Winter 2018-19

Monday 25th February 2019

Netherfield + DCW.

Almost all of the wildlife places in south Notts are former industrial sites of some form or other and this one is still surrounded on three sides by modern-day commerce of all kinds with areas of fenced-off waste ground and former railway sidings forming our access into the target area. The target species being Willow Tit using Dave's new bluetooth speaker and soundtrack courtesy of the RSPB.

The first spot of interest was the hybrid bramble, Raspberry x Dewberry (Rubus caesius x idaeus) with some pure Dewberry R. caesius nearby

Photo of Rubus idaeus x caesius
Hybrid Raspberry x Dewberry

The first of two Small Tortoisehells was followed later in the day by two Brimstones a Bee-fly and a couple of fly-by bumblebees on a day that the sun shone throughout and temperatures rose to 16° C during this record-breaking February heatwave. There were even parties of fly-catching Black-headed Gulls.

Many plants were flowering, some of them perhaps a few weeks earlier than usual and some quite out of season including this Green Alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens.

Photo of Green Alkanet
Green Alkanet

The Common Whitlowgrass Erophila verna and Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara were welcome spring blossoms and finding Rue-leaved Saxifrage Saxifraga tridactylites though not yet in flower was a nice surprise.

Photo of Common Whitlowgrass
Common Whitlowgrass
Photo of Coltsfoot
Photo of Rue-leaved Saxifrage
Rue-leaved Saxifrage

There are many self-seeded Walnuts Juglans regia in the area and birdwise the highlights were four snipe, one of which was a Jack Snipe, the first I've seen in years, though it was a very brief encounter. This Buzzard has the grade II listed Gedling House, built about 1820, in the distance.

Photo of Buzzard
Buzzard with Gedling House

Wednesday 20th January 2019

Old Wood, Bunny NWT, Notts + DCW.

A day of bryophytes; a refresher for Dave who mastered them in the 1980s and a complete introduction for me. I did listen and look and I certainly learned the methodology but if I were to attempt to relate the species of moss and liverwort that we found, I would confuse the reader. Also, I forgot my camera and the close-up photos taken with my phone are mostly rubbish. This one is of a mature Wych Elm growing from the ancient stump of a similarly aged ancient Ash coppice (the elm has the epicormic growth).

Photo of Elm and Ash
Wych Elm in Ash coppice

I saw my first flowering Lesser Celandine of the year though the weather was some way off the spring-like conditions that the weather people have been going on about. (I saw my first butterfly - a Small Tortoiseshell on the 15th)

Photo of Lesser Celandine
Lesser Celandine

Birdwise, we heard Raven and saw or heard Nuthatch, Tree-creeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Buzzard and we flushed two Woodcock.

The invertebrates were hiding away but I managed to find two hibernating Hornets tucked away beneath rotting bark and there were several patches of the attractive (and easily identifiable) fungus, Scarlet Elf-cup Sarcoscypha coccinea


Wednesday 13th January 2019

Attenborough NWT, Notts + DCW.

An intensive DIY kitchen refit has occupied me for four weeks but a welcome reprieve today as the worst of the dirtiest stage is over and I enjoyed a relaxed outing to Attenborough on a mild day where there had been a pretty Firecrest for most of those DIY days. Normal Wanderings should are planned to resume forthwhith subject to there being sufficient ambient days in the week for Dave to undertake his Willow Tit surveys.

First, a saunter along the hedge where the Firecrest had been resident, on and off since 2nd January with only Blue Tits and a Wren raising expectations, was followed by an unusual, clockwise perambulation of the eastern extent of the reserve and a prolonged stay in the delta area in the hope of hearing a Willow Tit, but no joy.

We did encounter this unusual combination on the way. Teal are normally the most wary birds out but this one was nearly as tame as the Mallards and getting a photo of one in the same frame as one of the many tame Robins must be a first.

Photo of Teal and Robin
Teal and Robin

Bird song, Snowdrops and an early blossom of Cherry Plum allied with the milder morning hinted at spring. Cherry Plum resembles Blackthorn but the flowers are bigger and earlier and it has green twigs.

Photo of Cherry Plum
Cherry Plum Prunus cerasifera

Hazel is now nearing the end of its flowering period. The male catkins on this plant have shed most of their pollen whilst the female flower is in its prime to catch the wind-blown pollen from a neighbouring tree as the species is not self-fertile.

Photo of Hazel flowers
Hazel flowers

One of the rare Attenborough Green Bears had sadly found a watery grave.

Photo of Drowned bear
Drowned bear

Shovelers were pirouetting and bobbing as they rehearsed their Strictly Come Dancing routine.

