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Trip Report - 2015

Clumber Park
4th January 2015

Five members and one guest managed to attend this trip which this year was delayed until Sunday after a poor forecast for Saturday. The weather was superb but very chilly and although there were throngs of visitors, there were plenty of birds to be found too. Notable absentees included both of the common woodpeckers, Song Thrush, Reed Bunting and Goldfinch. Highlights included a Redwing which posed for quite a while in bright sunshine in a yew tree (scoffing berries), a Snipe which flew across the river near the ford, a few Marsh Tits on the feeders showing really well and at least 50 Cormorants adorning several trees seen from the main road bridge, silhouetted against the low sun. Once again there was no sign of any Hawfinches which once were regularly found here. We enjoyed a very pleasant walk and managed to record 48 bird species during the visit. That's not such a bad start for those of us who keep year lists!

Carsington Water
25th February 2015

Only four of us managed to make it, a day later than planned because of the weather yesterday. We parked at the main car park and started by checking around Stones Island for the Great Northern Diver. We failed to find that in the first hour but soon spotted it just as we approached the heated hide. Yesterday’s rain had completely cleared and the lake was flat calm, and although it was mostly overcast, the visibility was excellent. Many of the wild fowl had already left but there were still small numbers of Teal and Wigeon present. In the late afternoon there was a large flock of over 100 Redwing. Highlights included a couple of Willow Tits, 3 Bullfinches, a solitary Redshank, four Oystercatchers and at least 32 Tree Sparrows around the visitor centre. Some very common species were absent such as Moorhen (truly amazing), Grey Heron, Kestrel, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker, but we still managed to record 47 species. Please note that whilst the Sheepwash car park is now Pay and Display it is still is almost half the price of the car park at the visitor centre.

Potteric Carr
25th March 2015

On a perfect day, with bright sunshine and no wind, only 3 of us turned up to seek a Bittern. We seemed to have the reserve to ourselves and enjoyed a leisurely wander around the hides. A Bittern was booming regularly from the middle of Huxter Well Marsh as we walked around the perimeter. A Cetti's Warbler sang briefly while we sat in the Piper Marsh hide, but sadly we saw neither of these birds. The wildfowl were in glorious breeding plumage with a surprisingly large number of pairs of Gadwall present - there were at least 250 individuals there. The Little Grebes have returned in force after being absent over the winter. On the wader front, we had a Black-tailed Godwit, an Avocet on the west scrape with the usual Lapwings and a few Snipe and 6 Little Egrets. The Chiffchaffs were back, with at least 10 singing. On the feeders (which seemed to be well-stocked) were several Reed Buntings and a Willow Tit with the usual tits, finches and Dunnocks. Sadly, access across the railway to Lower Ellers and Corbett Wood is still closed and it seems this will be become permanent as efforts to get Network Rail to provide a bridge are not making any progress. Despite this we still managed to record 50 species during our visit.

Derwent Dale
28th March 2015

Despite the dismal forecast, five overly optimistic folk met near Fairholmes at 8:00AM as planned. It was windy, but reasonably dry when we set off, and not at all cold. By the the time we settled in our usual spot above Howden Dam it was raining heavily. Fortunately, the strong wind was raging to the north up the valley so we were sheltered from that! After waiting in forlorn hope that the rain would stop and some action begin, we set off back to the cars soon after 9:30 having seen ONE bird above the dam, which we guessed was a Chaffinch. There were no real highlights but 3 Teal feeding where the Abbey Brook runs into the reservoir are not regularly seen on this walk. The feeders at Fairholmes were entirely devoid of any birds. In total, we recorded a mere 17 species.

