Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Work Party and Water Rail

Saturday 7th November

Well, it certainly feels a bit more autumnal now after that particularly mild end to October and the start of November ... the ringing demonstration was of course rained off, but a few of us hardy souls braved the elements and spent the better half of the day getting stuck in (not literally) to various bits and bobs up at Stithians. And although it started off wet (more low cloud and buffeting wind than actual rain for the most part), the day turned out nice, improving to bright sunshine even after midday.

Tasks for the day included attempting to drain the car parking area (it was in danger of becoming a lake in its own right), tidying and working on the access to the hides (strimming the footpath and moving leaf litter and soil) and more scrape work - clearing the willow scrub and lowering the soil level out in front of the Southern Hide.

I arrived nice and early, and took the time to check out the birds from the two hides whilst waiting for the others to arrive - rewarded with a nice Firecrest with two Goldcrest, just outside the Southern Hide. A good start to the day!

The four of us hardy souls, Greg, John, Beth and myself obviously had a great time, nothing better we'd rather be doing on a wet Saturday morning than getting wetter and muddier than a wet muddy thing (actually it was fine as we were mostly suitably attired). Tea break time and retiring to the feeder hide we were treated to a cameo performance from the Water Rail ('the' as in 'the same one as last year', perhaps?), with Coal Tit performing very nicely just outside the hide window, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing around and (albeit a bit distant) a smart azure blue Kingfisher perched out in the middle.

Water Rail - perhaps looking slightly out of habitat (although wet woodland a known haunt), but certainly not complaining!

Carrying on with the scrape attempt (there's a lot to be done unfortunately, but every little helps in this situation (oh for that mechanical digger!)), for an hour or two our numbers slowly dwindled until it was just myself and Beth putting in some brief kingfisher perching posts on the main reservoir side, and then it was just me (Beth going off to go running - total madness?!) - I'd put off cleaning and filling the feeders till last. The feeders were fairly full, but unfortunately the bottom half of each was a fairly solid mass of congealed seeds, fortunately not yet too obviously mouldy, result of all the recent rain. Took me a while to sort them out (had brought a water container of hot, now still nice and warm, water for the job fortunately). Was beginning to regret having left this to last and all on my lonesome when a Magpie calling lifted my head, and then me out of my reverie, as it came into view tailing an ethereal floaty white thing - a smart wide-eyed Barn Owl. I stayed stock still as it floated across the gap in front of the hide twenty feet or so away and then towards the causeway. Certainly made my day, just a shame the others had gone already.

Stithians work party list -

Southern Hide -

Water Rail
2 Great Spotted Woodpecker
Coal Tit
Barn Owl - 3pm, past the Southern Hide
Little Egret
Grey Heron

2 Goldcrest, 4+ Long-tailed Tit, 6 Goldfinch, Buzzard distantly etc etc

Coal Tit. On a branch. Get in!

Stuart Hutchings Hide -

1 Pochard, drake - new in?
12 Tufted Duck - highest number this autumn so far
20 Wigeon
40 Mallard
78 Teal
2 Shoveler, both male
87 Lapwing
5 Snipe
2 Med Gulls (ad and 2nd winter)
140 BH Gull
60+ LBBGull - a good number dropping in on passage presumably
150+ Herring Gull
1 Peregrine - 1 in flight, and then perched on a distant telegraph pole.
7+ Cormorants etc etc

A good haul in the end. A couple of Stithians year/season ticks in there too (eg caught up with Coal Tit eventually!), and some nice birds for the birthday too ;)

Thanks to all, after a bit of a break during the autumn, good to get down to some much needed work and maintenance again.

Volunteers hard at work

You tell them to work harder as you want to get some more action shots for the blog and they go and do this!!!

Sunday 8th November

I had an unscheduled return first thing in the morning (well 10am) as I realised I'd left my coat in one of the hides! The weather seemed fairly dire driving in, but visibility was surprisingly good once ensconced inside. Even before entering the hide, and peering through the screen at the side I was treated to the aforementioned Water Rail, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, this time also managing to count 10 Chaffinch at once.

