Welcome to the Carsington Bird Club website, containing information about the club, Carsington Water, latest bird sightings and much more!

Jun 092012

No2 / May 2012


I have just been reading through some old reports for information about birds seen at Carsington since 1992 and I came across this extract written by Eddie Walker, rounding off his ten year review for the 2001 Report:  “What of the future?  Will the proposed Osprey platform encourage them to stay and breed in the area? Will the increasing growth of marginal vegetation provide an increase in Snipe and perhaps they will breed again?  Will the Phragmites (common reed) bed attract breeding Reed Warblers and Water Rails, perhaps even passing Bearded Tits?” … Well, just how correct was ‘mystic Eddie’?

Last year, after waiting another decade, Reed Warbler bred and, in November 2010, Carsington had its first Bearded Tit record.  Despite Eddie’s two correct forecasts, we still await similar good news about either Snipe or Water Rail, which was recorded only once in 2011.  Not bad, though – 2-2 on the prediction stakes, with the decider, Osprey, still our big hope for the future!

The 2001 report said ”this summer passage migrant, which for the first time officially returned to breed in England in the Lake District this year, was seen on several dates during both spring and autumn passage …. hopefully, this will continue as the birds increase in breeding numbers inEngland.”  Like Eddie ten years ago, here we are holding our breath and waiting with the platforms in place.  As I wrote this in early May, two different Ospreys had just flown over Carsington but again failed to stop – whereas a Reed Warbler had returned and was singing in Hopton Arm.

So what will the next ten years bring? We hope the great efforts of the volunteer rangers in putting up a substantial Sand Martin breeding bank (see article later in the newsletter) will be rewarded and prove as successful as the one atPridePark’s ‘Sanctuary’ inDerby.  Will Pied Flycatcher breed as well?  Or by 2022 will the ever-expanding numbers of Little Egret mean they could be nesting with us?

All three would be very welcome as would the tantalisingly close Mandarin Ducks.  Furthermore, what might the 223rd recorded species for Carsington be?  Some potential candidates are big and easy to see like Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis or White Stork – following other species that were exclusively continental birds just a quarter of a century ago.  Or maybe it would be something smaller and more local like Ring Ouzel, one of which was recorded for two days inDerby, at the aforementioned Sanctuary, and which I saw some years ago on my school’s playing fields in Chaddesden.   Red-rumped Swallows have cropped up at nearby locations like Willington with similar habitat to Carsington.  Less likely is another albatross!  I’d be interested to hear your predictions!

Back to the present, our beautiful Great Northern Diver seems finally to have left the reservoir, hopefully to return next winter.  I wonder where it has gone: there are lots of reports of them around the coast at the moment, including 37 counted at Drummore off the coast ofDumfriesandGalloway, where I stayed at Easter.  Here’s hoping ‘our’ diver joins ‘the party’ soon!’

Peter Gibbon


The committee sincerely thanks those several dozen club members (and others) who returned questionnaires seeking their opinions about the club, what it offered, and what they wanted to see more – or less – of in future.

A total of 81 responded to the survey – 26 paper copies and 55 online – with one coming from as far afield as theUnited States.  From that we have a clearer picture of the demographics, why some people feel unable to be members, which activities and information people prefer, and what the club does well, and not-so-well.

One activity several people would like to see reinstated is regular club trips – so we are going to try staging one in the autumn (see information at the end of this item).

Another area that attracted a number of comments was the need to promote the club better in order to attract ‘the more basic birdwatcher, rather than ornithologist’ and to publicise events more widely.  Suggestions included notices on dedicated boards in hides, where membership forms could also be placed, and using local newspapers or even social media, so the committee needs to consider advertising and communication.

Others raised the philosophy and aims of the club: ‘Is it for conservation and recording birds or for … introducing people, especially youngsters, to the pleasures of birdwatching?’ someone asked.  A good question – and one that perhaps we all need to bend our minds to.

Meanwhile, opinions varied on other topics: for example, some people wanted more walks; some wanted none (turn-outs lately have indicated the latter!).  All-in-all, it was an educational exercise, and we will try to learn lessons, and to take up some of the positive ideas.  Keep an eye on the website, too, for answers to some of the comments and queries raised.

*  *  *  *  CLUB TRIP – TO FRAMPTON MARSH, 30 SEPTEMBER 2012  *  *  *  *

After a lengthy absence from the calendar, CBC is planning to stage its first club trip since 2010.  The target location for this trip is the excellent RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire, which offers a diversity of migrating species and wildfowl in the early autumn. 

The recent survey indicated a continuing desire for trips, from at least a hard core of the membership, so we hope to stage a couple each year.  We need to be more flexible about transport – guaranteeing the trip whatever the numbers – so in future we simply want people to initially inform trips organiser Peter Oldfield of their intention to take part, followed by payment in full six weeks before the date of the trip.  

Cost will depend on the form of transport, but we would generally expect to keep it in the region of £10-15. For Frampton, contact Peter (c/o his e-mail if possible – peter-oldfield2011@hotmail.co.uk – or by writing to him at Owslow Farm, Carsington, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 4DD) to register your interest. 