Carr Vale
15th April 2015

Six of us made the trip and were rewarded with considerably warmer weather than forecast. It started well with 6 Yellowhammers under the feeders on the walk in from the car park. Waders were well represented with Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Common Sandpiper present. Both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff seemed to be singing from every tree and there were also several Blackcaps. The star turn had to be the two drake Garganeys which we eventually all managed to catch up with. Other highlights included a couple of Wheatears and a distant Yellow Wagtail, Willow Tits on the feeder by the mound and Goldcrests nearby. Considering that we failed to find either of the common thrushes and were too early for both Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, we still managed to record a total of 63 species.

Clumber Park
25th April 2015

Once again the weather was quite a lot better than forecast so the 4 members who were able to make an early start had an excellent day. The warblers were about in some numbers. Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were particularly vocal as also were the Chiffchaffs. There were much smaller numbers of Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers with a very special Wood Warbler, the first for over ten years on this trip. The Greylag Geese had a crèche of 21 goslings and there were numerous Coots on nests, but only one noted with any youngsters - 5 and only a few days old. There were good numbers of Stock Doves, Goldcrests and Gadwall. Surprises included a pair of Goldeneye on the lake and two Fieldfares in the fields beyond the ford. We had heard that Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Wood Lark were both present but we had neither sight nor sound of either. Half of the party walked the extra loop beyond the ornamental bridge and were rewarded with good views of a Kingfisher. Other highlights included a few Yellowhammers and Grey Wagtails and no fewer than 5 Green Woodpeckers. Although we missed some common birds such as Mistle Thrush and the usual busy feeders were either missing or foodless, we still managed to record an excellent 64 species on the day.

Whisby Pits
9th May 2015

Three members managed our annual expedition to hear and hopefully see a Nightingale. The day started rather more windy than forecast and that continued until we left. It was almost lunch time before we heard our first strains of the song and after a little effort we all had half decent views of one, and heard at least 3 of the 12 males reported to be present. Within the first half hour we managed to spot a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, both surprisingly easy to find on an island that held around 500 Black-headed Gulls! Despite the wind, we managed to find all of the expected warblers. In order of their abundance, we recorded Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. There were plenty of both Sand Martins and House Martins together with several Swallows and many Swifts, although the artificial Sand Martin bank remained unused. The old railway footbridge has been swept away and replaced by a massive road bridge which has also replaced the level crossing. There has been rather more habitat change on that side of the railway than was to our liking but hopefully it will improve with time. Large areas have been cleared of scrub and looked very bare. The area on the far side of the A46 continues to get better and held about a dozen Common Terns waiting patiently for their nesting rafts to be floated out onto the lakes. They were all tethered to the banks, presumably to prevent their use by gulls before the terns arrived. We managed to avoid the few showers during the day and recorded a respectable total of 54 species.

Mid-Wales
16th-17th May 2015

Fifteen members joined our weekend in mid-Wales and we met at Gigrin Farm near Rhayader to see the renowned Red Kite feeding session. We were all there around 2:00 and after a drink at the cafe we were ensconced in our reserved hide by around 2:30. By then the Red Kites were already gathering for their 3:00 feed. We expected a few corvids and Buzzards to land when the food arrived but that didn’t happen and the Red Kite action started as soon as the food turned up. Well over 100 kites were swooping down to collect the meat in what was a spectacular display that provided plenty of photo opportunities. Dozens of Crows and Rooks soon joined the feast on the ground but only a single Buzzard turned up. A couple of farm cats and peafowl also managed to get in on the action! An hour later and the activity had died down and some very satisfied customers (both birds and observers!) left to enjoy the rest of the weekend. On Sunday we reconvened at the RSPB reserve - Ynys-Hir - near Machynlleth. It was cool with quite a wind but we had a very good day there. We started in the woodland area where we had good views of Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Redstarts. We continued to the hides overlooking the Dyfi estuary but there were very few waders to be seen. Only Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank were spotted. On the way we had good views of Stonechat, Reed and Sedge Warbler and from the hide we saw a Wheatear. From there our group split up into smaller parties so the birds recorded varied among the groups. Other warblers reported included Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat. There was a Pink-footed Goose (probably with a broken wing) left behind for the summer and several Little Egrets. Despite the cold wind there were good numbers of Swallows and Swifts overhead and a few House Martins and we finished the day with a bird count of around 60 species. The reserve has a good range of habitats and with better weather would yield an even bigger number of species.