The approach to the Stuart Hutchings Hide revealed 10 Snipe up and over the causeway in flight , and good numbers of Black-headed Gull again, with a Mediterranean Gull again - this one in lots of active flight though, dipping and swooping down to the surface. Fifty or so Fieldfare in flight over against the fields and woods were nice, and slightly bizarrely the same number of Redwing swirling in and down around the side of the hide briefly too. Ducks seemed in short supply, with only one Lapwing too, but then a small flock flew in from further up the reservoir - a dozen or so Mallard, with the two Shoveler, and a bit more special, the female Pintail that had been recorded in the week before. I left Daniel Eva in the hide, and carried on my way.

Pintail - photographic evidence it was there!

Monday, 2 November 2015

6 months later ...

... slight exaggeration - it's been about 5 and three quarter months since the last blog post, oops, so much for regular updates. Excuses mainly revolve around being too busy - too busy to upload photos, post, or even do much birding (or sort the computer out when it was playing up). Once you miss doing it one week it becomes a matter of catch-up, then the weeks simply become months.

Stithians Reservoir stayed there throughout this period.

It is still there. The birds were still there, and many/different ones still are. I'll probably post up a summary or two of the highlights at some stage. For now, however, I'll post up the results of last months WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) count, and mention a CBWPS/ Cornwall Ringing Group event this Saturday -

Bird Ringing Demonstration at Stithians

Saturday November 7th 0800 -1200 Leader: Mark Grantham Text 07818 497470 Bird Ringing. Stithians feeding station Finches and Tits (meet at 8 am by the southern cut-off) The session is very weather dependent, so if it looks windy or wet then please check if running.   

Basically if the weather isn't calm/nice enough the event is unlikely to go ahead - to minimise stress to the little feathered bundles of joy whilst they await their shiny new bling. I'll try and post up confirmation/news either way the evening before.

October WeBS Count

Haven't seen the Golden Plover, Dunlin or Shoveler recently, and Teal and Lapwing numbers have continued to rise, but this snapshot gives a fair indication of the birds about at the moment.

This Saturday gone there were 3 vocal Green Sandpipers together from the Stuart Hutchings hide, which was nice, and a week or so ago a nice flock of c200 Fieldfare were kicking about. The feeders are still there and attracting birds, although nothing that especial at the moment that I'm aware of.

Roll on the next blog post ... ;)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Striking Gold!

Blog posts seem to be as rare as gold dust hereabouts at the moment, time to try and put that to rights a little I guess. Work, Spring and Life unfortunately all partially to blame - still coming to grips with all three. Oh, and Netflix too ...

The last post (which was itself a late post) started off with a nice list of birds which hadn't been seen recently at Stithians, and to be perfectly honest, probably wouldn't get seen. Of course this spring then saw an almost unprecedented influx of Hoopoes to south western Cornwall and Southern Ireland, along with a host of other southern goodies in ideal migrant influx conditions; none of which I saw (I probably should have made the effort to at least try and see the Woodchat Shrike over at Camborne, but I didn't).

Would Stithians be completely left out ... ?

 ... Keen followers of local bird news, or persons with excellent rep at guessing blog content from corny blog title headings may guess at what is coming. Local mining history aficionados will however probably remain a touch disappointed .... others will just have to keep reading (or just scrolling down and pretending to read.)

So, with further ado, to the important events of the date in question -

Sunday 26th April

Myself and Samuel Perfect had arranged to meet Daniel Eva to assist with the nestbox monitoring which he is carrying out this season around 11am on this fine sunday (it was meant to be a worse day, meteorologically speaking, than transpired).

Meeting Daniel by the southern hides there wasn't an awful lot of unusual activity to get excited about - there may have been a singing Garden Warbler in addition to the Blackcap which did show itself, yesterday's Sedge Warbler wasn't even heard, but some birds were definitely about ...

At the southern end -

2 Great Crested Grebe
2 Coot
5 Tufted Duck
Little Egret
4+ Cormorant
Sparrowhawk, male
Great Spotted Woodpecker over
3+ Buzzard etc

Around the feeders -

3 Greenfinch
Reed Bunting etc,

And on the southern cutoff -

2 Coot,
2 Little Grebe
Grey Heron, Canada Goose etc

Having checked the hides out properly, we then did some proper work, as it were, and surreptitiously and in an entirely and consummately professional manner monitored some nests and nestboxes, no little birdies were put out too much hopefully in our scientific quest for knowledge.

So to the real highlight of the day (aside Daniel Eva sinking nearly waist deep into a wet muddy hole whilst attempting to give Samuel (who didn't have wellies on) a helpful piggyback across a damp looking bit) was a rather nice and completely unexpected addition to the day - a cracking adult male GOLDEN ORIOLE which flew across the road ahead of us as we trudged along having finished the nestboxes in the southern area. A real bonus, it perched up briefly in the treetops before taking flight again northwards (despite some hopes we didn't encounter it again as we checked nestboxes at that end).

This was a lifer for Samuel, a Cornwall tick for me, and the first for Daniel for some years. And probably a Self-Found tick for all too, in accordance with the official Girls Aloud Self-Finding rules.

2 Stock Dove over at around this juncture probably would otherwise have been a major highlight (Stithians yeartick and all that).

A cracking male Golden Oriole!

It perched briefly in full view, albeit a little distantly, before heading on north ...

Other birds encountered later included a calling Little Grebe and a third pair of Coot on the west side, with c.100 'large' gulls at the north end.

Butterflies included Speckled Wood, Small White and Peacock - more evidence of spring!

And the nest-monitoring itself?

Obviously some caution has to be exercised in this area, but currently (as of 26th April) -  7+ species proven nesting; Dunnock with 3 young, 3 Crow nests with eggs/young, Magpies, Buzzard, Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrush and the two common tit species all started or on eggs.

Stithians being inland, and rather exposed, the tits, especially, are not as advanced as other parts of the country (including various parks and gardens); all change soon presumably, as leaf unfold occurs and insect numbers take off (both the flightless and flighted ones).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Spring is on the way ... late March update.

A couple of Hoopoe, Black Kites over, an Osprey tracking north, what's that buzzing cheery little song emanating from the conifers? Ah yes, a smart little Serin of course ...  if only these had been at Stithians. But nothing to get excited about as they weren't.

Just standard garden fare from my brief sojourn in France unfortunately. Not complaining, and possibly worth dragging myself, kicking and screaming away from the Falmouth area for ...

All good practise for when they do turn up ...

So to the (reasonably damp) reality that is Cornwall again - paid another flying visit en route from Falmouth to London and environs (for another family related visiting exercise) on the last Monday of the month. Getting up, packing, picking Samuel up (he'd somehow managed to cadge a lift back that way too), a touch of shopping and dropping some seed off and it was half one in the afternoon before we finally managed to arrive.

And unfortunately for the girlfriend waiting (im)patiently in the car, the visit wasn't actually that flying from then on in either - these things can't be rushed, and it was gone 3pm before we were to finally leave for our long drive east. In the meantime ...

... the feeders got filled, the waters were scrutinised and a nice bit of birding was enjoyed. Priorities! Sorry Suzi ... ;)

Apart from the feeders being practically empty (the usual state of affairs - think the birds, especially the Great Tits do it on purpose - throw all the seeds they don't like to the ground within the first half an hour of filling them up I reckon ... ), there was a noisy and excitable flock of 21 Tufted Ducks cruising around outside on the Southern Cutoff. Very nice, and perhaps the main flock from the Reservoir paying a visit, or numbers swelling from elsewhere. Nice.

Some of the excitable Tufted Ducks

A pair of Canada Geese also hove into view, and then proceeded to upend for our viewing pleasure.

The Canadas arriving. It would be rude to show them upending.

Other birds from the hide included 2 Mallard, 3 Teal and a Little Grebe on the water side, with reasonable numbers of passerines on/by the feeders as follows -

4 Reed Bunting (2 m 2f)
12+ Chaffinch
4 Dunnock
1 Blackbird
1 Robin
5 Blue Tit
2 Great Tit
2 Long-tailed Tit
2 Greenfinch
2 Goldfinch
6 House Sparrow

No Water Rail! This could well be because it has now moved on as the Zugunruhe* filling its little hollow air-filled bones led it inexorably up and away northwards ...

With six House Sparrow being a new record! Have only seen two at once prior to this, but have suspected more for weeks now, given the degree and volume of cheeky chirping coming from the bramble scrub further back beyond the feeders.

Male Chaffinch. Nice bird actually.

Male Reed Bunting. Full dress now.

Across to the other side and visibility was just about ok - birds were there and identifiable, but it was really quite closing on by the time we came to leave (and face the prospect of driving up to Kent in it, but that, as they say, is another story ... )

Didn't manage to see any Grey Herons on this visit, although the birder in the hide (from Porth way) did say he'd seen a Little Egret not long before we arrived.

What we did see were 2 Goldeneye (female type of course - and we'd actually seen them earlier as we drove across the causeway), a Great Crested Grebe (numbers seem sadly down on the high of 7 a few weeks back, although I'm sure it is about time a proper survey was carried out), the Slavonian Grebe still and 7 Little Grebes, many in dapper summer plumage now. Two Mallard, 3 Coot and a further 9 Tufted Ducks completing the line-up.

(* Zugunruhe - a German word describing the 'migratory urge' which takes over all migratory creatures when the time arrives.)

Selected March highlights -

Probably the major one would be the arrival of the first spring migrants proper with Wheatear (male) and Sand Martins (6) on the 19th (J St Ledger).

Bittern again - 22nd March showing opposite the Southern Hide, 4pm, R Menari
12 Magpies

Intermittent cloud closing in, southern arm.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Once Bittern ...

Wednesday 18th March -

Due to be away for the week to the parents in France, so my regular Friday visit swapped for the Wednesday, and a little later in the day ...

From the Stuart Hutchings hide -

11 Little Grebe
1 Slavonian Grebe (looking a little smarter perhaps)
2 female Goldeneye
2 Tufted Duck

From the Southern hide -

4 Wigeon
2 Moorhen
2 Little Grebe
3 Grey Heron
1 Canada Goose flew through

The seed feeders were already empty - but birds still kicking around, including a Reed Bunting and 3 Dunnock. One Blue Tit rather startled itself by flying towards the feeders whilst I was still filling them without seeing me until the last moment - if Blue Tits can look embarrassed this one would have looked very surprised and sheepish as it made a hasty mid-air about-turn when realising there was a big human only three feet away as it was about to land.

Hung around a little - checking out by the causeway in the hope of Woodcock starting to stir and checking the margins in the hope of the weekends Bittern, but no luck.

 The south west corner from the Southern Causeway

I couldn't be bothered to wait until actual dark (sundown was 18:25, and it was getting chilly), so at a quarter to seven called it a day. Turned the car around and was driving over the causeway to see a familiar shape flying over the road ahead - a real actual Bittern! Managed to track it's direction (whilst staying on the road myself), and pulled up half way across the causeway (in the pull in bit, but still left the lights and hazards on) - managed to pick it up stalking along the edge of the water. 

An unexpected car tick (don't actually recall whether I have previously picked one up whilst driving before), but very nice to see up at Stithians even if the views were not the best.

Managed to get some excruciatingly awful nice record shots of the Bittern - well worth sharing as ever. The bird may even be recognisable in some!

There's a Bittern on the other side somewhere!

And there it is ... zooming in with camera 

And after a bit of basic processing ...

 ... it really is one ... !

Would have been directly opposite the hide had I been there, but the light was continuously fading and I was hungry so left it at that ...

Brief update - disturbance to hides this Saturday morning.

Running behind again and better to post something up ... perhaps. Will update this post properly later on today.

Just to mention that there is a volunteer day organised for this Saturday and that there will be some disturbance around the hides - quite possibly to the extent that the hides will be unavailable to visitors at times in the morning.

Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause - hopefully the bright sparkly new nature of the hides in the ensuing weeks will be well worth the sacrifices made. I won't be present unfortunately - currently halfway across the country on familial duties but I'm sure The Team will cope well without me. Will be back soon ...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Friday 13th - lucky moving day. Again.

As luck/chance/fate, or none of the above would have it, it is exactly a month since the feeders were last moved - hence the title. It has a slight oriental ring to it, to my mind, and would have course been amply completed with a nice Chinese Pond Heron or something similar on site, but alas it was not to be. After a hard mornings graft (cleaning holiday lodges as the latest exciting task visited upon me by the agency), and it was over to Stithians with some more poles in order to refill the feeders and move to them a new spot within the area.

A couple of Blue Tits and some near empty feeders - if only they'd stop eating all the food!

As mentioned previously, the feeders need moving on a regular basis - this time it was back the way they came, but a little closer (hopefully to still give half-decent views for the pesky humans), hence the poles (ex-willow branches, not ex-agency staff from foreign lands of course). I didn't quite have enough, so a minor bit of cannibalism of the contraption t'other side was required, and the end result even more Heath Robinsy than before (or 'Rustic' to be more precise) but as long as the birds like it and it doesn't fall over too soon it's all ok as far as I'm concerned.

Mr Heath Robinson would've been proud ...

The Southern Hide and closest feeders

A nice red fungus (not it's real scientific name) from below the feeders

The feeders, despite being nigh-on emptied by the voracious hordes of winged guzzlers, were still as popular as ever.

Birds present -

1 Moorhen (showing well for once)
6+ Blue Tit
3 Great Tit
4 Dunnock
17+ Chaffinch
2 House Sparrow
6 Goldfinch (actually they were just flyovers - probably as a protest the nyger seed had all been consumed)
1 Magpie
1 Blackbird 
and 3+ Reed Bunting

Out on the water, 9 Wigeon still were nice, 2 Mallard proportionately less so, with 50+ Starling over being interesting, and one Muscovy Duck being of almost unmentionable and unparalleled beauty ... perhaps. 

A duck of superlative beauty? Hmmm ....

The waters on the main reservoir were pretty bleak and underwhelming, but there were still birds out there -

2 Great Crested Grebe
1 Grey Heron
1 Little Egret
1 Coot (it's crossed over!)
2 Cormorant
8 Little Grebe
4 Mallard
12 Canada Geese in the distant green field

with 1 Buzzard and 3 Carrion Crows over.

So no spring migrants yet ... and no sign of the Slavonian Grebe either. Perhaps it (and hopefully some more Great Cresteds were hiding in a sheltered bay, or perhaps my brief sweep of the waters failed to reveal them amongst all the wavelets.

Bit choppy and a nearly full reservoir

Other recent sightings -

Sometimes almost an afterthought, or tagged on the end but bird of the week at any rate in this portion (if you exclude the Muscovy Duck of course), and almost breaking news - a Bittern at Stithians for one lucky observer (Julie Martin) from the Southern Cutoff Hide on Sunday the 15th - only report this winter as far as I'm aware. Also -

Kingfisher, Water Rail and GSW on the 8th (J and F Rice)

Slavonian Grebe, 3 f type Goldeneye, 2 Snipe and 6 Reed Bunting on the 14th (J St Ledger)