Saturday, 28 December 2013

Another lifer

Reports coming through that the Black-Throated Diver was showing well at Swithland reservoir had me heading to Loughborough in an attempt to add it to my year and life list.

I got to within about half a mile of the dam wall, parked the car and set off on foot. The lane towards the dam wall was not really a road and it was getting difficult to navigate around the potholes.

In the distance, I heard the whistle of a steam train, and sure enough, one passed by, steam billowing up from the engine. An impressive sight.

I arrived at the dam wall and started scanning about for the Black-Throated diver.

View from dam wall

Eventually I picked it out and attempted some pictures.

I also managed some video, and was surprised how well it turned out considering the distance involved.


If this video is not playing in HD, go directly to youtube to view it.

An impressive first winter bird. Another surprise tick before the end of the year. I would imagine this will be my last tickable bird of 2013! But who knows?


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The last twitch of the year

I didn't expect to add anymore birds to my year list at this late stage of the game. But, you never know in birding.

Reports of long staying Velvet Scoter and Ring-Necked Duck were proving hard to ignore. I found myself free to please myself on Christmas Eve day, so decided to try my luck. The storm of the previous day and night made the journey longer than anticipated with a couple of detours due to flooding. Eventually, I made it to my destination.

The first birds I stumbled upon were a bonus year tick, I wasn't expecting, a pair of Ruddy Shelduck. They were distant and I couldn't get a good picture.

Distant Pair Ruddy Shelduck. iPhone through scope.

The wind blowing straight into me was bitter, I couldn't locate my target birds so moved on, but not before a Red Kite flew low overhead giving some stunning views.

I heard the Velvet Scoter had been sighted in front of the Fisherman's lodge, so headed there. It gave some great views and was a life tick too.

The dam wall at Eyebrook


Video of Velvet Scoter

On the walk back to the car, I got Male Smew, stunning bird and spent a while watching it.

I then luckily walked past a guy scanning the water who informed me he was on the female Ring-Necked Duck. Once he relocated it after a dive, he allowed me to view it through his Swaro Scope. I set my own scope up and followed it for a while, more birders arrived and everyone saw it. Again, a lifer for me.

All in all, a cracking days birding to see out 2013.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Back to the Drawing Board

Friday evening I was sorting my gear out looking forward to Saturday mornings birding with Pete. I was looking for a specific eyepiece to use on my small scope, and remembered it was still attached to my bigger scope. I fetched the HR66 out of storage and before taking the eyepiece off, couldn't resist a quick look through it. I had forgotten what a great image this scope produces. The little GS52 ED produces a nice image, but this the HR range is seriously in another league.

I decided on a change of plan for Saturday. I decided I would take the HR66 out for a spin, and attempt a bit of iscoping through it. Pete and I went for a wander across the moors with Taz, I didn't take the scope on this walk. The Moors were quiet this morning, only a few Redwing and Fieldfare compared to last weekends noisy flocks of winter thrushes.

We reached the feeders and could immediately see activity on and around them. The niger feeder Pete made is a big success. Goldfinch almost constantly on it. The nut feeder is constantly also receiving a lot of tit activity. We have been placing a block of lard in a cavity in the trunk of the tree our freezers are on. At first, this was not producing much, now, it doesn't last long. A couple of Woodpeckers and a flock of Starlings are making short work of it. We replaced the Lard this morning, it had been completely removed for the second time this week! As we walked away, a flock of Starling started making a bee-line for it, they were busy devouring it within 10 mins of it being put out.

Goldfinch near Pete's Niger Feeder

Later in the afternoon I decided to try the HR66 out. I was pushed for time but couldn't resist getting an hour in and seeing what I could manage with the iPhone. I intentially went for shots at distance to see how the set up performed. All these shots were taken at distances off approx 100 yards+.

iPhone through Scope

The limited time I had flew by. This has left me wanting to carry out some tests. I hope to get out with the scope and camera tomorrow. I hope to get some decent pictures, or a least enjoy trying.

Sunday 1st Dec

Light values were very poor this morning, so iscoping not really worth spending much time on. Took these of some distant Widgeon just to see what I could do in poor light. Again, acceptable record shots at well,over 100 yards.

So plenty of distance photography with the iPhone and Scope this weekend. Obviously, I took some pictures with the Canon SX40 of some closer birds too. This Great-Tit being one of them.

Weekend over, back to work!


Monday, 18 November 2013

At home and further afield

Pete and I are getting ready for winter by setting up our feeding station on the Moors. We like to get it sorted before the weather turns too ugly allowing the birds to find it early on. Pete has made a superb Niger seed feeder from a shampoo bottle. The Goldfinch are loving it.

