Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lincs coast expedition

Each year I tell myself that I'm going to go to the Lincs coast to have a crack at some autumn birding, but never really get round to it. However this year I've been encouraged to do it more, as I now have a companion to spur me on, namely Ian Blackmore-Allen, a friend and a recent returner to the world of birding after a brief hiatus.

On sunday we joined Pete Leonard and Nick Crouch, and I drove us to Gib Point to work the Scrub and Sand Dunes to see if we could pick up any migrants. Winds on the coast haven't exactly been favourable, but a few breaths of north-easterlies overnight gave us some hope.

We pitched up at 7am and worked the west dunes and around the Sykes Farm area til around mid-morning, but it was quickly evident that there hadn't been any sort of influx of birds, with very little moving around, aside from the odd Chiffchaff and small numbers of Goldcrest. Whilst we were watching a group of Swallows I picked up a Pied Flycatcher, sat in elders by the Roadside Pond, where there seemed to be a hive of activity, but it soon disappeared and wasn't picked up by anyone else. After watching a Kingfisher for a time, we decided to relocate to the East dunes, working our way from the field centre, back towards the car. Aside from several Reed Buntings and Mipits by the Obs and 9 Pink-feet flying over (relocated by Tennysons Sands later), there was very little to see, the dunes being very quiet indeed

Tennysons sands held some wader interest, holding around 250 Black-tailed Godwit, as well as c30 Avocet (including a colour ringed bird), several greenshank and a pintail. After this we headed back around Sykes Farm with no joy, and tried unsuccessfully to see some reported Yellow-browed Warblers at Aylmer Avenue.

After some chips at Skeg, we recced Chapel Six Marshes and Wolla Bank, a couple of sites further up the coast. Both were quiet, but Wolla Bank in particular seemed like it had potential and I managed a Wheatear on the beach, as well as a very close-in Guillemot on the sea (about 30m out!). Pete and Nick had a good explore and it was agreed it was certainly a site to consider in the future.

Looking forward to exploring more of this coastline, I'm hoping to get out there again in two weeks time, hopefully with some more easterlies and some more birds!

Sunny birding over the Saltmarsh

Monday, 1 May 2017

Patchwork 2017 update - March

Its already May, I don't have a clue where the time has gone. And as usual my blog-posting has taken a back seat, although the weather and birding have been that atrocious that I probably should have been able to find the time to do it.

Anyway - March!

Species 94
Additions - Black-necked Grebe, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Cattle Egret, Sand Martin, Siskin, Little Grebe, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Barnacle Goose, Red kite, blackcap, knot, Grey Plover

March is usually reasonably quiet, apart from the first few early migrants turning up, but again, i was pleasantly surprised by how productive it was. The month started well with a Black-necked grebe appearing on the A52 pit, which I picked up after it had been there a few days. The first migrants arrived with a singing chiffchaff on the 11th, when I got the first yellowhammer of the year too.

I was away in York on the weekend of the 17th-19th, but a text on the way home on the friday night had me rushing to the patch before it got dark to lay eyes on the Cattle Egret that had decided to drop in. I got pretty crap views but it was brilliant nonetheless, my first in the UK and a cracking bird for the patch. I'd got my first Sand Martins of the year that morning too, i wonder if I'd missed the Egret that morning? I managed to get back to the patch on the sunday evening and got much better views of the bird, and finally added Little Grebe to the patch list too, as well as LRP and Dunlin.

A group of 6 Barnacle geese one evening were a nice addition, likely to be feral birds but good to see, and a distant Red Kite was a welcome addition too. The final birds of the month were seen on a glorious saturday morning, which began very foggy but ended up being very warm, The first singing blackcap was seen early on, and later a Knot was seen (found the night before) and a Grey Plover which was very elusive and only really seen in very poor light.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Patchwork 2017 - February Update

Species 79
Points 85

Additions this month: Fieldfare, Reed Bunting, Woodcock, Redshank, Curlew, Coal tit, Barn Owl, Mistle thrush, Feral pigeon, Oystercatcher, Jack Snipe, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Linnet, Stonechat.

I had expected February to be pretty dry if I'm honest, as I was away the first two weekends, but a few early evening visits and a full 8 hours on patch on the 19th meant a mega 15 additions were made this month! A lot of these were easy ones that I hadn't picked up in January, like Fieldfare and Greenfinch, but there were a few unexpected ones in there too...

Fieldfare and Reed Bunting came first on a quick visit to look for roosting Whooper Swans (without success!) on the 3rd.

An evening ringing session on the 7th resulted in Woodcock being flushed in the darkness, as well as several Snipe and calling Redshank were heard too. Another Redshank was seen on the 19th, feeding on Blott's pit most of the day. Woodcock are often around but not always easy to catch up with, so I was happy with that one,

Another evening visit on the 14th, after working nearby, resulted in my first Barn owl on site since 2015, and a flyover Curlew was a nice early addition to the list. Incidentally another Curlew was present most of the day on the 19th too, perhaps the same one?

The 19th was a mega day, as I clocked up a personal record of 64 species on site (8 year-ticks), after a mammoth 9.5 hours on site. The morning was spent leading a volunteer work party in which we put up around 30+ snipe (including a flock of 23, which were later seen at Netherfield), as well as 2 Jack snipe, another bird that must be present all winter, but is rarely picked up. Also around were the aforementioned Redshank and Curlew, as well as a Shelduck. The afternoon was spent wandering round, being filmed for a NWT film about Skylarks Nature Reserve. This resulted in more species being clocked up, including only my 2nd ever Stonechat for the site.

A good session on the last weekend of the month failed to produce any late additions. There are still a number of 'easy' targets to go for, such as Siskin, Little grebe and Skylark, but with a few unexpected birds this month, I'm pretty pleased, and well ahead of my usual score for this time of year.

March sees the first proper migrants, obviously, and perhaps there's still time to pick up on a few wintering birds before they disappear for the summer. Looking at my calendar, it looks like I'm pretty busy again which will limit my visits, but at least those evenings are getting lighter!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Patchwork 2017 - January Update

Species 64
Points 69

Not a bad start to my 4th Patchwork Challenge year at Holme Pierrepont. I didnt get on patch until the 14th, due to a busy start to the year (and terrible weather on new years day), but it was a good first visit, with a Great White Egret patch-tick to kick things off.
The next weekend bumped the numbers up considerably, with the Sibe Chiff and Smew helping things along nicely, as well as some interest in the form of a wintering Common Sandpiper and an early Shelduck.

My final visit to the patch (only 4 visits this month!) was last Sunday morning, which was a rare treat as I actually got to go out first thing. A decent session, starting with another Smew, and another (presumably the same) Great White Egret, back after a 2 week absence. Only 3 additions to the yearlist however, which was a shame, but it was still a productive morning. The downside was later in the day, hearing that 2 Tundra Bean geese had dropped in with a Pink-footed goose. I had mentioned Bean geese in my previous post, but sadly I was otherwise engaged. Its all part of patch-birding though, you can't see it all, even if you wish you could!

I think with a few extra visits, I could have ended with a better total, but its still the usual mid-60's mark I have come to expect by the end of January. Still plenty to go for, including some easy ones like Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Reed Bunting. I'd say i could get close to 100 before the spring migrants return, but it all depends on how much time I put in during February, and as I am away for the first two weekends, things aren't looking great!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

2017 begins

Not had a bad start to the year at HP so far, apart from not being able to get down there properly until the 14th, when a Great White Egret was found and reported about midday. I had planned to be there by about then, but a management meeting about the nature reserve went on longer than i expected, so i didnt get down til mid-afternoon. Luckily the egret was still there, a long-overdue patch tick, but too late as they have been demoted to a lowly 2 points! 

Aside from the egret, it was good to get on patch but not a great deal else of note was seen, but a gulling session on the A52 Pit was nice, although there were no scarce gulls but all the commoner species were seen. A volunteer session the next day added to the weekends total which ended on a reasonable 47 species.

This Saturday, I gave the patch a good 3 and a half hours, knocking up a decent day total of 54 species, including a patch-first Sibe Chiff (a handy 3 points) and the sometimes elusive Treecreeper. A Redhead Smew finally gave itself up on the eastern edge of the A52 pit and an early Shelduck was also present. It was nice to get the wintering Common Sand again too, taking my running total to 61 species, so pretty good really. Only one weekend to go this month, but hopefully there will be time to knock a few of my pre-spring targets off, and who knows maybe more birds of interest - a nice Bean Goose or some scarce duck would be nice...

Thursday, 19 January 2017

2016 Patchwork Review

Owing largely to a bumper spring and autumn, mainly in terms of waders, I managed my best yearly total again in 2016 at Holme Pierrepont. It has got better every year, I think because of more familiarity with the site, coupled with more effort on my part and habitat improvements on certain parts of the site. 2014 saw me getting 106 species on site, whereas 2015 was much better, with 115 seen. This year I ended with a reasonable 128 species, totalling 147 points for the Patchwork Challenge. (EDIT - Actually 129 species/149 points after a re-count!). A good number of scarcer birds gave me a good few '2-pointers' whilst a brace of Temminck's records gave me a nice 3-pointer for the year (alas without the finders' bonus!)

A bonus of regularly visiting the patch means that I've continued to accrue new species for the patch, and I added 18 species I hadn't previously seen on site. Again, more knowledge of the site and more hours spent on patch have really paid off and meant that I can start ticking off some of those scarcer species. A few were even notts ticks for me and there was even one lifer in the shape of a Purple Sandpiper, so its been a good year.

There's plenty still to play for too, as the final tally for the site in 2016 (as far as I can tell) was 155 species, meaning I missed out on 27 species. There were several records of Whooper Swan and Common Scoter, but they eluded me, and other relatively 'easy' species I missed included Wheatear, Garganey, Red Kite, Arctic Tern and Barn Owl, plus a few tougher ones.

Here's a quick round-up of how I did.

Species - 67

My best start to a patchwork year, with 67 species seen. Highlights included a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, a Treecreeper early on (a surprisingly scarce species on site) and a patch-tick in the form of 22 Golden Plover.

Species - 73

A bit of a quiet month, which started with me discovering the Starling roost at the old Skylarks reedbed. Quite a spectacle and a popular one too, I was definitely late to this particular party. Only six additions this month, but a very distant speck of a Goosander over the A52 pit on the 19th was nice, my first record in a few winters. Some of the wintering Redshank on site finally gave themselves up to me this month too, as well as the first returning Shelduck.

Species - 83

A decent month with 10 additions. Highlights were a trio of patch-firsts. A Curlew on the 12th kicked things off, and the next weekend a Grey Plover decided to stick around all day on blotts pit. Finally the weekend after got me a Stonechat on the fenceline on the neglected East side of my patch. Otherwise some early migrants such as Chiffchaff, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover found their way onto the list, as well as some of the other common residents i hadn't previously seen.

Species - 103

As expected, the species list shot up in April thanks to a good number of migrants moving through, even with a week away in portugal! The month started well with a couple of scarce locals, Grey partridge and Nuthatch being added, as well as some early migrants. A couple of Lapwing begun nesting on site too, the first breeding waders of the year. After returning from portugal on the 15th, I then proceeded to add a number of waders to the list, notably Whimbrel and Avocet, while passerine activity increased too, including small numbers of Yellow Wagtails (but nothing on the mega passage of 2015). A Cuckoo and Grasshopper warbler provided some interest at the end of the month.

Species - 113

10 additions in May, including some good quality birds. 4 Ruff got things going nicely before an influx of Black Terns over the weekend saw over 50 being seen on the A52 pit on the 8th. I got in on the action but only managed to see a few, as I was viewing into the sun with just my bins, making for difficult viewing, but I could certainly appreciate the number of birds involved!
A good week for waders across the county followed, and a rainy day mid-week lured me down in the hope of picking a few bits up, and a personal site-record count of 18 Redshank was made even better by a Turnstone and a summer-plumage knot with them. 2 Temminck's stints proceeded to have a 6-day stay on blotts pit later in the week, before things went a little quiet, with just a few commoner species being picked up throughout. Another Avocet on the 17th (the 5th bird of the year) kept things going.

Species - 115

Things just ticked over quietly in June, apart from a couple of additions. A June Black-tailed Godwit was nice - perhaps an early returner, or just a hanger on? who knows? The only other addition was a pair of Black-necked Grebes which only stayed a couple of days. Otherwise, numerous Hobby and Cuckoo sightings kept things interesting. The waders had a tough time, with lapwing and oystercatcher nesting, but all getting bothered by crows, foxes and even nearly getting trampled by territorial swans. Its hard to say whether any fledged, but well grown juveniles of both species were seen. Strangely, no known LRP nested successfully this year.

Species - 116

As can be expected, July was reasonably quiet, although wader passage kicked off again, and I missed two decent species, Sanderling and Wood Sandpiper. I recorded up to 5 Black-tailed godwit this month, as well as a few Greenshank, Green Sandpipers, and a few other bits. The only addition was a Red-legged Partridge, heard near the Grange whilst ringing there.

Species - 121

Some quality additions this month. I spent the 1st week away in Scotland and missed another Wood Sandpiper, as well as a Knot, both of which stayed a few days. Luckily I got back in time to catch up with a Little Stint that spent a few days on Blott's Pit. The increased footfall on site due to the Stint resulted in more eyes looking for birds, and as a result a Purple Sandpiper was found on the evening of the 16th, a nice lifer for me and one which drew even more birders to the site. On the same morning that was found, Mark Dawson found 5 Sandwich Terns on Blott's, a decent summer record. Luckily, I was working near my house that morning, and checked facebook before leaving the house, so managed to get down in time to see all 5, before seeing 4 fly off a few minutes after arriving. The remaining singleton stayed most of the day.
A good number of other waders provided a supporting cast to all this chaos, including up to 4 Greenshank, several Ruff and Black-wits and many more. It was a great couple of weeks.
I also added Bittern and Tawny Owl this month.

Species - 121

No additions this month, which was a shame, and I missed Garganey (despite searching several times) and a brief Spotted Redshank. I didn't spend a great deal of time on the main part of the patch this month, but did plenty of dog-walking over near the watersports centre, allowing me to attempt to see some passerine migrants, but largely failing - other than lots and lots of chiffchaffs! The undoubted highlight of the month however was when I was failing at seeing the Garganey, moaning to myself about a lack of decent birds, when a group of 18 Grey Plover flew in from the west and circled Blott's pit for a few minutes. Probably the highlight of the year for me. A peak count of 14 Little Egret was decent too, though I think there were up to 25 on site at some point.

Species - 126

Another visit to Scotland, ringing on the Isle of May, meant less time on patch, and again I struggled to get out regularly apart from walking the dog. I did manage a few new species though, including a Peregrine over the watersports centre while out with the dog. A Slavonian Grebe was found on the A52 pit on the 22nd, though I didn't end up seeing it until the 28th, after missing it a on the 26th (but picking up a Woodcock in the process). I also got a lucky Raven flyover when briefly ticking the Slav on a speedy visit before work one morning. I also managed to grip back a Spotted Redshank, after missing one in September. The only regret is missing a Yellow-browed Warbler early in the month.

Species - 128

An addition of a Med Gull in the pre-roost on Blott's pit one Sunday evening was what I thought to be my only addition this month. However in going through my records, it seems I forgot to add Jack Snipe, after one was flushed, along with several Common Snipe, during a work party on Blott's. Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet month, although I mainly spent time on the Watersports Centre side of the patch. Here I had decent Mute Swan counts, peaking at 147, and up to 8 Little Egrets on the Ski-tow along with reasonable numbers of wildfowl. A few wintering Chiffchaffs added some interest too.

Species - 129

Another quiet month without any exciting wintery additions, but with only a small number of brief visits. I was away most of xmas so couldn't get down, and a final visit of the year on New Years Eve didn't get me any last minute points. Some interesting sightings included a couple of Dunlin mid-month, more wintering Chiffs and a Common Sandpiper that seems to be wintering around the Ski-tow and Skylarks lake.The only addition was a Yellowhammer, my first on site since I have been properly patching - I used to see them when I was an irregular visitor several years ago, but in the last few years I just don't see them... strange!

So there we go, a decent year, with 129 seen out of roughly 155 species seen on site. I think a little more effort in the last 3 months could have got me a bit more, but life sometimes gets in the way! Looking forward to another decent year on patch, and hopefully i'll finally find something decent of my own.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Patchwork 2017

As expected, I quickly lost interest in doing my patch updates on the blog last year. Managing to get to May was quite a surprise, but as usual, being too busy to get on the computer and blog was my downfall again. I kept meaning to do my updates, so I will do a little yearly review when I get some time and then try and keep it up again.
I actually mapped out the area I cover this year, i remember doing it ages ago but forgot how it looked, and it was quite interesting from my point of view. The green area is everywhere I regularly go either on foot, car or bike. I do occasionally go onto the A52 area while ringing, and do sometimes view from other areas, but its basically that shape. Birds are counted from anywhere within the green area and also birds that are seen outside the area whilst I am in it, so birds scoped on the A52 pit are countable!
Last year was my best ever - 128sp, 147points... it keeps getting better every year (though my coverage was pretty intense last year). I doubt it'll be as good as this year as there was just so much to see, but i'll just have to wait. I haven't even been on patch yet this year, looking forward to the weekend!