Padley Gorge
22nd May 2015

Just 5 members for this visit and a light drizzle at the start threatened to dampen our spirits but soon the drizzle stopped, a stunning male Stonechat perched obligingly nearby, a distant Cuckoo called, a tatty Raven flew past and our spirits rose. More Stonechats, including juveniles, a distant Whinchat, ubiquitous Meadow Pipits and we heard the distinctive song of a Tree Pipit as we approached the woodland edge. Could it get better? Into the woods in search of more of our “target species” and almost immediately we were rewarded with the songs of Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers. The birds flitted through the dappled canopy of spring fresh oak leaves and with a little patience we were soon rewarded with excellent close views of these two handsome species as well as seeing feeding Nuthatches and Treecreeper. Having had our fill we turned up the main path and soon connected with a Spotted Flycatcher. A tricky bird to locate as it doesn’t have a proper song but this one perched confidingly just a few feet away, we could see every feather. Dragging ourselves away we progressed up the gorge until we heard the distinctive trill of a Wood Warbler, a bird that is relatively scarce and becoming even scarcer. With a bit of searching we found the bird and spent a while marvelling at his song and plumage. An image to be etched in our memories and which crowned an excellent morning. We had seen all of our “target birds” and in all we had seen or heard over 30 species as well as a Red Deer and a Green Hairstreak Butterfly. A morning to remember!

Lincolnshire Coast
19th-20th September 2015

The weather was perfect for out weekend trip to the Lincolnshire coast, with little wind and blue skies throughout. Saturday found us at Gibraltar Point where we started scanning the lagoons while waiting for everyone to arrive. We headed for the coast later in the morning where most of us had our picnic lunch while scanning the shore for waders and birds passing through along the coast. By the time we left in the late afternoon we had recorded 57 species. Waders were represented by Lapwing, Snipe, Knot, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Avocet (33), Curlew, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Green Sandpiper. Raptors included Buzzard, Marsh harrier, Peregrine and Kestrel. Highlights included fine views of a pair of Spoonbills and extremely good views of at least two different Kingfishers, one of which was doing amazing impressions of a hummingbird while hovering over the pool in its hunt for fish.

Later several of us managed to fit in an hour at Freiston Shore, near our overnight accommodation. A walk around the edge of the lagoons yielded 23 bird species. Here we added Wigeon, House Sparrow and Starling to the day's total. The highlight was the arrival of a Peregrine, which made half-hearted attempts at Little Grebe and Teal, seeming to ignore the 150 or more Feral Pigeons lounging around, before heading off towards the salt marsh.

Sunday saw us at the relatively new RSPB Frampton Marsh. Early arrivals saw Yellow Wagtail in the fields next to the car park. Sadly, the water levels on the lagoons throughout the reserve were extremely low. Notices told us that the RSPB were draining these in May "in rotation" to allow vegetation to grow before flooding in October. The intention being to allow the new growth to rot, providing food for invertebrates which would in turn provide a feast for next year's wader passage. Unfortunately, whilst the main lagoon had loads of vegetation the others were equally dry but quite devoid of any plant life. The result was that waders were few and far between and we spent most of our time scanning the reserve from the sea wall, rather than from the hides. As we climbed up to the sea wall, most of us had grand views of a Wheatear which posed on the fence posts. From there we had good views of a large flock of an estimated 750 Wigeon. We could also see large swirling masses of what were probably Knot over the distant shore-line beyond the salt marsh. We added Ruff and Wood Sandpiper to our wader species for the weekend. Despite the degraded habitat we still managed to record 50 species before heading for home in the late afternoon. We were very lucky with the weather, and we should probably be grateful to one member for that - she generously included a pair of wellingtons in her luggage!