Pete and Taz by the feeding Station


Pete's DiY Niger feeder. It's been updated since this was taken.


They soon turn up for a feed.



Locally, I also managed a Common Gull on one of the lakes I keep an eye on.


Then, Lady Luck smiled on me. A Glossy Ibis was being reported everyday in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire.

Feeding in a roadside field and turning up most mornings. The first week of reports, I couldn't make it!!! The weekend came, and I still couldn't get over to see this bird. A life tick for me!

Week two. I winced everyday at work when it was reported again and again. I hoped it would keep showing until the following weekend. It was, as I hoped reported again on the Friday, and Saturday morning found me Nottinghamshire bound before first light. It was absolutely worth it. A new life tick achieved. The light was poor, the Glossy Ibis distant, but I spent an interesting couple of hours observing it. I took the best pictures conditions would allow, not great, but a nice record of my first Glossy Ibis.

Awesome Tick
Glossy Ibis Video.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dusky Warbler - Life Tick

This was reported too late yesterday for me to do anything about it. Saturday morning however found Jon and I heading for Marsh Lane Nature Reserve.

It took just over a hour for the Dusky Warbler to make its presence know to us. It scaled a large Willow tree giving good views as it did so. Then, it dropped back into the undergrowth.

Another life tick for me, so very pleased with this one. An exceptional bird for the Midlands.

The Dusky was too mobile for pictures, so I found a plate and a picture from the internet. A memorable morning.



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Local Patching

On holiday and stayed local due to the severe weather warnings concerning the impending storm. To be honest, we were lucky and here in the Midlands, apart from some rain, it didn't happen.

I ended up walking the Moors with Pete. The temperatures had dropped, it was breezy and the previous nights rain had made it water logged in places. But it was still a nice walk.

We saw a Skylark, a small flock of Redwings, and my first Fieldfare of this autumn/winter. Also, the geese have started to appear, grazing in the fields. I will,be keeping an eye on these. Yesterday, they were all Canada's, today, three Greylag had joined them. I hope for some more goose surprises as the temperatures drop.

Tuesday morning found me wandering around Borrowpit and following the Tame to where it meets the Anker in the Castle Grounds. Saw a hunting Kestrel and a few Grey Squirrels. I know they look cute, but I am fully behind any managed cull of these none indigenous mammals to allow the reintroduction of our native Red Squirrel.

The Tame is just within its banks after all the rain. It won't take much more to put it over its banks.

The air temperature was noticibly cooler this morning, and that combined with high winds, Redwing and Fieldfare sightings and Goose flocks increasing suggest Autumn in now moving into Winter. The trees still,have most their leaves, but like this Chestnut, they are showing late Autumn colours.

Found the remains of what I think was a Cormorant. A fox had made a meal of it during the night. They are not a favourite bird amongst anglers, but always interesting to watch. I wonder how this one met its end?

I was surprised to see a small flock of Blackcap as I walked around the tree line near the stream. The stream does provide a good source of insects. It seems some Blackcap over winter here, so will keep an eye out and see if these hang about.

The gulls were very active this morning, and squabbling as Gulls do. These two kept driving each other off the perch as they wanted to perch in exactly the same spot.

As I headed back towards the car, I noticed a Little Egret in the trees on the island. My first sighting of one on this lake this year. As I reached the car, a pair of Grey Wagtail landed and started foraging on the shore line. Not a bad mornings walk.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Twilight Whoopers and a bit of Ruff

Friday late afternoon and seven Whooper Swans were reported on Alvecote pools. Me, I was stuck at work and it looked unlikely I was going to get back home in time to see these Icelandic visitors. As I suspected, late meeting and then horrific traffic meant the light was as good as gone as I arrived home.

It seems that previous visiting Whoopers have never overnighted on the pools, these ones were the exception.

I was stood on the banks of Alvecote pools before first light in the rain hoping the Whoopers were still about, my luck was in. Seven Whoopers being quite vocal as the light values slowly increased.

At 7.00am I attempted to take some record shots. The light was still poor, it was very overcast and still raining. Considering the conditions and distance involved, the pictures although not great turned out better than I expected.

Seven Whoopers

At about 7.15am, a couple of shotgun blasts close by from neighbouring fields disturbed these swans and they started drifting downstream calling as they went.

I headed for home.

At about 11.00am with better light available I again headed to Alvecote looking for better picture opportunities in improved light conditions. No sign of the Whoopers on the Mill pool, but as I was scanning through some Swans on the far bank three waders passed through my field of view. I tracked them and they landed on the spit and dissapeared from sight behind vegetation. I didn't have to wait long before one wandered back into view, a juvenile Ruff! Eventually the other two appeared. Three Ruff on the Mill Pool.