I've seen more Great White Egrets than yellow-footed ones this winter and it's remarkable how a large snow-white bird can lurk in and around a reed bed for fifteen minutes before coming into view as this one did.

Photo of Little Egret
Little Egret

I don't know why I chose to use this picture of one of the tame visitor centre Egyptian Geese other than that the less tame ones always walk slantingly away from an approaching photographer.

Photo of Egyptian Goose
Egyptian Goose

After failing to find a Long-tailed Duck that we were assured had been seen minutes earlier, despite a prolonged watch from the visitor centre walkway but with the compensation of a tame Water Rail, we set off for another go at the Firecrest and found a tame Fieldfare on the way.

Photo of Fieldfare

Notable birds not already mentioned included two Kingfishers and two Redpolls but no Firecrest.

Tuesday 8th January 2019

Idle Valley NWT, Notts.

Up to the far north today to a place I last visited in the late 1980s before great changes in terms of watery expanses and extent of nature reserve. Dave though knows it well and gave a running commentary on its history, developments and botanical interest starting with Pale Flax Linum bienne at its most northerly (possibly native) site in Britain. A January morning with a chilly north-westerly was not the best day to admire it.

Photo of Pale Flax
Pale Flax

The biggest flock of Chaffinches I've seen for decades was around Sutton Grange - hard to get an accurate estimate with a mobile and split group but there must have been well over a hundred. Thereafter the birding highlights were at least three Great White Egrets one of which was subject to some bullying by a Grey Heron, though they settled their differences quickly and became good friends.

Photo of Heron and Great Egret
Grey Heron and Great White Egret

A Red-necked Grebe that had been present for some time proved a little harder to find but eventually we picked it out in the distance. A 30x zoom camera and some digital cropping often produces images acceptable for the internet but I can't really do anything with this!

Photo of ducks and a red-necked grebe
Red-necked Grebe!

This is often what real nature watching is like - quite different to the David Attenborough portrayal.

A flowering Bifid Hemp-nettle Galeopsis bifida caught Dave's attention............
Photo of Bifid Hemp-nettle
Bifid Hemp-nettle
.....and a pair of Pintail was a nice bonus.
Photo of Pintail

Thursday 3rd January 2019

Skylarks NWT.

Max 3°C but no breeze and despite the overcast sky, quite a pleasant morning with a total of 47 species including 4 Shelducks 2 Oystercatchers a Redshank a Chiffchaff and 2 Stonechats.

Photo of Stonechat

Also lots of Long-tailed Tits...

Photo of Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit

and quite a few Goldcrests

Photo of Goldcrest

Tuesday 1st January 2019

Over Haddon - Youlgreave. Derbys.

A four and a half hour, six-mile, very pleasant walk to welcome in the new year with three Dippers a Brambling and a skein of Pink-footed Geese heading for Lancashire.

Photo of Dipper

This Dipper and another in the same territory were singing delightfully and it was ringed. One of them flew up and perched in a tree!

Photo of Brambling
Photo of Pink-footed Geese
Pink-footed Geese

I make it 204 geese and the whole area is brilliant for ferns and bryophytes but I was with my wifey for a change so no expert botanist/bryologist on hand.

Monday 31st December


I didn't recognise this and thought I'd got something new but it turned out to be a Chestnut

Photo Chestnut moth

Wednesday 19th December.

Hoveringham Gravel Pits + DCW.

A detour via Kneeton because of my inattention at the Bingham junction followed by a half-hour wait for the torrential rain to cease meant a 9.30 start with the day becoming sunny and reasonably mild.

The first bird of note remains unidentified! A raptor racing low, fast and away was first seen by me to be small and rakish but Dave got it in his bins and decided it was bulky. I said Merlin and he said Peregine and though we agreed it was a male we agreed to differ on the id.

The birds became more predictable and easier from then on - until the Scaup - though Dave found some washed-up waterweeds to challenge him at home. They did include Rigid Hornwort Ceratophylum demersum and Spiked Water-milfoil Myriophylum spicatum.

Photo of Swans up-ending
Swan Upping

We must have walked past this Douglas Fir on at least three occasions and I bet Dave has pronounced upon it every time but I still needed a reminder.

Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir

Think of all the water birds you would expect to see on a gravel pit in Notts in December and subtract Teal; that's what we saw. We half expected to see a Slavonian Grebe (because there had been one present since at least 3rd December) but those distant Little Grebes that briefly posed as such always resolved themselves and then John Hopper turned up and confirmed that the Slav could not be found. It's his patch and we hadn't met for about thirty years. I introduced Dave and discovered they went back even further and several names from the distant past were brought up and reminiscences exchanged. One of the names was David Tyldesley.