High expectations have surrounded the numerous visits by Ospreys this spring, but despite sightings of 10 or more birds – the first on 3 April, the most recent on 29 May, with more than one seen together and a couple staying more than one day – all of these spectacular raptors eventually moved on.

Red Kites were seen in large numbers across the county in March, with two at Carsington on the 21st, while as many as 11 Buzzards have been seen aloft at any one time and Sparrowhawks were seen more than once carrying prey in Hall Wood, so a nest seems likely.  Hobbys and Peregrines were each recorded in April and May, and both Little and Tawny Owls were logged on the same day in March.

The other major event in spring is the return of the migrants: who would win the race back?  Well, it seems to have been Sand Martins, which were first spotted on 11 March, just a couple of days ahead of Chiffchaffs.  Also popping up in March were Wheatear, Blackcap and Swallow, but April as usual was the month when most came back.  This year’s migrant cast, in order of appearance, was Willow Warbler, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Swift and, on the last day of the month, Sedge Warbler and Common and Lesser Whitethroats.  Spotted Flycatcher did not turn up until May, when a site rare species – the Cuckoo – was heard by several people from Sheepwash Hide.

Since first arriving, sizeable numbers have been logged by people undertaking circular walks. Over 70 Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, and 39 Willow Warblers were noted on single walks, and resident species have also been numerous with Wren (66), Robin (59), Blackbird (73) and Chaffinch (65) the most prominent.

The return of singing Reed Warblers to Hopton reedbed once again holds out hope of breeding.  Meanwhile, wildfowl and wader broods have so far emerged from eight Mallard and two Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing and Barnacle Goose nests, though the high water levels (98.5% full), stormy weather and predation look likely to have hit the survival rate quite hard.

Passage waders included up to 23 Curlew in March, when Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit were recorded; April added Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper, and others passing through in May were Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Sanderling.  Black Terns were the stars of the tern passage – noted in late March and early April – while a Sandwich Tern was also spotted among the larger numbers of Common andArctics.

Though now thinned down dramatically, up to 2,000 Black-headed, 400 Common and 200 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were the main characters of the early spring gull roost, which also included a handful ofMediterranean, Yellow-legged, Herring and Great Black-backs.  The April winds also blew through 13 Little Gulls and 2 Kittiwakes.

Winter species have perhaps been slower in departing.  A flock of 150 Fieldfares called in on Carsington on 5 May before exiting stage left, and the day after the site’s latest ever Goldeneye record was chalked up.  Meanwhile, right on schedule and in beautiful full summer plumage, our over-wintering adult Great Northern Diver finally decided to find some action on its breeding grounds.

Other highlights were what looked like a six-strong family of Whooper Swans, seen on 24 March, and a week earlier a pair of Garganey.   Sacred Ibis andCapeShelduckglimpsed in April were almost certainly escapees.



The Sand Martin (riparia riparia), so often one of the earliest migrants back in theUK, is the smallest hirundine visiting theUK.  Those moving north and arriving in large numbers across most ofEurope over-winter in eastern and southernAfrica, but there are also sizeable colonies inAmerica andAsia as well.

At Carsington, it is often confused with House Martins, which nest around the visitor centre, Swallows and even Swifts (though these are larger and not in fact hirundines at all).  All four hawk for insects, often low over the water, and will hunt together, making it potentially confusing for birdwatchers.

There are tell-tale signs, however: House Martins have a distinctive white rump, the tails of adult Swallows have long streamers, Swifts appear almost completely black and have swept, ‘scimitar’ wings, while Sand Martins have solid brown backs and a brown neck-ring decorating otherwise light underparts.

African droughts have seen populations crash, but generally up to 250,000 pairs nest in the UK(about half as many as House Martins).  They inhabit holes in sandy or gravel banks, so often nest along riverbanks and gravel pits, but will also utilise specially-built nest banks at larger bodies of water, such as that built by the volunteer rangers at Carsington this year (see article below).

Very agile flyers, they catch invertebrates on the wing, and during the breeding season are highly gregarious. Arriving on breeding grounds in early-mid March and not leaving until early autumn, they can have up to two broods of 4-5 eggs.



The CBC sightings board has been busy this year – over 130 sightings reported in the first 150 days of the year – nearly one a day (the more, the merrier).  Users of the sightings board should note that sightings can now be posted from most smartphones and are posted immediately, so other birders can get the news via email, if they so desire.  Not everyone has, or indeed can afford, a pager system, such as RBA or Birdguides.

Alternatively, please note that CBC Sightings now has a live Twitter account called @CBCSightings, to which all sightings submitted to the website will be auto-emailed.  This way, all smartphone users will be able to get the latest sightings straightaway for free, providing they click to “Follow” @CBCSightings from their own Twitter account.



Work on the Sand Martin bank reported in the last issue of the newsletter finally got under way on 21 February.  The hope is that these busy, fast-flying little hirundines will nest on site at Carsington – and while the birds haven’t moved in this year, the project itself was a great success, offering up the hope they will in future years.