I eventually lost sight of them as they went behind the blind side of the spit to me.

Juvenile Ruff

As I was in no rush, I checked the Teal pool and put a couple of Snipe up and managed to count five Little Egret between the Railway and Mill pools. No Whoopers though.

I headed over to the Pretty Pigs Lake just to check they hadn't carried on following the river downstream and ended up there. No luck.

I reported the now missing Whoopers to Tame Valley Birding along with my other sightings. On checking the days reports on TVB, I notice that Tom Perrins who runs this local service for Tame Valley Birders had also seen the Mill Pool Ruff, but now there were 4. Another local birder Mr.D.Wanklyn also contacted me to say he had also seen 4 Ruff on the Mill pool today.

It just shows that going out on a miserable, wet, grey day can have its benefits. Forecast for tomorrow is for rain all day, wonder what will drop in?


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Mystery Duck?

I have been concentrating on my local patches recently, fitting in a few quick after work birding sessions before the light beats me.
Anyway, a couple of evenings in the week have led to me briefly sighting an unusually marked duck on one of the pools I keep an eye on. The bird is very spooky and seeks cover as soon as it spots anyone walking the banks. So, the distance it puts between us combined with fading light had not made getting a decent picture possible. So, Saturday found me on a warm and bright October morning in search for this duck again.
My usual birding companion
I can't resist snapping a few pictures with my iPhone while walking round. Smartphones these days take incredibly good pictures.

Shaggy Inkcap
After just enjoying the stroll, I again stumbled upon my mystery duck. It did its usual trick and put some distance between us. This time however in much better light conditions my Canon SX40 managed to capture some decent ID shots.
Marbled Duck
I still couldn't make up my mind what this duck was, but now I had some pictures to research it.
Pete though got straight onto it and contacted me later in the day. Pete's verdict, Marbled Duck! It has since been confirmed that Pete was bang on the money with his ID.
Marbled Duck -This species is viewed by most birders as a likely vagrant to Britain, and Marbled Duck is accepted onto Category A of Birdwatch'sBirds of Britain:
This is very likely an escapee from a collection somewhere, but who knows?
Will update this if anymore news on this bird is forthcoming.


Jon and I went out this morning and relocated this Marbled Duck. It was stood in very shallow water and using a scope, we could make out what seemed to be a red coloured ring on its left leg.
 It seems that this duck has a little history ,"Presumably the same bird was seen at 2 separate sites in south Derbys in late August. It had a red/orange ring on its left leg."

 this information is taken from

They seek him here......

A text off John this morning asking if I fancied going for a second day reported Yellow Browed Warbler in Oakam near Rutland. I didn't need asking twice, and within half hour, we were on the road.

What we were looking for- the elusive YBW


We arrived early on the housing estate where the bird had been reported, and started our search. The Yellow Browed Warbler had been seen the day previously in a residents back garden. We started our search by this house.

The other side of this fence is the garden where it was last seen


We wandered around the estate checking in all likely looking places. Still no joy.

Wandering round the estate


On hearing a police siren, I wondered if it was heading in our direction? It must have looked odd to the waking residents of this estate looking out of their windows and seeing us wandering around the area wearing binoculars.

I hoped we wouldn't attract too much attention.


Soon, more birders had arrived and we no longer looked so suspicious as the numbers increased. A woman did come out of her house to ask us what was going on? She was very pleasant and quite interested in the gathering numbers of birders arriving.

With no luck locating the bird, we returned to the area it was last heard calling, by the back garden of the house where we initially started. I was very surprised when the owner came out and invited us all into his garden to continue our vigil there. I very kind gesture indeed.

The warblers favourite garden
The preferred residence of a Yellow Browed Warbler

We hung around for a while, but to no avail. There was no sighting of the YBW while we were there, and reluctantly, we conceded defeat on this twitch.

As is usually the case, we expected to see it appear as a message on our phones as "showing well" when we were 40 miles away in a homeward bound direction. It wasn't! In fact, it wasn't reported again that day.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

An evening on one of my patches.

The pit is a local 20 acre lake created during the building of the M42. I have over the last 30 years spent some considerable and always enjoyable time there. Mainly angling, but more recently, birding.

As autumn kicks in, the path around the lake looks picturesque and, as I remember when these trees were no more than saplings, I'm reminded just how long my association with one of my most favorite places in the locality goes back.



It has over the years thrown up many surprises, mostly piscatorial and a few ornithological. These pockets of water and green are important both to wildlife and to us. A place to get away from it all. To enjoy the views, to walk the banks, to watch the wildlife and occasionally, to cast a float.