Then John found us the Scaup and if he hadn't have done so I think we would have scanned the lake a couple of times and concluded that it had scarpered as well because, as a first winter male, it wasn't the Scaup I was expecting. The closer views eventually obtained satisfied us though and the photo turned out as a useful record.

Photo of Scaup

The feeders at the sailing club are always worth a butchers and added Tree Sparrow and a few others to the day list. I wish my garden feeders attracted such variety as I have to settle for the local gang of about 30 House Sparrows, 10 Collared Doves and innumerable great fat Woodpigeons.

Photo of birds at feeder

As we were leaving we saw John, now joined by some new arrivals, waving in the distance and concluded that they had found the Slav so we detoured back to join him and were met half way by the aforementioned David Tyldesley whom Dave had met as a teenager, having cycled here for a spot of birdwatching (as it was then known). More reminiscing and the news that the waving was to draw attention to the presence of an old friend, not that of the elusive grebe.

Photo of two Davids
DT (on left) and DCW

(Note that DT has updated his binoculars since they first met!)

Photo of Great White Egret
Great White Egret

We paid brief homage to the Great White Egret and by then the day was drawing to a close and the gulls were gathering on the lakes to roost. One way of amusing ourselves in quiet moments is for me to photograph skeins of Pink-feet whilst Dave estimates their mumber. I count them individually and see how close he is. He's very close. But we'll see how he does with a wheeling flock of Lapwings. I made it 162.

Photo of Lapwing flock

Tuesday 11th December.

Attenborough Nature Reserve + DCW.

Photo of Robin on sign

A murky morning turned into a sunny day with blue skies and not a breath of wind that we could detect but the smoke and water vapour from the power station seemed to find some.

Photo of landscape
Looking west over Coneries Pond.

A bash at local birding but the highlights were a skein of 64 Pink-footed Geese heading north-west to Lancashire and the Goosanders of which we lost count after about 42 but which don't show up anywhere else we go.

Photo of Pink-footed Geese
Pink-footed Geese.
Photo of Goosanders

If you are planning a trip here remember some crumbs for the Robins, many of which will take food from the hand.

Photo of Robin

Several "Bluebottles" were resting on the sunny side of a tree (as they are wont to do). I'm reasonably sure this is Calliphora vomitoria which overwinter as adults and can live as such for a year.

Photo of Bluebottle
Calliphora (vomitoria)

Dave's knowledge of botany extends beyond the vascular plants though he admits that his skills as a bryologist are getting rusty. Nevertheless, he still managed to name these two mosses, the first from memory with high confidence and the second from the photo with less certainty.

Photo of a moss
Grimmia pulvinata
Photo of a moss
Orthotrichum diaphanum

They were on the flood wall east of Meadow Lane along with a selection of algae.

Tuesday 4th December.

Frampton Marsh RSPB + DCW.

In the chill of the east coast from 9.30 till 3.30 for a few very awful photos but memories of a bird-rich day into Lincolnshire that started with crisp blue skies and distant fog and which ended grey and dusky.

Photo of Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier.

Twenty common species under our belt in the first twenty minutes then a Marsh Harrier followed by the faintest of 'pings' detected by Dave's radar, and a little later by me, was enough to add Bearded Tit.

Then we left the reed bed and strolled eastwards, where a meeting with a Leicestershire birdwatcher, who had enjoyed a Long-billed Dowitcher fly over his head earlier, made the decision to circumnavigate the reserve rather than head off along The Haven, much easier; neither of us had seen a Long-billed Dowitcher. (And at the end of the day we still hadn't).

Photo of Frampton Marsh
Frampton Marsh RSPB.

It was a day with raptors the highlights as a Sparrowhawk was soon followed by a nimble Merlin performing figure of eights with sharp twists and turns above a number of unimpressed ducks before it flew away and landed on a post. Believe it or not this is a female Merlin perched on a post at Frampton about 1km from a compact camera:

Photo of Merlin
distant Merlin.

In my experience, Frampton has more birds per square metre than any other place in Britain. (Camargue 1979 might win the European title - I'm not well travelled). Most were Wigeon.

Photo of Wigeon
A fraction of the Wigeon present.

During lunch, an adult male Hen Harrier drifted southwards over the saltmarsh and then a less rewarding walk back into the heart of the reserve provided a Peregrine harassing a juvenile Herring Gull which eventually did as the Peregine was suggesting, leaving the latter to its afternoon tea with a couple of Carrion Crows, like English vultures, in patient attendance.

A good day out with a tie for bird-of-the-day; Hen Harrier for me and Peregrine for Dave. Poor gymnastic Merlin deserved better.

A distant buzzard / harrier, if identifiable to species would have brought the day's raptor tally to seven.

The photographer in me declared a lone Meadow Pipit the star.

Photo of Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit.