Saturday, 21 February 2015

Friday the 20th February - Wigeon and co.

Important breaking news!! - The scrape wall in front of the Stuart Hutchings Hide has been breached! Well, not exactly, but the water level in the reservoir as a whole has risen enough that it has been overtopped, and birds and water can now flow freely between the two ...

What better sight (and sound) to cheer up a winter's day birding than a flock of wiffling Wigeon?

Two Teal within the scrape (and another 10 elsewhere, mostly seemingly paired up), 40 Wigeon (some of whom ventured within the soon-to-be-subsumed scrape) and 3 Mallard were on view from the Southern Hide, with 15 Lapwing resting on one of the islets and 6 Little Grebe dotting the bays. A female Goldeneye was also out on the water, with the Slavonian Grebe still present, but both really requiring the use of a scope for anything other than preliminary identification. 

Other birds included 3 Meadow Pipit and a Pied Wagtail, 3 Carrion Crow, a Little Egret (later 2), the odd Herring Gull and flyby Magpie, and a little later on, 2 Raven down near the shoreline and 2 Buzzard over. 

Crossing the road and on to the Southern Hide, and we could see, even before we reached the hide that a couple of Grey Heron were resting along the shores; 3 in total along with a Little Egret could be seen upon entering the hide.

3 Herons and an Egret

Other birds out on the marsh included a handful of Teal, a trio of Wigeon, and the lonesome Coot.

It was good to see the feeders, nearly empty from hungry bird-related ravaging, proving popular in their new location. Too popular perhaps?!

The usual suspects were present, it was good to see the Water Rail and Great Spotted Woodpecker (a male this time) putting in appearances. More shy was the Moorhen - lurking in the undergrowth, and 2 Woodpigeon further into the woods.

The full roundup included -

15+ Chaffinch
4 Reed Bunting
1 Greenfinch,
2 Goldfinch
2 House Sparrow (mf)
3+ Blue Tit
1 Great Tit

Water Rail, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Moorhen as mentioned,

with Blackbird, Dunnocks and Robins all present and correct

A selection of happy customers - Water Rail, Greenfinch and Blackbird.

Have a suspicion more than just the maxima of 5 Reed Bunting noted last weekend are present/passing through - different plumages, whether the bird is ringed or not may be clues, but it is hard to tell, without making more of an effort to look at them all properly!

At any rate, none of the birds today appeared ringed, and didn't notice the rather more advanced adult male this visit - last weekend it (or possibly another) was even in full song in the warm February sunshine!

Great Tit with a nutritious snack pilfered from the feeders

Reserve News:

There are a couple of CBWPS work parties in the offing - the hides need re-staining externally, with ongoing general spruce up required (not saying that they are made of spruce ... although they could well be), finishing the grafitti removal (thanks Dave for making further inroads + sorting the noticeboard) and other odd jobs around the general area.

Made some minor adjustments to the feeders - raising the far peanut feeder a little for example.

Exciting news is that the plan for the proposed scrape outside the Southern Hide from a few years back is being looked into again - if this goes ahead (dependent on finance proposals etc going through, largely out of the hands of the society as such) this will hopefully bring more permanent standing water nearer to the edge of the hide (and hence waterbirds, hopefully), and at the same time eliminate the encroaching willow stands which have been a problem in the past.

Fingers crossed!

Other Bird News:

15/02/15 - 4 Common Buzzard, 3 Pochard, 2 Grey Wagtail, 90+ Black-headed Gull, 2 Common Gull (D Bray)

16/02/15 - 2 Bullfinch, Water Rail etc (J and F Rice)

Male Reed Bunting

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Friday 13th Feb - Lucky Moving Day

Back up to Stithians on the weekend - a planned morning visit on Friday became an afternoon visit, but it ended up being as successful as could have been hoped for (no limbs lost, achieved mostly what we wanted to really quite smoothly and efficiently, saw some things with wings etc).

I had big (relatively speaking) plans, and stopping en route first for Samuel P, and then again for the required materials, and being hit by one horrendously wintry shower at just the wrong time along the way, arrived on site and decided to quickly check out the Stuart Hutchings Hide before starting any other proceedings. Highlight here was the Slavonian Grebe - showing nicely, along with a sprinkling selection of the other regular fare, including -

1 Cormorant
4 Meadow Pipit
1 Pied Wagtail
2 Carrion Crows
1 each of Little Egret and Grey Heron
A handful of Teal and Mallard
8+ Little Grebe
c10 Wigeon

And some gulls.

Slavonian Grebe - probably the closest I've seen it to the hide yet

Little and Large - Meadow Pipit and Cormorant

Samuel also reported there being a Goldeneye out there, and there were a few more Wigeon and a Coot off in the distance. An interesting looking female Teal then caught Samuel's attention, so I quickly left to pursue more practical pursuits ...