Old Moor Wetland
12th October 2015

Eight of us enjoyed the visit to RSPB Old Moor, arriving on a very bright and sunny autumn morning. The feeders in the car park were empty so it was strangely quiet there. The garden area was the same, with all the feeders removed. It seems there is a rat problem and RSPB hopes that they will move on if the birds are starved. The feeders in the Tree Sparrow farm were still there so it seems to me the rats didn't need to move too far! Here we found the usual finches, including several Bullfinches and  Goldfinches on the teasel. There were only a very few Tree Sparrows. The views across the pools from the hides were excellent. The usual winter wildfowl were there in decent numbers with Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon all exceeding 100. Waders were represented by Green Sandpiper (3), Snipe (20+), Ruff (3), Lapwing and Golden Plover. There were at least 300 Golden Plover present and an equally large flock flew over the reserve at a great height, as did a large skein of unidentified geese. There were over 700 Lapwing too. Two of us caught a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher on the way to the first hide. A Barn Owl showed well, if at a distance, outside one of the owl boxes around noon. We managed to record 53 species before moving on to Broomhill flash at about 2PM. We were disappointed to find the hide there was entirely missing! Only the concrete base remains but we managed to find out that a new two-storey hide will be built in the same position over the next few weeks. We decided on a flying visit to the hide at Wombwell Ings before setting off for home. On the way to the hide the fields were full of hundreds of geese, mainly Canada Geese with a much smaller number of Greylag Geese. What used to be a very productive hawthorn hedge has been removed on the flood banks beyond the hide so there were very few small birds present. We found nothing new there and were on our way home around 3PM after a very pleasant day.

Fairburn Ings
10th November 2015

Only two members braved the wonderful mid-November sunshine and the incredibly warm wind. The temperature reached 20°C in the afternoon! We were the first to arrive in the car park and seemed to have the whole reserve to ourselves. Much has improved since our last visit in 2012 but the garden feeders still have Tree Sparrows and Greenfinches. The muddy paths are now much improved with smooth hard surfaces and the old hides have been replaced by indestructible metal shelters. A good variety of birds were present and the usual wildfowl were well represented. There was a huge number of Shoveler present (almost 300), with smaller numbers of Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard, Mallard and Gadwall. There were a few wintering Goldeneye and a splendid drake Red-crested Pochard, a single Pintail duck and a Shelduck. Other highlights included brief views of a couple of Kingfishers, and a few Willow Tits on the walk in to the Lin Dike hide. Despite the very strong wind we recorded 57 species during our visit.

Martin Mere
20th December 2015

Only 3 of us managed this trip but we weren’t disappointed! We arrived in a heavy shower of rain, and left in another, but in between the weather was almost perfect, just a little too windy. There were lots of Whooper Swans on the mere – reportedly over 1,300 are present this year and we counted at least 750, but only a small fraction of the 4,000 Pink-footed Geese were visible. Raptors were much in evidence throughout and we had good views of a Peregrine, which sat in the middle of an adjacent field for much of the morning – maybe it was too heavy to fly! Pairs of Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk completed the raptor line up during the day. A Ross’s Goose showed well on an island in the main mere, and looked superb, even though it has probably never ever been to Canada! A really good new hide has been built around the edge of the mere adjacent to the In Focus store, and the old Swan Link hide is to be demolished soon. We failed to connect with the Firecrest, present within the enclosed area, and had to make do with a more obliging Goldcrest. There were very few wader species present, with only hundreds of Lapwing, over 50 Ruff and a couple of Oystercatchers. As usual other wildfowl were well represented with masses of Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Greylag Geese, somewhat fewer Shelduck and Pintail, good numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck, with also a few Canada Geese and a pair of Goldeneye. Another thoroughly enjoyable pre-Christmas visit to Martin Mere ended as usual with the Swan feeding session at 3:00 and we managed to total 54 species for the day.