forest School (charges apply) – Contact DWT to book
Last Saturday monthly Sheepwash Spinners (wool-craft) – Information at Visitor Centre
11 September Nature Tots – Wayward Dragons – Contact DWT to book
2 October Nature Tots – Colour Tots – (as above)
7-8 October Derbyshire Beekeepers Association annual honey show and sale- Linda Darlinson 07733 224023 for info
25 October Halloween: Going batty about bats – Contact DWT to book
6 November Nature Tots – Stickman Adventure – Contact DWT to book
4 December Nature Tots – Rockin’ Robins – (as above)