So the plans; apart from briefly looking into a minor access issue with regard to the Southern Hide, the main activity this visit was to relocate the feeders from over one side of the hide to the other. Recommended advice (RSPB/BTO etc) is to move the feeders in one's garden every month or so to a different spot in order to stop the build up of bird faeces, mouldy bird food ... and hence disease (one can also disinfect the ground as well, something to look into too perhaps).

It's been a while now (and it isn't a garden), but apart from one decidedly off-looking Chaffinch the other week, we've probably gotten away with it thus far, but it's much better to be cautious and avoid potential problems before they occur ...

So with some previously cut alder and willow poles, some other bits of wood and a few stones and fixing materials, it didn't take too long before a new feeding station had suddenly materialised just outside the right hand side of the hide ...

 The new feeding area! 

Any worries that the birds wouldn't take to it were rapidly dissipated as within a couple of minutes of turning our backs on it and hanging the newly filled feeders up a Robin and a Long-tailed Tit were there. Five minutes and a bundle of Long-tailed Tits were hanging off the feeders, Great and Blue Tits were investigating, and it wasn't long before almost the full range of feeder addicts were present and going for it.

... and the first bird on the feeder prize goes to - the Long-tailed Tit

Shortly followed by a Blue Tit. Cute or wot?

Female Reed Bunting

Goldfinch - there's gold in them thar wings ...

The birds are now less than half the distance they were before - this should please most human visitors, but there may be issues with some of the shyer birds getting used to the idea, and there may be a need for slightly more care to be taken in the hide (noise levels etc), but the birds generally didn't seem all that bothered by our presence when we were there.

Thinking about it, perhaps hanging a feeder or two a little further back may help; a few extra bits of timber might be required and not quite finished yet, but nearly there.

Can't be bothered to type everything out on this occasion when I've already gone and written it down in the notebook - additionally there were two Moorhen under the old feeder - but as shy as ever. Nice to see 5 different Reed Bunting - one male in particular will be looking quite smart pretty soon if it's appearance now is anything to go by ...

Back to the car with considerably less stuff, and continuing on with another little practical project - the regaining of the car parking situation - the local farmer has widened his farm gateway to an enormoooous width - so the visitors to the hide have suddenly found themselves with precious little parking. Verging on the ridiculous - quite literally. Anyway, as if by magic, car parking spaces should be gradually appearing before our very eyes as we speak...

A quick look from the SH Hide again, probably most of the 93 Lapwing which had apparently dropped in earlier still present, with a scattering of gulls, including c40 Black-headed, and time to scoot again ...

A couple of exciting gulls - Herring and Black-headed.


This week gone (7th -14th Feb) was National Nestbox Week apparently (link here). 
(Part of the service we provide on this blog is to report important events like this as, when, or shortly after they've happened ...)

I'm not involved with the nestboxes on site at the moment (although perhaps I should be at some stage later in the season), but been reminded now that I do have a couple of nestboxes of my own I really ought to be putting up one of these years ... this one might do.

The obligatory view on a nice winters day showing how the water levels are progressing nicely

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Weds Feb 11th update - WeBS and Events

This months WeBS count is in - still really rather quiet, probably good to get the Slavonian Grebe on for another month and a quartet of Goldeneye, but that is mostly it ... The hoped for evidence of cold weather movement little in evidence - Wigeon numbers much as they have been, not much else has really changed. Hoped for additions such as Goosander or Gadwall (may have been a bit of a minor influx to the region the last week or so of the latter) sadly still being awaited.

It's only been 3 weeks or so since the last WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey in case anyone was still wondering, a long-running count of the nation's waterbirds organised by the BTO, see link in the right hand taskbar for further info) was carried out, another month until the next ... we'll see what changes, if any, that brings ... here's hoping? (Thanks to S Taylor for the count and data.)


Other Exciting News

There is a new section added in the 'taskbar' at the top of the page -  'News and Events' . (Or click below to open in a new window) -

Basically added to the blog in keeping with my hope it will be useful as a resource and not just me wittering on and on about some birds I've seen (!), as there are two Stithians-related events happening this weekend - CBWPS ringing event at Stithians, and a SWLT walk at College Reservoir (less than 3 miles distant as the Wigeon or rare duck flies, so still pretty relevant to proceedings here). 

Not personally involved in any official capacity with either - contact details are given, and myself, this blog, the Duchy and any ducks around and about cannot be held responsible in any way for anything untoward or exciting happening, weatherwise or other. Both open to the public, but please do see the link for further details.

Now that it is 'on the blog' I will add future events and happenings (hopefully with a little more notice) as I become aware of them, keep an eye on that section if you're local (or even if you're not, perhaps!), although important announcements will be referred to here in these normal (if that is the correct word to use) blog pages as, when and if I feel like it (or remember).

Other notable bird news in the week -

Tues 10th Feb - 6 female/immature Goldeneye (C Barnard)

The Back of Beyond ...

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Monday 9th Feb - Pre-amble and Peregrine.

And so to some more birdy blog reporting. First the pre-birdamble though ...

I was actually up at Stithians on this Wednesday past, along with most of the rest of 'the team', for our induction meeting with SWLT as volunteers - we are now able, trained and ready to wield a paintbrush, screwdriver AND a flask, know which end is which, and roughly know what each one is for.

Actually we don't, at least any more than we did before.

On a more serious/sensible note, it was a useful morning all round, with hopefully much positive working in partnership to look forward to as we work towards maintaining and improving the habitat and area for the birds (alongside of course some maintenance of the hides etc allowing our visitors to enjoy and appreciate the birds).

Continuing on a slightly serious note there are a few practical bits and bobs I've been holding off doing and we will now look into - nothing major or requiring any expense to speak off for now, so please don't get too excited. For example, the installation of those heated armchairs for the hide will have to wait a little longer ... (along with the hot drinks machine and automatic snipe finder 2000)

So that was all good.

I was up at Stithians, but unfortunately inside, a place normally fairly devoid of birds; I did have a very brief scan of the water after we'd parked up by the Watersports Centre near the north end but sadly saw only a few Tufted Duck ...

I did manage to photograph the board showing the Reservoir though;

It should be noted that it actually appears like this -

on the OS map (and most other maps probably - if ever Australia take over the world (unlikely perhaps?), rotate it through another 180 degrees and everyone'll be happy). Note the remarkable resemblance to a mutant seahorse ...

I was also up on Friday ... but again, not so much birding was to be enjoyed. This was mostly due to be being a bit rushed for time on my weekly feeder visit - the car wouldn't start, and in asking the landlord for a quick look to see if he could figure anything out, it turned out he was heading up that way anyway - so I leapt (well more kind of shuffled) at the chance - the birds would be happy and fed.

Notable highlights - 2 Little Egret from the Southern Hide and 2 Goldcrests in the Pines outside the Stuart Hutchings Hide, with most of the normal stuff around the feeders. A quick scan of the waters but still no Slav ...

A potential visit on Saturday was postponed until Sunday, and then didn't happen at all, which brings us to ...

Monday 9th February

Attempts to remove the graffiti are still ongoing. The internet lied when it said cheap hairspray (the cheaper the better) was great at removing felt tip/marker pen from wood. White Spirit was so ethereal as to have almost no effect whatsoever either. The cheap sandpaper I have now seems like the best way forward, although I have a feeling some less cheap sandpaper (or an electric sander or perhaps a water buffalo or two) will do the trick better. The last two perhaps equally impractical or unlikely. Still do have the slightly unlikely trick up my sleeve of toothpaste (from a different internet site) to try.

Oh yes - birds -

The weather was positively balmy - bright sunshine, temperatures hovering only slightly below double figures - it seemed until I entered the hide and spent five minutes without a coat.

Birds seen initially -

4 Lapwing on the bank in front of us
Little Grebes (eventually totalling 11)
A couple of Herring Gull
Lots of Wigeon - c80 I reckon, but they all flew up the reservoir and out of sight shortly after first being seen.
Samuel saw the Slavonian Grebe.
I saw some Mallard, some Teal (about 8 of each), a Grey Heron and a Little Egret.

Then I saw a ... Peregrine Falcon. Not far out on one of the islets.

It saw us (or more likely, it had seen us all along).

 Peregrine Falcon

Still a Peregrine 

Perhaps some Lapwings saw it too - they took off, joined by a further 6. The Peregrine balefully glared at us, despite us being in the hide, and a good way off - and after a few moments, rather awkwardly shuffled off to the other side of the small islet it was on. A last look at us and then it ducked down out of sight.

If looks could kill we wouldn't want to be a small waterbird

And then we saw it (presumably same again) in one of the scrubby trees bordering the reserve area - although it did look small initially, and neither of us had actually seen a Peregrine in a tree before (apparently most don't sit it trees - the last one I saw in a tree turned out to be an Eleonora's Falcon). Partially obscured by branches, the immature falcon took our full attention for quite some while.

Peregrine perched in a tree. 

It actually flew between 3 different scrubby trees - but never showing that well unfortunately. The above is really just a record shot to prove it actually was in the tree.

There were also 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail and a Grey Wagtail flirting with the shorelines - running and chasing, checking out the different islets and each others feeding spots; always mobile.

A bit of a surprise (well shock to be honest) was suddenly noticing a cock Pheasant strutting out on the open waterside not far out below us whilst we had been preoccupied with the Peregrine.

Male Pheasant. Very smart - in one sense of the word.

We eventually dragged ourselves away and to the Southern Hide, the feeders mostly running on nearly empty by now but still with the regular assortment of birds - a maximum of 20 Chaffinch, 4 Goldfinch and a single Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Water Rail and a male and female Reed Bunting. 4 Great Tits, 3 Long-tailed and the other minor players present. Both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay were heard - the latter so fleetingly I don't really think I can bring myself to add it to the yearlist, to be honest. We'll see - I'm sure we won't get that desperate, but you never know.

Out on the marsh, 17 or 20 Teal could be seen doing Teal type stuff, 4 Snipe were hidden in the long grass, another Grey Heron and a Little Egret too, and that was just about it, the odd other corvid, a couple of Buzzard wheeling about and a couple of Redwing over.

Male Reed Bunting

Water Rail - showing rather well ...

We (myself ably assisted by Samuel) were able to sweep both hides out and give the remaining feeders a proper clean before hanging back out with fresh food, and a few other minor practical bits and bobs, but the time still flew and I realised we would have to be back home soon because the girlfriend would be finishing work soon and I had the only key (hers - I'd lost mine whilst attending the breakdown guy) and I didn't want to incur any possible wrath.

One quick stop at the end of the causeway revealed a skulking Song Thrush near our feet and 2 female Goldeneye out on the water. A scan further up finally revealed the Slavonian Grebe hanging out with the two Tufted Duck, and a large expanse of choppy water which didn't really look like it held anything else, so we scooted. Hopefully the scars will heal soon.

Other noteworthy sightings, not quite so recent, but from the notebooks -

30th Jan - 20 Curlew near Menherion
31st Jan - 2 Peregrine Falcon (J St Ledger)

Southern cutoff - another view. Blue skies!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Stithians List - January

Not totally sure what a 'good' year should bring in terms of species numbers (I have an inkling 120+ have been reported as a year total in a previous year - at some point I will try and work out what 2014 brought), but not a bad start to the year list - undoubtedly some common/regular winter species still to come. Slavonian Grebe the only really 'unusual' species, visiting Shoveler, wintering Goldeneye and Pochard good. Little Egret, Common Gull and Mediterranean Gulls are 'interesting' in an inland water body context, and the feeding station is undoubtably a good site locally to see and enjoy Water Rail and Reed Bunting - the latter especially tricky otherwise.

The ongoing 'Stithians Yearlist' is accessible from the tab below the main photo at the top of the page, this will be updated regularly through the year in date order as new species are seen.

(or here- Stithians Bird List 2015 )

1 Canada Goose
2 Wigeon
3 Teal
4 Mallard
5 Shoveler
6 Pochard
7 Tufted Duck
8 Goldeneye
9 Cormorant
10 Little Egret
11 Grey Heron
12 Little Grebe
13 Slavonian Grebe - possibly the returning bird from last year?
14 Sparrowhawk
15 Buzzard
16 Kestrel
17 Peregrine
18 Water Rail
19 Moorhen
20 Coot
21 Lapwing
22 Ringed Plover
23 Curlew
24 Snipe
25 Black-headed Gull
26 Mediterranean Gull
27 Common Gull
28 Lesser Black-backed Gull
29 Herring Gull
30 Great Black-backed Gull
31 Woodpigeon
32 Kingfisher
33 Great Spotted Woodpecker
34 Magpie
35 Jackdaw
36 Rook
37 Carrion Crow
38 Raven
39 Goldcrest
40 Blue Tit
41 Great Tit
42 Long-tailed Tit
43 Chiffchaff
44 Wren
45 Starling
46 Blackbird
47 Fieldfare
48 Song Thrush
49 Redwing
50 Robin
51 Stonechat
52 Dunnock
53 House Sparrow
54 Grey Wagtail
55 Pied Wagtail
56 Meadow Pipit
57 Chaffinch
58 Greenfinch
59 Goldfinch
60 Bullfinch
61 Reed Bunting

Additionally, Muscovy Duck and hybrid Canada/Greylag Goose, and on the mammal front, Red Fox and Rabbit.

Records from the hide notebooks, internet bird reports (eg cbwps sightings) and my own and others' sightings. If you've seen anything at the reservoir this year not on the list let us know!

No sightings have been reported elsewhere this week that I'm aware of, so nothing new to report bird wise.

You may remember this stunning image from earlier last month (23rd) and the question posed as to how many birds were present ... well I can now reveal the answer (at least I think I can - a quivering leaf in the background may yet turn out to be yet another camera shy avian fiend, but probably not) to be ... 18. Anyway, 16 Chaffinch, 1 Greenfinch and 1 Reed Bunting ... the birds may look attractive and bright to us when perched on a bird table or out on a twig, but they are superbly cryptically camouflaged when against the leaf litter of the forest floor ...

(Click to enlarge)