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.
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.
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!
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............ .....and a pair of Pintail was a nice bonus.
Thursday 3rd January 2019
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.
Also lots of Long-tailed Tits...
and quite a few Goldcrests
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Note that DT has updated his binoculars since they first met!)
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.
Tuesday 11th December.
Attenborough Nature Reserve + DCW.
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.
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.
If you are planning a trip here remember some crumbs for the Robins, many of which will take food from the hand.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.