An existing concrete base was located just to the north of the Wildlife Centre: on assessment it was found to be of the right size and in excellent condition.  Ten tonnes of clay had to be removed to expose the concrete base, and four tonnes was reused during construction and for landscaping.

The main bulk of the construction was progressed during March, when around 70 per cent of the work was completed, reports Neil Burns, a volunteer ranger who led an 11-strong project team.

“The construction method was quite straightforward,” says Neil.  “At each visit a course of hollow concrete blocks was laid and then filled with a ballast/cement mix with reinforcing rods used to strengthen the structure.  Pea gravel was used at the base of the sand bank to improve drainage.  As the height of the wall grew, back filling with a dry cement/sand mixture allowed the remaining courses to be added without the need for scaffolding.  The wall consisted of eight courses, incorporating a total of 160 concrete blocks each measuring 21x21x44 centimetres.  Meanwhile, clay from the original mound was reused to build up both ends of the wall so that it dovetailed seamlessly into the original mound.

“Clay pipes were inserted in the wall at courses 3, 5 and 7,” explained Neil.  “These were the entry points for the 36 nesting chambers which were formed before the dry sand cement mixture hardened.  Finally, after nine weeks a waterproof membrane was placed over the completed sand bank and then covered with soil.”

Turf was used on top of the wall and grass seed was scattered over on the soil which will eventually reduce the visual impact.  The project utilised three tonnes of pea gravel, 14 tonnes of sand and 40 bags of cement, while five tonnes of soil were applied for landscaping.  It was finally completed on 1 May, after a total of 400 hours of work by the volunteer team.



Following Peter Gibbon’s review of the 20 years of the bird club in January, the indoor meetings programme concluded with a close-up view at the birdlife of Brazil’s Pantanal, courtesy of Alan Goddard and his excellent photographs, in February, and a look at other flying wonders – dragonflies – in March, when our guest at Hognaston Village Hall was Dave Goddard (no relation!).  The audience was agog to learn about the life-cycle of these often-mystical insects, and amazed at their variety and beauty.

After many years, this was our last meeting at Hognaston Village Hall, as the decision was taken to move to Severn Trent Water’s Visitor Centre at Carsington Water for the 2012-13 indoor season.

With no outdoor walks planned currently this summer (though we did support Severn Trent’s ‘wagtail wander’ in April, which yet again failed to produce any of the migrating yellow wagtails!), the only outdoor event to report to members was a 20th anniversary celebration day staged by Severn Trent.

Many wildlife bodies joined other organisations on display on the open grassy area adjacent to the visitor centre, but the diabolical weather kept the number of visitors to a minimum.  The event proved a good try-out, though, for the club’s newly-acquired gazebo (which nearly took off at one point in the wind) and excellent display boards designed and produced by Steph Hicking.  We hope to put these to further good use in the future.



Apart from the proposed autumn trip, mentioned earlier, there are no summer events planned by the bird club, but its indoor programme begins on 18 September with a look at ‘the birds of the Canary Isles’ by Chairman Peter Gibbon.  Don’t forget that 2012-13 club meetings have switched to the Henmore Room in the Visitor Centre at Carsington Water, and that for Severn Trent events below, it’s often sensible to book a place with the visitor centre (on 01629 540696):

First Sunday of  each month  Birdwatching for Beginners (enjoy a gentle two-hour walk led  by experienced STW volunteer David Bennett) – Meet Carsington Water Visitor Centre 10am

Most Tuesdays and Sundays  –   Spotting wildlife: STW volunteer rangers are on hand to help identify wildlife on and around the reservoir –  Wildlife Centre10.30-3.30pm

Last Saturday  of each month – Sheepwash spinners (learn about traditional wool spinning,  with demonstrations, from fleece to gifts and garments) – Carsington Water Visitor Centre (11am-3pm)

17 June                 Father’s Day in the Woods (charges apply)  –  11am-3.30pm

23 June                 Water Cycle Tour: join a ranger to learn about Carsington Water from the saddle (hire a bike or bring your own)  –  Call Visitor Centre for timings

1 August               Low water gardening day: find out how to get the most of your garden in summer – without constant watering –     Call Visitor Centre for timings

25 August             Bat Safari: join a ranger for an evening stroll (charges apply) – Call Visitor Centre for timings

8 September      Water Cycle tour (see entry above for details)


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


KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE  –  Here are the club officials and their contact details
Chairman & Treasurer Peter Gibbon 01629 534173 peter.gibbon@w3z.co.uk
Secretary Paul Hicking 01773 827727 paulandsteph@hicking.plus.com
Recorder Roger Carrington 01629 583816 rcarrington_matlock@yahoo.co.uk
Publicity/Newsletter editor Gary Atkins 01335 370773 garysatkins@aol.com
Outdoor trips organiser Peter Oldfield 01629 540510 peter-oldfield2011@hotmail.co.uk
Ex-officio Steph Hicking 01773 827727 paulandsteph@hicking.plus.com
Membership secretaries Dave and Sue Edmonds 01335 342919 sue@axgb.com
CBC Website address:  www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk   (maintained by:  Richard Pittam  richard.pittam@ntlworld.com)


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